Professor Edgar Andrews reviews The Grand Design

The following review has been kindly provided to Thinking Matters by Edgar Andrews, Emeritus Professor of Materials at the University of London and author of the highly recommended Who Made God?: Searching for a Theory of Everything (read our review here). Professor Andrews is an international expert on the science of large molecules and has published well over 100 scientific research papers and books. For a good introduction to his work, listen to Brian Auten’s interview with him at Apologetics315.

The Grand Design?

Cosmologist Stephen Hawking sold over nine million copies of his book A Brief History of Time. Now, 22 years later, he has co-authored The Grand Design which immediately hit the No.1 spot in the New York Times best-seller list. But the sequel is so inferior to the prequel in intellectual quality that a reviewer in The Times Saturday Review (11 September 2010) writes: ‘It reads like a stretched magazine article … there is too much padding and too much recycling of long-stale material… I doubt whether The Grand Design would have been published if Hawking’s name were not on the cover’.

So why is the new book a runaway best-seller? Because it claims that science makes God redundant. Let’s take a closer look at the claims advanced in The Grand Design.

Philosophical skulduggery

The introduction asserts that ‘Philosophy is dead’ (p.5) and science alone can provide ‘New answers to the ultimate questions of life’ (the book’s hubristic sub-title). But the authors then produce their own brand of humanistic philosophy, christen it ‘science’ and base their book upon it.

They say; ‘this book is rooted in the concept of scientific determinism which implies … that there are no miracles, or exceptions to the laws of nature’. But ‘scientific determinism’ is simply the philosophical assumption that the laws control all events. I argue precisely the opposite in chapter 11 of my own book Who made God? (WMG in further references).

Again, in chapter 3, They maintain that ‘reality’ is a construct of our minds — implying that there is no such thing as objective reality (Irish philosopher Bishop Berkeley had the same idea in 1710 but he wasn’t widely believed). They conclude that ‘there is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality’ and propose what they call ‘model dependent realism’ as a ‘frame-work with which to interpret modern science’ (pp. 42-43). Clearly, an interpretive framework for science cannot be science but belongs in a different category altogether, namely, philosophy.

Since the mental models we construct ‘are the only reality we can know … It follows then that a well-constructed model creates a reality of its own’ (p.172). The problem with this, of course, is that it undermines the very concept of reality. Hawking’s ‘reality’ excludes God while my ‘reality’ majors upon God. These two ‘realities’ are mutually exclusive but both (according to Hawking) are equally ‘real’. This is postmodernism by the back door and it is wholly inimical to science, which depends on there being a genuine reality to investigate.

Determinism

 

The authors also embrace another philosophy, namely, scientific determinism. ‘Though we feel we can choose what we do, our understanding of the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets’ (pp.31-32). So we are mindless automatons and everything we do or think is predetermined.

The reality is, of course, that biological processes are overwhelmingly ‘governed’ not by physics and chemistry but by structured information, stored on DNA and expressed through the genetic code. It is information which controls the physics and chemistry of the living cell, not the other way round.

Furthermore, if our minds are simply by-products of molecular processes in the brain, then all our thoughts are meaningless including the authors’ own theories. Thinking atheists such as Bertrand Russell and J. B. S. Haldane long ago recognised and admitted this dilemma explicitly (WMG chapter 16) but Hawking and Mlodinow seem oblivious to it.

Chapter 4 is devoted to explaining the ‘many histories’ formulation of quantum theory proposed by Richard Feynman. This is well done except that by ignoring other formulations of quantum theory the authors give the false impression that Feynman’s is the only valid approach. This is tendentious because they need Feynman’s idea as a springboard for their own multiverse hypothesis. To admit that ‘many histories’ is just one of several equally valid formulations of quantum mechanics would weaken their argument considerably.

Mighty M-theory

Chapter 5 surveys the development of physics during the past 200 years, including general relativity (which describes the large-scale behaviour of the universe) and quantum mechanics (which describes its microscopic behaviour). Although containing nothing new, this is by far the best part of this book.

The chapter concludes, however, with comments on M-theory that rang alarm bells (p.118). In the book’s opening chapter, M-theory is no more than ‘a candidate for the ultimate theory of everything, if indeed one exists’, and is ‘not a theory in the usual sense’ but ‘may offer answers to the question of creation’. Physicist Lee Smolin is doubtful: ‘… we still do not know what M-theory is, or whether there is any theory deserving of the name’ (The Trouble with Physics, Allen Lane 2007, p.146). Indeed, on p.117 the authors themselves admit that ‘people are still trying to decipher the nature of M-theory, but that may not be possible’.

But suddenly on p.118 this intractable mathematical model is somehow transformed into a theory so powerful that its laws are ‘more fundamental’ than the laws of nature and ‘allow’ for ‘different universes with different apparent laws’. This is a huge leap of atheistic faith.

Witches brew

The final three chapters rapidly descend into a witches brew of speculation and misinformation, confusingly blended with normal science. It certainly gave me a mental hangover — and I am no stranger to the territory. It is difficult to discern where science ends and speculation begins, but the key reasoning seem to be as follows.

