Did Stephen Hawking Fail to See the Forest for the Trees?
Posted on 09 April 2018, 8:46
The militant atheists were running wild on the Internet recently. The death of physicist/cosmologist Stephen Hawking unleashed quite a few of them. “He was the most brilliant man in the world and he was one of us,” they all seem to be proudly ranting and raving in their usual cacophony at various websites, the implication being that if Hawking (below) didn’t believe any of the religious rubbish then you can be certain that it is all bunk. However, I’ll go with another great scientist, physicist Sir Oliver Lodge, a pioneer in electricity and radio, who said, “Science is incompetent to make comprehensive denials about anything. It should not deal in negatives. Denial is no more fallible than assertion. There are cheap and easy kinds of scepticism, just as there are cheap and easy kinds of dogmatism.”
The militant atheists seem to assume that if God can’t be seen in a telescope or microscope that He, She, or It, whatever God happens to be, can’t exist. They further assume that any God must be the anthropomorphic (humanlike) God of religion and that an afterlife can’t exist without such a God. They seemingly don’t stop to consider that an afterlife might exist without the anthropomorphic God of religion.
Ask the militants to forget the question of God and closely examine many cases suggesting survival, such as those set forth in One Hundred Cases for Survival after Death, edited by A. T. Baird, and they’ll just guffaw and say none of it is scientific. They claim fraud, delusion, hallucination, wishful-thinking, anecdotal, whatever works best for them, or they refer you to a Wikipedia page which is usually written by another militant atheist who claims that the particular person or case is just so much hogwash. They’ve been brainwashed in scientism and are at the other extreme from the fundamentalists of religion.
Yes, the cases set forth in Baird’s book, which was published in 1944 and has now been republished by White Crow Books, are anecdotal and holes of one kind or another can be poked in each case, leaving some room for a doubt, but as Professor Lodge said, it is the cumulative evidence that provides conviction.
Consider Case No. 60 in Baird’s book, having to do with Lodge’s investigation of Boston medium Leonora Piper. When Piper visited England in 1889-90, Lodge carried out 83 experiments or sittings with her, including one in which he invited Dr. Gerald Rendall, principal of University College, Liverpool, to sit with Piper. He told her nothing about Rendall and introduced him under a fictitious name. After Piper went into her self-induced trance state, Phinuit, her spirit control, began speaking through her voice mechanism and provided much veridical information. Rendall reported to Lodge that everything was “quite correct.” Phinuit named his four brothers, Charlie, Fred, Arthur, and Arnold, gave statements about his mother’s death and that of his eldest brother, and talked about a woman named Agnes, a relative by marriage who had died of consumption 21 years earlier. Phinuit stated that Agnes was quite fond of his brother, Arthur, and that she had a close friend named Louis. “Regarding my two sittings,” Rendall recorded for Lodge, “I am quite convinced of the genuineness of the phenomena; there was no opening for concerted fraud…”
The militant skeptic would say that Piper somehow investigated Rendall beforehand, and there is no way to prove that she didn’t. The young militant might not appreciate how difficult it would have been to come upon such information in those days before computers and even telephones, especially with an ocean between them. Even today, it would not be that easy to come up with the name of a friend of a relative’s wife. But the militants would further theorize that Piper was “fishing” for information and doing “muscle reading.” They’d have us believe that Lodge and Rendall were dupes taken in by a clever trickster, that Lodge, one of the greatest scientists of his day, was duped 83 times.
Some references on Lodge suggest that he was all too willing to believe in survival because his son Raymond was killed in World War I. However, they overlook the fact that Raymond’s death was some 25 years after he first investigated Mrs. Piper and some seven years after he defied the materialistic mindset of the day and professed a belief in survival after having admitted to being a materialist.
Further, consider case no. 67, involving Professor Herbert Nichols of Harvard University and Mrs. Piper. He also received names, places, and events from his past. One particular piece of evidence involved a ring which his deceased mother gave him and which he had lost. He asked the communicating spirit what the inscription inside the ring was and was given the exact word, a very peculiar one. In a letter to Professor William James of Harvard, Nichols wrote, “As you know, I have been a Laodicean toward her heretofore. But that she is no fraud, and that she is the greatest marvel I have ever met, I am now convinced.”
