I’ve often thought that we are living at the crossroads. Now I see I am supported by none other than Stephen Hawking, who has just published The Grand Design with Leonard Mlodinow. It’s a short book, weighing in at under 198 pages, and begins with what some might read as a contentious comment- that ‘philosophy is dead’. But what can you do when it is soooo difficult to get anything published and there are soooo many willing to hang on every word uttered by someone with the reputation for mischief. The use of the word ‘design’ in the title might be seen as a subtle example of that very mischief.
The book is apparently full of semantic jousting, which is a pity as it’s a good idea for science to start addressing the ‘why’ questions, though perhaps a less provocative approach would have been more useful to the ongoing debate. I see it as another brick in the wall of scientism, to construct an intelligent debate on a foundation of contention. It’s a pity that a man of Hawking’s stature (yes I know, but I’m on a roll here) finds it necessary to throw his weight behind ‘model dependant realism’, a scientific idea that has all the depth of a celebrity soundbite.
But it’s good to see that the Anthropic Principle is back in favour and that the universe, though vast, is finite, therefore providing the design with a boundary to work within, albeit too huge for our consciousness to hold in any meaningful way. I haven’t managed to get my mits on a copy of the book yet, so am writing this based on The Wall Street Journal review. But I didn’t notice much spacetime being given to the subject of consciousness in the analysis of quantum mechanics and general relativity coaxing the universe into complexity. Funny the way that consciousness is so often erased from the why questions. Not in the brief of physics perhaps?
The way Hawking and Mlodinow get round the something- from- nothing question is by cleverly supposing that one of the multiverse states is nothingness. The universe, like particles themselves, does not exist in a well- defined position but rather lives in a supposition of many possible positions. Got it?
So it’s back to living at the crossroads of time. It’s great that we can all take part in these ‘why’ questions. Curiosity is after all one of the things that makes us human. It’s also interesting to see science picking up the ‘now dead’ cloak of philosophy. I just wish I didn’t see so clearly the shadow of justification lying under the question, like bleeding pentimento. What’s wrong with a designer anyway, just as long as it isn’t tainted with dogma?