1. The ‘big bang’ model predicts that the universe began life as such a tiny object that quantum theory must be applied to its origin (p.131). But hold on a moment! Quantum theory has only been validated under normal conditions of space, time, pressure, temperature and so on. We cannot know whether it applies to the supposed conditions at the origin of the universe, when space was intensely warped, time was at best fuzzy, and the pressure and temperature both approached infinity. What we do know is that massive objects do not exhibit quantum behaviour. No one can be sure that a new-born universe would obey quantum theory as we know it.

2.  ‘In the early universe all four dimension [of space-time] behave like space’ allowing us to ‘get rid of the problem of time having a beginning’ (pp.134-135). But if time and space were equivalent, and time did not begin, then space didn’t begin either! The universe was still-born. In fact the authors are appealing to the ‘no-boundary’ model described by Hawking 22 years ago in A Brief History of Time but are economical with the truth. The earlier book makes it clear that the model is valid only in imaginary time, not in real time (see WMG p.121). But here this caveat vanishes and imaginary time is misrepresented as real time.

The narrative then descends into farce. They claim that ‘the realisation that time behaves like space … means that the beginning of the universe was governed by the laws of science and doesn’t need to be set in motion by some god’ (p.135). So apparently the universe did ‘begin’ after all, but not in time. Confused? Me too.

3. Picturing the early universe as a quantum particle (something they themselves describe as ‘tricky’) the authors consider how it might evolve from point (state) A to point (state) B by applying Feynman’s sum-over-histories method thus:

‘[Since we are considering the beginning of the universe] there is no point A, so we add up all the histories that satisfy the no-boundary condition and end at the universe we observe today. In this view the universe appears spontaneously, starting off in every possible way. Most of these correspond to other universes.’

But by saying that point A does not exist they assume that the universe springs into existence somewhere between nothing (point A) and the present universe (point B). This tells us nothing about how or why the universe began; simply that it did begin. We knew that already.

4. Finally, p.180 does offer an explanation of spontaneous creation. The conservation of energy means that universes can only be created from nothing if their net energy is zero, with negative gravitational energy balancing out the positive energy of matter and radiation. This necessitates that a law of gravity must exist. Because a law of gravity exists it must and will of itself create universes out of nothing (no reasoning given).

So gravity is God. Unfortunately the authors have no time to tell us who created gravity (earlier they rule out God because no one could explain who created him). Nor can they tell us why matter and gravity should pop out of nothing, except to argue that ‘nothing’ undergoes quantum fluctuations. However, this requires that (like gravity) the laws of quantum mechanics pre-existed the universe and that ‘nothing’ possesses the properties of normal space, which is part of the created order and cannot be its antecedent.

A grand design? Only in the sense that this book is grandly designed to bamboozle the unwary and cloak atheistic philosophy in the garb of science. Fortunately, the clothes don’t fit.

6 replies
  1. Udaybhanu Chitrakar
    Udaybhanu Chitrakar says:

    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
    – Stephen Hawking in “The Grand Design”
    “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
    – Stephen Hawking in the same book.

    Here three questions can be asked:
    1) Which one came first, universe, or laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    2) If the universe came first, then how was there spontaneous creation without the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    3) If the laws of gravity and quantum theory came first, then Hawking has merely substituted God with quantum theory and laws of gravity. These two together can be called Hawking’s “Unconscious God”. Therefore we can legitimately ask the question: Who, or what, created Hawking’s unconscious God?

  2. Udaybhanu Chitrakar
    Udaybhanu Chitrakar says:

    Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?

    How did the scientists come to know that an entire universe could come out of nothing? Or, how did they come to know that anything at all could come out of nothing? Were they present at that moment when the universe was being born? As that was not the case at all, therefore they did not get that idea being present at the creation event. Rather they got this idea being present here on this very earth. They have created a vacuum artificially, and then they have observed that virtual particles (electron-positron pairs) are still appearing spontaneously out of that vacuum and then disappearing again. From that observation they have first speculated, and then ultimately theorized, that an entire universe could also come out of nothing. But here their entire logic is flawed. These scientists are all born and brought up within the Christian tradition. Maybe they have downright rejected the Christian world-view, but they cannot say that they are all ignorant of that world-view. According to that world-view God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. So as per Christian belief-system, and not only as per Christian belief-system, but as per other belief-systems also, God is everywhere. So when these scientists are saying that the void is a real void, God is already dead and non-existent for them. But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist. So how have they accomplished that job, the job of making God redundant in case of creation event? These were the steps:
    1) God is non-existent, and so, the void is a real void. Without the pre-supposition that God does not exist, it cannot be concluded that the void is a real void.
    2) As virtual particles can come out of the void, so also the entire universe. Our universe has actually originated from the void due to a quantum fluctuation in it.
    3) This shows that God was not necessary to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, as because there was no creation event.
    4) This further shows that God does not exist.
    So here what is to be proved has been proved based on the assumption that it has already been proved. Philosophy is already dead for these scientists. Is it that logic is also dead for them?

