Welcome back to Defender’s Voice. This is Paul Kattupalli. Over the weekend, the great Stephen Hawking’s funeral was held at Cambridge, England. He was 76 years old. His book ‘A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes’, has sold more than 10 million copies. It stayed on New York Times bestseller list for 100 weeks. However, it has been called ‘the least read best-seller ever’. Many people bought the book and kept it on their coffee table. You’re reading Stephen Hawking! That’s cool. He also appeared on Star Trek, The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory. Hollywood chronicled his life in the biopic “The Theory of Everything”
Stephen William Hawking was born in Oxford, England on Jan 8, 1942 – 300 years to the day after the death of Galileo. He died on Einstein’s birthday, another interesting coincidence. In 1963, when he was a graduate student, at the age of 21, he developed Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease. It is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. At the time of initial diagnosis, he was given only three more years to live. That disease entrapped this energetic English gentleman to a body with minimal muscle contractions like flexing of a finger and eye movements. But his mental faculties were untouched and he was able to fathom the depths of the universe from a wheelchair.
He married Jane Wilde, a Christian woman in 1965. He described his marriage, ‘something to live for’. They had three children. In 1979, he was appointed to the Lucasian chair of mathematics at Cambridge, a post once held by Isaac Newton. In 1985, he lost his ability to speak but was able to communicate by using a computer program which channelled his words to a speech synthesizer. This high technology device was manufactured in California. Walter Woltosz, a computer scientist, heard about Hawking’s condition and developed this synthesizer, which he called Equalizer. Letter by letter, word by word, Hawking could write sentences on a computer screen and send them to a speech synthesizer. His only complaint about it was it had an American accent.
Stephen Hawking lived a fascinating life. When he was diagnosed with ALS, a severe depression descended over his young life, but he did not give up. From his wheelchair, he was studying the universe, learning new developments in quantum physics, developing new theories in cosmology, giving lectures to both professionals and non-professionals, writing popular books, giving interviews, traveling the world, going up in hot-air balloons, taking flights in the weightlessness, appearing on popular Television shows. He led a very active life inspite of the suffering he was going through due to his debilitating disease.
I have been reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. In this book, Frankl talks about finding meaning in life even when he was enslaved in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It was profound. How could any one find meaning in life while imprisoned in a Nazi Concentration Camp! Stephen Hawking found joy in science even as he was trapped inside a motionless body. Let me quote some words of Hawking which reflect his dauntless spirit. “I want to show that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit.” “When you are faced with the possibility of an early death, it makes you realize that life is worth living and that there are a lot of things you want to do” “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all”.
World’s most famous scientist becomes it’s most famous atheist:
Stephen Hawking became a larger-than-life scientific genius joining individuals like Einstein, Carl Sagan, Stephen Jay Gould, Steven Weinberg, Richard Dawkins. We can say a lot of things about Stephen Hawkings, but I would like to talk about his atheism. How did the world’s most famous scientist become it’s most famous atheist? Hawkings was a scientist exploring the universe from a wheelchair. A physicist informing us the secrets of the nature through the blinking of his eye lids. As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson put it, ‘his laboratory was the universe’.
Beside his science, Hawking also explored the big questions of philosophy like Why is there a universe? Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Is there any meaning to life?. These are the Big Questions of life. We have small questions like what should I eat for lunch, where should I spend my weekend, what should I wear for a friend’s wedding etc. Big Questions need more thinking and analysis. We turn to scientists and philosophers for answers. The question that itches our minds when we see someone like Stephen Hawking is, ‘What do you think about God?’. Hawking used the word God in many of his interviews and speeches. In a debate on randomness of quantum mechanics, he said, “So Einstein was wrong when he said, ‘God does not play dice’. Considerations of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.”
When Stephen Hawking was preparing to publish his famous book, A Brief History of Time, his publisher told him that each equation he included would half the book’s sales, but each mention of God would double the sales. Don’t put equations in your book. That would scare people. But talk about God, that would attract their attention. It seems Hawking followed that advice.
In A Brief History of Time, Hawking wrote, “However, if we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God.”
