hawking vs. God

Stephen Hawking has a new book called The Grand Design.  An excerpt ran today in The Wall Street Journal under the title, “Why God Did Not Create the Universe.”  Hawking concedes that our universe is finely tuned for our existence, but argues that the sheer number of universes makes it probable that life somewhere would exist, and that it would take the form of whatever its particular universe would allow.  If our universe had different conditions then whatever life existed here would simply take a different form.

But why is there something rather than nothing?  Hawking explains:  “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

I’m not a scientist, but I have a couple of philosophical questions and observations:

1. How can spontaneous creation come from nothing?  How can nothing do something?  According to Maria Von Trapp, “Nothing comes from nothing.  Nothing ever could.”  I’m choosing to ignore her ensuing, Pelagian turn:  “But somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”

2. How can there be a law of gravity and quantum theory if nothing exists?  Gravity is a relationship between two bodies, and if there are no bodies then there is no gravity.  So how can a non-existent law of gravity produce a spontaneous creation?  

3. Hawking’s last sentence is a metaphor, but it does show how difficult it is to conceive of nothing causing something.  What he is describing is more than igniting “blue touch paper.”  He is claiming that a fire began from nothing–no paper, no wood, nothing.

4. Hawking’s assertion that nothing spontaneously created something is a religious rather than a scientific claim.  It arises from his presupposition that God does not exist, and this faith commitment is not checkable by the scientific method.  Hawking is committed to his religious belief that there is no God.  He is not the objective, dispassionate observer that he portrays. 

 5. Rom. 1:18-32 declares that everyone knows there is a God, and Psalm 14:1 and 53:1 assert that only a fool would say that there is no God.  Hawking is a genius, but his assertion that the universe spontaneously formed from nothing shows how far some people will go to avoid bowing down before the God they know exists. 

 6. So we have two couldn’t-be-more-different choices for the cause of the universe:  God or nothing.  Which do you think is more likely?

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  1. Exactly.

    The idea that the universe can create itself is a clear violation of the law of non-contradiction. If the universe needs to be created, then it must not exist. But if it doesn’t exists, then it can’t do anything since it isn’t around to do anything. Nothing can’t do anything! So for the universe to create itself, it would need to exist and not-exist at the same time and in the same way, which is impossible.

    Very smart people can say things that make no sense.

  2. In my understanding, Hawking and others are not arguing for creation ex nihilio, but rather for the creation of an organized universe from pre-existing material. What gravity and quantum physics explains is how that material was transformed from base elements in chaotic relationships into the structured universe we know and love (how Aristotelian of him). The weakness, in my opinion, stems from point #2 – where did the necessary law of gravity and the (conveniently hypothetical) theories of quantum physics come from? Far from disproving creation and God’s role in it, Hawking has, at most, proved intelligent design.

  3. In “The Grand Design” Stephen Hawking postulates that the M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics…the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate and later abandoned. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

    In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

    Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (fx raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

  4. Hawking has abandonded a strict scientific methodology to assert an unprovable hypothesis… He hasn’t observed scientificaly how the universe came to be. He was not there when it happened. He only posutlates on how what we do see might have come to be. The rigour of the scientific method has been pushed aside to advocate a presupposed materialistic philosophy… Science, strictly defined, has been abandoned for philosopohy cloaked in the appearance of science…

  5. Mike,

    I recently read a book by British scientist Edgar Andrews, Emeritus professor of Materials at the University of London and an international expert on the science of large particles. Professor Andrews is also by all accounts I can discover a committed believer and follower of Christ. In his book titled “Who Made God?” (Ep Books 2009, WEB: whomadegod.org) he deals with these issues at length from the perspective of a world class scientist who finds much of what is pawned off as authoritative to be just so much smoke.

    A couple of short quotes:
    ‘The idea that our own universe is just one of a bunch is quite fashionable among those who speculate about time…It is almost taken for granted that we exist not so much in a universe as in a ‘multiverse’…”

    “Might I suggest we defer to Sir Roger Penrose, the esteemed Oxford mathematician who worked with Steven Hawking on the theory of black holes and other cosmological problems…’The standard big bang model is agreed and everthing else is embellishments and flights of fancy.”

    It seems that Stephen Hawking in all his brilliance cannot see the God who is. This whole story once again reminds me that the gospel is more than just information. It is also the working of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the individual to awaken them to the reality of God (I heard a professor once call it “The Truth we can’t not know”……..) and the Truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When crashing around in darkness a light for seeing will be of more use than prodigious cognition.

    Larry

  6. This doesn’t even qualify as good philosophy masking as science. Any first year logic student should catch at least two formal fallacies in the paragraph.
    First -begging the question. This is defined as using part of the statement under examination to prove that statement. Hence part of the universe is now used to “prove” that it is capable of creating itself
    The second is already mentioned above.
    Between this and the aliens it seems that dr. Hawking is not aging well
    The ancients saw this one early on – ex nihilism nihilism fit- out of nothing nothing comes. Both logically sound and empirically observed. Shame we often forget the obvious.

