Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Krauss vs Cooper

For this week's Forge entry, frequent Tekton contributor D. Neiman offers a self-described rant. Understandably so.

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I am a fan of the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Not just because the characters often randomly irrupt comic book geekery (I cannot wait for The Dark Knight Rises), but also because of Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Arguably the most popular of Big Bang’s characters, Sheldon (portrayed by Jim Parsons) is a theoretical physicist who prides himself on his 187 IQ, eidetic memory, and incredibly malnourished people-skills. 

In fact, the reason I love Sheldon so much is because, well, I also hate him. Why? Sheldon is often used as the main comic foil. He frequently comments that he is “burdened with a superior mind in a world of normals” despite the fact that his best friends are also people with genius-level intellects. He refuses to work (in most cases even interact!) with other researchers in his own field because he believes he simply cannot “dumb himself down” enough. Further along these lines, it is standard for Sheldon to often exaggerate the importance of his discipline in comparison to others. For example, in the season 3 episode The Pants Alternative Sheldon becomes intoxicated at an awards ceremony and, during his acceptance speech, mentions that he “has no respect” for the study of geology. He is an infuriatingly, small-minded egocentrist who cannot, indeed will not, take time to understand something he doesn’t understand because, well, if he doesn’t understand it right away then it isn’t worth understanding!

That’s what makes his character so enjoyable: the ridiculousness. Like Archie Bunker, such a person surely couldn’t exist in the real world, right? Unfortunately, as many of us know, people like Archie Bunker do exist. I just discovered that people like Sheldon Cooper exist as well; one of them goes by the name Lawrence Krauss.

I am also a fan of The Colbert Report. Watch it every night before bed. Last night Krauss was his guest. When I saw the name on my DVR, the word “crackpot” lit up in the back of my mind. How odd. Usually that only happens with Christ mythers and ancient aliens enthusiasts. So I searched for his last name in my standard, weekly reads (Tekton, Reasonable Faith) and boom! There it was. Last year famed Christian philosopher and all-around atheist beating machine William Lane Craig debated this guy, and beat him up pretty bad. Krauss didn’t take it too well. Linked below you’ll find that this guy, a professor at a major state university, rants and raves about how Craig doesn’t understand the arguments, and then give lips service to the Christ-myth!

“Not only are there serious theologians who doubt the resurrection, there are historians who doubt the historical existence of Jesus himself.”

He goes on to indicate that it is his belief that a significant portion of NT scholarship believes that the Resurrection narratives are based on older “resurrection myths” that parallel the Gospels “down to the number of days” that it took the savior to be resurrected!

Having rediscovered this nonsense, I looked forward to the interview portion at the end of The Colbert Report. I was not disappointed. Attempting to peddle his new book, Krauss initially said that he has found the answer to the famous question posed by the German philosopher-mathematician G.W. Leibniz: why is there something instead of nothing? Well, he hasn’t answered the question, he clarified as he coyly backpedaled; rather, he has found that it isn’t the right question to ask. Instead, so he says, contemporary physics has shown that older philosophical questions/concerns (such as theories of causation and what “nothing” really means) are irrelevant. Far from actually answering the question “why is there something rather than nothing” (part of the book’s title) he says physicists need to redefine what “nothing” means, so that new, better questions are needed. Questions that don’t waste time on the nose-picking speculations that comprise philosophy and theology, but are instead set to answer serious, big-people issues. Toward the end of the interview, Colbert asks him why he insists on using his work (the foreword is by Dawkins, it was originally supposed to be by Hitchens… so yeah… that tells you something) as a vehicle to attack God. Krauss responds that he doesn’t want to attack God, he simply wants to show people that the real universe is far more beautiful and complex than anything reported in the “fairy tales that were talked about by Bronze-age, illiterate peasants.” Yeah, that’s what the chronologically-snobberish ethnocentrist said!

