Stephen Barr offers a thoughtful reflection on Hawking’s recent book. Hawking sounded silly to some of us philosophers, but as it turns out this is not so much because Hawking’s suggestion was silly but because he (like most physicists) was using a totally different sense of “universe” and “creation” in his remarks as compared to how most metaphysicians use those words. When I use the word “universe” I tend to mean “all that is” while physicists typically mean something much more narrow, like a “self-contained physical structure” (and hence the possibility of multiple universes).
And Hawking has a different sense of creation in mind, since that from which our universe may have spontaneously sprung is “a very definite something: it is one particular quantum state among many of an intricate rule-governed system. This no-universe state has specific properties and potentialities defined by a system of mathematical laws” rather than being simple ‘non-being’ (which is what I, in my metaphysical mindset, think of when people speak of creation).
While Barr is actually pretty sympathetic with the ‘scenario’ that Hawking and others propose, he arrives at the same place as I do when I read science dressed up as metaphysics: when it comes to the questions ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ and ‘Why is what is orderly rather than disorderly?’, science just cannot answer these questions. This is not a ‘god of the gaps’ type issue here. Science might push out the god of the gaps, but not the God of more serious metaphysics. In other words, the idea that science can simply push God out of the picture is silly.
On a lighter note, bad news for the teetotalers of the world. A recent study shows that, for reasons that are not yet clear, those who abstain from alcohol are more likely to die sooner than those who do drink. Moderate drinkers fared best, but one surprise was that even heavy drinkers outlived teetotalers.
This comes on the heels of a study (with a tiny sample size, but still I like the conclusion) that showed that it is better to drink beer after exercise than water.
So, bottoms up!