Finally, an extraordinary space 'blob' has just been discovered, named after a mythical Japanese queen. Its spectra exhibited a redshifted hydrogen signature clearly indicating a remarkably large distance—12.9 billion light years - or 800 million years from the beginning of, well, time. Here's a picture of it - it appears to be about 55,000 light years across. Ah. That explains everything, then...
Monday, April 20, 2009
Hawking's non-eventual Universe
Stephen Hawking is ill, poor man and hospitalised in Cambridge. My imagination is caught by quantum cosmology, the notion that representing the Universe as one of many by a probabilistic wavefunction might or might not be at least a partial explanation of its existence. Yet, as Einstein remarked, it 'gets us no nearer to the secret of the Old One'. Hawking's cosmology goes further than Einstein's. Theists argue, in my view more correctly, that whatever begins to exist has a cause, the Universe began to exist, therefore the Universe has a cause. The concept of 'beginning' is so intuitively obvious, so it's unwise to try to construct an argument in favour of it, for any proof of the principle is likely to be less obvious than the principle itself. And as Aristotle remarked, one ought not to try to prove the obvious via the less obvious. The old axiom that "out of nothing, nothing comes" remains as obvious today as ever. Philosophers are often adversely affected by Heidegger's dread of "the nothing," and conclude that "the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing", a sort of Gettysburg address of atheism, perhaps. Nothingness is however, not the same as 'hiddenness'. Unlike Dr Hawking, who clearly is a closet Gnostic, most of the rest of us have no idea about what God is thinking, much less know his mind and whether or not the notion of a beginning prefigures it. Karl Barth (a personal favourite) used to teach on the 'otherness' of God - in brief the concept that predestination is mankind having been chosen for salvation at the permanent cost of God's 'hiddenness' - in exchange for a glass at the bierkeller. A very fair exchange.