Saturday, January 13, 2007

"Almost" Berkeley: God and Time part 2

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The problem of Creation:

The conventional Christian view of Creation as based upon gen1:1 "God created the heavens and the earth" has, for decades, been associated with the Big Bang. It was a great fit too. The verse seems to say "God went zap and there it was, when two seconds before there it wasn't." And the Big bang seems to say "the singularity went "zap" and there was the universe. These two were made for each other and throughout the 1980s atheist physicists sweated out the similarity. Even Fred Hoyle seemed to be wavering in his dedication to steady state and it seemed that God would soon take over physics. In an attempt to move away from this uncomfortable position physicists began coming up with theories that would so alter the Big Bang that they would no longer find the fit plausible.

After Hawking's idea of no boudry, even though far from proven, there is a problem with the conventional view of creation. Since there is no time beyond event horizon (what we used to call 'before the big bang') there can be no time before time, so there can be no beginning. thus creation cannot be an event.

Hawking's theory of the unbounded condition is an example
Robert Koons, University of Texas

In A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking presented a new model of a beginningless universe. Hawking does not challenge the idea that the universe is finite in space and time. Consequently, there is no time earlier than 16-10 billion years ago. Nonetheless, if the univese does eventually collapse back into a infinitesimal point, and if we use a mathematical technique known as "imaginary time", we can model space-time as a smooth, uneventful surface, with the Big Bang as the North Pole and the Big Crunch as the South Pole. Hawking's model involves "spatializing" time -- turning time into a spatial dimension, no different from the familiar three dimensions of space. Hence, his model involves a radical rejection of change and becoming: the universe is an unchanging, multi-dimensional whole, given once for all. Change is merely variation along a static dimension.

Hawking's unbounded condition.

The problem with this argument in the recent work by Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time in which he preports to prove that the universe had an "unbounded condition," in other words, there is no origin to time. Imagine that time is like a cone and as we move back toward the original point at which time began we move in toward the point of the cone. Hawkings view would say that the end of the come is smooth, or that it has no end. Actually, he says that as we move toward the ultimate moment of origin time fragments and become four seperate coordinates, just as there are four dimension coordinates, in three spacial and one temporal dimension. in this case the one temporal dimension becomes four, making it impossible to say that time has a begining. The practical upshot of all of this is that a universe in which there is no origin to time is essentially a universe that always was, or that has no real begining. In other ways this is expressed by saying that the universe "poped" into exitance with no prior cuase (the big "pop"?).

Stephen Barr:University of Delaware

"The sufficient answer to the no boundry boundry condition [Hawking rather than eleminating boundry conditions has actually impossed one, that there is no boundary] as an argument against God has been well expressed by the physicist Don Page, a friend and collaborator of Stephen Hawking, as it happens a born again Christian: 'God creates and sustains the entire universe rather than just the begining. Wheather or not the unvierse has a begining has no relevance to the question of its creation just as wheather an artist's line has a begining and end or forms a circle has no relevance to the quesiton of it's being drawn.'" This is the response by Stephen M. Barr, phyicist at the University of Delaware (in review of book by Kitty Fergesson, "Fire in the Equasions." Pulished in First Things 65 August/Sept. 1996, 54-57.)

In other words, the issue is not merely the "beginig" of the universe but the source of it. That it couldn't pop into existance out of nothing is a proof of God, that it couldn't exist on its own with no cause is a proof of God, that it may have always existed with no actual begining is beside the point because it still has to have a source of origin even if it has no starting point in time. In other words this talk of boundry condiditions and no begining in time is just a paradox of language created by the fact that time would start up with the universe. The universe still has to have a source or a sustaining source of its existance.[Ibid]

*Finitude still meaningful

Robert J. Russell.

found Center for Theology and the natural

"Though highly speculative, the Hawking/Hartle model of the "quantum creation of the universe" is an example of the kind of challenge presented by quantum cosmology to the relation between theology and cosmology. If there is not "t=0" in the Hawking/Hartle model, does this 'disprove' the theological claim that the universe is created? Actually the interaction method produces a more nuanced result than this. Recall that, according the Hawking, the universe has a finite past but no past singularity at "t=0;" the universe is temporally past finite but unbounded. If we had too narrowly reduced the theological meaning of creation to the occurrence of "t=0" in standard cosmology we might well have a problem here! (Certainly not the problem Carl Sagan tries to raise in his Preface to Hawking's book - namely that there is nothing left for God to do. Deism like this is not even remotely presupposed by those theologians who do take t=0 as direct evidence for God. For them, as for all contemporary theology in one way or another, God acts everywhere in the universe, and not just at its beginning.) Yet if we kept the two worlds separate, we would have nothing to learn either."

