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Reaction to Stephen Hawking's "Grand Design - The Meaning of the Universe"

By Sapphireslinger
Updated 2020.06.26 14:04

Two months ago I saw a video clip from Voice Tube called "Stephen Hawking's Grand Design - The Meaning of the Universe".

* My Day 1 reaction (March 31) to the video is this color.
* My Day 2 reaction (April 1) to the video is this color.
* My last few thoughts before posting are this color. (I ended up writing almost every other day these past two months.)
The pink boxes are quotes from the video transcript.
Here goes:
"It may seem crazy to doubt that our concept of reality is true.
But I think, to find the meaning of life we must answer the question: Is there an independent reality or not?"
My last remarks: He will claim that it is impossible to know this, and that therefore every meaning of life is equally valid.
"Imagine a scenario that is straight from a science fiction movie.
The world around you is actually nothing more than an elaborate fabrication
of some unknown superior intelligence.
A giant supercomputer provides you with all your senses
from what you see to what you smell, hear and touch.
But in fact you have no senses.
Your body does not exist. You are just a brain in a jar.
It may sound bizarre, but this is a genuine scientific hypothesis called:
The simulation theory.
For all we know, every one of our perceived reality is simply fed to us
by some all-powerful supercomputer.
And the simulation is so perfect that we never even notice.
But here’s the crack: It doesn’t actually matter.
It’s as Descartes said: We think, therefore we are.
The hamburger could be nothing more than a piece of computer code.
But our desire to eat it, is still our own desire.
We still feel hunger.
Our minds still exist, even if we are in a simulation.
So doubting the true nature of reality serves no purpose.
It’s simpler to just accept that there are fundamental limits to what we can know."
Last remarks: In other words, no more consideration of the question, "Is there an independent reality or not?"
The world around you is actually nothing more than an elaborate fabrication of some unknown superior intelligence...
But here’s the crack: It doesn’t actually matter.
Giving up so early in the video, Hawking? First you say, "To find the meaning of life we must answer the question: Is there an independent reality or not?" And a few sentences later you say, "It doesn't actually matter." You say it's because we still feel hunger to eat the hamburger even if it doesn't exist, so the feeling of hunger is the main thing not the existence of the hamburger. Ah, but the existence of the "superior intelligence" in control of the "fabrication", that would matter, because he has the ability to wipe away all hunger, to wipe every tear from your eye; and suppose he expects you to find him and establish a relationship with him?

Day 2 Response:
It’s simpler to just accept that there are fundamental limits to what we can know.
Except that the Bible implies that we will eventually know an awful lot more even if we come to know it too late. Every eye will see him, and every knee will bow. (Rev. 1:7)
"Take this table, for example.
How do you know if a table still exists if you go out of the room
and can no longer see it?
For all you know, the table could pack up and disappear out the window.
It could take a visit to the International Space Station.
Perhaps even fly to the moon.
All this before returning to the exact same spot and instance before you reenter the room.
This, of course is a pretty unlikely scenario.
But one we can’t rule out.
It is much simpler to assume that the table stays put when we are not there.
It is our best fit model of reality.
This is essentially what we do in science.
We create best fit models of how we believe
the universe actually works.
The ancient Greeks were the first
to build such scientific models.
They suggested that the earth was a large sphere, motionless
And fixed at the center of the universe.
But later pioneering scientist like Copernicus and Galileo
found a much simpler and completely revolutionary model to describe these same observations.
They proposed that the earth itself was spinning and orbiting the sun at the same time
along with all the other planets.
But neither can be said to actually be true.
Because they, like all models, are just models in our heads:
The best fit of reality we perceive.
In fact, physicists are forever creating ever more sophisticated models
And the truth of those models is impossible to establish.
...."
Let me repeat that again:
"And the truth of those models is impossible to establish."
Not exactly, or we wouldn't be able to tell that a later model is more accurate than an earlier model. The fact that you can tell that one model has more truth than another model, and that a model can have less truth than another model, means that truth is quantifiable and knowable. It means that it is possible to establish some truth even if it is a slow progression. It may not be knowable all at once, but if you can know more and more of it as time goes on, then you shouldn't relapse into saying that because you can never know it all, then let's scrap this whole idea of truth and return to saying that all models are equally valid.

