• money-greedy1

    What Causes Poverty

    What causes poverty? The same thing that causes global warming, war, debt, and a host of other global evils ...

  • 1237498_73106875

    The Greek Financial Crises – What is Money

    What is money? And why is debt such a problem? The answers lie within ...

  • -Domestic-Violence-Against-Men

    Intimate Partner Violence (feminist’s shame)

    Surprise surprise surprise. Men are abused by their intimate partners just as much as women are. ...

  • einstein

    Are Scientists Spiritual?

    Are scientists spiritual? The answer is yes! Recent research suggests that the majority of scientists at top universities in North America have spiritual leanings, even though they may not like to admit it. ...

  • sociology_word_cloud_1

    What is Sociology?

    What is Sociology? Glad you asked. Sociology is the study of the world that we create. ...

  • umohm-alan-schwartz

    What is Religion?

    Most sociologists would say religion is either fantasy, social gathering, or elite machination; but in fact it is so much more. ...

  • Psychosis_5_0

    The American Nightmare

    This photo of my parents reveals much about their personalities (her’s vivacious and outgoing, his withdrawn and closed off), their relationship (little real contact), and also the times. The typicality of their lives reveals much about the USA. My mother was a farmer’s daughter whose father lost the farm to the banks, and they had ... ...

  • 123

    Killing the little girls of the world – the lingering problem of female infanticide

    In our country, babies are considered weaker if they are born female. In some other countries, babies are murdered at birth if they are born female. ...


Featured Articles

Addressing the Academy

Classroom Controversy



Chico versus Berkeley – And the Winner Is

Sociology has a lot to say about the education system. In this article Dr. Waters talks about status and education. He draws our attention to the mysterious world of hierarchy and how people learn to deal with that. This is a peek into the hidden world of the meritocracy that we all suffer within.

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Stephen Hawking, the arch-determinist.