"But the interaction model provides a surprising new result: The move from the Big Bang to Hawking's model changes the empirical meaning of the philosophical category of finitude; it does not render it meaningless. With Hawking/Hartle the universe is still temporally finite (in the past) but it does not have an initial singularity. Hence the shift in models changes the form of consonance between theology and science from one of bounded temporal past finitude (found with the Big Bang model) to one of unbounded temporal past finitude (found in the Hawking proposal). Thus, as we theologize about creatio ex nihilo we should separate out the element of past temporal finitude from the additional issue of the boundedness of the past. What the Hawking proposal teaches us is that in principle one need not have a bounded finite past to have a finite past. This result stands whether or not Hawking's proposal lasts scientifically."[Robert J. Russell. founder Center for Theology and the natural sciences

* Interactoin Model: contingency.

A Theological answer by a physicist and a theologian based upon Hawking's model shows us that Hawking does not do away with the contingent nature of the Universe.

(center for Theology and Natural Science)

QUOTE: The Hawking-Hartle Proposal for the early universe is the most ingenious of the quantum-cosmological speculations which aim to overcome the problem of the singularity. It is important to emphasise that these fascinating ideas are still speculations, and that they may never be amenable to receiving any experimental support. The speculations as they stood at the end of the 1980s were reviewed by Willem B Drees. He points out that at this early stage in the development of these theories a physicist might be influenced as to which one to pursue by a sense of their theological connotations (as we saw with Fred Hoyle’s development of steady-state theory (see is the Big Bang a moment of creation?). Stephen Hawking posed the question:

So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose that it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?

The militantly atheistic Oxford chemist P.W.Atkins has written that:

The only way of explaining the creation is to show that the creator had absolutely no job at all to do, and so might as well not have existed.

Atkins drew comfort from the notion that quantum cosmology has shifted away from the ‘blue-touch paper’ model, in which everything arose from a single inexplicable moment, towards various types of proposal in which space-time arises by chance out of a simpler state - Hawking’s boundariless space, or a quantum vacuum, or some such. These quotations show that such cosmologies can be taken to show consonance not so much with theistic creation as in Genesis as with the view that the universe arose by some transition which had no purpose or meaning. Keith Ward in his God, Chance and Necessityhas rightly taken issue with the suggestion that quantum cosmology implies that the reason for the universe is pure chance. He writes:

"On the quantum fluctuation hypothesis, the universe will only come into being if there exists an exactly balanced array of fundamental forces, an exactly specified probability of particular fluctuations occurring in this array, and existent space-time in which fluctuations can occur. This is a very complex and finely tuned ‘nothing’... So this universe looks highly contingent after all, and a creator God might well choose to create a partly probabilistic universe by choosing just such an origin for it."

Drees points out that in fact the Hawking-Hartle proposal accords well with a theology which emphasises that every space is equally created by God, ‘“sustaining” the world in all its “times.”’ R.J.Russell has shown, moreover, that at the core of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is the principle of ontological dependence - that all matter, all energy, and the laws that govern the universe all depend for their existence on a God whose existence is not dependent on anything. The discovery of an actual temporal beginning to this material universe would not prove this doctrine (since the doctrine rests on metaphysical convictions about God and existence) but only provide an additional gloss to it

Russell, Ph.D. Physics Santa Cruz,
prof Theology and Scinece
Founder and director CTNS

British philosopher and theologian -
Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford

* Evidence of Temporal Begining.

