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PZ Myers, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Chris Mooney - New Atheism or Accommodation?
Posted: 24 October 2010 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 121 ]
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Hilbert - 23 October 2010 07:23 PM
DarronS - 22 October 2010 06:01 AM

I think you are taking Dawkins’ comments out of context and twisting them to fit a preconceived notion. I don’t have the reference material at my side, but I would be shocked if Dawkins stated the multiverse idea is fact. I would appreciate it if you could quote the objectionable passages in context, or at least point the out book and the pages where you found them so I can look them up.

Certainly, that’s a reasonable request. I left my copy at the office so it’ll take a couple of days for me to get back to you. By the way, I did not preconceive this notion. I read Dawkins’s book and discovered that he made these (to my mind) mistakes. Also, I’m not saying he presented the multiverse as fact. If I remember correctly he presented it as the main counter-argument against the theist’s “Goldilocks” argument for God. But it’s a very weak counter-argument because the evidence for it is so weak. He should have emphasized the internal inadequacies of the theist’s case (why does the mechanism that “fine tunes” the laws of physics have to be a personal God, or any kind of being at all?).

The evidence in favor of the multi-verse theory is about as substantive as the evidence for the Goldilocks “Theory”(GT), i.e. not very.  This was the author’s demonstration of the reductio ad absurdum of the GT, and was(IMHO) a subtle allusion to Occam’s Razor.  Perhaps, however, I am giving a singularly brilliant man, and author of a dozen other magnificent books, too much literary credit…

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Posted: 24 October 2010 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 122 ]
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Excellently put brightfut.

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Posted: 25 October 2010 07:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 123 ]
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Dawkins’s misuse of the multiverse.

The relevant text is Dawkins’s “God Delusion”, where he invokes the multiverse as an important part of the counter-argument to the theist’s “Goldilocks” (fine-tuned) Universe argument. See Chapter 4, section “Anthropic principle: cosmological version”, and final summary at end of chapter (pages 169-176 and 188 in Mariner Books 2008 edition).

In these pages, Dawkins sets up the “finely-tuned universe” argument, with its “six finely-tuned numbers” and mentions that “hard-nosed physicists” would say that this is to be explained by an ultimate theory of everything. He says he finds this “unsatisfying” and offers as a superior alternative “the suggestion, which Martin Rees himself supports, that there are many universes… in a ‘multiverse’...”. He spends the next few pages describing how the multiverse and the anthropic principle can explain apparent fine-tuning.
A few pages later he even defends the multiverse on the grounds that it is “simple” compared to God: “if each one of those universes is simple in its fundamental laws, we are still not postulating anything highly improbable.”

In his summary at the end of the chapter he softens his stance slightly, saying that “Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work that Darwinism does for biology”, but he goes on to affirm that “the anthropic principle entitles us to postulate far more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with.”

It is clear that to Dawkins the multiverse is a significant part of the counterargument to the argument for design. He gives readers the impression that we need to postulate some sort of “luck” to deal with the Goldilocks argument, and that wild scientific speculations unsupported by evidence are something to have faith in. This is a problem when the central argument against theist apologetics is that faith has no probative value, and that the problem with supernatural beings is that they are wild speculations unsupported by evidence.

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Posted: 25 October 2010 08:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 124 ]
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And how is this a mistake?
I agree with you that the multiverse is a poor argument against Goldilocks argument, but if this is the worst “mistake” in all of his books, he has done a pretty good job.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 02:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 125 ]
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For a evolutionist, the multiverse idea is of course very attractive… One does not need a ‘real explanation’, only chance and a selection criterion, the weak anthropic principle in this case. But without a mechanism that explains how many different universes bang again and again it still not worth much…

See the multiverse thread for some ideas.

GdB

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Posted: 26 October 2010 07:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 126 ]
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hamax - 25 October 2010 08:27 PM

And how is this a mistake?
I agree with you that the multiverse is a poor argument against Goldilocks argument, but if this is the worst “mistake” in all of his books, he has done a pretty good job.

1) Dawkins is widely regarded as an intellectual leader of atheism. If his arguments are weak then many readers, naturally assuming this is the cream of atheistic argumentation, will infer that these are weaknesses in the case for atheistism.

2) Dawkins’s specific mistake, repeatedly made in his book, involves using even fairly marginal scientific theories as important components of his arguments. This undermines the central thrust of the case for atheism, which is that extraordinary claims (like the multiverse) require extraordinarily strong evidence. Dawkins’s approach unfortunately gives ammunition to those who would like to argue that atheism is just another faith system, following from an arbitrarily adopted “naturalistic worldview” which is credulous about science.

As I mentioned before, there are other places where he makes this mistake, e.g.  in the argument from personal experience, where he invokes recent cogsci speculation about the brain’s “simulation software”. Obviously the “personal experience” argument for theism has deeper weaknesses, and a good counter-argument should focus on those.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 07:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 127 ]
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Hilbert, those do seem like valid criticims of Dawkins’ writings. Now I’m going to have to find a used copy of The God Delusion and read it for myself.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 07:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 128 ]
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DarronS - 26 October 2010 07:41 PM

Hilbert, those do seem like valid criticims of Dawkins’ writings. Now I’m going to have to find a used copy of The God Delusion and read it for myself.

