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Pope Advised Hawking Not to Study Origin of Universe 864

Posted by timothy
from the chewbacca-defense dept.
BlueCup submits a link to an Associated Press article running in the Northwest Florida Daily News which begins "Famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said Thursday that the late Pope John Paul II once told scientists they should not study the beginning of the universe because it was the work of God. The British author, who wrote the best-seller 'A Brief History of Time,' said that the pope made the comments at a cosmology conference at the Vatican." According to the article, "The scientist then joked during a lecture in Hong Kong, 'I was glad he didn't realize I had presented a paper at the conference suggesting how the universe began. I didn't fancy the thought of being handed over to the Inquisition like Galileo.'"
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Pope Advised Hawking Not to Study Origin of Universe

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  • Hardly news (Score:5, Informative)

    by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdot @ j awtheshark.com> on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:13AM (#15539122) Homepage Journal

    He wrote that anecdote himself in "A Brief History of Time". So, this *really* is old news.

  • Flawed Logic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mfh (56) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:13AM (#15539125) Journal
    If you love God, why not read up on his work?
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      George W. Bush says that God did it. Good enough for me.

      -Eric

    • Re:Flawed Logic (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:19AM (#15539175)
      If you love God, why not read up on his work?

      I know a couple of scientists who are religious (Christian) and none of them understand what the deal is with the fundamentalists who insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible. As far as they're concerned, they're using their God given brain to study how God does His thing. A very classic way of thinking about science. IIRC, Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, etc... all thought of their scientific work as a way to worship Him.

      • by Kiaser Zohsay (20134) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:32AM (#15539266)
        As far as they're concerned, they're using their God given brain to study how God does His thing.

        A biology professor I once met was fond of saying that if you study biology in long enough, you will find not only that God exists, but He has a sense of humor.
        • by larkost (79011) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:44AM (#15539376)
          You don't have to study very much, just have a good long look at your own reproductive organs. After all, as the joke goes: "God must be a civil engineer, who else but a civil engineer would put a waste water outlet through a recreational facility?".
        • Re:Flawed Logic (Score:4, Interesting)

          by BVis (267028) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:42AM (#15540424)
          If you need proof, just look at a duck-billed platypus.

          I mean seriously, what the fuck? Hair, bill, warm-blooded, lays eggs, nurses its young, males have venomous spurs..

          (They also have the best electroperception of any mammal and swim with their eyes closed. You can't make this shit up, check out the Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org]. They're even wierder than I thought.)
      • Re:Flawed Logic (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Alpha_Traveller (685367) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @12:08PM (#15540682) Homepage Journal
        >what the deal is with the fundamentalists who insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible.

        These people are instructed via the leaders of their religion to not think, to not question, to not consider. They are instructed on what the word of god is, how it exactly should be interpreted.

        These people have very little memory of the history of their own religion, that fundamentalism extended to the basic beliefs achieved by questioning the world they live in and realizing they needed order. However, to never question that belief again (not that using science to examine things) is rediculous in the extreme and simply means you learn a lot less about what God's intended for everyone to learn.

        Ultimately we're talking about hatred of something they do not want or feel they can't, or more importantly won't understand -- and it might be something that can potentially derail their view of the world. It's scary to them. It makes their religious leaders insecure and in turn makes them worried that science might some day effect them in some unforseen way. Ultimately these people probably don't trust God too much, or at the very least themselves.

        All opinions at any rate.

    • Re:Flawed Logic (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BodhiCat (925309)
      Fundamentalist Christians are like a dog in a cage with the back of the cage wide open. There was no Garden of Eden, there was no snake, there was no apple and there's no such thing as original sin. You don't have to follow the rules of some ancient desert tribe. You are free to make your own decisions as long as they are conducive to a functioning society. Yet the fundamentalists are going oo look at this cage, look at how strong the bars are. Scientists have known that the earth is not the center of
    • by Xymor (943922) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:20AM (#15539686)
      Yeah, but please BUY his book, don't rip-off God's royalties. Otherwise he might not be discouraged to create other universes.
    • by camperdave (969942) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:04AM (#15540097) Journal
      The Pope is not merely using flawed logic, the bible commands us to consider the work of his (God's) hands.
      • Genesis 15:5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars..."
      • Psalm 143:5 I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.*
      • Psalm 92:4 For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands*
      • Proverbs 6:6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
      • Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
      *Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
      • Genesis 15:5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars..."

