Sunday, August 01, 2004

Infinite Denseness

I've been away, letting the blog go to pot. Too bad. I suppose I could come back with something profound about the Democratic Convention, or prices in Old Port Portland, or Nomah, but that will have to wait, I fear. What I can offer is a bit of Gregg Easterbook bashing, courtesy of Brad DeLong.

Seems Easterbrook is making fun of Stephen Hawking this time. (Linik is here - it's subscriber only, though...) Here's the first paragraph:

So Stephen Hawking now says he was completely wrong about black holes--they don't crush reality out of existence, and they aren't doorways to alternate universes. Bear in mind that Hawking also once argued that time may someday run in reverse, with the cosmos getting younger and people able to remember the future but having no knowledge of the past. Later Hawking withdrew that idea, too. Do the hundreds of thousands of people who bought his bestseller A Brief History of Time--which was "sexed up" with speculation that black holes destroy reality and the entire universe may someday operate in reverse-time--now get their money back?

That's quality stuff. Pure snark, and idiotic snark, too. Easterbrook adds: "It would be tempting to say that Hawking was able to become internationally famous while saying kooky things because today physicists have the status once held by medieval priests: People don't challenge their mumbo-jumbo." Something is missing here - perhaps it is the fact that Hawking himself corrected himself. (And, of course, people were arguing with him all along - he lost a bet for example, with another physicist, John Preskill, over this question.) Isn't this how science usually works? People take the data available - they analyze it and try to come up with a theory that explains it - they test the theory, argue about the theory, and if new data comes in that contradicts the theory, they correct it. Thus Hawking. How this incident is supposed to discredit Hawking is a mystery.

I used to like Easterbrook's football articles (though they got boring after awhile, with the cheerleader obsession and gratuitous political swipes overpowering the content), but I have yet to come across anything else by him that isn't silly. Even before he became something of a blogosphere whipping boy - I'd seen some of his writing on religion and science and found it very lacking. "Intelligent Design" - barely - since he is so dismissive of science (as in this article) he never gets any traction. And even here - DeLong also quotes Easterbrook mocking the Big Bang theory - "What came before the Big Bang? Cosmologists hate this question, but it's haunting nonetheless." This is a question - a rhetorical question, I mean, used to undermine the Big Bang theory - that leads, inevitably, to God, to Intelligent Design, and etc. from there. And that's all Easterbrook is after there - he's playing gotcha, and is about to pull out Genesis...

Anyway - check out DeLong's site - read the comments. Well worth it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course the problem with using the unknowability of what came before the Big Bang as a way to assert the existence of God is that God is also complex and therefore must have had a designer as well. Who designed that designer? Who designed the designer who designed the designer? And so on.

My small mind, and all others as well I'm sure, cannot grasp the meaning of what came before the beginning. We race in circles trying but neither God nor the Big Bang can answer that question satisfactorily. Being smug about that question is the surest way to demonstrate a mind smaller than Stephen Hawking.