Richard Dawkins and Brian Greene in Conversation at 92Y

24

Does God exist? Could our universe be a simulation? Watch WSF co-founder Brian Greene and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, in a lively discussion on philosophical ideas of atheism, science and religion. Recorded in front of a live audience at New York's 92nd Street Y, www.92Y.org.


Written By: World Science Festival
continue to source article at youtube.com

24 COMMENTS

  1. As a physicist, I have to say that this will be a hard one to watch (I haven’t been able to yet, but intend to). Brian Greene is the Deepak Chopra of physics. But of course, Dawkins probably doesn’t know that and it’s possible that they will agree on other topics. For anyone interested in keeping sci-fi out of physics, I refer to Peter Woit’s book and blog “Not Even Wrong”.

    • In reply to #1 by particella:

      For anyone interested in keeping sci-fi out of physics, I refer to Peter Woit’s book and blog “Not Even Wrong”.

      Have you read Smolin’s “Trouble with Physics”?

      • In reply to #2 by Skeptic:

        Have you read Smolin’s “Trouble with Physics”?

        Yes, I should have mentioned that one too. I don’t know if I remember correctly, but “3 roads to Quantum Gravity” may also be on the same lines, or at least it focuses on alternative theories to the dominant strings.

    • In reply to #1 by particella:

      Brian Greene is the Deepak Chopra of physics.

      That seems a little harsh. He is a populariser with a preference and enthusiasm for a particular approach (string theory) but I have seen no indication that he is given to mystical or irrational thinking.

      • In reply to #5 by Colin Coleman:

        Hi Colin, I wasn’t referring to his beliefs outside of physics. Strings (not even a theory), in my opinion, even resembles a religion. Or the very fact that he “believes” so much in strings is to me mystical and irrational thinking.

        • In reply to #6 by particella:

          Well I understand that string theory is motivated mainly by mathematical elegance, and it’s predictions are not experimentally falsifiable at present, but if an experiment could be done that rejected string theory I think Brian would drop it, which is not the case for most adherents of a religion.

          • In reply to #7 by Colin Coleman:

            You’re probably right. I by the way don’t mean that there aren’t any merits at all to it since it has contributed to mathematics, for example. It’s sad that little support is left to other areas or to new ideas, though.

          • In reply to #7 by Colin Coleman:

            In reply to #6 by particella:

            Well I understand that string theory is motivated mainly by mathematical elegance, and it’s predictions are not experimentally falsifiable at present, but if an experiment could be done that rejected string theory I think Brian would drop it, which is not the case for most adherents of a religion.

            10^500 makes for an unfalsifiable theory. It’s funny how the proponents for this one particular bit of mathematical elegance are now claiming falsifiability is no longer relevant in science. It has become a religion and a woo of its own.

          • In reply to #12 by Skeptic:

            In reply to #7 by Colin Coleman:

            Actually I regard falsifiability as a desirable property of a theory, but not an indication of truth. It is quite possible for a correct theory to be non-falsifiable, just as there are formally undecidable propositions in mathematics. In fact, to suggest that any true theory should be falsifiable by one particular species of primates on one of a vast (possibly infinite) number of planets seems to be rather anthropocentric.

    • No. If anyone is deserving of that honorific (The Deepak Chopra of Physics) it’s Michio Kaku. Would it be fair to say that Greene is a really a Mathematician not a Physicist? That is, given the unempirical nature of his work? I’m not a Physicist.
      In reply to #1 by particella:

      As a physicist, I have to say that this will be a hard one to watch (I haven’t been able to yet, but intend to). Brian Greene is the Deepak Chopra of physics. But of course, Dawkins probably doesn’t know that and it’s possible that they will agree on other topics. For anyone interested in keeping sc…

      • In reply to #9 by irust.in:

        OK, Michio Kaku wins. Whether it’s mathematics or physics, publicizing that strings must be true because it is “elegant” or “beautiful” is unscientific, not to mention mystical. Just to compare, although there was a very solid theoretical prediction of the Higgs boson, it wasn’t publicized as true before confirmed.

