Thursday, January 13, 2011

Influential atheist cosmologists, and why they might not matter

On a recent list of the 25 most influential atheists, three key cosmologists come up.

# 5 Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s great theoretical physicists. His trade-press book A Brief History of Time took the world by storm in the late 1980s. In it he raised the prospect of a self-creating universe, which he has since developed at length. The theme he keeps pounding is the extraneousness of the God hypothesis.
Wrote a bit about him. With his new take on M-theory, he is now mainly famous for staying famous. But that’s still pretty famous.

# 9 Steven Weinberg

The premier living Nobel laureate physicist, Steven Weinberg is one of the great scientists of our time. He is also a remarkably good writer, as demonstrated in his popular books on physics, which advance an atheistic view of the universe. According to him, science’s greatest cultural achievement is to eradicate religion.
Never tracked him much. His “pointless” universe seems like too much religion in science class to me (and he now admits it was a foolish thing to say).

He’s right. Just because he has religion on the brain ... Don’t bet on his fellow atheists making an issue out of whether other religions get equal treatment with his in tax-funded schools.

# 11 Lawrence Krauss
When the television networks need a well-credentialed and well-spoken scientist to discuss the relation between science and religion, Lawrence Krauss is their man.* A physicist with solid credentials as well as a ready pen, who has written a string of successful popular science books, Krauss has effectively used this platform to promote atheism.

Clashed with him, actually. I disagreed that sci fi film makers created a big problem by using unrealistic physics. Hello? That’s why it’s called science fiction.

Well you should have heard him in response ...

(*Now that sounds to me like damning with faint praise, but I digress.)

It all raises an interesting question: What would cosmology look like if there wasn’t an obsessive need to come up with a cosmology that bypasses a beginning, which suggests an argument for the existence of God?

Today’s cosmology strikes me as a carnival of improbable ideas festooned with equations.

Look, when  physicists concentrate on physics, I don’t know near enough to critique it. These guys make my job easy, that’s for sure. With luck, I'll get a book out of it.