Thursday, September 2, 2010

Stephen Hawking and Spontaneous Creation

Stephen Hawking has a new book, “The Grand Design”, in which he apparently claims that there is no need to posit God in order for there to be a universe. In an article in the Telegraph, Hawking is said to have claimed that

“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.”

Since gravity continues to exist, why then would we not expect to see a continuous set of Big Bangs, creating universes on top of universes until gravity ceases to exist? Gravity does not, on the surface, seem to be a factor in an existence without mass, which would have been the case prior to the Big Bang. While the theory might be projected beyond the universe, if there is no mass, then the practical assertion of gravity seems without merit, especially in creating mass. No mass, no gravitational force. Is gravity more than attraction between masses? Is it also a creating cause? What about gravity would cause us to create such an hypothesis?

Perhaps Hawking has an answer to that in his book. But spontaneous creation of new mass-energy and space-time is not something we experience, either daily, or in fact, ever. A creation of such things happened exactly once, so far as can be observed. Hawking has been struggling with the God and creation issue for decades. He released equations showing a closed universe, but he had to use imaginary time in order to pull it off. That doesn’t square with observations, which still, to my knowledge, indicate that the universe had a single starting point which includes the start of mass-energy and space-time, none of which existed prior to that time. Also, to my knowledge, there has been no other observed spontaneous (or otherwise) creation of mass or energy.

It is necessary to note that this information comes from a media interview with Hawking. I’ll need to actually read the book to see why he feels that gravity, in the absence of mass, creates universes spontaneously.


Wandering Internet Commentator said...

The first thing I had to ask was "Yeah, okay, so then where does gravity come from?"

Martin said...

Hawking is quite excellent in the realm of cosmology, but fails miserably when it comes to philosophy.

Quentin Smith, one of the vanishingly few good atheist philosophers, remarked that Hawking's "Brief History of Time" is one of the worst arguments for atheism in the history of Western philosophy.

sonic said...

Hawking is a multiverse guy- this means that there are millions and billions and gazillions of universes being created spontaneously every instant.
So the spontaneous creation of a universe might not be experienced by you, but it is happening according to the MWI version of physics.
What any of this has to do with god is another question.

Stan said...

With absolutely no means to prevent it, spontaneous universe creation should occur at an infinite rate, everywhere and all the time.

If there were an infinite number of universes created every infinitely small moment, then it would be forced to fill up our universe, as well as whatever else there is, with new universes lighting up all over the place. After all that would be an infinite number of infinities to deal with.

One infinity would require all possible space - or whatever there is - and that includes our space.

If there were not new universes popping up in our space, then the number of universes must not be infinite. If not, then how many are there? Instead of infinity-squared, there would only be sub-infinity. If it is sub-infinite, then Hawkings should tell us how many there are, shouldn't he?

Playing around with infinities always leads to the discontinuities and paradoxes that show us that it makes no sense to make claims of infinite actions or existences. Spontaneous generation is one of those theories.

sonic said...

An odd thought.
It seems the existence of the multiverse is an important feature of the current 'naturalistic' story of the universe.
It seems that if this is the only universe, then it is too incredible and is inexplicable scientifically. (From the standpoint of QM- If the wave function collapses, we can't explain it- no mathematics for the 'leap'.)
By having a countless number of universes (less than infinity, but approaching), this one becomes inevitable. (As does any other universe a science fiction writer could come up with. In the multiverse, everything that could happen, does happen.)
These universes are unobserved, and by most current theory, unobservable.
And it is this that tells us that there is no god.
An odd thought.

Martin said...


Although string theory is extremely contentious, with some physicists calling it unfalsifiable and unscientific, the multi universe hypothesis does not arise out of a desire to get rid of the God hypothesis but as a direct result of the mathematics involved.

Stan said...

It might be string theory to which Hawking is referring. As I understand it, ST says that universes exist on "branes" which exist sort of in parallel, and when branes collide, an explosion would cause a new universe to be formed. I saw a TV animation a couple of years ago that represented the branes as similar to sheets hanging on a clothes line, waving around in the wind and touching each other ocassionally.