The mind of God! Einstein used to say, ‘I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details’. What did Hawking mean by those words, ‘we should know the mind of God’. Few things irritate atheists than famous scientists talking about God. They think followers of God are only good at persecuting famous scientists like Galileo. Richard Dawkins wrote in his potboiler, The God Delusion, “Einstein was using ‘God’ in a purely metaphorical, poetic sense. So is Stephen Hawking, and so are most of those physicists who occasionally slip into the language of religious metaphor”
Dawkins was anxious to inform us that Stephen Hawking didn’t really mean ‘the mind of God’ as the mind of a literal God. It’s only a metaphor, it’s only poetry, it’s only a figure of speech. It has no real sense. Don’t worry, Richard. Stephen Hawking belongs to your camp. He expressed his atheism in unmistakable terms. You can anoint him in your atheist Hall of Fame. We have no problem.
From theism to agnosticism to atheism.
Hawking said, “I believe the simplest explanation is, there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
In his 2011 book The Grand Design, he wrote, ““It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” What in the world is blue touch paper? It is a small piece of paper attached to a firework. When it is lit, it burns slowly and sets off the firework.
In his 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking at least used the word God in a poetic sense, but by 2011, he did not want to allow God anywhere in his universe. Not even in a metaphorical sense. Gone are the days when he was saying, ‘we should know the mind of God’. Now, it is all about the mind of man wandering in a godless universe.
Stephen Hawking made extraordinary contributions to physics, but made very illogical blunders by espousing atheism. Let me describe how his atheism falls short of reason in 8 areas.
Against General Theory of Relativity
Against Black hole dynamics
First, his atheism is against theology. He had a very defective view of God. Please listen to what he wrote in his book, The Grand Design,
“Ignorance of nature’s ways led people in ancient times to invent gods to lord it over every aspect of human life. There were gods of love and war; of the sun, earth, and sky; of the oceans and rivers; of rain and thunderstorms; even of earthquakes and volcanoes. When the gods were pleased, mankind was treated to good weather, peace, and freedom from natural disaster and disease. When they were displeased, there came drought, war, pestilence, and epidemics.”
Hawking says, In the olden days, people did not understand nature and they inserted a god into every mystery of nature. Now, since science has unraveled these mysteries, we don’t need those gods anymore. These gods are called ‘gods of the gaps’. I agree with Hawking that we need to stop believing in gods of the gaps. However, Hawking erroneously added God of the Bible to gods of the gaps.
God of the Bible is not limited to natural objects like sun, earth, sky, and oceans. He is a God of the whole universe. The very first verse of the Bible introduces God as the Creator of the Universe: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He is a God of the universe. The universe reflects His wisdom. The Bible never tries to insert God into physical spaces and phenomena. It says, God made the universe. Only two chapters in Genesis were devoted to discuss the creative acts of God. The rest of the Bible is about how God reached down to humanity through particular individuals. Nowhere in the Bible do we see God as the God of the gaps. He created the universe, God runs the universe, yet He does not take the place of physical phenomena operating in the nature. If you look into history of science, some scientists even some one as great as Isaac Newton believed in the God of the gaps. Newton used God as the explanation of the unexplainable things. But, there was Leibniz to correct Newton. Leibniz argued that God is not a cosmic plumber. God in His wisdom created the universe to run on the finely tuned physical laws. There was no need for God to fill the gaps.
English mathematician John Lennox wrote these words in his book Gunning for God, “…God is the creator of both of the bits of the universe we don’t understand, and the bits we do. And of course, it is the bits we do understand that give the most evidence of God’s existence and activity. Just as I can admire the genius behind a work of engineering or art, the more I understand it; so my worship of the Creator increases, the more I understand what he has done”
The more we understand this universe, the more humble we become in the presence of an awesome God. The more we understand his wisdom in creation, the more time we take to pause and worship in his presence. The Book of Genesis tells us that God made the universe. Now, it is the job of physicists, chemists, astronomers, botanists, zoologists, microbiologists to explain the created universe. God never interferes with their work.
Instead of acknowledging this obvious Christian truth, Stephen Hawking added this biblical God of the whole universe to rain gods and sun gods of paganism. He used the classic straw man argument from fallacies of irrelevance. An ideal logician starts with the principle of charity. This principle states that when you analyze an argument, you must assess the strongest-possible version of that argument. You should not take a weak version of the argument and conclude that argument is unsound. If you want to win the Olympic Gold medal, you should look at the whole world and pick the strongest contender in that game. You should face the strongest opponent to win the game. If you pick up the weak contender, you are attacking the straw man.
Stephen Hawking took on little gods of nature like rain god, sun god, earth god, moon god to argue against the existence of an all powerful, all knowing, and all present God of the Bible. That is attacking the straw man.
