Prince Charles appeared at the Davos conference as a hologram, leading
to this report in the Guardian:
The very sight of Prince Charles caused many to gasp, and they
also surprised by his reference to a common
"Scientists are now saying that
the problem of climate change is now so
grave and so urgent that we have less than 10 years to slow, stop and
reverse greenhouse gas emissions. Common actions are needed in every
country to protect the common inheritance that has been given to us by
our creator..." said the
But he didn't say anything about a 'figure'. People make extraordinary
assumptions. Because some apparently think of a creator that has or is
'figure' they assume other people (in this case, Charles) do too.
What sort of figure do they have in mind? When the average newspaper
reporter is a basket case is it a wonder the public are confused.
SEPTEMBER 1st 2010
Tomorrow's Times has the
front page headline: "HAWKING: GOD
DID NOT CREATE THE UNIVERSE. The laws of physics made it inevitable".
Those of us who understand geometry have been trying to explain to
ingenues like Hawking for over half a century that the laws of physics
and the emergence of energy into dimensions from singularity, related
as they are,
make the universe inevitable. The alternatives are (a) nothing, or (b)
observe. The evidence, considerable centuries ago,
has been piling up as time passes until it is, for those who have
looked at all the angles (not necessarily those who make most noise or
are worshipped by seekers after news) overwhelming.
Why Hawking thinks
this has any bearing on the past, present or future ideas humans may
have as to the existence or nature of what they call God, immanent or
transcendent, can only be described as a personal problem for Hawking.
Maybe he took the stories in Genesis and the painting on the ceiling
of the Sistine Chapel literally, as the scientific truth for all time.
such original naivety can spur a
young man to seek mathematical proof that he was terribly misinformed,
not realising that all depictions of truths on this level are just
graphical user interfaces, allegories, symbols appropriate for their
era and are accepted as such
by most intelligent people. Rather than deciding God did not create the
universe, it is more sensible to update naive and inappropriate ideas
of God. Either way, it is once again depressing that a major national
newspaper can run such a meaningless headline and claim it is news.
Unfortunately I expect this to continue for the foreseeable future.
SEPTEMBER 2nd 2010
This morning the editors of BBC's Today programme knew they had to do
their job on this. 'Auntie' had to say something to reassure its Radio
4 listeners at least that maybe their world had not been turned upside
down a second time. So lovable Jim al-Khalili was wheeled out to hint
in the most polite way that Hawking really had nothing new to say, and
that his claim that the latest scientific research means the end of
philosophy should be taken seriously. Al-Khalili is better at
expressing science than most people and also a delightfully modest man.
He has done good work in explaining to the public why what we observe
is arranged the way it is and how some very fundamental principles
(even before we get to 'laws') make this happen. The element of
'inevitability' is related to the lack of interactive alternatives.
Given the so-called 'big-bang' (emergence into dimensional plurality),
somewhere at some time you will find Margaret Thatcher. There is no
alternative. A further and more profound theory is that there was no
alternative to the 'big bang'. Hawking has got this right (rather late
in the day), seen the light but drawn the wrong conclusion from it.
Many theologists and philosophers were way ahead of him. I think he can
now be wheeled off to applause. He did it his way!
In one way, Hawking's claim to be heralding the death of philosophy is
right. Science does herald the death of absurd philosophies and enables
us to consolidate some brilliant insights of the great philosophers,
abandoning the idosynchratic or purely contemporary passing perceptions
that even some of these took mistakenly to be universal and eternal. If
that is all Hawking meant to say then he expressed himself very badly.
However, all the knowledge we have still faces us with the ultimate
philosophical question: what to do with it? In Douglas Adams' language
this boils down to: where shall we have lunch? but the same old
political, philosophical, religious puzzles remain. Now, as in earlier
times, mankind creates the image of God and then tries to derive
authority from it, but Hawking is not the second coming any more or
less than anyone else. Humanity's future as a whole will emerge as it
emerges. Whoever reads this, whenever and wherever they are, will be
part of it.