The militant skeptics would not suggest telepathy or mind reading in the Nichols case, because even telepathy defies the laws of mechanistic science. Nichols must have been delusional; there can be no other explanation, the militants reason.
Jump back two cases to no. 65, several years before Piper was tested by Lodge and Nichols. This test was carried out by Dr. Minot Savage, a Unitarian minister, and was arranged by Professor James. In that sitting, Phinuit, speaking through Mrs. Piper, told Savage that an older man was there and was referring to Minot as “Judson.” Phinuit also said that the man had a peculiar bare spot on his head. Savage understood this, explaining that Judson was his middle name and the name by which his father called him, even though everyone else called him Minot. Also, his father had suffered a bad burn at an early age, which left a large bare spot on his head, something he tried to disguise by brushing his hair over it. (It should be noted that spirits generally show themselves in a manner that they will be remembered, not as they are in spirit life.) “I was therefore naturally struck and surprised by suddenly hearing one who claimed to be my father giving me once more my old boyhood name,” Savage reported to James. “I was not consciously thinking of these things, and I am convinced that Mrs. Piper couldn’t have known anything about them.”
During the same sitting, Phinuit also said, “Here is somebody who says his name is John. He was your brother. No, not your own brother, your half-brother.” This brother also related personal facts from his life, including how he died, all of which Savage confirmed as true. “Many other things occurred during the sitting,” Savage related. “But I mention only these, because, though simple, they are clear-cut and striking, and because I see no way by which Mrs. Piper could ever have known them.”
The militant skeptic will tell you that mediums of the day knew each other and Mrs. Piper tapped into the medium “message board” for information about Savage before he sat with her, even though we are told that his name was not given to her beforehand. There is no end to “might have” or “could have” theories that the debunkers come up with. When those don’t work, they point to the medium’s failures, discounting all the “static” and “noise” that interfere with clear communication. They seemingly assume, as some religionists do, that if there is an afterlife that people become all-knowing and all-powerful and that the communication should be as clear as talking on a good telephone line, when, in fact, it is more like prisoners of war tapping out messages between cells.
One more Piper case, that of Professor N. S. Shaler, a renowned Harvard geologist. In Baird’s case no. 66, he reported that he and his wife sat with Piper and she began by making true statements relating to his wife’s deceased brother. “Certain of the facts, as, for instance, those relating to the failure to find his will after his sudden death, were very nearly and dramatically rendered,” Shaler reported. “They had the real life quality. So, too, the name of the man who was to have married my wife’s brother’s daughter, and who died a month before the time fixed for the wedding, was correctly given, both as regards surname and Christian name, though the Christian name was not remembered by my wife or me.”
A few other cases among the 100 offered by Baird have to do with Mrs. Piper, but there is a wide variety of cases not involving her. Some have to do with veridical apparitions and deathbed visions, some with other mediums. Some are more convincing than others. Baird added another 100 cases in a second book, Case Book for Survival. I could add 200 cases to his 200, many more involving Leonora Piper as set forth in my book, Resurrecting Leonora Piper. But the militant skeptic would shrug them off as anecdotal and unscientific. All of those intelligent men and women were simply duped as they had a “will to believe,” they would say with much hubris. There can be no other explanation because it all defies the laws of nature and science.
My guess is that Professor Hawking was too busy studying the cosmos to ever look at such evidence. He was likely focused on the trees and never saw the forest. Some believers might say that Hawking now knows better, but I wonder if he does. There is considerable spirit communication suggesting that we continue to believe as we did when we parted the material world. The Catholics remain Catholics, the atheists stay atheist, etc., until they have fully adapted to the spirit world and are prepared to grasp the reality of it all. This seems to suggest that the non-believer, at least the militant one – the one who has taken pride in his insolence while trying to influence others toward his belief – will not even realize he is dead for some time after death and will live in some kind of dream world for a time, however time plays out there.