Moreover, Barr goes on,
"The evidence that our universe has a temporal begining is now enourmously strong. In the 'classical discription of the big bang (one that leaves quantum effect of account) the universe has a first instant of time...t=0. As one goes back toward the first instant various physical quantities (such as temporature) grow without limit. A theis point t=0, if it existed, the quantities would have been infintie and one could no longer make sense of the equasions such singular points are looked upon with suspicion by physicists...t=0 looks unpleaslty like a moment of creation....There is a belief among physicists that by banishing this point they will have struck a blow against religion...the point of there being no boundaries is itself just a special kind of boundry condition among many other.." [Stephen M. Barr, phyicist at the University of Delaware (in review of book by Kitty Fergesson, "Fire in the Equasions." Pulished in First Things 65 August/Sept. 1996, 54-57]

The problem of no "zap" moment of creation ("zap" something from nothing) is not such a problem. An eternal existant can be contingent provided the necessity upon which it is pinned is also eternal. An example would be an eternal flute player. As long as the musician plays his flute the music is eternal. Thee floutist plays eternally the music lasts eternally, but if the player ever stops, the music stops. God is the source of time, time is a conventional frame of reference in the mental construct we call "reality" which is actually nothing more than a thought in the mind of God. This eliminates all problems of time in relation to God.

The convetional view that takes its ques from Genesis is facinated with the instant of creation, the "zap" of "God created..." But there are other passages in the Bible that imply a more organic relationship between God and creation:

Deu 32 :18 "Of the Rock that bore you, you were unmindful, and have forgotten God that formed you." (that one may be hard to get, baring children--female image).

Job 38:8 "Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb."

Job 38:29 "From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven."

In these passages creation is likened unto a woman giving birth. This is not so much a "zap" movment of creation exnihilio but of an evolutionary view. Birth is an evolutionary process. The egg changes, it splits, it becomes zygote and fetus and finally emerges form the womb as a "babby." I am not trying to suggest any form of pantheism, but the idea of "creation" being eternal yet continent, and evolving.

We must re calibrate the entire question of God and time.In this model even the consequences of no time do not effect God, since they are also just part of the mental construct. God's true realty is governed by God's imaginatin, not the laws of Physics. The laws of physics themselves are just conventional frames of reference in the fantasy of our "reality." Thus problems such as A and B time and the first moment and temporal begining are all avoided.The temporal beginning problem effects atheists too. They often argue "how could God create if here was no time? He could not think, he could not move, he could not act because there is no change or becoming in a timeless state." But they seldom realize that this also effects the universe of an atheist in the same way. If that assumption is true there should be nothing here. The atheists beg the question and just assume we got here without God because some theory says it could be true, but that theory does not account for the problem of temporal beginning. But if time is a thought in the mind of God the temporal beginning problem is not a problem for God. It is God's imagination and not physics that controls God's reality.


theodicy said...

"In other words, the issue is not merely the "beginning" of the universe but the source of it. That it couldn't pop into existence out of nothing is a proof of God, that it couldn't exist on its own with no cause is a proof of God, that it may have always existed with no actual beginning is beside the point because it still has to have a source of origin even if it has no starting point in time. In other words this talk of boundary conditions and no beginning in time is just a paradox of language created by the fact that time would start up with the universe."

When I read Hawking's "A Brief History Of Time" it seems quite obvious to me that he was simply transferring some of the attributes we normally associated with God, especially his eternal existence, to that of the universe itself. In other words, Hawking's "god" is the universe. He doesn't succeed in getting rid of god, he just transfers some of his attributes to the physical world. Really, a atheistic scientist making metaphysical assumptions! The nerve!

Of all the philosophical ideas I've encountered in my brief and superficial study of philosophy, I must say that Berkeley's idea "to be is to be perceived" is one of most powerful ideas I've encountered, and, as far as I'm concerned, irrefutable. (Not that there are no critics of this idea!)

Time as a function of God's imagination is quite logical, and I think very sensible. In terms of economy and elegance it is unsurpassed.

<>< pseudo Thomas Merton

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Interesting comments. I agree that Hawking sets up his own God in a couple of ways as the universe and also maybe the laws of physics. I've statements by him that strongly seem to say he believes in God. I wonder if he has a set of beleifs in that regard that remain fixed.

thanks for your support. I agree I think Berkeley was one of the greatest minds ever.