Many Worlds, but only One Reality: Stephen Hawking and the Determinist Fallacy

One can hardly broach the subject of agency without acknowledging the long-standing and unresolved philosophical debate regarding the agency vs. determination dichotomy. To provide an illustration of the extent of disagreement over this dualism, determinists, such as Stephen Hawking have argued that agency and free will are nothing but an illusion: …the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets. Recent experiments in neuroscience support the view that it is our physical brain, following the known laws of science, that determines our actions and not some agency that exists outside those laws…so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion (Hawking and Mlodinow, 2010). Emphasis added. Indeed, Hawking’s deterministic perspective is so comprehensive that he believes if it were possible to build a computer that was sufficiently powerful to calculate each and every variable in the cosmos, then such a machine would be able to determine with absolute precision every aspect of every event that transpires in the universe from the big bang until the infinitely remote end of time. From Hawking’s perspective, nothing moves, interacts, appears or disappears in the universe without having been minutely pre-determined by a chain of causality that was set in motion at the origin of the universe. Now that is a hard core determinist. At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe in an indeterminate universe (Popper, 1988). Philosophies of indeterminacy take many forms, however, such perspectives tend to emphasize that endless varieties of random, inscrutable and uncertain phenomena render the universe ineluctably unpredictable. For example, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle asserts that it is impossible to determine both the velocity and position of any discrete particle: the process of determining one property has the effect of modifying the other property. Much to Einstein’s displeasure, Niels Bohr elaborated upon Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle by developing the theory of quantum mechanics. Bohr’s “Copenhagen interpretation” is predicated on the realization that, at the quantum level, classical expectations about the normal, predictable, apparently-determinate principles that operate in the macro universe do not apply at the infinitesimal scale of the quantum. In other words, the behavior of quantum-scale phenomena are downright bizarre: At the quantum level particles appear, disappear and reappear unpredictably and without having conventionally traversed the distances between the separate spaces they occupy. Entangled particles defy the laws of physics by exhibiting what Einstein referred to “spooky action at a distance.” Single particles behave as though they are interacting with other, non-existent particles when fired individually through a double-slit filter. Quantum phenomena exhibit “complementarity,” which means that phenomena will morph depending upon what type of techniques observers employ to examine the phenomena in question. Etc. Thus, those who believe in an indeterminate universe dismiss the idea that an infinitely complex, but, nonetheless, single chain of causality rigidly determines all subsequent events that transpire in the universe. For indeterminists, the universe is full of “actors” that often engage in unpredictable improvisation; their performances often change without notice and, occasionally, in open defiance of the “direction” that is essential to preserve a deterministic universe. This is true of the micro realm of quantum mechanics, and it is also true of the macro universe that ceaselessly confounds and astounds its unpredictable human observers (McGettigan, 2011). Advocates of the indeterminate perspective are generally of the opinion that, if it were somehow possible to replay the history of the universe, each new iteration of the universe would be identifiably unique. This is because random events would exert unique and unpredictable influences on the evolution of the cosmos–just as random events have generated widely divergent species on the planet earth: fostering the evolution of new species in some cases, and instigating widespread extinction in others. For his part, Hawking rejects the idea that quantum indeterminacy implies that the universe as a whole is non-deterministic. Although Hawking concedes that quantum events depart from the more deterministic patterns that operate with greater consistency in the macro universe, nevertheless, Hawking argues that Hugh Everett’s “Many Worlds” theory (Byrne, 2010) offers a theoretical framework through which to develop a deterministic model for quantum phenomena. Briefly, the Many Worlds theory proposes that “everything that is physically possible happens.” In other words, for any discrete event that takes place in the universe an infinite range of similar but slightly different events takes place in an infinite number of alternate universes. Hugh Everett developed the Many Worlds theory in order to solve the “measurement problem” associated with the collapse of the wave function in quantum mechanics. For the purposes of the present discussion, Hawking argues that, since the Many Worlds theory posits that everything which is physically possible occurs in an infinity of different universes, then everything that any individual could ever think or do–and much, much more!–actually does happen, and is therefore determined by the circumstances that unfold in each and everyone of the infinite multiverses in which the various chains of causality unfold. To put it more simply, imagine that in one universe a football player catches a pass to score a touchdown, while in another the very same player drops the ball, or trips over an opponent’s foot, or is blinded when a spectator hurls Gatorade at his eyes, or gets kidnapped by extraterrestrials, etc. Fascinating as the Many Worlds theory may be, there are problems with Hawking’s claim that the Many Worlds thesis offers proof that the universe remains deterministic in spite of pervasive quantum indeterminacy. First of all, valuable as the Many Worlds theory may be as a conceptual construct, there is no proof that the theory is true. For decades, scientists have speculated that alternate universes might exist, but no one has ever generated any proof that more than one universe does exist. Thus, Hawking’s belief that every possible outcome of events are determined by, and play out in an infinity of alternate universes is pure speculation. I could equally well claim that an omniscient genie foresees every possible outcome of every event that takes place in the universe, but forcibly ...

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Nukes R Us

Nuclear Nightmares: Damned Lies about the World’s "Safest" Energy Source

Implausible as it may seem, as the Fukushima Daiichi disaster has grown ever more cataclysmic, nuclear energy advocates have come out of the woodwork to tout the virtues of nuclear as a “safe” form of energy. Safe? Are you kidding me? Last night, rain containing measurable levels of radiation from Fukushima Daiichi fell on the east coast of North America. We will surely be on the wrong side of the looking glass when we start believing that an energy source which has contaminated huge swaths of the globe with hazardous waste is “safe.” If nuclear energy is safe, then Hitler was a charter member of the Anti-Defamation League.

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A Sociologist Looks at Violence

Does it seem like the world is going to hell in a hand basket? Hard to conclude otherwise when children are massacred as in recent fashion. If you want to understand why however, maybe it is time to put aside "stock" answers and look past clichés about God, madness, and guns. If you are interested in a deeper look at the world we live in, sociologists can help.

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