        Clarification: In that verse, God was not telling Abraham to study the heavens or anything of the sort. He was using the numerous (read: uncountable) stars in the sky to give Abraham a familiar frame of reference so he could understand God's promise of an unending family legacy (numerous, uncountable descendants).

        Your point, however, remains otherwise valid. As a reasonable human being, I honestly don't understa

    • Re:Flawed Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kpesler (982707) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:08AM (#15540130)
      I believe that many are missing a critical point in this discussion. The universe, by definition, encompasses all events which are causally connected, and therefore observable, at least in theory. As such, studying the universe falls within the realm of science. Discussion about what preceded the universe is, by definition, a discussion about things that cannot, even in principle, be observationally confirmed or refuted. As such, it is not science, but speculation. If you want to make such speculations, go ahead, but it shouldn't be passed off as science. I believe the Pope's comments were not intended to curtail legitimate science, but philosophy disguised as science.
      • Re:Flawed Logic (Score:5, Informative)

        by Artifakt (700173) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:57AM (#15540567)
        Precisely - Reading the whole of John Paul 2's own comments and even a few of the other things he wrote to scientists shows that he was well aware of what Hawking and others were claiming and why it wasn't science. Hawking is one of a number of Cosmologists that have started from the assumption that many fundamental variables must be randomly selected, and from that assumption, an untestable (and therefore non-scientific) prediction commonly follows, mascarading as science. Hawking's made it, Sagan's made it (although he at least qualified (in Cosmos) that it was speculative), Guth's made it, and half the people pushing String theory or various Brane theories have made it, while the other half have been tweaking their theories to avoid explicitly making it.
                This is the prediction that an infinite number of 'parellel' universes must exist. Note that the scientists, unlike SF authors, are careful to say these are likely to be forever unobservable. I'd argue that the prediction that the fundamental constants nust be random is itself unscientific, but why bother, when there is such a common tenedency in the scientists that start from that premise to jump to the consequent and proclaim infinite parellels.
                  Now I don't personally believe in the whole heirarchial structure of angelic beings postulated by some parts of the Roman Catholc church, with Powers, Seraphim, and Thrones, etc. - but even a claim involving a detailed listing of what every single one of fiftyfive billion angels did every moment of creation would be simpler than a theory that predicts an infinite number of unobservable phenomina, by Occam's Razor. A theory that blames the universe on a conspiracy between Olive (Santa's other reindeer), and Sagan's Invisible Garage Dwelling Dragon is still more scientific than one that makes an infinite number of untestable predictions. It at least has the virtue of testability.
                    For more on this, /.'ers might want to read "The Infinte Book", by John D. Barrow, FRS and professor of Math at Cambridge. He has some great arguements about just what must inevitably exist if the universe (or multiverse if you prefer) is truely infinite in either time or space, and these show just how most of the Cosmology speculation is rooted in niave models of infinity similar to an uneducated layman's, and not real math. Without real math behind it, it ain't science.
        • Re:Flawed Logic (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Alsee (515537)
          A theory that blames the universe on a conspiracy between Olive (Santa's other reindeer), and Sagan's Invisible Garage Dwelling Dragon is still more scientific than one that makes an infinite number of untestable predictions. It at least has the virtue of testability.

          Your logic is flawed. It contains an implied assumption that a theory that makes an infinite number of untestable predictions is untestable. That is a false/invalid assumption.

          There is absolutely nothing wrong with "an infinite number of untest
  • Next up... (Score:5, Funny)

    by evileyetmc (977519) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:14AM (#15539129)
    Pope Palpatine will advocate not studying conception...since it is an act of God. Great. Guess my girlfriend won't be putting out.
  • by Kamineko (851857) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:14AM (#15539132)
    The Inquisition can't come for Hawking now: he's expecting it!
  • From TFA: (Score:5, Funny)

    by blackbeaktux (525688) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:16AM (#15539147)
    [FROM TFA]...he had one more great ambition: "I would also like to understand women."

    The Vatican was unavailable for comment.
    • Next in TFA: Where did we come from?

      Annnd, it's back to the women again...
    • > > [FROM TFA]...he had one more great ambition: "I would also like to understand women."

      > The Vatican was unavailable for comment.

