Hawking’s provocative pronouncement

On 15th May 2011, Stephen Hawking made the extraordinarily provocative pronouncement—almost en passant—in the early moments of his talk at Google’s annual Zeitgeist:

“Philosophy is dead”!

Amongst those he managed to successfully provoke were:

\bullet Members of Professor Anthony Beaver’s LinkedIn group ‘Computing and Philosophy’;


\bullet Readers of this Aljazeera Opinion piece by the Philosophers Professor Santiago Zabala and Professor Creston Davis.

A deliberately restrained—but forceful and well-stated—comment in response to Hawking’s provocation in the Aljazeera Opinion piece by Analytic Philosopher Justin Clarke-Doane set me thinking.

What about Hawking’s Thesis?

After we are done with dismissing or rationalising what Hawking said, shouldn’t we also engage in giving at least as serious consideration to the thesis that seemed to have been the backdrop to his pronouncement on the demise of philosophy as a potent tool of enquiry into the truth of scientific propositions?

This is his seemingly prophetic opinion that what we would term as the assignment of objective truth to mathematically expressed scientific propositions will, some day, be based entirely on the evidence provided by simple functional languages[1] (read Turing machines) that are the `fundamental particles’ of Technology.

A seeming contradiction

Seemingly, there is straightaway a contradiction here.

The belief that all of natures laws and natural phenomena can be expressed in the algorithmically determinable truths of mathematical languages can be meta-mathematically expressed by saying that the Church-Turing Thesis must limit human intelligence as it does (by definition) mechanical intelligence.

In other words, even if the Thesis is not formally provable (hence not seen to be true) by a mechanical intelligence, it must be true for a human intelligence!

Apart from this, such a view may also then bind us to the conclusion that at least our universe is characterised by both non-locality and non-determinism (hence possibly the need for multiverses).

Whatever the argument for tolerating multiverses, I have suggested elsewhere that it should not, and perhaps need not, be because we are bound by scientific truths evidenced only by Hawking’s Technology.

What do you think?

\bullet Is Hawking’s thesis plausible or contradictory?

If the latter, then:

\bullet Does that validate Lucas’ Gödelian argument?

Return to 1: For instance see Chetan R. Murthy, 1991, An Evaluation Semantics for Classical Proofs, Proceedings of Sixth IEEE Symposium on Logic in Computer Science, pp. 96-109, (also Cornell TR 91-1213), 1991.