The Claims of Science vs. the Claims of Scientists

Dr. John Lenox, professor of mathematics at Oxford University, points out the important distinction between science and scientists:

 [T]he general public is not aware that a statement by a scientist is not necessarily a statement of science.  And science has such cultural authority in our world, that that confusion tends to persist – from God and Stephen Hawkings – John Lennox, PhD, posted as a video on YouTube, 21:10

Lenox then presents a key example:

Talking about M theory, and that is Hawking’s candidate for a theory of everything, he writes: ‘M theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing.  Their creation does not require the intervention of some sort of supernatural being or God,  rather these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law.’  So what is Hawkings doing? He’s denying the existence of God, and assigning the creative aspect to physical law.  And, it seems to me, that he’s making a classical category mistake, by confusing two fundamentally distinct concepts: physical law on the one hand, and personal agency.  That is, he is setting false alternatives before us.  God is an explanation of the universe. But not the same type of explanation that arises from physical law.- from God and Stephen Hawking, 22:48

Turning to the example of the jet engine and the motor car, Lenox makes his point:

[W]e need both explanations to give a full explanation of the jet engine and the motor car. That is, you need an explanation in terms of law and mechanism, and you need an explanation in terms of personal agency and intelligence. Those explanations of the jet engine and the motor car engine do not compete with one another; they are not even in the same category; they complement one another. – from God and Stephen Hawking, 25:56

Without explicitly identifying them as such, Dr. Lenox appeals to Aristotle’s four aspects of a causal explanation, and points out that a) the efficient cause, the laws of physics, b) the final cause, the agency of the creator, and his purpose, c) the material cause, the matter from which the engine is formed, and d) the formal cause, the structure or form of the engine itself, are all necessary to understand the cause of the creation of the  jet engine.

The laws of physics can help us to understand how a jet engine works, but not how it came to exist in the first place. A jet engine  could not have been created by the laws of physics on their own; that needed the work of Whittle [inventor of the jet engine].  Come to think of it, ladies and gentlemen, the laws of physics plus Tom Whittle could not produce a jet engine on their own.  There also needed to be sum humble matter in existence to work on. Matter may be humble stuff but it is not produced by laws. – from God and Stephen Hawking, 26:26

Dr. Lennox then points out that physical laws, per se, have no power to bring about the existence of anything, for such laws are only mathematical descriptions of temporal  sequences given certain pre-existing conditions within a pre-existing physical system.

[T]o say that a theory or physical laws could bring the universe or anything at all, for that matter, into existence is to misunderstand the nature of theory.  And we need to investigate that very carefully.  Physical laws cannot create anything on their own. They are simply usually a mathematical description of what normally happens under certain given conditions to a pre-existing system. – from God and Stephen Hawking, 28:09

Lennox then quotes John Hulkinghorn, who points out all theories of determinism regarding human behavior, must commit the fallacy of self-exclusion, else all of man’s creative endeavors be the products not of rational beings but rather of automatons:

“In the opinion of many thinkers human freedom is closely associated with human rationality.   If we were deterministic beings what would validate the claim that our utterance constituted rational discourse?  Would not the sounds issuing from our mouths and the markings we make on paper be nothing but the actions of automatons?  All proponents of deterministic theory. . . need a covert  disclaimer on their own behalf exception their on contribution from reductive dismissal.” – from God and Stephen Hawking, 45:30

Published on February 21,@ 2:37 am

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