Anyhoo, lookee here.
Co-authored by Menas Kafatos, Fletcher Jones Professor of Computational Physics, Dean College of Science Chapman University
Stephen Hawking occupies a position in popular culture comparable only to Einstein's eminence sixty years ago: he is our last wise man speaking with the total authority of advanced science. Until his new book, The Grand Design, appeared, co-authored with Caltech physics professor (and adept writer) Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking had left open the whisper of a possibility that God might be allowed to survive scientific scrutiny. Einstein had a strong feeling for the presence of awe and wonder at the far horizon of the cosmos and saw evidence for the existence of a unifying, rational presence in the mathematical order of the cosmos. But since then the universe of theoretical physics has become random, complex, paradoxical, and barren of divine presence. Therefore, when Hawking made worldwide news recently by declaring that "it is not necessary to invoke God... to set the Universe going," a blow was struck for the noisy camp of atheists while the world of devout believers had one more reason -- this time a crushing one -- to consider science as the enemy of religion.
Yet when you read the new book, it becomes clear that Hawking and Mlodinow are leading us on a journey to the very edge of "nothing," the underlying source of all space, time, matter, and energy, and the closer they get, the more their findings lend no contradiction to a universal presence, often referred to as God. The ultimate basis of material existence which physicists dub as this nothingness is the ground zero of creation. It is imbued with the pure order that generates mathematics; it gives rise to the laws of nature that govern and balance the universe; and it remains mysteriously above its own creation, monitoring quantum interactions beyond the speed of light. If that sounds a lot like God, it must be said that the richness of this pre-quantum realm is the best model physics has devised for the unknowable -- and that leads Hawking into a paradox. If "nothing" gives rise to the human desire for meaning, how can it be meaningless? If the universe operates randomly, and this randomness created human brains that do all kinds of non-random things (such as writing Shakespeare and saying "I love you"), how can the purposeless give birth to the purposeful?
The Grand Design surveys, with considerable brilliance and sovereign impartiality, the latest "network of theories," termed M-theory, about how the universe came to be. The public for popular science has heard about a proposed "theory of everything" and identified it with Hawking's name. In their new book, he and Mlodinow promote M-theory as "a fundamental theory of physics that is a candidate for a theory of everything," Yet in place of a single overarching explanation, we get a sort of heffalump. "There seems to be no single mathematical model or theory that can describe every aspect of the universe... Each theory in the M-theory network is good at describing phenomenon within a certain range." Perhaps the most striking piece of the network is the theory of multiple universes, a hypothesis that Hawking and Mlodinow favor. Yet what is more important for culture at large is that the "design" of their title is not what believers in God might hope for. Rather, it is a strictly mathematical possibility for explaining as much as can be explained.
They fail to address Gödel's incompleteness theorem that categorically implies that no mathematical model of cosmos can ever be complete. Ultimately, Hawking contends that our source cannot be fully known by the rational mind, and his version of M-theory offers so many alternate universes -- far more than the stars in the known universe -- that it must be out of reach of the rational mind -- it's like explaining glass by counting every grain of sand on the beach. Humans are trapped in one universe alone out of billions upon billions upon billions, confined by the particular laws of nature that created us. Our minds are unable to conceive of a reality beyond these laws of nature; therefore, the only design admissible to physics has no purpose, meaning, goal, or creator. It is pure, seamless mathematical possibilities arranged in superposition with an escape clause that there are other species of mathematics that fit other universes. Effectively, even if God does exist, we'll never know for sure since our minds can see only their own reflection -- a new twist on St. Paul's seeing through a glass darkly. One can hear the window to God's mind that was opened by Einstein being firmly, sternly slammed shut.
I cannot wait to get to this...but alas, it's time to make dinner.