Thursday, August 22, 2013

Death By Black Hole

Death by Black Hole comes from a series of essays written by an astrophysicist. The work flows well and provides a good background on the greater universe. The title topic appears closer to the end and would be quite gruesome. Your body would be cut in half, then in half again until finally all the molecules and sub-molecules are split into one unrecognizable mass.

He does a good job of describing what we know and how we got to know it. Much of it is guesswork, with more data allowing better theories to be formed. Radio telescopes allow us to find even more about the universe at large. We may only have a few billion years before the universe is destroyed. But before, the sun is likely to go out. Even before that, life on earth may be wiped out by a stray comet or asteroid. (Though we may actually be able to help prevent some of those from being too destructive.)

The study of science seems a lot like reverse engineering a computer program. We just have to see what is there, and try to figure things out. There have been many past proclaimed "end of sciences". However, since then many new theories have been put forth that better explain what we see. A good scientist can be open to all new changes.

Alas, the ending somewhat spoiled the work. There, he attempts to provide a critique of "intelligent design". He argues that scientists simply use deity as a way to credit the things that they don't understand. (Thus, if deity does not have a place in science, does that mean scientists are omniscient?) He then posits that there are so many defects in lifeforms, that there must not have been a deity. (Why would one create all those problems? Well, why would a programmer create bugs?) Then intelligent design bears the brunt of his wrath as a force that retards the growth of science. I think that takes things a little too far, and may be a result of the atheistic pushing of Hawkins and other scientists. Science and religion can work nicely together. Religion is like the high level documentation. It explains how things were done and provides some APIs for doing certain things. Science is an attempt to dissect the details and find detailed hidden features and APIs. There is no need for them to conflict. It is easy to be both religious and scientific. Science rarely disproves religion. Rather it provides alternate explanations. Religion also rarely retards science. In fact, it may help it in providing a better focus. Evolution could be a good explanation for the relgious creation. Intelligent design provides another explanation. The only harm to science is if it spends too much time worrying about it to focus on other research efforts. (Isaac Newton made huge contributions to science in spite of spending years justifying his work with religion. Perhaps his output would have been more without the religious influence, but it could have also been less.)

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