      They were willing to talk; they just didn't know anything about the subject matter.
  • by damburger (981828) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:16AM (#15539153)
    Church versus Science. Not exactly a new story.

    But, I'm surprised to hear the Pope said this. I'd thought the Catholic church was relatively progressive in terms of creationism. A few hundred years ago, it might have made a difference what they thought.

    These days, this kind of comment makes the church look archaic rather than actually discouraging scientists. At least in Europe.
    • I think your're pretty confused, this isn't about evolution vs creationism, this isn't even about the origin of life (Abiogenesis), this is cosmology and about the origin of the universe itself.

      • It is about creationism, just not young Earth creationism.

        The Catholic Church has accepted Evolution and the Big Bang, but they still need some kind of mystery involved in creation so that their God has a role to play. The don't want scientists producing results which might imply the Universe did not need some outside force to get it started.
    • by Jboost (960475) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:26AM (#15539226)
      Well, Pope Pius XII approved of the Big Bang theory in 1951 and Pope John Paul II said "that it is acceptable for Catholics to believe and teach evolutionism."

      The Vatican also has some fine astronomers (and one of the oldest astronomical research institutions).
      http://vaticanobservatory.org/ [vaticanobservatory.org]

      The Vatican isn't as backwards as those fundamental christian creationists that take everything the bible says literally.
    • But, I'm surprised to hear the Pope said this.

      I would be surprised, if it were true, but it doesn't seem to be. First of all, it defies logic -- that the Church would a conference on cosmology at which the Pope would simply tell people not to study cosmology -- and second, as far as I can tell from a search of several archives of Papal speeches, the only Vatican conference on cosmology that John Paul II addressed was on July 6, 1985, and his remarks to that conference [vatican.va] do not include even the remotest sugg

  • by drwtsn32 (674346) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:17AM (#15539157)
    ...then shouldn't the Pope be against all science? Funny how they only do this with the sciences that threaten their beliefs. I find this interesting since this same Pope embraced evolution.
    • They drag their heels on silly beliefs until it is apparant that the whole world is against them and they might lose new converts.

      Like the loopholes they are introducing for contraception use.

      I'm always amazed at how otherwise rational and intelligent people can be pulled in to this system of self-deception.

    • This is one thing I still don't quite understand. Why must the concepts of "creationism" and "evolution" be mutually exclusive? Who's to say that life wasn't created by some greater power, then that greater power sat back and said, "Okay, let's see what happens now."

      You know, kinda like the Xel'Naga did for the Protoss. Except in the end, the Protoss screwed up. And a bunch of bugs assimilated the Xel'Naga. Hmm, yeah, bad example, I suppose.....
    • by lbrandy (923907) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:22AM (#15539196)
      Funny how they only do this with the sciences that threaten their beliefs.

      Huh? What? Threatens their beliefs? The Big Bang? Are you reading the same theory I am? The Big Bang is litterally a religious persons DREAM scientific theory. They couldn't have written it any better themselves. Not only is it the perfect theory explaining the moment of creation, but it also predicts that not only does everything happen, all of creation, in a single moment, at a single point, but it even predicts that our laws and rules and science cannot touch anything that happened before it. It, literally, points to a single moment/point and says the entire universe came from this point, at this time, and we can never hope to know what happened before that.

      If that's not "biblical" in it's details, then nothing is.
      • by J_Omega (709711) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @11:55AM (#15540552)
        The Big Bang is litterally a religious persons DREAM scientific theory. They couldn't have written it any better themselves.

        That's because the Big Bang theory WAS developed by a religious person, namely Georges Lemaître.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre [wikipedia.org]
        A Roman Catholic priest!

        From that link :
        As for Einstein, he found [the theory] suspect, because, according to him, it was too strongly reminiscent of the Christian dogma of creation and was unjustifiable from a physical point of view. ... After the Belgian detailed his theory, Einstein stood up, applauded, and said, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened".