Well, in that case you might say the same about Hawking, as he makes a very similar claim in his latest book, The Grand Design.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 08:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 129 ]
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Stephen Hawking stepped off into the deep end a long time ago. His latest diatribe about keeping radio silence so aliens don’t invade us convinced me he has nothing of substance left to offer.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 08:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 130 ]
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DarronS - 26 October 2010 08:08 PM

Stephen Hawking stepped off into the deep end a long time ago. His latest diatribe about keeping radio silence so aliens don’t invade us convinced me he has nothing of substance left to offer.

Hmm, an ad hominem? I would have expected a little more from you, Darron.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 08:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 131 ]
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George - 26 October 2010 08:12 PM
DarronS - 26 October 2010 08:08 PM

Stephen Hawking stepped off into the deep end a long time ago. His latest diatribe about keeping radio silence so aliens don’t invade us convinced me he has nothing of substance left to offer.

Hmm, an ad hominem? I would have expected a little more from you, Darron.

Stephen Hawking made one significant contribution to physics in 1974. Since then he has written several popular books (which I have read and enjoyed) and admitted everything he has done in physics since 1974 was wrong. Speculating about multiverses is interesting, but not yet in the realm of testable science. It may be soon, but it ain’t there yet. Warning about aliens invading Earth is paranoia. Some ad hominems are justified.

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Posted: 26 October 2010 08:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 132 ]
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Dawkins presents the idea of the multiverse in his book as a possible explanation, which is far from making an extraordinary claim, as Hilbert seems to suggest. (Yes, you should read the book.) Hawking and Mlodinow say in their book that the “multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology.” But maybe you’re aware of why many of those theories might be wrong, and why you may therefore find it appropriate here to use an ad hominem against Hawking.

And one more thing on the “extraordinary claims (like the multiverse) require extraordinarily strong evidence”: Didn’t Sagan once said that, “We wish to find the truth, no matter where it lies. But to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact?” As far as I can tell, that’s exactly what both Dawkins and Hawking are doing, not being afraid to speculate. None of them has ever claimed that the multiverse was a certainty.

[ Edited: 27 October 2010 08:58 AM by George ]
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Posted: 26 October 2010 09:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 133 ]
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Good points, George. I do need to read The God Delusion and see for myself what Dawkins said about multiverses.

My point about Hawking is limited to his recent pronouncement about the dangers of aliens finding our signals and coming to invade us. His speculations about mulitverses are interesting, and recent discoveries about dark matter have the potential to reveal the veracity of the idea. I like the multiverse idea and think it has potential to explain a lot of things about how and why our universe exists as it does.

I do believe that Hawking’s reputation exceeds his contributions to science. Not to belittle what he has contributed, but he is not one of the 20th Century’s greatest physicists. Brilliant, yes, but others have contributed just as much. See Lawrence Krauss’ book The Black Hole Wars for an explanation of where Hawking went wrong. He owes Krauss a six-pack of beer, and publicly admitted this two years ago. I give Hawking kudos for admitting Krauss was right. That shows Hawking is more interested in advancing science than in advancing his own ideas.

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Posted: 27 October 2010 01:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 134 ]
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George - 26 October 2010 08:55 PM

Hawking and Mlodinow say in their book that the “multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology.”

I was wondering if this is true, and searched for the citation in the internet, and found a longer version of it:

That multiverse idea is not a notion invented by the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology… in the same way that the environmental coincidences of our solar system were rendered unremarkable by the realization that billions of such systems exist, the fine-tuning in the laws of nature can be explained by the existence of multiple universes.

Italic by me.

If there is a ‘not’ somewhere in the ellipsis it could make sense, otherwise Hawking seems to contradict himself. George, do you have the complete sentence at hand?

GdB

PS Found this interesting article.

[ Edited: 27 October 2010 02:38 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 27 October 2010 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 135 ]
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DarronS - 26 October 2010 09:36 PM

Good points, George. I do need to read The God Delusion and see for myself what Dawkins said about multiverses.

My point about Hawking is limited to his recent pronouncement about the dangers of aliens finding our signals and coming to invade us. His speculations about mulitverses are interesting, and recent discoveries about dark matter have the potential to reveal the veracity of the idea. I like the multiverse idea and think it has potential to explain a lot of things about how and why our universe exists as it does.

I do believe that Hawking’s reputation exceeds his contributions to science. Not to belittle what he has contributed, but he is not one of the 20th Century’s greatest physicists. Brilliant, yes, but others have contributed just as much. See Lawrence Krauss’ book The Black Hole Wars for an explanation of where Hawking went wrong. He owes Krauss a six-pack of beer, and publicly admitted this two years ago. I give Hawking kudos for admitting Krauss was right. That shows Hawking is more interested in advancing science than in advancing his own ideas.

Hawking’s argument for the multiverse is interesting - having just finished his book. The central point he seems to me to be making is that if we take quantum objects as travelling from point A to point B via every possible path (as shown by experimental evidence) AND consider that the universe started as such and object, then we should be prepared to accept the multiverse as being valid, with our universe simply being on one path amongst many.

I am not saying he is right, but if he is wrong he at least manages it in an intriguing way.

As to The God Delusion, it is a good idea to read the book in any case. There is a lot written debunking arguments in the God Delusion - which don’t actually appear in the God Delusion. It is a bit like there are two books written by the same author, with the same title, and totally different contents floating around.

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