To again quote Sir Oliver Lodge: “I tell you with all my strength of the conviction which I can muster that we do persist…I say it on distinct scientific grounds. I say it because I know that certain friends of mine still exist, because I have talked with them.”
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
Next blog post: April 22
I disagree. People who get their information mostly from television probably think Stephen Hawking was one of the greatest physicists of all time even though he wasn’t..Stephen Hawking was a media figure. Other more important physicists like Leonard Susskind and Roger Penrose are completely ignored in the media. According to a particle physicist at CERN: “Most physicists Hawking is just one of the “big guys” of theoretical cosmology in the 1970s. His work of that time, while influential and groundbreaking in that formal subfield, has not had much or any wider impact through physics. A Masters’ level physics degree will typically not mention Hawking’s work at all, except in informal references to Hawking radiation and maybe his singularity theorem work with Penrose.” Source: https://www.quora.com/What-do-physicists-think-of-Stephen-Hawking
Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time, is nearly incomprehensible to people outside of theoretical physics because his book is filled with advanced differential, vector, and multivariate calculus as applied to physics. His claim to fame is the discovery that black holes are not black after all, but emit radiation. But Hawking was famously wrong when he claimed information was lost in black holes which launched the “Black Hole War” with Leonard Susskind who argued that Hawking’s conclusions violated one of the most basic scientific laws of the universe, the conservation of information. This debate led to Susskind formulating string theory and the holographic principle. Hawking is more famous for his disability, overcoming ALS, his wheelchair, and his computer voice synthesizer. Don’t get me wrong, Hawking was a great physicist - but not as great as the media hype. One of the best evidence for this is that Hawking never won the Fields Medal or Nobel Prize in Physics.
As for Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., yes, he was a famous atheist, but not all atheists reject the idea of an afterlife. Belief in God and belief in an afterlife are not mutually exclusive. Vonnegut certainly didn’t reject the idea of an afterlife. Vonnegut had a near-death experience as he described here:
“I have experienced what happens when I die, and so have you. We call it sleep. We had a fire in our apartment in New York last February. I was unconscious for three days, in a coma, and I had a near-death experience. I had already written God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian at that time, and I was talking about the blue tunnel into the afterlife. People who are interviewed on TV every so often tell about their near-death experiences. Some talked about the blue tunnel and it seemed like a good, funny idea to me. It’s not a blue tunnel, it’s a railroad train—probably because railroad trains used to play such a big part in our lives. When I left Indianapolis to go to the University of Chicago, I got on a train to Chicago. When I came home from the army, from the war, it was on a railroad train—so they’re very important symbols. It was parked near the hospital. I could see it. There was a railroad siding. It was just a regular passenger train with a diner and all that. There didn’t seem to be any people in it, but it was all lit up inside. I knew that if I died, I’d be put on a gurney, I wouldn’t have to walk to the train. Off I’d go. It wasn’t a terrifying image at all. I wish I’d died on D-day, it would have saved a lot of trouble … [Laughs]”
The NDE motif of a railroad train taking people to heaven appears from time to time in NDE narratives. Children sometimes mention a school bus. It all appears to be part of the “NDE tunnel” archetype.
As for Hawking’s longevity, it is practically “common knowledge” that the survival mechanism is very strong in human beings and that those people with a strong will to live, or a stronger fear of death, are the most “fittest” to survive an early death.
My problem with Hawking is that he used his media stardom to wander into labyrinths where he had no expertise at all such as the existence of an afterlife and the existence of God. More important physicists than Hawking disagree with him on these matters. I am referring to Albert Einstein (who believed in Spinoza’s notion of God) and Roger Penrose (who developed a physical framework for survival of quantum consciousness).
Kevfin Williams, Mon 23 Apr, 21:24
I’m dismayed to hear that any of us commenting here, surely a pretty educated and erudite group, are unaware of what Stephen Hawking was famous for. It was a whole lot beyond a “pathetic appearance”! A major thing to remember him for is his work on black holes. And surely you’ve all heard of “A Brief History of Time”?