        I do agree though, that this is the best explanation of God. Something we can never possibly understand.
        God is timeless. ~ The Universe had NO time before the Bang.
        Where is God? God is everywhere. ~ The Universe is everywhere.
        etc...
        = The Universe IS God

        Mind you, the theory DOES threaten the beliefs of the Fundamentalists. Of course, suggesting that the world has a history beyond 6500 years ago does as well.
      • When the Big Bang theory was first proposed, it was in competition with the Steady State theory, and the scientific community in general believed one of the two theorys must be right. Steady State was frequently used to "prove' God didn't exist, by people such as Sir Bertrand Russell. The short version of their arguement was in essence "Universe has been around forever = no moment of creation = no need for a creator". Since just about every prediction made by the Big Bang theory was the opposite of the matc
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@optonli ... inus threevowels> on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:17AM (#15539164) Journal

    Pope, speaking in bad Italian accent: Yeah, you see, it's like this Mr. Hawking... the beginning of everything... that's God's work... he wouldn't be too pleased if you found out too much about what he did... he's very private that way... he tends to get upset easily... and we wouldn't want anything to say, happen to you... you wouldn't want to end up in a wheelchair or nothin'... oh wait...

  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:20AM (#15539179) Homepage
    It's turtles all the way down.
  • Galileo got into trouble for asking the authorities to keep their adopted word (which it turns out was Pagan Aristotlean astronomy) rather than for any clash between science itself and church. This wasn't a case of science vs religion (n fact, the science in question clashes quite loudly with most modern science), it was a case of social politics within a large political organisation.

    Many of the "scientific" disagreements which have happened recently are of a similar political or business-oriented nature, a
  • The Pope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goody (23843) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:22AM (#15539193) Journal
    The Pope doesn't represent all of Chistianity or religion for that matter. Hawkings should study and theorize the origin of the universe as much as he wants. He probably will never determine if a higher being actually flipped the switch that made it happen, though. Science explains how, what, where, and when. Religion explains who and why.
    • Re:The Pope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by haluness (219661) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:29AM (#15539243)
      Religion explains who and why.

      Just to nitpick (since I have nothing else to do right now) but religion states who and why, rather than explains
    • Re:The Pope (Score:3, Insightful)

      by un1xl0ser (575642)
      And that is the bigest problem with religion. The questions that science answers (How, What, Where and When) are all basic concepts describing what is around us.

      The idea of a "who" makes the assumption that there is a responsible, sentient entity and "why" makes the assumption that there is an entity, and there was reasoning and a purpose in mind. Most religions claim to "know" not only that "who" and "why" exist, but that they know the only answer to both.
    • Re:The Pope (Score:4, Informative)

      by d_strand (674412) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:49AM (#15539415)
      Not trying to pick a fight here but your last statement is one reason the world today (and before) is a mess. Religion explains *nothing*. Religion is about belief without any substance whatsoever. You can not learn anything about the world from religion (you can learn alot about people however), certainly not *why*.
  • by Creedo (548980) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:32AM (#15539265) Journal
    If you look at all of the other statements that JPII made regarding science and faith, this would immediately strike you as out of character. Add that to the fact that I've never seen someone actually produce proof that he ever said it, like a transcription or something. So, I think Hawking either misquoted, misunderstood(given JPII's accent, understandable) or made up the quote. After all, it makes a good joke, right?
  • Science and Religion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Luscious868 (679143) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:33AM (#15539273)
    Science is to religion as truth is to politics. Incompatible and irrelevant. Honestly, when you consider the history of the Catholic Church, or most other religions and religious institutions, how can you believe anything they say? Of course they oppose science as science keeps exposing them for the phonies that they are. As more and more of their "truth" is exposed as fraud they lose power and influence. Take anything that anyone ever asks or demands that you accept "on faith" without ever backing it up with evidence with one giant fucking grain of salt. One a side note wouldn't John Paul II's time have been better spent trying to weed out and punish the child molesters in his own church? That, ladies and gentleman, tells you all you need to know about the church and its priorities. What a sick joke.
  • by No. 24601 (657888) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:34AM (#15539290)
    There are priests who have done science too (maybe even scientists who became priests :)

    Take for example, Lemaitre who is credited with proposing the none too unsignificant Big Bang theory. He was a Belgian Roman Catholic priest. He convinced Hubble and Einstein of the expanding universe model using Hubble's experimental work and Einstein's theories.

    Jokingly, I would say the Pope advised Hawking not to study the origin of the universe because the Vatican wanted to beat him to publishing the first paper :)
  • by m874t232 (973431) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:35AM (#15539295)
    Just think about what a pathetic concept of divinity that is: a supposedly almighty God who dislikes it when his creation looks at his works. That's in addition to all the smighting, shame, pain, and torture that Catholicism says God inflicts on the world.

