The divine debate about the hot hand

While I was writing about hot hand in depth a couple of years ago, it struck me that while it might seem like we're talking about a simple hoops concept, to many people it was a far richer debate.

Basically, you have people speaking from experience saying that they feel or see something magical, almost divine, happen to shooters from time to time. They just know it to be true, they have faith in it, and they don't really care if some nerd with a spreadsheet says otherwise.

Then you have scientific minded people, armed with evidence, saying "if you shoot enough, you're bound to have some streaks of makes, and that doesn't mean anything divine is going on."

It seemed, almost, like that millenia-old debate about religion. Is god making things happen, or is it just plain old nature?

Now check out this Richard Allen Greene article on CNN.com about physicist Stephen Hawking's new book. Hawking is basically arguing against the divine as an explanation of how the world has come to be how it is. The terms of the debate sure sound familiar:

[Hawking] says he understands the feeling of the great English scientist Isaac Newton that God did "create" and "conserve" order in the universe.

It was the discovery of other solar systems outside our own, in 1992, that undercut a key idea of Newton's -- that our world was so uniquely designed to be comfortable for human life that some divine creator must have been responsible.

But, Hawking argues, if there are untold numbers of planets in the galaxy, it's less remarkable that there's one with conditions for human life.

And, indeed, he argues, any form of intelligent life that evolves anywhere will automatically find that it lives somewhere suitable for it.

From there he introduces the idea of multiple universes, saying that if there are many universes, one will have laws of physics like ours -- and in such a universe, something not only can, but must, arise from nothing.

Therefore, he concludes, there's no need for God to explain it.

I'm no expert on anything to with creation and the like, and won't get into all that, but I'm confident that, as evidence of all kinds becomes more plentiful in the age of information, we can expect more and more of these kinds of discussions. A lot of how we think about the world has been a struggle to understand the unknown. For better or for worse, there's less and less of that to go around, whether we're talking about something as complex as how the universe was formed, or something as simple as what it may be that makes jumpers go through the hoop.