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“Well, you can’t prove that god doesn’t exist”.

Uh, yes I can.

I’m sure many of you have heard this “argument” before. Here’s a three-pronged destruction of this attempt to dodge the question that no theist can answer (“What proof do you have?”). The last nail in the coffin is saved for last – I’m sure many of you have heard the first two points but not many will have heard the last.

1. Why are you asking me to disprove your theory? That’s a burden of proof fallacy. You came up with the idea, you prove it. You don’t see me running around screaming at people “Prove I can’t fly!”. When a scientist comes up with a new theory, it’s backed by years of research, correlation with existing years of research, multiple experimentation and is then peer reviewed. When a theist has some theory his only proof is “well, you can’t prove it’s wrong”.

Well guess what? That’s literally irrational behaviour. For a refresher, see my post about Rationalism but the short of it is that rational behaviour is based on mathematical likelihood. It’s highly likely that jumping into lava will kill you, therefore it is irrational to believe otherwise. In terms of the burden of proof, the burden lies with whoever is making the extraordinary claim. As Carl Sagan once said:

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

What does this mean? Imagine I claim there is a tree in my backyard. Would a rational person contest my claim (at his own expense)? No, because even if I’m lying it’s highly likely that there is a tree in my backyard and there is little reason why I would lie about it – therefore not much proof is needed for me to assert my claim. Now, what if I claimed that I had a cat riding a unicorn shooting rainbow lasers in my backyard? Would you require proof before believing that? Apparently theists wouldn’t.

2. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because something hasn’t been proven to not exist, doesn’t therefore mean that it does. That’s a logical fallacy called false dichotomy. It’s also stupid – because you can think up myriad things that can’t be proven not to exist. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a crowd favourite. Russel’s Teapot is another – you can’t prove that there isn’t a teapot orbiting Jupiter but there’s no rational cause for you to believe that in the first place.

Sometimes this is used to defend religion – just because there is no evidence of god doesn’t mean that god doesn’t exist. Well, science doesn’t work in absolutes but there is literally no rational reason for you to believe in god. However, I can indeed prove that god (or at least the definition of god as is understood by the major religions today) does not exist, which makes it doubly irrational to believe.

3. There can never be any proof of god. Why? Let’s take a look at the foundation of proof. As with the Rationalism movement, mathematics is a fundamental concept for proof. 1+1=2 regardless of what you apply it to, what you believe in and what you experience with your senses. Therefore, it follows that maths is the absolute proof – if it can exist, it can be described mathematically in some way or form. Mind you, not everything that is mathematically reconcilable exists (or at least not all of them have been proven). Maths is just the large boundary separating the possible from the impossible – just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s real; but if it’s impossible then it’s definitely not real.

The problem? You cannot mathematically describe god because that would be akin to removing his omnipotence. If the singularity is a point of infinite mass and infinite gravity, how do you describe a god that created this infinity? 2 x infinity? Infinity squared? It’s still infinity. Are you thus claiming that god is equal in power to a singularity? God, by definition, breaks all universal laws and defies all mathematics. It is therefore impossible to provide any proof of god – and by extension god cannot rationally exist. It is an empty concept that has lingered since ancient times for small minds to placate themselves in the absence of knowledge.

Many theists acknowledge this problem and have said that it is impossible to find any evidence of god in the universe because the act of finding such evidence would mean that god is bound by some sort of parameters allowing us to find his hand in things – hence removing his omnipotence. Fair enough, at least these people acknowledge that there can never be any evidence. The question then remains, if you’ve accepted that there is absolutely no evidence in existence to support your faith, why do you still blindly follow?

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This is another logical “principle” to add to Occam’s Razor. The two may seem quite similar, but this is the broader category. Occam’s Razor is a single principle whereas rationalism is an entire field of study in epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge). Rationalism is often associated with the introduction of mathematical models into philosophy, and the pioneers in this approach were Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and Gottfried Leibniz. You should have heard of at least one of those three philosophers as they are quite famous.

Rationalism is any view appealing to reason as its source of justification. That means that our knowledge can be developed a priori (existing in the mind, independent of experience) through reason. This is arguably the opposite position of empiricism, which holds that all knowledge must come from experience.

For example, I can reasonably argue something predicated on the assumption that this doesn’t exist:

I wouldn’t be required to disprove the existence of the image above because reason dictates that it doesn’t exist. If you want to get more technical, you’d be very hard put equating the mathematical probability of the reality of the image above (hence, it is irrational). This is a bottom up approach similar to the one in Occam’s Razor. Unfortunately, the boundaries reason are often blurred by subjective experience and external teachings, which is why the introduction of mathematics into reasoning was so ground-breaking.

