Hey everyone! I got my copy of the new Hawking book, "The Grand Design" and cracked it open. I was worried about being in way over my head, because let's face it, he's Stephen Hawking, I'm me....
I gotta say, I'm to chapter 3, and it's been a great read! REALLY! Everything is explained in a visual way, so that you can relate to the concepts presented.
I can feel it building up to a clarity, that will allow you to see what he sees, and it ain't god folks!! His ideas are brilliant and bold in their simplicity and complexity. I've already experienced several "whoa, that was deep" moments!
I'm interested to see what other's opinion of the book are and what it says to you!
At any rate, this will certainly, and at very least, piss some people off!
Preach it brother Stephen, Preach it!!

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Patricia,
This book is an easy read! It's written to be understood by the masses. (At least those who aren't brainwashed into thinking the only answer is a invisible man in the sky.) That is what the pleasant surprise is here! No worries!
I'm glad you started this discussion. I was thinking about doing it myself.

I got the book but I am spread so thinly right now that I won't be able to start reading it for a couple of weeks. Nonetheless, I am certainly looking forward to commenting on it and reading the comments of others.
I am going to let my son read this book after I am done, and he is only 12. I think it breaks the evolution of quantum physics and mechanics into terms that are very understandable. It explains Einstein's theory of special relativity in a really neat way that helps you immediately understand what it states. I'm really hoping that the Discovery Chanel or the Science Chanel will put together a program that goes through what this book says. I think that this book is geared more toward the masses than for hard core science geeks...(like some of us.)
I feel like this is Hawking's attempt to be as clear as he possibly can to help us understand things with different eyes. Just my thought. I'll let you know when I'm done. I'm almost done with Chapter 5 of 8.
I certainly hope pbs works on a documentary about the ideas presented in the book, i absolutely enjoy there documentaries, i myself bought the book but have found that i am also stretched thin when it comes to books. I still haven't started reading my copy of "The Greatest Show On Earth" by richard Dawkins, this hasn't stopped me from reaching chapter 4 as of now of grand design. Although i enjoy reading a challenging book i do appreciate the clarity that is used in "The Grand Design" i definately think it was written with a larger audience in mind, as opposed to geeky people like me. So far so good though i really enjoy the book and i hope it has an enlightening ending.
I think that Hawking takes an extremely debatable position in chapter two, he says we don't really have free will.

Per p#32, last sentence of 1st paragraph:

It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.

The next time you hear that a priest raped a six year old boy just remember this and realize that the priest was in no way responsible (please see the sarcasm here).

Hawking shoots himself in the foot regarding this in the chapter. That is, on p#22, beginning of second paragraph, he complains that the speculations of the ancient Greeks would not amount to modern science for lack of experimental verification - but about free will, p#32, beginning of second paragraph, he says:

While conceding that human behavior is indeed determined by the laws of nature, it is also reasonable to conclude that the outcome is determined in such a complicated way and with so many variables as to make it impossible in practice to predict.

Where is the experimental verification for his position?
Perhaps i will find an answer to john's question at the end of the book, perhaps.
I just finished the book today. I think that the question of free will, and how it effects our universe gets some clarity in the end. I don't think he was saying we don't have free will, rather I think he was playing devil's advocate and pointing out some things that might come into question regarding multiple realities and the multiverse. What's visible to us, and what's not, and theories on why and how this might be.
I was wondering where all of this was going until it gets sewn up in the final chapter. What I did have to do, was to quit trying to grasp every detail of the experiments, laws and theories he was presenting, and just try to grasp their point. Then, wondering how it was all going to be put together, I got what he was trying to say in the final chapter. NOW, that being said, it's time for me to go back, and individually research each of the experiments, laws and theories in detail, so I know exactly why each of these pieces fit into the giant puzzle, other than why they make up the picture he is painting. I do know that I didn't end up feeling like I had no free will, but that free will and our choice can be a variable that may or may not have any effect on the outcome.
I know one thing, I'm going to be reading that last chapter again so I can dissect it better!
I guess my question is whether Hawking is referring to specific acts or patterns of behavior in humans as a species.

My observation as a counselor has been that humans are certainly capable of behavioral change, but tend to revert to previously learned, and at times maladaptive behaviors (vis a vis, depression, substance abuse, sexual infidelity, etc.).

The act of learning and change seem to be ingrained into us as a species, making our social and cultural evolution (for better or worse) predetermined by our biological predisposition and environment.

I'm just thinking aloud, and am not married to a particular position on the subject.
I think we have to be careful not to stereotype individuals nor classes of them.
I think he actually was saying that we don't have free will. If any of you have read "Beyond Freedom and Dignity" by B.F. Skinner, he pretty much explains how every action is just a reaction to a cause. I haven't actually read Hawkings new book, but I'm sure that he genuinely meant that we don't have free will. It has nothing to do with morality, it has to do with mechanics. I won't be able to carry on much of a debate because I have much to study for school, but I will try and follow this thread some.
I think that there should be experimental verification that we do not have free will.

Electrically stimulating parts of the brain may result in the subject wanting to do something. However, the stimulation may be substituting for an impulse normally created by a free choice. Accordingly, such an experiment cannot legitimately be used to conclude that we do not have free will. What experimental verification do you have that we do not have free will?

If you are ever in a court of law defending yourself against criminal charges I highly recommend that you not plea 'not guilty' on the grounds that you cannot be held accountable for the crime because people do not have free will.
Although I'd kinda like to see somebody try it. They can introduce the work of BF Skinner as evidence. Good luck getting a jury to buy that one.



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