Yo La Tengo: Sugarcube
A Few Miscellaneous Observations

Cool! I'm as smart as Stephen Hawking!

Well, at least where the question of the existence of God is concerned. I really don't quite get why so many scientists think this is a matter on which they are any more qualified to speak than I am, to say nothing of those who have actually made philosophy and/or theology their life's work. Their triumphant rejection of a rather crude conception of God is a bit like me announcing that atoms don't exist, because now we know they aren't indivisible.


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I keep thinking there must be something more to what he's saying than what I'm getting out of it because it sounds so DUMB.


I think I would say naive rather than dumb, but definitely not impressive.

Well, I'm willing to attribute the dumbness to the reporting and not to Mr. Hawking, but everything I've read seems to be so lightweight. There are the laws of nature and so there's no God. Since Mr Hawking is supposed to be the most intelligent man in all creation (Whoops!), I'm hoping that the book includes some more in depth reasoning. Of course, I'll never have time to read it. I don't quite get the naiveté.


Oh, I just took another look at the title of this post and I can understand why you don't want me to call him dumb. ;->


Heh. I don't mind you calling him dumb, but I think naive is more accurate. Here he is in his own words:


The first couple of paragraphs are examples of what I mean. Naive ideas about religion, naive materialism. There are plenty of non-believers who at least recognize that things are not that simple--that, for instance, the question of what sort of thing an equation is gives them pause.

Well, expertise in one area does not give one any special authority or insight in other areas, it only gets your un-special insights into the newspaper.

I'm not at all surprised by the naivety of these pronouncements. My years in a physics department convinced me, beyond a reasonable doubt, that physicists can be quite obtuse as soon as the subject is something other than physics. (For the record, I can be obtuse too.)

I met Stephen Hawking about ten years ago. (By "met" I mean that I said "Hello, and thank you for an interesting talk", and then made way for the next graduate student to have his turn.)

I will say that paying attention to Hawking on God is more reasonable than thinking "Gosh, that guy is really good at pretending to be someone else in really elaborate games of make-believe, so I'd better listen to what he has to say about economics."

I agree with Craig. I had the same experience in my physics departments. They are great at talking about science, and often about the philosophy of science, but the boundaries of that expertise tends to be pretty sharp. Even some of Einstein's essays on non-science stuff sound a bit naive.

After you've had to explain to people with doctorates that "a personal God" doesn't mean one with physical hands and feet and a face, you adjust your expectations accordingly.

I admit I've always been faintly annoyed by Einstein's "God does not play dice" remark (if he really said it). I mean, not by the remark itself, which is fine, but by the authority some people seem to attribute to it.

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