9/06/2010

Logic, Thought and Steven Hawking

Hawking and Mlodinow’s book The Grand Design is fascinating. It is a look into theoretical physics that I appreciate.

One comment on page 180 seems to be getting all of the press: “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to envoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” This problimatic statement is seen as a major victory for atheism. But, I note the comment on page 181: “…perhaps the true miracle is that abstract considerations of logic lead to a unique theory that predicts and describes [the universe].”

Note the reference to logic.  The abstract laws of logic shape the way all of us think. Take one for instance: the law of non-contradiction.

It says that something can not be both A and Non-A at the same time, in the same relationship, and in the same sense.

This law cannot be denied. To deny it is to affirm it. If you say, “The law of non-contradiction does not apply,” you could mean, “The law of non-contradiction does indeed apply.” The meanings would be the same. Gordon H. Clark explains:

If the law of [non] contradiction is curbed, then a collection of letters, w-a-t-e-r, can mean not only sulfuric acid, but also at the same time and in the same sentence, tree, stone, Arcturus, the preposition because, and the cow jumped over the moon, ad infinitum…A word that means everything means nothing. (as quoted here)
This law of logic, which leads to all the others, is undeniable because to question it is to invoke it. That is the only way we can think.

How would an atheist account for these laws?

These abstract laws are not the result of observable behavior of objects or actions. We do not observe the laws of logic occurring in nature. They are not open for scientific exploration and study. We assume that logic’s laws work in order to evaluate scientific evidence. Using science to prove that logic works would be viciously circular.

They are not evolutionary in origin, either. Evolutionary processes governed by natural selection would not necessarily lead to the truth about our world. Natural selection would only encourage behavior that would lead to survival. We could not be certain our beliefs about the world were true, only that they let us live in any given situation. It does not matter whether we believe the tiger could eat us or that we believe that tigers look better from a distance, as long as we run fast, we live.

A Christian can account for the laws of logic by stating that they come from God. God has originated the laws of logic because He thinks logically. The laws of logic are a reflection of God’s mind. They do not change because the God whose thinking they reflect does not change. As Michael Butler puts it:

…the atheistic worldview does not comport with the principles of logic. If atheists were consistent with their worldview, they would give up on logic and rationality altogether. But since they do behave rationally (at least some of the time) this shows that they are borrowing capital from another worldview…Christianity allows for abstract and universal laws. Abstract because the Christian worldview teaches that more things exist than material objects. Thus it makes sense for there to be abstractions. Moreover, the universality of logic is possible because it is grounded in the character of God. God is by nature logical. And this all-powerful, all-knowing God orders all things…

I do not find an adequate explanation for logic and rational thought outside God. Literally, logical thinking drives me inescapably to God’s existence.
Hawking and Mlodinow also employ the laws of science to develop M-theory. The basic uniformity of nature, that things in the future will happen as they have in the past, is a requirement for any kind of knowledge based on scientific experimentation.  But how can we be sure?

I know the future will be basically consistent with the past with respect to physical laws because the God who upholds those laws does not change.

To return to Michael Butler:

That the uniformity of nature is compatible with the Christian worldview is easily proven ... God, who is providentially in control of all events, has revealed to us that we can count on regularities in the natural world. The Bible teaches that God providentially causes the harvest to come in due season, for example. Because of this regularity, we can be assured that scientific endeavors will be fruitful. Thus, far from presupposing the falsity of Christianity, science would be impossible without the truth of the Christian worldview.

How could an athiest be sure that nature will behave the same in the future as it has in the past?  I have no idea.
Hawking and Mlodinow, with their insistence on the use of the laws of logic and their mention of universal physical laws, have not weakened my faith in God. They have affirmed it.

No comments:

Search This Blog