  7. […]Mike Wittmer, over at his Don’t Stop Believing blog, looks at Stephen Hawking[…]
    http://vanguardchurch.blogspot.com/2010/09/stephen-hawking-vs-god.html

  8. Considered as ‘Food for thoughts’, I would say.
    As LaymanSpeaks wrote on his last paragraph, ‘…in all his brilliance cannot see the God who is. This whole story once again reminds me that the gospel is more than just information. It is also the working of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the individual to awaken them to the reality of God (I heard a professor once call it “The Truth we can’t not know”……..) and the Truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When crashing around in darkness a light for seeing will be of more use than prodigious cognition.’ can be connected to experience such in point no.5 on Mike’s writing.
    One hardly believes on something until they experience it or by proving that one has or willing to take a chance to have a faith that will lead them to an understanding which one could only prove or experience personally.

  9. Udaybhanu Chitrakar July 10, 2011 — 6:03 am

    Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?

    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
    – Stephen Hawking in “The Grand Design”
    “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
    – Stephen Hawking, Ibid

    Here three questions can be asked:
    1) Which one came first, universe, or laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    2) If the universe came first, then how was there spontaneous creation without the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    3) If the laws of gravity and quantum theory came first, then Hawking has merely substituted God with quantum theory and laws of gravity. These two together can be called Hawking’s “Unconscious God”. Therefore we can legitimately ask the question: Who, or what, created Hawking’s unconscious God?
    Not only this, but there are other problems also. If the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes spontaneously appearing from nothing, then initially there was nothing. Then wherefrom appear those laws of gravity and quantum theory to allow universes appearing spontaneously from nothing? In which container were those two laws of nature?
    Now regarding the M-theory: I have already written something on multiverse theory (not yet published anywhere). There I have come to the conclusion that if there are an infinite number of universes, then only within that infinite number of universes there will certainly be at least one universe in which life will emerge. If the number of universes is only 10 to the power 500, then it is very much unlikely that any one of them will support life, because no universe will know which set of values the other universes have already taken, and if everything is left on chance, then there is every probability that all the universes will take only those set of values that will not support life. There will be no mechanism that will prevent any universe from taking the same set of values that have already been taken by other universes. There will be no mechanism that will take an overview of all the universes already generated, and seeing that in none of them life has actually emerged will move the things in such a way that at least one universe going to be generated afterwards will definitely get the value of the parameters just right for the emergence of life. Only in case of an infinite number of universes this problem will not be there. This is because if we subtract 10 to the power 500 from infinity, then also we will get infinity. If we subtract infinity from infinity, still then we will be left with infinity. So we are always left with an infinite number of universes out of which in at least one universe life will definitely emerge. Therefore if M-theory shows that it can possibly have 10 to the power 500 number of solutions, and that thus there might be 10 to the power 500 number of universes in each of which physical laws would be different, then it is really a poor theory, because it cannot give us any assurance that life will certainly emerge in at least one universe. So instead of M-theory we need another theory that will actually have an infinite number of solutions.
    Now the next question to be pondered is this: How did the scientists come to know that an entire universe could come out of nothing? Or, how did they come to know that anything at all could come out of nothing? Were they present at that moment when the universe was being born? As that was not the case at all, therefore they did not get that idea being present at the creation event. Rather they got this idea being present here on this very earth. They have created a vacuum artificially, and then they have observed that virtual particles (electron-positron pairs) are still appearing spontaneously out of that vacuum and then disappearing again. From that observation they have first speculated, and then ultimately theorized, that an entire universe could also come out of nothing. But here their entire logic is flawed. These scientists are all born and brought up within the Christian tradition. Maybe they have downright rejected the Christian world-view, but they cannot say that they are all ignorant of that world-view. According to that world-view God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. So as per Christian belief-system, and not only as per Christian belief-system, but as per other belief-systems also, God is everywhere. So when these scientists are saying that the void is a real void, God is already dead and non-existent for them. But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist. So how have they accomplished that job, the job of making God redundant in case of creation event? These were the steps:
    1) God is non-existent, and so, the void is a real void. Without the pre-supposition that God does not exist, it cannot be concluded that the void is a real void.
    2) As virtual particles can come out of the void, so also the entire universe. Our universe has actually originated from the void due to a quantum fluctuation in it.
    3) This shows that God was not necessary to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, as because there was no creation event.
    4) This further shows that God does not exist.
    So here what is to be proved has been proved based on the assumption that it has already been proved. Philosophy is already dead for these scientists. Is it that logic is also dead for them?

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