Sunday, September 5, 2010
On the origin of the universe
As it is very well said that if you want to make your book popular then it must discuss a; the existence of God and b; the absence of God and I think the marketing strategists for Hawking’s new book, “The Grand Design” hit upon this nasty idea and perhaps that’s why many people are curious as to what’s new in the book by the living legendary scientist.
The other day, a friend of mine shared a link of Yahoo news about the book which read ‘God did not create the universe’ Says Hawking. Now, before asking why this article got to the headline of Yahoo news around the world so that everyone could read it, I would like to write something else about the main idea of the book.
First of all, we all humans must understand the limitations of our understanding of the natural world. Let me clarify this with one of my own very interesting examples of how our knowledge of the world is limited.
As we all are told by science that we are a highly developed species and the most intelligent of all animals and at the same time, we are still developing, which means we are not the most developed or ultra developed species. Having said all that, we can be sure that we are not The Most intelligent beings in the universe.
Now let’s suppose that if all animals could be programmed like we install software into computers. Let’s further suppose that we develop a special software that gives any animal the capability to speak language as animals are said to have reasoning. And then let’s suppose we ask frogs for instance to develop a theory of how the earth was created let alone the universe. We then move on to rabbits and ask them to speculate on the origin of life. Can you imagine what kind of bizarre theories they will come up with? All those theories will be very important to them but very funny to all of us? Let’s suppose we install that language software on the funniest animals and analyze the theories. But I think we must not astray these poor animals and never ask them to speculate about their creator. In other words, let’s suppose if I could send that software CD to the Disney land and install it on a popular cartoon character like the Pink Panther or the Micky Mouse and ask them to speculate about their creator. This will certainly annoy the creator of the cartoon and he (cartoon) may have to risk his life because he will not talk the truth about his creator and instead he would say, “Well I was born out of a white paper with some ink that spilled over the paper accidently due to a gust of wind (Big Bang) and due to the temperature in the room, I was emerged”. By the way, if I have to really work on this software then Stephen Hawking himself is speechless as you all know. He needs it more than anybody.
That’s the limitation of our reasoning and understanding of the world though we are very optimistic creatures and always hope that we will find answers to all the questions one day.
Coming back to the book as I went through the news article, the excerpts from the book did not contain the statement anywhere that God did not create the universe. Secondly, since the book is co-authored, hence we need to ask ourselves which one of the authors believes that God did not create the universe. More importantly, there is just a very simple question for us to ask after reading that Hawkings believed that the universe came into being out of ‘nothing’ due to the inevitable laws of nature i.e. Does Hawking know that being nothing means non-being in philosophy and a being cannot pop out from non-being simply because if universes can pop into being then why not anything; why not laptops and shoes and just everything? This metaphysical matter needs to be settled before saying that the universe came out of nothing. The point I want to make is that why so many people are so intent upon negating God and the established ideas. We must keep one thing in mind that for a rational man and for that matter for a philosopher, it’s very strange to say that the Big Bang was actually the beginning of time and space and we must ask what existed before the Big Bang? A very simple notion that what actually banged in the universe during the Big Bang gives you an idea of why this theory is simply a theory. Well they tell us for a standard definition of the theory that the universe (time and space) began from a violent explosion from a strange kind of inflationary energy in the pre-existing universe. We have been avoiding the question of what existed before the Big Bang and what actually banged at the time because we cannot hear any sound in the space. The second puzzling thing is that why the universe adopted this peculiar state from the Big Bang and so on and so forth. Let’s suppose we start to believe that there was no time before the Big Bang. The word ‘before’ itself is a reflection of time and just like we can never chew our teeth and in the same way, we may never go back to the time when there was no time.
I, for myself believe just one thing; and that is; we are simply unable most of the time to give a precise idea about many things like the beginning of the universe, human life etc. For science, if a theory is proved to be wrong, it is considered to be progress when you prove things wrong. But can you sit down and wait for all this so called scientific progress and just say well ‘God did not create the universe according to the current theories of science’. I mean this is too naïve and too careless.
I think the excerpts of the book itself show that our understanding of reality is a big question. To help you get to the point more, I would like to past an excerpt from the book itself so that you know what if we were goldfish, caged in round glass bowls.
A few years ago the city council of Monza, Italy, barred pet owners from keeping goldfish in curved bowls. The measure's sponsor explained the measure in part by saying that it is cruel to keep a fish in a bowl with curved sides because, gazing out, the fish would have a distorted view of reality. But how do we know we have the true, undistorted picture of reality?
The goldfish view is not the same as our own, but goldfish could still formulate scientific laws governing the motion of the objects they observe outside their bowl. For example, due to the distortion, a freely moving object would be observed by the goldfish to move along a curved path. Nevertheless, the goldfish could formulate laws from their distorted frame of reference that would always hold true. Their laws would be more complicated than the laws in our frame, but simplicity is a matter of taste.
Regarding the laws that govern the universe, what we can say is this: There seems to be no single mathematical model or theory that can describe every aspect of the universe. Instead, there seems to be the network of theories, with each theory or model, our concepts of reality and of the fundamental constituents of the universe have changed.
That’s how I think about the layman’s view of the creation of the universe. Have a cheerful reading and feel free to comment.
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Dawood Khan Batozai,