    • In reply to #1 by particella:

      As a physicist, I have to say that this will be a hard one to watch (I haven’t been able to yet, but intend to). Brian Greene is the Deepak Chopra of physics.

      Chopra is a complete charlatan who misuses scientific words like quantum without having any idea of what they mean. Greene is a mathematical physicist with an enviable publication record. Whatever you may think of string theory he is a scientist.

      Michael

        • In reply to #17 by particella:

          In reply to #14 by mmurray:

          It’s not a matter of what I think of strings. It’s whether it’s science or not. That’s the trouble with physics.

          I understand. Whereas being a pure mathematician I can make a living out of gerbes and B-fields etc without having to worry about whether it has anything to do with reality :-)

          Michael

  2. I liked Brian Greene’s first book for a general audience. I was fortunate enough to be able to ask him a few questions during a book promotion and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was stuck in an Aristotelian mindset. Thank you–not–Catholicism. So I’ll always have an appreciation for stumbling across The Elegant Universe.

    That said, I am a little worried that he didn’t seem to appreciate the point Prof. Dawkins was making about how a god in the mixture does ruin the whole scientific enterprise. Cue the cartoon with the physics blackboard and the words, “and then a miracle happens here.”

    Mike

  3. “Moore’s law…which I don’t think anybody has fully explained…” -RD @1:06:28

    It’s important to note that Moore’s initial statement was that density would double every 12 months based on his observation of the trend in integrated circuits in the early 1960s. As time went on he modified his stated prediction to reflect the empirical evidence, at one point even saying it would double every twenty-four months (obviously now we don’t use either of those). After settling around 18-months the popularity of the observation in the early days of integrated circuits quickly became an industry benchmark; that is, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy–Engineering and Marketing at the big chip manufacturers were using it as a goal post. So it looks like initially it needed some adjustment to match a safe, achievable prediction. After that, the “law” basically dictated to Intel, Fairchild, TI and others just exactly how much to dump into R&D for future advancements.
    And, of course, one website pretty summarizes all of this wonderfully: Wikipedia – Moore’s Law

  4. In reply to #9 by irust.in:

    No. If anyone is deserving of that honorific (The Deepak Chopra of Physics) it’s Michio Kaku. Would it be fair to say that Greene is a really a Mathematician not a Physicist? That is, given the unempirical nature of his work? I’m not a Physicist.

    He’s a mathematical physicist / theoretical physicist. He publishes in the physics end of that spectrum. Reading off the first few at that Google Scholar link we have American Journal of Physics, Nuclear Physics B, Physical Review D, Physics Letters B, Modern Physics Letters A etc.

    Michael

    • Indeed. He also self identifies as a physicist, occupies a professorship in the physics department (at Columbia? NY in any case), and has written popular science books of the same topic. Certainly he’s a theoretical physicist according to the common de facto image of a ‘physicist’. Nomenclature aside, it seems like the complaints about him I hear are that he’s way too far away from experimental verification. A physicist with out experiments is not very different from a mathematician, no?
      In reply to #15 by mmurray:

      He’s a mathematical phy…

      • In reply to #19 by irust.in:

        A physicist with out experiments is not very different from a mathematician, no?

        They are usually happy with less rigour as they can replace it with physical intuition. Whereas for a mathematician you have to be able to define and prove everything precisely.

        Michael

  5. Particella’s straw-man version of Greene sounds terrible! In reality, though, Greene always carefully qualifies his enthusiasm for the theory by explaining that we do not know if it is true, but the math does support it as a possibility.

    Perhaps String Theory is fiction: nevertheless, the truth may indeed turn out to be even stranger than the fiction.

  6. I just can’t believe how anyone could come to the belief that Brian was an accommodationist. Oh my! Imagine that. :-) Would not surprise me one bit to someday hear he converts to Catholicism.

  7. Greene seems not to appreciate the fact that if there was a God, then as a biologist Dawkins, and other scientists by extension, should want to dissect that deity, and find out where HE came from.

Leave a Reply