Dear Prof. Hawking:
Greetings. I am writing to you to express some of my misgivings about modern scientific cosmology, which—in my humble opinion—is filled with many unacknowledged contradictions.
If the universe is all there is—a statement I presume you agree with—then this “all” must include space. But if so, how then can the universe expand if there is no space outside it for it to expand into? Expansion or contraction can only be seen from, and measured against, some frame of reference that is “stationary” in relation to the object it is measuring. But if the universe is all there is, then no such outside frame of reference could exist, consequently the cosmos cannot be determined to be expanding. The redshift is usually interpreted as indicating that the galaxies are flying apart from each other—but flying apart into what? Into something beyond the boundaries of the universe? Into something beyond all that is?
This is one of the many insoluble paradoxes that modern physics seems careful to avoid, but is nonetheless always posing. When we speak of the “size” or “expansion” or “age” of the universe, we always imagine it as existing as an object WITHIN our familiar dimensions of space and time. But it does not exist within space and time—it IS space and time. If the universe comprises all the space there is, then it cannot expand INTO space; if it comprises all the time there is, then it cannot have begun IN time, because there could have been no time “before” it existed for it to begin in. In other words, if the universe is all there is, it cannot be viewed and measured as if it were a discrete object. And if you answer that it can be so viewed by virtue of “thought experiments” constructed by human beings, then you are positing the human intellect as something that transcends the universe, just as God is said to do. Meister Eckhart would certainly agree.
Answer this if you can; meanwhile, I’ll propose you a second conundrum:
Modern physics has totally dispensed with the notion of uniform space, since space is warped by gravitational fields, and also with the notion of uniform time, since time expands or contracts based on the acceleration or deceleration of the observer. But if this is so, how then can you speak of what must have happened “three minutes” or “three seconds” or “a millionth of a second” after the Big Bang? If, as you claim, space has been expanding since then (though into what I can’t imagine), if all material objects—as soon as there were such things—have, on average, been flying apart from each other at (the last I heard) an ever-accelerating velocity, then spacetime must have had a radically different quality in the early universe, such that the measurements we call “minutes, seconds” could in no way be applied to it. A minute or a second is a specific fraction of some standard of periodic motion, such as the turning of the earth on its axis (itself variable) or the orbit of the earth around the sun (also variable)—or else some specific multiple of a higher-frequency periodic motion, such as the vibration of a quartz crystal or a cesium atom. But immediately after the Big Bang, and for quite a while after that apparently, there were no such things as planets to turn on their axes, or stars to be orbited by planets, or any sorts of crystals, or any sorts of atoms. And so—given that modern physics has annihilated the concept of uniform time—how can you apply such measurements as “minutes, seconds” to conditions of the early universe? Certainly no-one can prove you wrong, since any potential critic would need to return to the early universe to take the necessary measurements, which is impossible—but then, by the same token, you would need to make such the same impossible journey yourself to prove your own theories—and if you say that the cosmic microwave background gives us an accurate “snapshot” of the state of the universe over 13 billion “years” ago, I reply that this is only a working assumption, not a provable fact. How convenient for us (for you especially) that we now have authoritative pronouncements, said to be based on “the scientific method”, that can neither be the subject of actual measurements of the conditions we feel at liberty to pronounce upon, nor in any way be subjected to “repeatable experiments”, those sacred operations upon which the whole scientific method is said to be based! So: How can you apply to the early universe various (relatively) uniform units of measurement that can only be derived from a much later universe, especially in the absence of any uniform flow of time that could adjust the measure to the thing measured?
My third and last challenge is as follows:
If, according to Richard Feynman, “a system has not just one history, but every possible history”—and if, according to you, “M-theory [Prof. Hawking’s ultimate material explanation for everything] is not a theory in the usual sense [but a] whole family of different theories, each of which is a good description of observations only in some range of physical situations”—then are you not essentially saying that “M-theory is not just one theory, but every possible theory”? And is a conglomeration of all possible theories really any kind of theory at all? If every physical system is made up of every one of its possible histories, then, in order to deal with this complexity, would we not be forced to also allow that every mental system, every explanation, is necessarily made up of every one of its possible conceptual variations? The essence and use of a true theory, however, is that it is a single concept that unifies many facts, many possibilities, many measurements; if we are forced to define a theory as the set of all its possible variations—which your notion of M-theory seems to imply—then it is no longer a theory in the proper sense of the word, no longer an explanation. It is merely a series of ad hoc conceptual responses to an indeterminate set of probable measurements. So you would seem to be the patron and agent not only of a postmodern deconstruction of corporeal reality, but also of a similar deconstruction of the very notion of an intelligible physical theory capable of explaining that reality, neatly disguised under your “M-theory” notion. If physical theory begins to mimic the underlying chaos of probabilistic indeterminacy that it discerns on the material plane by itself becoming chaotic on the conceptual plane, the whole idea of natural law is called into question.
I would be delighted to receive, and ponder, any responses you might wish to make to these challenges.
For an infinitely more sophisticated and well-informed treatment of issues such as these, see the books of Dr. Wolfgang Smith, particularly The Quantum Enigma and Science and Myth: What We are Not Told. His work is introduced on his website, www.philos-sophia.org, where you can also view the trailer for his upcoming motion picture, The End of Quantum Reality. Dr. Smith —a physicist, metaphysician, and traditional Catholic who developed the equations that allow spacecraft to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere without burning up—is the author of
the most powerful refutation of Stephen Hawking to date (published as an appendix to Science and Myth), and he’s now setting his sights on Albert Einstein.
Meet him at: www.philos-sophia.org,