So I decided to go through some other materials that Craig has on his site that discuss Krauss’ book (also linked below). Just from listening to his interview on Colbert I could tell what the most devastating and effective critique of it would be, and Craig zeroed right in on it. I’m no philosopher, certainly I am no physicist (I find that stuff cold and boring); most of my exposure to philosophy comes from when it overlaps with pre-Christian near Eastern, Greco-Roman and Church history. Yet even I can tell that when Krauss uses the word “nothing” he doesn’t really mean “nothing.” Based on this one, simple, easy to spot observation I have decided that there is no reason why I should ever read this man’s book, for he simply does not know what he is talking about.

In the podcasts on the reasonable faith page linked below Craig goes through another recent audio interview Krauss did on his book. Throughout all three segments Krauss makes reference to how philosophy has failed to answer these questions, how theology should be banned from academia, how he just can’t figure out why people don’t bow down with him and sacrifice at the altar of theoretical physics and it’s beloved son, the multiverse. Over and over we hear how theologians and philosophers love to talk without getting any actual work done!  The arrogance!

*As a fun side-note, my father (a mountain of a man who spends all of his free time in the Colorado woods hunting as a traditional archer [one of my favorite things to do as well] and who has worked his hands to the bone fixing machines at the Coors brewery every week for the last thirty years) refuses to watch The Big Bang Theory. He does so because, “those ivory tower, thin-wrists need to stop screwin’ around talkin’ about space and numbers and get real jobs.”

What finally inspired me to type out this exposure of ignorance was a quip Krauss makes on the last podcast. He relates how he has asked “many” theologians what significant contributions theology has made to human knowledge in the last 500 years. He says that biologists, psychologists, and even historians can give him some kind of legitimate answer to this question, and the theologians cannot. All this from someone who, apparently, believes there are levels of reality where 2+2 does not equal 4 (see Craig’s linked pages and more material by searching for “Krauss”)! The hubris! This guy makes Icarus and Snookie’s illegitimate love-child look like Mother Teresa!

Like my beloved Dr. Cooper, Krauss figures himself a conqueror of worlds, heroically smashing the irrelevant demons of philosophy and theology (not to mention history, I mean, the Christ myth? C’mon!) with his trusty, indestructible hammer called “Mj√∂lnir” *cough* I mean “physics.” And like my beloved Dr. Cooper, Krauss is unaware that the remaining 99%, in this case the philosophers, theologians, and historians, of the world watch and giggle as he flails about, screaming and knocking stuffed animals off of coffee tables with a nerf bat that has “special” written on it’s side.


6 comments:

  1. So what is the response to "what significant contributions theology has made to human knowledge in the last 500 years."? I just saw an ad hominem on Krauss, but I wanted to see a response to the question... Thanks.

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  2. Try the fact that it contributes a sustainable worldview under which civilization can operate. If you don't like that, try anarchy.

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  3. Krauss isn’t really asking any question there. He’s just trying to find a cute/sassy way to say, “I reject the contributions to human knowledge that theology has made.” But that is his problem; it isn’t the theologian’s. Modern day flat-earthers and Jesus-mythers do the same thing with advances in history and physics, but that’s because, like Krauss, they don’t know what they are talking about.

    Further, as I pointed out, Krauss has no respect for disciplines like history and philosophy either. I’m sure he would contend that their contributions to human knowledge in the last 500 years would rank from minimal to nil as well.

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  4. Krauss, I am sure has more than one Phd. You, I am sure have none. Even if you do, his I.Q. is way higher than yours, and he knows way more about how the universe was created/works than you do. The process of matter and antimatter combining and creating "nothing," was, as Krauss proposed reversed and the universe created. That at least is far more plausible than magic creating it. Be quiet. Thank you.

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    1. Ah, typical frustrated rant from a fundy atheist moron unable to answer arguments. But no, he only has one Ph. D, small fry:

      http://physics-dev.asu.edu/home/sites/default/files/faculty/lkrauss/CV-Full-Krauss,Lawrence.pdf

      I'd tell you to be quiet, but your foot is already deep inside your mouth after that one. :D

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  5. A phd. does not make you infallible. It certainly doesn't make an expert of life. Some of the biggest mistake and worst atricities in history have been comited by so call brilliant people.

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