Jim Holt

  • Aired:  09/26/12
  •  | Views: 12,393

Philosopher Jim Holt tries to solve the mystery of the universe without involving God or scientific laws. (5:45)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK, EVERYBODY, MY GUEST TONIGHT HAS WRITTEN A NEW BOOK WHICH HE DESCRIBES AS AN EXISTENTIAL

DETECTIVE STORY.

HE NEVER TELLS YOU WHO DID IT BECAUSE WHAT'S THE POINT?

PLEASE WELCOME JIM HOLT!

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) HEY, WHAT'S GOING ON THERE, MR. MOLT?

NICE TO SEE YOU!

IS IT MR. MOLT, DR. HOLT?

>> MR. HOLT.

>> Stephen: OKAY, YOU'RE NOT ONE OF THOSE FANCY DOCTORS OF THOUGHT GUYS.

>> I'M A DROP DROPOUT.

>> Stephen: GOOD.

YOU'RE AN ESSAYIST AND A CRITIC ON PHILOSOPHY, MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE AND YOU HAVE A NEW BOOK CALLED "WHY DOES THE WORLD

EXIST: AN EXISTENTIAL DETECTIVE STORY."

>> YOU SAY THAT SARCASTICALLY.

(LAUGHTER)

>> Stephen: THAT'S AS SINCERE AS I GET.

(LAUGHTER) FIRST QUESTION: WHY DOES WORLD EXIST EXIST?

(LAUGHTER) WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

>> GOOD QUESTION.

I WAS RAISED IN A VERY RELIGIOUS FAMILY.

>> Stephen: WHAT KIND?

>> CATHOLIC.

>> Stephen: HOW RELIGIOUS WERE YOU?

>> I SAID THE ROSARY.

I DID--.

>> Stephen: BASIC STUFF, BASIC STUFF.

>> I CONFESSED MY SINS.

>> Stephen: ARE YOU STILL CATHOLIC?

>> NO.

>> Stephen: WELL THEN HOW RELIGIOUS COULD YOUR FAMILY HAVE BEEN?

EVIDENTLY THEY FAILED.

>> YEAH, THEY TOLD ME THIS STORY THAT THE WORLD EXISTS BECAUSE GOD--.

>> Stephen: IN THE BEGINNING.

>> EXACTLY.

THERE'S ALREADY A BOOK ABOUT THAT, BY THE WAY.

(LAUGHTER) SO YOU LISTENED AND THEN AT SOME POINT YOU SAID I DON'T BUY IT.

>> I BEGAN TO HAVE DOUBTS AND I WANT TO KNOW WHY THE UNIVERSE EXISTS.

IF THERE'S A REASON I WANT TO KNOW THAT AND GOD MIGHT BE THE REASON, YOU MAY BELIEVE THAT BUT YOU KNOW,--.

>> Stephen: YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT THIS MYSTERY BECAUSE IT'S THE LAST SEBASTIAN AGAINST THE CREEPING SCIENTIFIC SECULARISM.

>> I'M GLAD YOU WITH IT.

I'VE TALKED TO YOUR PHYSICISTS, YOUR KOZ METEOROLOGISTS, STRING THEORY GUYS AND I ALWAYS SAY WHY IS THERE SOMETHING INSTEAD OF NOTHING?

WHY IS THERE?

DID YOU ASK ANYBODY THAT?

>> YEAH, YEAH.

THE EQUATION IS GOD PLUS NOTHING EQUALS A WORLD.

SO TAKE GOD OUT OF THE EQUATION, WHAT DO YOU REPLACE IT WITH?

PHYSICISTS WANT TO REPLACE HIM WITH SCIENTIFIC LAWS.

BUT WHAT ARE SCIENTIFIC LAWS?

HOW-- AS STEVEN HAWKING SAID, THEY'RE EQUATIONS.

HOW DOES AN EQUATION INFORM THE ABYSS THAT IT'S SOMEHOW PREGNANT WITH BEINGS?

WHAT BREATHES FIRE AND MAKES THOSE UNIVERSES?

>> Stephen: ARE YOU A POET?

THIS IS BEAUTIFUL.

(APPLAUSE) YOU MIGHT BE THE FIRST GUEST WHOSE BOOK I READ.