Because that is what this video will eventually get around to implying, it starts off saying how our models of reality change as they get more accurate, but it ends by saying you can make it all up and it will all be equally accurate. Is it just my imagination, or is there a bait and switch going on here?

"[...]
So, do quarks exist?
The answer is they exist only as a model that works.
That is as far as we can go."
Day 2 Response: No, we can go further and say that if quarks exist then they have a real existence separate and apart from our ever-evolving, more-or-less-accurate, perception of them. The video appears to be trying to say that because our perception of them changes, they don't have an actual existence apart from our perception of them. They do, and therefore we have an obligation to know them more and more accurately. Never can we relapse into saying that because our perception of them is faulty therefore we can make it all up and it will all be equally accurate. Which is what this video gets around to implying at the very end. Bait and switch.

[My eyes skipped ahead here and answered a later quote first.]
"All this, the entire ... history of the universe
exists as a model inside our minds."
Yes, one person's PERCEPTION of history does exist as a model inside the mind, but ACTUAL history, what actually physically happened regardless of what I think happened, also exists as a separate entity from that.

So there are two things we are dealing with here:

* What actually happened
* What we think happened

It's important not to confuse the two.


[But to return to the next sentence in the transcript...]
"This is called the concept of model dependent reality."
Our brains construct models to make sense of what we are perceiving, but the things we are perceiving exist apart from our perception of them. Therefore reality is not dependent on our models/perception of it.

At the same time you can say that your individual sense of reality is dependent on the model for it inside your head. The term "model dependent reality" is a tricky bit of wordplay. It should read "model dependent perception of reality". Otherwise, here is where the discussion makes a subtle fork into falsehood, that will have consequences further on in the video.

To summarize:

There are no model dependent realities.
There are only model dependent perceptions of reality.

Reality is what actually happened.
Perception of reality is what you think happened.

If Stephen Hawking manages to obfuscate the two and blur them into one, that would be diabolical.

"And I believe that leads us directly to the meaning of life."
Your perception of the meaning of life will only be as accurate as your perception of reality. Or should I say, your perception of the meaning of life will be either helped or handicapped by the degree of accuracy in your perception of reality.

Because he will go on to conclude that because our perceptions of reality all differ, we should all make up our own meanings of life and they will all be equally valid without reference to actual reality.

If some perceptions of reality are more accurate than others, then I would venture to say that likewise some perceptions of the meaning of life are more accurate than others.
"[...]
That consciousness creates a three-dimensional model
of the outside world:
A best fit model that we call reality.
This reality is much more than what we see around us in our everyday life.
[...]
All this, the entire [...] history of the universe
exists as a model inside our minds.
So, where does this leave us with finding a meaning to life?
The answer, I think, is pretty clear.
Meaning itself is simply another piece of the model of reality
that we each built inside our own brains."
There is one false word here that will have consequences in his chain of reasoning later:
"Meaning itself is simply another piece of the model that we each built inside our own brains." [Emphasis added.]
I believe he feels that there is only ever perceived meaning, that actual meaning can not exist, because of where he goes with this later in the video.

Remember, if your models of the universe can get more and more accurate, that means that an absolute truth must exist even if you haven't arrived at it yet. And if meaning is dependent on your perception of that truth, then a BETTER if not ABSOLUTE meaning also exists, even if you haven't arrived at it yet.

But the whole drift of this video derails at this point to say, there is only PERCEIVED meaning, therefore have at it everybody, create your own perceptions of reality and perceptions of meaning, they are all equally valid and equally good without regard to accuracy of harmony with actual reality and actual meaning. As the last sentence of the video says, we are "The Lords of Creation". Forget discovering reality and meaning, make it up. Don't discover God, become God. What Stephen Hawking appears to be peddling is the same old lie as the very first lie in the garden of Eden. You can be like God, making up good and evil. Ironically God does want us to become ever more like him. But through discovering him, not through blocking him out. He wants our creativity and authenticity to be built on an ever more accurate perception of reality. Jesus, during his time here on earth, said that he was the chief corner stone whom the builders rejected and "Blessed is anyone who does not stumble over me." Whereas this video concludes by encouraging everybody to make up their model of reality without any special reference to actual reality. A very subtle derailment.


Last remarks: If an intelligence created the universe and humans with a purpose, then there would an actual meaning to life outside our own individual perceptions of that meaning.