    I'm agnostic about whether there is some higher power. But a world created and ruled by the kind of schizophrenic and conflicted being that the Catholic church postulates makes no sense to me, and my faith tells me that they are wrong; no omnipotent being could sensibly be as petty and hateful towards mankind as the Catholic church claims God is.
    • no omnipotent being could sensibly be as petty and hateful towards mankind as the Catholic church claims God is.

      I share the general feeling, however, unless other Christian religions are now completely ignoring the Old Testament, that's not unique to Catholics. The God of the Old Testament is very petty. "Look, people are cooperating and united. They're building a grand city and tower. Can't let that happen, the bastards. Let me make sure they don't understand each other, and let me scatter them ar

      • by Stalyn (662)
        The Gnostics believed that the God of the OT was a different God than the one in the NT. The God of the OT was the creator God and a lesser God than the unknowable God of the New Testament.

        The Gnostics had an interesting dualism world-view derived from Plato. The material world was not important and this is the world that the OT God had control over. The immaterial world is more important and this is the world of the God in the NT, or Monad.

        I have a feeling that the Pope was talking about the Monad. The rea
  • Not quite right (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LihTox (754597) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:37AM (#15539321)
    While I don't have a reference for this, I seem to recall reading that Hawking misquoted John Paul. The Pope didn't say that scientists *shouldn't* study the beginning of the Universe, but that the scientists *wouldn't* be able to explain the instant of Creation, because that came from God; it was an expression of faith, rather than an admonition.

    And as far as I know, the Pope so far is right; cosmologists will talk about t=1e-12 seconds after the Big Bang, and so forth, but few talk about t=0 (or t0) in anything but completely speculative ways. The Big Bang and "Let there be light!" are perfectly compatible if you're not a literalist.
  • how vs why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Speare (84249) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:42AM (#15539362) Homepage Journal

    I was raised Baptist but am not religious these days. Many many scientists have a deep spirituality or faith and feel that science just gets you closer to the creation. I've never had a problem with science versus faith: to put it into religious terms, I presume that science is our attempt at explaining "how," and spirituality is our attempt at explaining "why." There's no disconnect here.

    The bible doesn't explain how the universe was created, and explicitly says that God's timeline is nothing like man's timeline, so there's no point in parsing "six days" as meaning anything in particular to us. If I feel like parsing it at all, I'd say the seventh day of rest aligns quite nicely with the future era of calmness mentioned in Revelations, so maybe we're still in the sixth day as far as God is concerned. I've subsequently heard some Israeli theologians have put forth the same conjecture. But I don't parse the bible that much, as I already figured out what I want to figure out with regards to my own spirituality: do less harm than good, and the world will be alright.

    Major organized religions (aka, Church Inc.) just don't want any explaining of either, as it impacts the bottom line. Come in, drop off your tithe, pat a homeless man on the head, and go watch your kids' soccer game. Questions come pretty close to questioning authority, and they like being the unquestioned authority. I mean, really, condoms in Africa...

  • Fear (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:44AM (#15539370) Homepage Journal
    what is the pope afraid of?

    Why does it matter that someone like Hawkings studies it? If god is real, then he will discover that.. If god is not real, then that will be discovered. In the end only the truth matters, regardless of which answer is 'found'. ( not that i ever expect that question to really ever be answered, there will ALWAYS be doubt.
  • by GreatDrok (684119) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:48AM (#15539407) Journal
    Years ago I had a Religious Education teacher who talked about the "God Bin" which was a place to stick all the stuff we didn't understand by simply saying "God did it". Science has the job of emptying the God Bin and now all the easy stuff, night and day, why bees can fly etc are done there are only a few things rattling around in the bottom of the bin so it isn't any wonder that the Pope would grasp onto one of the last things and say science shouldn't touch. The only other stuff in the God Bin now is stuff that people just make up and is impossible to prove one way or another such as the existence of a 'soul'.

    And yes, I read 'A Brief History of Time' several times and always enjoyed the bit about the Pope telling him to stay away from the beginning of the universe.
  • by JeanPaulBob (585149) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @09:58AM (#15539484)
    ...the pope was being silly.