Because rationalism allows for a priori knowledge, it extends our understanding of everything, and provides a logical basis for the understanding of much deeper things. Because empiricism postulates that knowledge can only come from sensory experience, we would have no logical basis for undertaking any work based on the work of others (because we did not experience the thing ourselves), and thus we would have no basis for any advanced science at all. Rationalism essentially broadens the mind by allowing for a logical process by which we can determine “fact” – where fact is the most reasonable explanation. At this point, I should mention that 100% certainty in anything is impossible, so our world operates on a basis of highest probability (so we say that it is a fact if I drop a ball, it will fall to the floor, but there’s actually a tiny probability that a gravitational anomaly would suck the ball up into space at the speed of light).

So here’s the crux of the matter: arguments based on that tiny possibility that something might exist are irrational (and thus illogical) because rational conclusions are based on the most reasonable, mathematically reconcilable answer. If we link this to methodological naturalism, we come to the conclusion that the most logical answer is the simplest one that can describe the given phenomenon.

This is actually a bit of a continuation from my earlier post on the multiverse and additional dimensions theory, and is basically supporting evidence for the multiverse (which is itself evidence for additional dimensions).

To avoid things getting messy, I’m going to break this into three subheadings.

Stephen Hawking:

You can easily do a quick wikipedia on him if you want to find out the more mundane details of his life. I’m just going to quickly mention some relevant things about him.

Hawking has a motor neurone disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which has confined him to a wheelchair. As he is almost fully paralyzed, he communicates with facial twitches and a speech device where he enters types the words he wants to say by scrolling across a virtual keyboard with his eyes. This condition alone is proof of his genius as he rationalises complex theoretical physics in his mind without the benefit of being able to write things down. Honestly, I can’t stress enough how amazing that is. I hated 4 unit maths in high school and I had textbooks, the internet and calculators to rely on. His peers have said that Hawking works on intuition that is freakishly accurate, as if he is in tune with the universe in the same way that Einstein and Newton were.

Hawking’s black hole equation combined separate major fields of physics into one elegant formula, the first time (and only time to my knowledge) that separate fields of physics have been unified. Those of you who know a bit about physics will know why this is a big deal – there are many types of physics and they have never been unified under one single model before (which would be known as the theory of everything). The Hawking-Bekenstein entropy equation is:

Where S is entropy from thermodynamics, c is the constant for the speed of light from Einstein’s work, k is the Boltzmann constant, G is Newton’s constant for gravity, h is the Planck constant from quantum physics, and A is the area of the black hole.

Not only is this a combination of different fields of physics, it is a simple equation (which is considered mathematically beautiful, like Einstein’s e=mc^2).

The last thing I want to mention are a few of his theories that are relevant to this post. First, he provided mathematical proof for the beginning of the universe (the big bang), he not only described the mechanism of black holes mathematically, but defined many of the laws governing them (such as the event horizon, which is the region around the black hole which if you enter, there is no escape), and he also predicted that black holes would evaporate over time.

The Information Paradox:

The Information Paradox was something Hawking came to based on his work on black holes. Black holes break everything down into subatomic particles and suck them into the core of its gravity – a singularity (defined as a point that is infinitely small, infinitely dense, with an infinite gravity). The gravitational force of a black hole is so strong that not even light can escape. The implication of this is that whatever is sucked into a black hole is lost forever (or rather, it is stuck in the black hole forever).

However, Hawking later proved that black holes would evaporate over time. This is related to two facts: first, black holes emit radiation (a form of energy) and second, E=mc^2. Einstein’s equation means that energy and mass are essentially the same thing, just in different forms (you can mathematically represent energy/mass as a function of the other). What this means is that if black holes emit energy, they need to burn mass to do so; thus if a black hole runs out of mass (given that it runs out of stuff to suck in and burns out its core), it will evaporate.

Why was this huge news to the science world? Because the laws of physics (conservation of mass and energy) state that you cannot destroy mass/energy, only change its form. Information is “coded” into particles, and can never be lost. A visual representation of this would be if I tear a piece of paper to shreds. If I have all the pieces still, and a knowledge of how they fit together, I could theoretically recreate the original paper. The same applies to everything in the universe – if I burn a tree inside a containment unit, I would have everything that tree (and the fire) was made out of inside that containment unit. Theoretically, I could use those ingredients to remake the tree. However, Hawking’s proof of black hole evaporation violated this most fundamental law. If a black hole disappeared, what happened to all the information it absorbed? It would disappear with the black hole, a clear violation of the conservation of mass/energy. In essence, Hawking described black holes as huge cosmic machines that went around erasing parts of the universe and proclaimed that parts of the universe were missing as a result. Physicists were mind boggled and needed to disprove this theory. Why? Because the implications were that if black holes could violate this law, then the law was no longer a law of the universe. If it was no longer a law, that means that information anywhere in the universe could potentially be erased, and not just inside black holes. Further, at this time more black holes were discovered – there were supermassive black holes and micro black holes. There could even be micro black holes existing in your room as you read this. If black holes have the power to erase information, how can you say anything you know or see or feel or believe is real? Nothing is certain if everything is impermanent. This caused a huge fuss and was known as the Information Paradox.