An independent reality exists outside of our perceptions of it. (And we bump into it every time our perceptions of reality stray too far from it. If you don't perceive the actual chair in your path accurately enough, you will bump into it.)

An independent meaning of life can likewise exist outside of our individual perceptions of it. (And according to the Bible we will all bump into that independent meaning of life on the Judgment Day, if we haven't sought it out in the pages of the Bible beforehand. So we will each give an account of himself to God, Romans 14:12.)

Hawking started off the video saying:

"But I think, to find the meaning of life we must answer the question: is there an independent reality or not?"
In other words, he's saying the meaning of life depends on whether there is an independent reality.

It turns out there IS an independent reality outside our own individual perceptions of reality, therefore it appears that there would likewise be an independent meaning outside our own individual perceptions of meaning; ESPECIALLY if an independent intelligence created this independent reality in which we live and move and have our being, obviously he would have his own independent meaning for it all.

But now Hawking appears to be concluding that simply because we all have our own individual perceptions of reality, there is NOTHING MORE to meaning than what we can make up:

"Meaning itself is SIMPLY another piece of the model of reality that we each built inside our own brains."
After saying that perceived reality is "much more" than actual reality ...
"This [perceived] reality is much more than what we see around us in our everyday life."
... he appears to have dropped any attempt to connect the meaning of life with actual reality. From this point on it will be: everybody perceives reality in various degrees of accuracy, but you don't even have to strive for accuracy any more, make up the meaning as well.

It reminds me of Romans 1:21-22,25:

"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools... For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature, rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen." (Romans 1:21‭-‬22,25 NASB)

Hawking appears to be encouraging:

Don't connect meaning to an independent reality (and by extension God, the Creator of that independent reality) outside of yourself. Both the independent reality and the Creator of that independent reality are off limits to your consideration. Worship the creature instead. Meaning will only ever exist as an outcome of the model you build inside your head. We will not discuss whether the meaning becomes more meaningful and helpful as your model becomes more observant of independent reality and cognizant of the Creator's purposes, no, just give it your own meaning, you Lord of Creation, you.
"The meaning of life is what you choose it to be....
Meaning can only ever exist within the confines of the human mind....
[T]he meaning of life is not somewhere out there ...
[no connection to reality]
[don't look for God either]
... but right between our ears."
FIRST DAY RESPONSE TO THE VIDEO:

[Here, at this late point in the video is where I was finally spurred to start responding that first day. But now you can understand that response from all the commentary up to this point.]
"That consciousness creates a three dimensional model of the outside world: A best fit model that we call reality."
I think a better word would be "perceives". [Consciousness perceives a model of the outside world.] After all, an outside person can track the stimulus as it interfaces with your body and then travels up your nerves to your brain.

Last remarks: His choice of words was fine. Our consciousness perceives the outside world by CREATING a model with stimuli received through the senses.

However, because he had already begun to hint that looking for ultimate reality was irrelevant, and because later he will conclude that all perceptions are equally valid without reference to that ultimate reality, my instincts to begin raising reservations to his statements were correct.
All this, the entire ... history of the universe, exists as a model inside our minds.
Physical reality can exist outside our minds at the same time our sensory derived perception of that reality exists inside our minds. That statement felt like it was trying to establish one at the expense of the other. Because the author himself will draw this conclusion with the very next sentence...
"So, where does this leave us with finding a meaning to life? The answer, I think, is pretty clear. Meaning itself is simply another piece of the model of reality that we each build inside our own brain."
He is subtly denying the possibility of an outside reality again. He's saying that meaning is "simply" (i.e., NO MORE THAN) what you decide it is, that there is not something outside yourself that might be real and concrete and have meaning beyond yourself, that you can interact with.

It is true that our own PERCEPTION of meaning exists entirely within our heads, but he ignores the fact that there can be a reality and meaning outside ourselves that pretty regularly interacts with us, i.e.:

* things like daily life (someone bumps into you, or a car crashes into you, and alters your perception of reality whether you wish to allow it to or not)
* the universe (it rains on you and intrudes itself via your senses into your perception of reality)
* and God (who communicates with us through his completed written Word, the Bible, that unless we harmonize with what he considers Good, our future perception of reality is going to resemble an eternal lake of fire.)