And I was always dismayed that Hawking remained such a complete materialist, or at least appeared to be. I wondered at times if he managed to keep his body going so amazingly long, compared to others with ALS, because he feared annihilation at death—but I don’t presume to know what was in his head. At any rate, I hope he’s doing well now, and that his brilliant mind will find new ways to illuminate human understanding of the cosmos.
When he died, I remembered an anecdote about a Humanist Society meeting after the death of Isaac Asimov, who was a member. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was the president of the organization, and he addressed the group with, “Well, Isaac’s in heaven now.” Really broke everyone up. In context it truly is hilarious.
(Vonnegut, by the way, was a paradoxical materialist-atheist—it’s hard to imagine anyone with deeper spiritual understanding of the human condition.)
Elene Gusch, Mon 23 Apr, 09:35
Thanks for sharing that. I am familiar with Augustine. One can’t help wonder why he is so intent on debunking everything. Does he really think a nihilistic worldview will result in a better world? Organized religion clearly has its drawbacks, but organized religion and belief in the survival of consciousness are two different things and he doesn’t seem to grasp that.
Michael Tymn, Sun 15 Apr, 23:19
One of the largest atheism website on the Internet is run by the philosopher Keith Augustine who submitted three papers to the Journal of NDE Studies attempting to debunk NDEs as a possible afterlife phenomenon which were systematically debunked by NDE experts. You can read all the papers and a summary of the debate here: https://www.near-death.com/science/evidence/people-have-ndes-while-brain-dead.html
On that same page you can read my case against Keith Augustine’s atheistic view of Naturalism and his book “The Myth of an Afterlife.”
On Augustine’s website he has a definition of “Naturalism” as: “the hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it. Thus, naturalism implies that there are no supernatural entities - including God.” However, Kurt Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem shows that no consistent formal system can prove its own consistency. In plain language, it proves that all closed systems depend upon something outside the system. So according to Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, the quote on the Infidels website cannot be correct. If the natural world is a closed, logical system, then it has an outside cause. Thus, according to Godel’s theorem, atheism violates the laws of reason and logic. Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem definitively proves that current scientific models can never fill its own gaps. We have no choice but to look outside of current scientific models for answers concerning illogical statements such as, “A God does not exist in the natural world.” Read more evidence on the link provided.
Kevin Williams, Sat 14 Apr, 20:47
That we do Michael; that we do! Like I said before Skeptics are good for entertainment value sometimes. (Well, actually I did not find it very entertaining when they destroyed my Patience Worth website.) - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 13 Apr, 12:59
It is all becoming clear to me now. There are three categories of people: 1) those with a dominant Neanderthal gene; 2) those with a recessive Neanderthal gene; 3) those without a Neanderthal gene, i.e., those of us from Sirius and other more advanced planets who helped earthlings develop consciousness. The red neck militants, debunkers, whatever name be given them, are in group 1 and are simply slow learners or slow to open their minds to enlightenment. We need to be patient with them.
Michael Tymn, Fri 13 Apr, 04:18
The sceptics also don’t stop to think that consciouness could be a natural fundamental constituent of reality which is where all the evidence is quite clearly pointing.Even if mediumship were to be put to the side there is still vast cumulative evidence from Out-of-body experiences and Remote Viewing,take the example of the SRI Remote Viewing programme this was funded by the CIA,DIA,NASA,Navy Air Force and Army intelligences,the findings of this program were published by the scientific bible “Nature” and further replications conducted at Princeton,Edinburgh and Utrecht universities showing that this is a real phenomenon.
Chad W Luter, Thu 12 Apr, 18:17
Are you sure Michael? I have heard tell that you are a Neanderthal through and through. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 12 Apr, 13:27
All very interesting. Thanks to all for the comments. I found Keith’s DarwinBalls very interesting. Coincidentally, my daughter had one of those DNA ancestry tests that came back yesterday. It indicated that she doesn’t have the Neanderthal gene. I infer from that that I don’t have it either, which perhaps means that the psychic who once told me I came from the planet Sirius in another solar system may have known what she was talking about.