Gravity is said to be the one open ended string, reaching out to who knows where.

All of that presumes that time and space exist outside of our time and space, or else we cannot conceive of them by using our limited ability for dimensional constructs.

I don't know if this is his thought or not. And it still doesn't seem to justify saying that "if there is a law like gravity, then there will be a universe" - if that's what he said.

Spontaneous generation has to be limited somehow, or it will occur everywhere and always.

And none of this answers the question, Why is there anything. It merely shoves it off to another level, and the shove itself is a metaphysic, produced by mathematics, which is also a metaphysic, with the intitial conditions for the calculations based in physics.

Not too long ago Hawking compared the Big Bang to an equation collapse, similar to what happens in quantum mechanics. Almost seems like he is groping for an answer he does not have.

Ahmed said...

What if he is calling the first Eternal beginningless immaterial cause a "law" or "universe" rather than God ?

A universe by definition is what exists in space-time, hence that could be negated as it can never be eternal.

what about an eternal law ? That would be refuted by the non eternality of our universe. In an eternal law the sufficient conditions for creations of universe would be always present, hence our universe would be eternal. But its not, hence the only other option being a personal eternal cause/creator.

Ahmed said...

btw, "laws" like space, time, mathematics are concepts that dont exist by itself. right ?

Stan said...

I've been thinking about your comments. I'm not sure I fully understand your position. Your comment that Hawking is considering gravity to exist as a law before the creation of the universe seems right.

The existence of space-time and mass-energy are thought to have been created at the Big Bang. So the physical relationships that we call laws could not have existed (that we know of) before the creation of the physical objects they describe. So you are correct about that part too.

I don't think this proves the existence of a creating deity, but it does not exlude it either, as far as I can see.

Ting Tong said...

If gravity creates mass, who created gravity? The argunment is endless.

Stan said...

Yes, endless as in circular.

Actually, it would appear to us mortals that mass is necessary in order to exhibit gravity, which is a function of mass. If gravity is a characteristic of mass, then it is hard to see it as the creator of mass, unless it has some meta-physical properties that are not immediately apparent.

Stan said...

Also, if gravity creates mass, why isn't it creating mass all the time? There is plenty of gravity floating around the universe. Or maybe there is a threshold minimum value requirement.

sonic said...


The problem- as far as physics and god go- is that the Copenhagen interpretation answers the question- 'how did the universe begin?' with 'when an observer outside the system took a measurement.'

The multiverse comes from the math of Schrodinger's equation. String theory posits that there are dimensions unseen and probably unseeable, the multiverse posits that there are complete universes (like the one you live in) that exist and are being created completely and instantly every moment.
This is because Schrodinger's equation doesn't give an answer to 'where is the particle?' although we seem to find them in exact locations. Since there are numerous answers given by the equation, you either get a 'collapse' of the wave function, or you need another way to explain the observed phenomena.
The 'collapse' gives something like Copenhagen, or the von Nuemann orthodox interpretation of QM, the Everett (many-worlds-multiverse) doesn't include the collapse.
String theory is the 'theory of everything' that would be needed to know that -since everything is explained- we can know that we don't need a ---
(anything that string theory doesn't need). (This would include a god apparently, although since string theory doesn't exist as a complete theory, I don't know how anyone could be certain that the final formulation wouldn't include such a thing).

Schrödinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality by John Gribbon is a book that seems to come to mind as I write this- you might check it out for more info...

Ahmed said...

You said:
"I don't think this proves the existence of a creating deity,"

WLC says:
I give three arguments for the personhood of the first cause.

First, the argument, inspired by the Islamic Principle of Determination, that only a free agent could explain the origin of a temporal effect with a beginning from a changeless, timeless cause. (See the exposition of the argument in either the
Blackwell Companion,
pp. 193-4 or in Reasonable Faith [Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2008], pp. 153-4.)