It reminds me of the time Margaret Fuller said, “I accept the Universe!” And Thomas Carlyle said, “Gad, she'd better!”

So the video is saying here, you ONLY have the meaning INSIDE your head, because whatever exists outside yourself can NOT be known and can NEVER be known (sounds pretty arrogant and unscientific to me), so YOU make the rules (you don't have to listen to some outside-your-head God.)

The statements in this video sound like a variation on Satan telling Eve, “in the day you eat of it you will be wise like God, knowing good and evil.” Well, they sure found out about good and evil but not quite in the way Satan implied it: You will finally be wise enough to know good and evil for yourself, you won't have to listen to God tell you what it is.

Likewise here is this video saying everything is in your own head anyway, including this God you think wants you to do something, so God doesn't really exist because he is a creation of your brain, so you make the rules, not God!

Nice try!

This video jumps from MAYBE there is no outside reality, to directly asking you to live your life as if there IS NO outside reality.
"Take this mother and child.
They each create their own little bubbles of reality in their conscious minds.
The youngster can create a detailed mental model of his surroundings.
Even though he may not fully appreciate the fact he’s on the fifth floor.
The mother’s reality is also produced by her mind."
Sloppy, misleading terminology.

The mother's perception of reality is produced by stimulus received through her senses interacting with her mind. At least two crucial differences there.

Did you see what happened? The video completely glossed over the fact that there can be perceived and actual reality, and asks us to take for granted that our synapses are firing on their own, and are not being triggered by an outside reality.
"And for her, her love for her boy is as real as the telephone in her hand."
Her perception of the telephone in her hand came through her senses coming in contact with the physical object, and her perception of her love for her boy came through her accumulated past value choices.
"In short: the brain is responsible for not only the reality we perceive…
but for our emotions and meaning too.
Love and honor, right and wrong
are part of the universe we create in our minds
just as a table, a planet or a galaxy.
It’s pretty remarkable to think that our brains
which are essentially a collection of particles working to the law of physics
have this wonderful ability to not only perceive reality
but to give it meaning, too.
The meaning of life is what you choose it to be.
Personally, I like to think that it is everyone of us that gives meaning to the universe.
We are, as cosmologist Carl Sagan once said:
The universe contemplating itself.
Meaning can only ever exist within the confines of the human mind.
And in this way, the meaning of life is not somewhere out there
but right between our ears.
In many ways, this makes us The Lords of Creation."

[End of Video]
Day 2 Response: Our PERCEPTION of right and wrong is part of the universe we create in our minds. ACTUAL right and wrong would be something very different, and dependent on ACTUAL reality.

The last part of that quote is very interesting, it can be both true and false.

Yes, you can give life whatever meaning you want it to have. Whether it will actually make you happy or healthy depends on how accurate your perception of actual reality has become, and how much you are in harmony with the purposes of the Creator of your brain. Yes, the Creator created us in his image so we are all "lords of creation" with free will to use that creative power for good or evil in harmony with truth or deception.

However, I believe Stephen Hawking does not believe in the existence of the Creator so his "Lords of Creation" are being encouraged to make up their own perceived realities and perceived meanings without reference to actual reality, nor the ultimate Lord of Creation.


The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

My First Day Response to the end of the video:
"In short: the brain is responsible for not only the reality we perceive but for our emotions and meaning too."
Again, that should read PERCEIVED meaning. I may value you, God may value you, but you may not value yourself and commit suicide.

Also, he left something out. The brain is just a tool like our heart or lungs, but the buck stops with our soul, the “ghost in the wires”. We have emotions and we choose how much to control those emotions and how we act on those emotions. On the Judgment Day God is not going to accept, “Well you see, Lord, it was this brain I was born with, that made me hit him.”

Yes, we can be born with malfunctioning equipment, born with a brain put together with fewer checks or even non-existent checks on a flaring temper, and it can be either easier or harder to forge usage pathways through our neuronal networks with the accumulated traffic of our daily decisions and actions. God will take into account any extenuating circumstances.

But normally speaking, your brain doesn't make you kill someone, you as a soul make a decision to do so.

Likewise, if your perception of reality and the meaning of yourself is a collaboration of your soul making decisions after reviewing the stimuli making its way to your brain through your senses, and if the stimuli is actually coming from outside your body, and it is not your brain firing off neurons on its own and hallucinating, then there IS an outside reality that your brain can perceive and interact with.