Michael Tymn, Thu 12 Apr, 05:46
I don’t want to get too far off topic here but I have to say that the theory of survival of the fittest resulting in a life form more adapted to the environment in which it lives as proposed by Darwin and others may have some merit but it really doesn’t provide a viable theory of how one life form “evolved’ into another completely different life form nor does it theorize about the development of distinct organs such as the cell and all of it’s components, the eye in both chordates and in mollusca and, my favorite, the ‘wings’ of the bat. (I have often contemplated the evolution of the bat and held before me a picture of the large fruit bat. This makes for an interesting meditation.)
Darwin talked about “natural selection” but he often used as examples domestic species intentionally selected by humans to develop a better adapted variety, different color or form etc., that is, ‘humans’ acted as the creator or ‘selector’ if you will. As criticisms of Darwin’s theory came in , Darwin apparently became dubious about any grand theory of the origin of species including man. In “Descent of Man” Darwin writes that he “altered the fifth edition of the Origin so as to confine my remarks to adaptive changes of structure. I have not formerly sufficiently considered the existence of many structures which appear to be, as far as we can judge, neither beneficial nor injurious; and this I believe to be one of the greatest oversights as yet detected in my work. ” Darwin goes on to write that “I had two distinct objects in view, [when he developed his theories of Natural Selection and survival of the fittest] firstly, to shew that species had not been separately created, and secondly, that natural selection had been the chief agent of change…”
Darwin’s texts require a lot of attention, almost a focused study of every sentence which I believe most people who espouse creation of distinct species by natural selection have never done. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 10 Apr, 14:46
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 10 Apr, 14:38
It is like we are living in the Spanish Inquisition in reverse!- AOL
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 10 Apr, 12:55
I have seen your YouTube “DarwinBalls”. I thought it was very good. I will go back and watch it again as I have watched all of your videos several times. Very good work Keith! I listen and watch the video on the golden rule to relax and be more positive about my day. That one is not flashy but so very good. Beautiful Keith. - AOD
Hi Amos, your comment onthis blog, 9 April at 14.28 got me to thinking I should recommend to you my youtube video entitled ‘DarwinBalls’. It might chime with your interests and understandings regarding intelligent design.
Keith P in England, Mon 9 Apr, 23:25
I too, just as did Mike - note that militant atheists enjoyed pointing out following the recent death of death of physicist/cosmologist Stephen Hawking - that like them he was an atheist. I am not sure that this is true, as I did some quick checks and soon found this quote of Hawking, “No one really dies… The Universe wastes nothing”. (The term, “The Universe” though, is often used by scientists, others and even spiritualists, as a suitable non-anthropomorphic descriptor for a creator/God, uncontaminated by conventional religion.)
Bruce Scott-Hill, Mon 9 Apr, 23:19
I love Mike’s Sir Oliver Lodge quote: “Denial is no more fallible than assertion. There are cheap and easy kinds of scepticism, just as there are cheap and easy kinds of dogmatism.”
Also, in my view Mike (as usual) gets to the heart of a matter and could well be correct with his renowned perception and his comment that, “My guess is that Professor Hawking was too busy studying the cosmos to ever look at such evidence. He was likely focused on the trees and never saw the forest. In support of this, most readers of this blog no doubt like myself have spent years vindicating to their own satisfaction that an afterlife is real. Attaining conviction of this though is not an easy task since one has to be bothered in the first place to commence such a task and these strident atheists with their dogmatic assertions without a shred of evidence, do not help. To be fair, sadly in the case of a highly regarded cosmologists such as Hawking, publicly suggesting any belief in God in today’s world is likely to adversely affect one’s career and credibility in their speciality forever. God has no place and is an anathema to the current mainstream materialistic science paradigm. Therefore, little has changed since the times of Galileo.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 9 Apr, 19:24
It was a surprise to hear that Hawking’s funeral took part in a church How can that be? It probably was not Hawking’s wish to have a church funeral but if it were, then his life and pronouncements would be a “complete hypocrisy” as you suggest. A ceremony of remembrance with the cremains should have been held in a planetarium with Neil DeGrasse Tyson officiating—- much more appropriate!-AOD
Another fine article, Mike. I especially identify with Tricia’s comments above.