(LAUGHTER) FOR ME ANSWER IS GOD.

OKAY?

GOD SAID LET IT BE SO AND SO THE WORLD WAS SO.

I FIND THAT VERY COMFORTING.

AND I FIND THAT VERY FREEING BECAUSE I-- MY QUESTIONING STOPS RIGHT THERE.

BUT YOUR QUESTIONING CONTINUES.

DO YOU NOT FIND THIS QUESTIONING THAT GOES ON IN YOUR MIND LIKE JUST-- LIKE A HOT MATCH THAT'S BEEN DROPPED BETWEEN THE TWO

LOBES OF YOUR BRAIN AND JUST SIT THERE IS AND IT FIZZLES AND POPS AND BURNS AND KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT?

>> YEAH, YEAH.

>> Stephen: PUT IT OUT!

PUT THAT MATCH OUT WITH THE QUENCHING WATER OF FAITH!

(LAUGHTER)

>> OKAY, OKAY.

GOD MAY EXIST, MAY NOT EXIST.

>> Stephen: HE DOES GO.

AHEAD.

(LAUGHTER)

>> IT COULD BE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

>> Stephen: PART OF THE PROBLEM?

>> PART OF THE PROBLEM.

WHY DOES GOD EXIST?

GOD IS ETERNAL--.

>> Stephen: BECAUSE IT PLEASES HIM TO DO SO.

>> BUT HE MIGHT BE PUZZLED BY HIS OWN EXISTENCE.

MAYBE HE-- IF HE EXISTS MAYBE HE CREATED THE WORLD BECAUSE HE WAS BORED WITH PONDERING HIS OWN IMAGE AND THE MYSTERY OF IT.

BUT IF YOU LOOK AT THE UNIVERSE, WHAT KIND OF GOD COULD HAVE CREATED THIS UNIVERSE?

IT'S AN UGLY UNIVERSE, THERE ARE 37 FAMILIES OF ELEMENTARY PARTICLES, IT'S A MESS.

IT'S A BOTCHED JOB.

A BOTCHED JOB.

IF THERE'S A GOD HE IS 100% MALICIOUS BUT ONLY 80% AS EFFECTIVE AND THAT WOULD PRETTY MUCH EXPLAIN THE WORLD.

(UNCOMFORTABLE LAUGHTER)

>> Stephen: WELL, YOU'RE BEING KIND OF TOUGH ON THE CREATOR OF EVERYTHING.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CREATED EVERYTHING?

(LAUGHTER)

>> I'M EQUALLY TOUGH ON PHYSICISTS.

IN FACT I THINK THE EFFORTS TO TAKE THE PLACE OF GOD USING PHYSICAL LAWS IS A BIG FAILURE.

SO THERE OUGHT TO BE MORE SUSPECTS OUT THERE THAT CAN RESOLVE THIS MYSTERY.

>> IS THERE ANYTHING OTHER THAN GOD OR THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES THAT YOU CAME UP WITH?

>> I-- ONE GREAT THINKER SIR ROGER PENROSE.

HE BELIEVES IN PLATONIC IDEAS, HE BELIEVES IN ABSTRAT MATHEMATICAL ENTITIES AND THE WORLD IS USHERED INTO THIS

EXISTENCE OF PLATONIC IDEAS.

>> Stephen: SO SOMEWHERE OUT THERE THERE IS A REALM OF THE PLATONIC IDEAS AND WE KNOW THESE PEOPLE-- BECAUSE HOW CLOSELY IT

RESEMBLES THE PLATONIC IDEAL.

>> THAT'S THE THING.

>> Stephen: MAYBE.

(LAUGHTER) YOU KNOW WHAT MODERN THINKER SAID THAT WAS INSANE?

ARISTOTLE SAID THAT WAS INSANE!

THAT ONE'S BEEN DEBUNKED FOR A COUPLE MILLENNIA.

>> IT'S TRUE.

SO WHY DOES SIR ROGER PENROSE, ONE OF THE GREATEST LIVING PHYSICISTS BELIEVE IN IT?

>> Stephen: MAYBE I SHOULD LET HIM EXPLAIN IT.

WELL, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME.

JIM HOLT.

THE BOOK IS "WHY DOES THE WORLD EXIST?" WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)