Your life is not a hallucination of your brain. I am really separate from you and you are really separate from me. I can honor you for being you and not something my brain made up. You can honor me for being me and not something your brain made up. I did not create you and I am not your God.

So, if there is a reality outside the brain and our brains can perceive it and interact with it, then there could be a God who created us and told us what our meaning is. (It is up to your soul to use its brain and senses to engage with the world outside your brain to sift the evidence for God.) Then your meaning would NOT be SOLELY whatever you decide it to be.
"Love and honor, right and wrong are part of the universe we create in our minds, just as a table, a planet, a galaxy."
Woah! Are you saying love and honor, right and wrong are whatever I say they are? Right and wrong are whatever I want to pretend they mean? There is no REAL right? There is no REAL wrong? There is only what feels right to you and feels right to me and if they are different may the strongest man win?

Besides you aren't real anyway. This video says you might not really be outside my brain, and this video keeps encouraging me to act as if everything is a dream inside my head, so I can do whatever I want to you. Nothing I do to you will be wrong, because you don't really exist, I am dreaming you up. My brain is the universe. I am God.

The very fact that you are standing there disagreeing with me means I have seriously lost control over my brain. I need to focus and you will disappear. Why not steal that car, kill that baby, set that house on fire? It's all inside the head. It won't hurt anyone.

Really!??
"The meaning of life is what you choose it to be."
It depends on what you mean by that. To a CERTAIN extent, I have always kept in mind that life is what I make it, life is what I allow it to be, what I am allowing others to do to me. If I am not satisfied with my life, I look at myself first, I don't wait around for other people to change my life for me. I usually don't go around saying I have to do this, or I can't do that. I simply sit down and think real hard about what I need to change to make myself happy. I actually appreciate the feeling of pain. It makes everything real simple. Look for the pain and change that area. I truly am a fan of the phrase, “Life is what you make it.”

But people, I only do that within the boundaries of God's standard, with my sense of right and wrong bowing to him. Otherwise I might feel pain that I don't have what is yours, and take it.

But this video is completely leaving out God.
"Meaning can only ever exist within the confines of the human mind."
There's no me outside your mind? There's nothing outside your mind, not even God? You are sooo lonely.
"And in this way, the meaning of life is not somewhere out there but right between our ears. In many ways, this makes us The Lords of Creation."

[end of video]
There you have it. You are God. Along with everybody else. Don't know how all those Gods are going to settle their differences. Might makes right, I guess. It reminds me of Animal Farm. All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.

Seriously people, there IS a whole universe outside your mind, and God, the real Lord of Creation, beyond that. You can find Him in the Bible.

Because some day your perception of reality is going to perceive Him whether you want to or not. And then it will be too late when you find out He's all you ever wanted, and you are already being consigned to the outer darkness.
"In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 22:13, 25:30).

However right now, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The entire material universe could be said to be a simulation that God constructed. Hawking talks about brains in jars, but our whole material universe is a jar. In an eternal spirit.

God is still more than the universe, not the universe itself. God is still eternal while the universe had a beginning. And each one of us will still give an account of himself to God at the appointed time.

“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit ... Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them ... You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect." (Luke 12:35-37,40)

We are constantly called into fuller perception. We come out of non-existence into existence. We come out of the womb into the world. We come out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son. At the end of our lives, we are called out of temporal life into eternal life, out of mortality into immortality, out of time into eternity.

God, who dwells in unapproachable light, calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Timothy 6:16, 1 Peter 2:9)

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me." (Revelation 3:20)

"The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." (Revelation 22:17)

God WANTS us to see more and more, and you need light to see, which is why he calls us to His Light, to walk in it, because that is where He is. (1 John 1:7) And where he is, everything else is. (Romans 11:36)

"But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light." (Ephesians 5:13)

"God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)

“I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)

"There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." (John 1:9)

In God's book, you can never have too much light for perceiving ever more accurately.

"The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day." (Proverbs 4:18)

"He who practices the truth comes to the Light." (John 3:21)

"Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness." (Luke 11:35)

"He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)

"Light is sown like seed for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." (Psalms 97:11)

Whatever it is that you want that is good, God is the way to it.

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36)

"Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die." (Revelation 3:2)

"Blessed is the one who stays awake ..." (Rev. 16:15)