Stafford Betty, Mon 9 Apr, 18:42
The only alternative explanations for the best cases of apparent post-mortem communication that are not inherently ridiculous are telepathy and clairvoyance on the medium’s part. Even those are a long reach in many instances, because they assume a degree of telepathy and clairvoyance that go beyond anything ever demonstrated.
Yet lots of militant philosophical materialists deny even those phenomena, undercutting any rational counter-explanation they might claim.
Ascribing psychological or emotional motives to anyone who accepts spirit communication because of the evidence is unscientific. As the distinguished researcher Hereward Carrington put it:
“When any fairly normal and intelligent man becomes in any way publicly identified with spiritualism or psychic investigation, the general public immediately endeavors to discover why, in order to ‘explain’ his odd interest or belief. This man is getting old and doddering, perhaps in his second childhood. That man lost a son in the war, and of course was emotionally
biased, because of his desire to ‘communicate’ with him. Another was ‘always rather religious.’
“And so it goes. Doubtless, many of these criticisms have an element of truth in them. But it is by no means true that the majority of scientific investigators are in any way
Rick Darby, Mon 9 Apr, 15:03
influenced by such factors. They are interested in psychic investigation just as they would be in any other scientific problem, and do not let their feelings run away with them in the least. They do not desire to prove—or to disprove—anything! They desire only to ascertain the truth, to discover some new and hitherto
Thanks for this Mike. This book sounds like one to buy. With regard to Hawking, I confess ignorance of his theories, except I understand he thought that owing to the law of gravity, (though I don’t know where he says it came from) therefore it was inevitable the cosmos would create itself spontaneously. Sounds like bunkum to me. And he was a fan of the Big Bang Theory but others have doubts about that too. I wonder how he’ll go down in history in fifty years time? And in the mean time, like Houdini, will he come back in a seance and say, “Sorry chaps, I was wrong, there is a spirit dimension after all.”
Keith P in England, Mon 9 Apr, 15:03
I am not a physicist so I have paid little attention to whatever it was that Hawking was famous for. It seems to me he was famous for being an unfortunate human being who struggled with a lifetime of physical deformity. That always gains a lot of sympathy and acceptance when without the pathetic appearance, Hawking may not have gained so much notoriety and a following. I am not discounting Hawking’s suffering mind you but he is supposed to be renowned for his brilliant innovative thinking (theorizing) not for his appearance.
I have pretty much just ignored the skeptics that are out and about on the internet, books and other places. I do not take their thoughts about alternate realties seriously. I do my own research and come to my own conclusions. The skeptics do have entertainment value I suppose but not so much when their barbs are directed personally, which is their main modus operandi.
Scientific investigation into the world of alternate realities is beginning to crack a little with the expanding study of quantum mechanics and a rethink of Darwin’s theories of evolution. There are several good books concerning intelligent design from the viewpoint of the first living cell and intelligent and creative design in the forms of plants and animals. Rupert Sheldrake has come up with an interesting idea of morphic fields and morphic resonance in the development of living forms
Well, that’s another story. But, if one takes a look at Darwin’s ideas and then actually looks at and studies the living world using scientific methods then it seems impossible that the appearance of living organisms with their organs, senses and brains could have appeared just by minuscule chance mutations and adaptation to the environment. There is more to it than that and that more includes a creator. Now that creator may not have been one omnipotent ‘god’ as usually conceived but could very well be millions of spirits whose job is to direct creation, spirits like you and me who prefer to participate in a creative endeavor rather than “float around heaven all day”. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 9 Apr, 14:28
His funeral took place in a church which is either complete hypocrisy on his part or perhaps he wasn’t entirely secure in his beliefs after all.
Richard, Mon 9 Apr, 13:42
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