So, his atheism is against logic. In his book The Grand Design, Hawking wrote these words: “Because there is a law like 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. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
There is so much to unpack here. Let us go one by one. First, he says,
‘Because there is a law like gravity….’ How did you know, Mr.Hawking that gravity existed before the creation? Did you observe it? What is your evidence? That’s just an assumption. There is no empirical evidence that the law of gravity existed before the creation of the universe. Empirical science is what you observe in a laboratory and make conclusions about reality. For example, you can study the structure of DNA and propose laws of genetics. DNA is right before you. That is observational science. Cosmology of origins is not an observational science. It starts with current observations, but as you go 14 billion years into the past, you pick up lot of speculations on the way and when you arrive at the moment of creation, you have nothing more than speculations. Physicists like Hawking dress their speculations with the attire of science. But at its core, it is not science, it is only speculation.
The physical laws are real but immaterial. They act on matter but they are not made up of matter. How many atoms are there in the law of gravity? None. How many molecules are there in the laws of thermodynamics? None. The physical laws act on matter, but they are not made up of matter, and they are not independent of matter. So, you can not say, there was law of gravity before the creation of the the material universe. It is like saying the laws of genetics brought genes into existence. The laws of genetics don’t have existence before the creation of genes. Similarly, the law of gravity did not exist before the creation of matter.
Hawking stated, ‘Because there is a law like gravity’. But the question, why is there a law like gravity? How did the law of gravity come into existence? No physical law can explain its own origin.
The law of causality demands that everything that has a beginning must have a cause. The law of gravity has a beginning and it must have a cause. Hawking might say gravity has no beginning. But there is no scientific evidence to prove that gravity is eternal.
Eternal God or Eternal Gravity
Christians start with God, Hawking wants to start with Gravity. God or Gravity? It is a question of belief, not of science.
Then Hawking wrote, ‘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.”
You can see a bold faced circular argument here, a tautology. A tautology is a sentence that is always true. Hawking says, Spontaneous creation is the creation there is something rather than nothing. There is something rather than nothing, because there is something. There is creation, that is why there is something rather than nothing. But, why is there creation? why is there fine-tuning? Hawking says there is creation because there is creation. It is fine-tuned because it got to be fine-tuned to come into existence. It is tautology. Not science. So, Hawking’s atheism is logically incoherent. He was circling in tautological word games. His atheism is illogical.
That’s all for today. We will continue to study Stephen Hawking’s atheism in the coming days. You will see the hollowness of Stephen Hawking’s atheism.
Prayer: “Dear Lord Jesus, you asked a very profound question, ‘What shall it profit for a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?’. Our hearts are grieving as we contemplate the life of Stephen Hawking. He gained the whole world and lost his precious soul to sin, pride and self-will. Help us humble ourselves in your presence, to confess our sins, to receive you as our Lord and Savior, to focus on you as our hope. In your precious name we pray, Amen”
-The Universe in a Nutshell
By Stephen W. Hawking
-A Briefer History of Time
By Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow
-Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World
By Paul Davies
-The Grand Design
By Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow
-God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway?
By John C. Lennox
-Is God Unnecessary?: Why Stephen Hawking Is Wrong According to the Laws of …
By Walter Alan Ray
-The God Delusion
By Richard Dawkins
-Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target
By John Lennox
-God and the Astronomers
By Robert Jastrow
-Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists Versus God and Religion
By Karl Giberson, Mariano Artigas
-Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind
By Kitty Ferguson
-The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology
By Alister E. McGrath
-Why Science Does Not Disprove God
By Amir Aczel
-Has Science Found God?: The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the …
By Victor J. Stenger
-31 Surprising Reasons to Believe in God: How Superheroes, Art …
By Rick Stedman
-Is God Unnecessary?: Why Stephen Hawking Is Wrong According to the Laws of …
By Walter Alan Ray
-The Large, the Small and the Human Mind
By Roger Penrose, Abner Shimony, Nancy Cartwright, Stephen Hawking
-Is God a Mathematician?
By Mario Livio
-God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible
edited by William Lane Craig, Chad Meister
-Big Bang Big God: A Universe Designed for Life?
By Rodney Holder
-Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness
By Roger Penrose
-Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning
By Dan Barker
-The Inspirational Atheist: Wise Words on the Wonder and Meaning of Life
By Buzzy Jackson
-Reasonable Faith (3rd edition): Christian Truth and Apologetics
By William Lane Craig
-The Real Face of Atheism
By Ravi Zacharias
-The Case for Hope: Looking Ahead With Confidence and Courage
By Lee Strobel