Later, a theoretical physicist, Leonard Susskind came up with an alternative theory to solve the Information Paradox. The science world breathed a sigh of relief, but Hawking was determined to prove Susskind was wrong.

Unfortunately, at this point Hawking’s ALS got even worse. He was hospitalised but miraculously, he survived and went back to work. By now, he was so paralyzed that he had to get a student to help him work. Hawking would feed him ideas and the student would do the calculations and try to prove the concepts. As Hawking’s ALS got worse, his work became frustratingly slow. Now, his student tries to anticipate what Hawking wants to say (Hawking types the first few letters of a word and he guesses what word Hawking means).

Anyway, after getting out of hospital, Hawking went to a renown physics conference and made a public statement. He admitted that he had been wrong – information was not erased. However, he also declared Susskind wrong and claimed to have solved the paradox himself. I haven’t read this paper (it’s quite recent and he hasn’t provided mathematical proof yet), but from what I’ve gathered, his solution is as followed: information is not erased because it is transmitted to an alternate universe. The multiverse theory predicts an infinite number of universes, and inevitably, some of these universes will have no black holes. If there are no black holes, there is no way for information to be lost (this is a logic loop similar to time travel – if the cause of the problem doesn’t exist, you can’t have a problem in the first place). Basically, information will be transmitted through universes until it reaches a universe with no black hole, and since there is no black hole, the information can’t be lost.

Progress is ridiculously slow now – Hawking can only put out a few words a minute. Personally, I think it would be an astounding tragedy (especially in Hawking’s mind) if he becomes fully paralyzed and unable to spread his knowledge to the world. What would be more horrible was if he proved the existence of other universes but was unable to tell us. Imagine being trapped in your own mind with a universe shaking idea, fully proven, but unable to tell anybody around you.

Implications and the Multiverse Theory:

I really hope Hawking survives long enough to fully prove his new theory. It would be a tragedy for him to die with this work uncompleted as it would be definitive proof of a multiverse (because a multiverse would be necessary for the laws of physics to remain absolute).

How does this relate to my previous post? Well, as a quick refresher, I recently thought of the idea (which other scientists have also supported) that every singularity contains a universe. The reason for this is because our universe originated from a singularity that caused the big bang. Logically, all singularities have the potential to big bang and spew out its contents (a universe). There are singularities at the core of every black hole, meaning that there are hundreds of millions of universes inside our own universe, and that our own universe could just be the core of a black hole of an even greater universe (which would, by necessity, have more dimensions than us).

By the way, a quick note on the dimensions; further support for my suggestion that even more dimensions exist (and that our universe belongs to a universe with more dimensions) can be found in quantum mechanics and string theory. These two branches of physics study predict, by necessity, the existence of at least 11 dimensions. I think the fact that we’re working on string theory and alternate dimensions can be likened to the “fourth wall” in theatre – the characters of the play should not be aware of the audience’s existence but sometimes they “break the fourth wall” and hint that they do acknowledge an audience’s existence.

Back to the implications though: I believe in my previous post I suggested that the matter (or information) sucked in by a black hole is used to create a new (and smaller) universe. I made this post without thinking of Hawking’s multiverse, but the two concepts coincide well. Hawking states that by necessity, these other universes must exist to contain information that is taken from our universe. That is tantamount to what I said, that these alternate universes contain matter (information) from our current universe.

Essentially, I was beaten to goal again – this time Hawking came up with the idea before me. This stuff happens inevitably, and I admit, much of my knowledge is inspired by Hawking, but I can’t help but feel like I’m travelling in a rut because I’m arriving at the same conclusions as others. Breakthroughs need radical thinking that forges a whole new path or the thinker will inevitably run into the same dead-end as someone before them. This is way out of my depth already (I have long since lost any mathematical reasoning and have been relying on theoretical physics to rationalise my conclusions). I eagerly await Hawking’s work and am filled with admiration at the thought that even now, while I write this blog post, Hawking is painstakingly putting out a couple of words a minute to his student who is so close and yet so far from proving a multiverse.

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