lundi 22 août 2011

Coincidences and why God is not responsible for them

Excerpts from an article by Stephen Hawking sent to me by my husband:

"Ignorance of nature's ways led people in ancient times to postulate many myths in an effort to make sense of their world. But eventually, people turned to philosophy, that is, to the use of reason-with a good dose of intuition-to decipher their universe. Today we use reason, mathematics and experimental test-in other words, modern science."


"Many improbable occurrences conspired to create Earth's human-friendly design, and they would indeed be puzzling if ours were the only solar system in the universe. But today we know of hundreds of other solar systems, and few doubt that there exist countless more among the billions of stars in our galaxy. Planets of all sorts exist, and obviously, when the beings on a planet that supports life examine the world around them, they are bound to find that their environment satisfies the conditions they require to exist."


"The emergence of the complex structures capable of supporting intelligent observers seems to be very fragile. The laws of nature form a system that is extremely fine-tuned. What can we make of these coincidences? Luck in the precise form and nature of fundamental physical law is a different kind of luck from the luck we find in environmental factors. It raises the natural question of why it is that way.

Many people would like us to use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God. [...] That is not the answer of modern science. As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

I wish there was more to this article, because I'd like to know more about this "spontaneous creation" and how it works. Since the article is based on a book, I suppose I'll have to check out the book when it is published this fall.

It's quite funny to read this article today because MB and I were just talking about coincidences last night. Some people tend to infer meaning from coincidences, but we both agree that they're not enough to make us believe in a higher power. Coincidences are like horoscopes: you can read them to mean whatever you like. You can read the world around you to mean whatever you like. The brain is a powerful invention machine; "believing is seeing" means that if we want something to be true badly enough, we can convince ourselves of it.

I firmly believe that we still have a lot to learn about how our brains work. Maybe in a hundred years (or fewer!) our descendants will laugh at us for not knowing we could communicate with just our minds. Or maybe we will understand that we can control more than we think using just brain power (I always wanted to be like Roald Dahl's Matilda!). Who knows? Our ancestors sure would have laughed, as MB said, if we had told them that in a hundred years we would be able to send moving pictures and sounds through invisible waves in the air...

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