On the Cosmological Argument, Part 4
The Cosmology of Stephen Hawking
As discussed previously, the Hawking-Penrose theorems appear to be wholly compatible with there being a first context as per the Cosmological Argument, but Hawking's imaginary time-based “no boundary” condition for the space-time universe would seem to effectively do away with the Hawking-Penrose singularity which is something other than – or outside – the universe and is, thereby, consistent with the Cosmological Argument notion for a first context other than the universe itself.
The imaginary time, no boundary condition still posits a beginning to the space-time universe, but that beginning would seem to be a coming to be without there being any context other than the universe itself. Such a sort of beginning would effectively eviscerate the Cosmological Argument, because this type of beginning would have the universe as not only uncaused but also as coming to be without there being a sequentially prior context.
In fact, Stephen Hawking and James Hartle, authors of the Hartle-Hawking unconditional probability wave-function for the universe, have gone so far as to claim that, based on their model, the universe appeared uncaused and from nothing.
As it turns out, however, Hartle-Hawking does not appear to be consistent with that conclusion put forth by both Hartle and Hawking.
This is to say that even in light of Hartle-Hawking, the Cosmological Argument apparently succeeds. There is a first context in which the universe begins or comes to be. Furthermore, Hartle-Hawking provides a basis for describing or depicting something about at least one characteristic of this first context.
A brief foray into what has been be referred to as the Hartle-Hawking unconditional probability wave-function for the universe along with some consideration about the nature of events suggests an essential characteristic regarding the first contextinto which (or from which) the universe appeared. What is particularly interesting is that this characteristic of the Cosmological Argument first context might also be more substantially an aspect of space-time than the most conventional understandings about science can – or are willing to - accommodate.
According to Hartle-Hawking, there is a non-zero probability that the universe (space-time) came to be out of nothing. The problem with this claim is that it pertains as much to the nature of probabilities as it does to the alleged nature of the coming to be of the universe. All probabilities are possibilities, and, by their very nature, probabilities depend upon some sequentially prior state, condition, or context in order to provide for sequentially subsequent possibilities put forth in terms of probability. This is to say that the very claim of there being nothing prior makes the probability claim seem not only extremely dubious but even incoherent.
Much the same point is made by Graham Oppy14, who also quotes Hartle and Hawking as saying:
To this Hartle-Hawking claim, Oppy responds quite correctly, saying, “a single point is not nothing”. Quentin Smith seeks to counter Oppy by saying, in effect, that, this “single point” is most appropriately regarded as among the “timeless abstract objects ('mathematical spaces') rather than physical existents”15. Smith notes that in an attempt to rectify the problem of having apparently identified the single point with “nothing”, Hartle has subsequently written that “the 'nothing' is not realized as a physical state”, and Smith says that Hartle's and Hawking's “misleading statement about nothing being a physical state, a 'single point' should be omitted.” According to Smith, “Hawking also recently emphasizes that the universe 'would quite literally [come to exist] out of nothing: not just out of the vacuum, but out of absolutely nothing at all, because there is nothing outside the universe.'”
The fact is, however, that omitting Hartle's and Hawking's reference to “a single point” is not sufficient to produce a justification for the claim that the universe appears from “nothing”. All that Hartle and Hawking have done is insist: 1) that anything which “is not realized in a physical state” is “nothing”, and 2) that there are no physical states other than those which constitute the universe, but this still leaves the Hartle-Hawking model dependent upon an initial something – even if it is a strictly non-physical something - in order for there to be any non-zero probability at all.
Smith says that this initial something is an abstract something; Smith would likely call it an “abstract object”. Yet, the only way that such abstract things can be not just Hartle's “nothing” but also Hawking's “absolutely nothing” is via the notion that only physical states (and/or their constituents) are things. One could then quite correctly say that the Hartle-Hawking model itself is based on “absolutely nothing”, but the most correct expression of the conclusion that Hartle and Hawking could actually derive from their model (assuming that model is adequate and accurate) would be the statement that the universe comes to exist from no other, or no prior, physical state or physical thing.
Hartle-Hawking provides no reason to deny that the universe follows from the Hawking-Penrose singularity even if Hartle-Hawking provides some (even if merely a semantic) basis for saying that there is “no physical law that … connect the singularity to” the universe16. Accordingly, it may well be that the supposed nature of the singularity might provide some indication about just what characteristics can be expected of the thing upon which the Hartle-Hawking model is based.
As noted previously, the singularity can well be regarded as the intersection of “every past-directed spacetime path”; however, this intersection is only approached asymptotically17 via such a space-time regress inasmuch as the singularity, in addition to being this intersection, is also devoid of the laws of physics which constitute or describe space-time.
According to Hawking18, the singularity represents an actual break-down of “the classical concepts of space and time” which is to say the “laws of physics”; this break-down is regarded as mind-independently actual, because, as put forth, it is not a conceptual limitation resulting from ignorance. This means that, in essence, there are no restrictions on what can follow from the singularity19 and this is to say that the singularity is most correctly characterized as constituted by possibilities that are presumed to be mind-independent.
'On the Cosmological Argument' concludes with Part 5, 'The Nature of Possibilities'
14 Oppy, Graham, “On Some Alleged Consequences of 'The Hartle-Hawking Cosmology'”, Sophia, 36 (1997), 1, pp. 84-95; also available at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/graham_oppy/smith1.html
15 Smith, Quentin, “Why Stephen Hawking's Cosmology Precludes a Creator”, Philo, Volume 1, No. 1, 1998, pp. 75-94; also available at http://www.qsmithwmu.com/why_stephen_hawking%27s_cosmology_precludes_a_creator.htm
16 Smith, Quentin, “Atheism, Theism, and Big Bang Cosmology”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, March 1991, Volume 69, No. 1, pp. 48-66; also available at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/quentin_smith/cosmology.html
18 As noted by Smith in “Atheism, Theism, and Big Bang Cosmology”.
19 Smith, Quentin, “The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe”, Philosophy of Science (1988), Vol. 55, No. 1, pp. 39-57; also available at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/quentin_smith/uncaused.html