  3. Jason Tannery
    Jason Tannery says:

    The following are the evidence to prove that Stephen Hawking has abused science to support his Big Bang theory in which gravity could exist prior to the formation of the universe to create something out of nothing since his theory has contradicted not only Isaac Newton’s principle, but also Eistein’s theory:

    The following is the extract of the second paragraph under the sub-title of “Negative Pressure” for the main subject of the ‘Nature Of Dark Energy’ as shown in the website address http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy:

    According to General Relativity, the pressure within a substance contributes to its gravitational attraction for other things just as its mass density does. This happens because the physical quantity that causes matter to generate gravitational effects is the Stress-energy tensor, which contains both the energy (or matter) density of a substance and its pressure and viscosity.

    As the phrase, the physical quantity that causes matter to generate gravitational effects is mentioned in the extracted paragraph, it gives the implication that physical quantity of matter has to exist prior to the generation of gravitational effects. Or in other words, it opposes the principality that gravitational effects could occur at the absence of matter. As it is described pertaining to Dark Energy, it implies that Dark Energy could only be derived from the existence of the physical quantity of matter. This certainly rejects Stephen Hawking’s theory in which dark energy could exist prior to the formation of the universe as if that dark energy could exist the support or influence from the physical quantity of matter.

    The following is the extract of the third paragraph under the sub-title of ‘Cosmological Constant’ for the main subject of the ‘Nature of Dark Energy’ that has been extracted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy:

    The simplest explanation for dark energy is that it is simply the “cost of having space”: that is, a volume of space has some intrinsic, fundamental energy. This is the cosmological constant, sometimes called Lambda (hence Lambda-CDM model) after the Greek letter ?, the symbol used to mathematically represent this quantity. Since energy and mass are related by E = mc2, Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts that it will have a gravitational effect..

    E = mc2 has been used to be related to Dark Energy. As energy and mass are related in according to General Relativity and if m = 0, no matter how big the number that c could be, E (the dark energy) would turn up to be 0 since no matter how big the number c is E is always equal to 0 when 0 (that is the mass) is multiplied by c2. Or in other words, E (the dark energy) should be equal to 0 at the absence of substance (the mass). Stephen Hawking’s theory certainly contradicts Eistein’s theory in the sense that he supports that dark energy ( E > 0) could exist even though there could not be any matter (that is m = 0) existed prior to the formation of the universe.

    Refer to the website address pertaining to Isaac Newton’s theory pertaining to The Unversal Law of Gravitation: ttp://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/history/newtongrav.html

    Every object in the universe attracts every other object with a force directed along the time of centers for the two objects that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely separation between the two objects. Fg = G(m1 m2)/r2. (Fg is the gravitational force; m1 & m2 are the masses of the two objects; r is the separation between the objects and G is the universal gravitational constant. From the formula, we note that Fg (the gravitational force or in replacement of dark energy) has a direct influence from two masses (m1 & m2). If either of the m is equal to 0, Fg would turn up to be 0. Isaac Newton’s theory certainly opposes Stephen Hawking in which gravity or the so-called, dark energy, could exist at the absence of matter prior to the formation of this universe in this energy or gravity could create something out of nothing.

    Stephen Hawking might comment that Eistein’s and Isaac Newton’s principles are wrong. However, Stephen Hawking was not born at the time prior to the formation of this universe to visualize how the universe could be formed initially. To jump into the conclusion that the gravity could be created from something out of nothing is simply out of his own imagination. Not only that, his theory contradicts both Eistein’s and Isaac Newton’s principles pertaining to gravity.

  4. Jason Tannery
    Jason Tannery says:

    Big Bang theory has been used to support that this universe could be formed out of chaos.

    Refer to the website address, http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/history/newton3laws.html, regarding to the 1st law of Newton’s Principle. It is mentioned that every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. If this concept has been applied to the formation of this universe, it implies that this universe would remain nothing as it was until external force that would cause it to change. Or in other words, if there could be no external force or substance that could cause the formation of this universe, everything would remain as it was and the universe, that would remain nothing, would continue to remain nothing.

    If this universe could be created something out of nothing, there must be the external force that would cause something to be created out of nothing. Stephen Hawking might comment that it was gravity or quantum theory or etc. However, there must have external force that would cause gravity or quantum theory or etc., to be at work. If there would not be any external force to cause gravity or quantum theory or etc., to be at work in the formation of this universe, how could there be the formation of this universe since this world would remain nothing until eternity as supported by 1st law of Newton’s principle? Thus, the concept that this universe could be created something out of nothing is questionable from scientific point of view.

    Even if one insists that this theory could be correct, how could quantum theory or gravity or etc., be so efficient to manage the universe well in such a way that it could create sophisticated earth which plants and animals could survive here? What made the earth to be created far from the sun and not just next to it? For instance, if this earth was created a short distance just next to the sun, all animals and plants would not survive. Thus, the creation of this universe could not be co-incidence and this certainly put quantum theory to be in doubts pertaining to its creation from something out of nothing.

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