    The Catholic church does not object to evolutionary theory, on the premise that "life evolved" and "God created life" are compatible--by way of "God used evolution to create life". (In much the same way, no Christian I've heard of objects to the study of embryology, even though Psalm 139 talks about God "knitting together" the psalmist in his mother's womb.) The reason people like me remain creationists isn't because God couldn't create with evolution, but because common descent isn't compatible with the Genesis account.

    So why should the pope object to the idea of God creating using a Big Bang? Theologically speaking, that would be no different from God creating life using evolution.
  • The actual quote (Score:4, Informative)

    by stupidfoo (836212) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:07AM (#15539567)
    "It's OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not enquire into the beginning itelf because that was the moment of creation and the work of God."
  • by Colonel Angus (752172) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:31AM (#15539775)
    Pope John Paul II once told scientists they should not study the beginning of the universe because it was the work of God.

    Isn't the Bible the work of God?

    Isn't everything the work of God in some manner or another? Doesn't that make all quests for knowledge suspect?

  • by Marsmensch (870400) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @10:40AM (#15539860)

    I heard this same anecdote from Hawking himself when he visited Chile a few years ago.

    I'm reminded of a story Carl Sagan used to tell. He once asked the pope (John Paul II, of course) what he would do if some scientific discovery proved once and for all and irrefutably that the precepts of Christianity were false. The pope lectured him for a few minutes about how this wasn't possible.

    Sagan once asked the Dalai Lama the exact same thing. The Lama's answer?

    "I would tell the world, of course! There are millions of buddhists in the world and if I find out their all wrong, I should tell them as soon as possible, and we should look for a better way to live then.

    Very different mindset.

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday June 15, 2006 @12:22PM (#15540815) Journal
      In a sense, JPII is actually right there: it's impossible for science to prove anything about an entity outside the observable universe.

      Let me use WoW as an example. Let's say the observable universe is WoW. Even the wisest scholar living _in_ the WoW universe, even with the best gnomish instruments, can only observe and measure things that are _inside_ this universe.

      What it _can't_ observe is the universe's creator: Blizzard.

      Can such a scholar prove, with only the data in his universe, that Blizzard doesn't exist? No. He just doesn't have the data on which to base such a proof. The best his science can do is state that the universe can be explained well enough without this mystical "Blizzard" entity at the helm.

      Same is it with RL science and God. Science _can't_ prove that God doesn't exist. All science can do is explain the universe well enough without needing some "God" entity. But that's all.

      No, seriously, I know that we all love to troll and bait the christians. But put your thinking cap for a second and you'll realize the same: if a "creator" exists _outside_ the universe he created (just like Blizzard exists outside the WoW universe), science can't prove or disprove this creator in any form or shape. It just can't get any data from there. At all. Ever.

      Not to mention that it's not even possible to prove a negative like that. As long as science can't know every single atom in the universe, _and_ go back in time and observe what happened at every single moment since Big Bang, you simply can't have enough proof that something _doesn't_ exist even _inside_ your universe. It's like proposing to prove that a green three-legged rabbit doesn't exist and never existed. You only need one specimen to prove that it does exist, but it's simply unfeasible to prove that nowhere in the universe such a creature ever existed.

      The best science can do is apply Occam's Razor. Basically to say "well, we can explain the universe perfectly well even without some 'God' hypothesis, so we don't need such a hypothesis." But that's all.

      Plus, some of the precepts of Christianity are pretty much notions, ideals or moral judgments. How do you scientifically disprove "love thy neighbour"? How would you scientifically disprove "thou shalt not kill"? No, seriously. They're moral precepts that reflect a certain set of values, not something you can run through a spectrograph or whatever other instrument.

      So basically, yes, JPII was right: it's not even possible. So while it makes for some good christian-bashing material to compare the answers there, in practice it's about as relevant as asking "what would you do if gravity just suddenly disappeared?" It seems to me like "it's not even possible" is a perfectly valid answer there. Sure, it's not the most interesting or imaginative kind of an answer, but nevertheless it is a valid one.
      • Carl Sagan knew all that (except maybe the WoW analogy). It was a hypothetical question, like "what would you do if gravity just suddenly disappeared?" Answer: I would very probably die of suffocation as the atmosphere explosively decompresed off of the surface of the planet. "it's not even possible" is not an answer, it's a response; and it's a response designed to avoid giving an answer.

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