Stephen Hawking: Atheism Against Philosophy



Today we will continue our examination of Stephen Hawking’s atheism. Mr. Hawking died last month but his arguments in defense of atheism will continue to woo atheists and confront theists. By any measure, he was a great scientist. But by espousing atheism, he made very illogical mistakes. Let us see his arguments against philosophy.

Listen to what he wrote in The Grand Design:

“We each exist for but a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe. But humans are a curious species. We wonder, we seek answers. Living in this vast world that is by turns kind and cruel, and gazing at the immense heavens above, people have always asked a multitude of questions: How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? Most of us do not spend most of our time worrying about these questions, but almost all of us worry about them some of the time.

   Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge. The purpose of this book is to give the answers that are suggested by recent discoveries and theoretical advances.”

   Hawking says, ‘We wonder at the universe. We ask big questions. Those questions belong to philosophy. But philosophy is not keeping up with physics. So, philosophy is dead. The great scientist Stephen Hawking declares philosophy is dead. Back in 1988, he wrote his best seller, A Brief History of Time. He ended that book with these words:

“If we discover a complete theory, it should  in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion 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 would truly know the mind of God”

     Hawking says, ‘Why is it that we and the universe exist. We are going to develop a complete theory. Philosophers, scientists, ordinary people we are going to search for the answers. When we find the answers, we will know the mind of God’. In that book, Hawking was tolerant of philosophy and included philosophers in the search for answers to our ultimate questions. He also talked about the mind of God. But, in the new book, he had no place for philosophers and the mind of God. Philosophy is dead and there was no mind of God. From A Brief History of Time (1988) to The Grand Design (2010), you can see transformation of the great scientist from tolerant agnosticism to intolerant naturalistic scientism. In fact, you can see this transformation in the history of Western Civilization itself, from philosophical theism to naturalistic scientism. Once upon a time scientists were called natural philosophers. Their task was to study the nature to understand the mind of God. There was no such thing as ‘philosopher trying to keep up with physics’. Both philosophy and physics coexisted in every natural philosopher. But in the 19th century, William Whewell (1794 – 1866) coined the word ‘scientist’ to separate science from philosophy. But historically, science and philosophy went together like conjoined twins. Academia still carry the vestiges of that tradition.  We say he did PhD in Physics. What does PhD stand for? It is doctorate in philosophy.

     Most people in our time are led to think that philosophy was born as an accidental and unnecessary companion of science. But, the fact is, it is philosophy which gave birth to logic and science, not the other way round. Philosophy gave birth to science and science gave birth to technology. Thus, we can say technology is the grandchild of philosophy. We may not think much of philosophy when we sit before our computers. But, every computer is a product of logic, and the logic is a child of philosophy. So, we should never say philosophy is dead or useless. We might muddy the waters by changing the names. Donald Trump Jr might change his name to Donald Travolta to distance himself from Trump family but that does not change the reality that he was born to President Donald Trump. Science changed its name to distance itself from philosophy but it does not change the reality that it was born out of philosophy. Relationships don’t vanish by changing names.

  Then, Hawking totters into self-contradictions. He said philosophy is dead. But, you see, that itself is a philosophical statement. Science cannot tell us whether philosophy is dead or alive. It is like saying, ‘Sun is dead’. We need the Sun to say the Sun is dead because our origin and sustenance depends on the sun. Similarly, we need philosophy to say philosophy is dead.

    Hawking wrote, ‘Living in this vast world that is by turns kind and cruel’. Science cannot tell us what is kind and what is cruel. In scientific worldview, it is all just biology, it’s all biochemistry, it’s all genetics. It can not say what is right and what is wrong. It can not teach us what is moral and what is immoral. It can not determine what is kind and what is cruel.

  During the Nuremberg trials, the prosecutors argued about the criminality of the SS. Held between 1945 and 1949, their purpose was to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. The prosecutors found an affidavit from Dr.Sigmund Rascher. He was a professor of medicine who had performed scientific experiments on inmates at Dachau concentration camp. Dr.Rascher would select a group of people, strip them naked, throw them into tanks of freezing water, and then pull them out at various times to see which of the four methods of warming might work best. Most people died in the freezing water. During his prosecution, Dr. Sigmund Rascher argued, ‘I am just doing science. You can’t call it cruel’. Can science tell us what is kind and what is cruel? Can science tell us why it is wrong to conduct deadly experiments on fellow human beings?  No, it can’t. It is question of morality and philosophy.

   Then Hawking asks, ‘Did the universe need a creator?’. Later he says, ‘It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.’ The Bible starts with the words, ‘In the beginning God’. An eternal, all powerful, all wise, all benevolent God. An eternal God who is more powerful than a finite universe.

   John Polkinghorne, Professor of Physics at Cambridge and Anglican priest, said, ‘There is just one universe which is the way it is in its anthropic fruitfulness because is the expression of the purposive design of a Creator, who has endowed it with the finely tuned potentiality for life. He started with God in the beginning.

Hawking says, ‘In the beginning Gravity’. Hawking wants us to invoke atheism for the beginning of the universe. He wants us to believe in the advances in science to abandon our faith in God. But, you see, science can only answer ‘how’, not ‘why’.

        Science helps us in understanding the universe, but it cannot tell us why the universe. Let us say you are driving on a highway. Suddenly you forgot why you are driving. You called your friend John and asked him, ‘John, I don’t know why I am driving’. John said, ‘Wow, that’s interesting. Do one thing. Take the next exit. Take your car to Firestone Complete Auto Care. Let them disassemble your car. Ask them about how many parts in your car, how your car functions, how its engine works. They should also know why you are sitting in your car and where you are going’. Then you went to the Auto shop and asked the mechanic, ‘Sir, I don’t why I am driving. Can you disassemble my car and tell me why I am driving.’ The mechanic would look at you and say, ‘You came to the wrong place. Take the next exit, on the right side you will find a mental health clinic. That is where you should go now and get checked’.

    The car mechanic can tell you how your car works, not why you are in the car. Similarly, a scientist can tell us how the universe works, not why we are in the universe.

Francis Collins is  the director of National Institutes of Health. He led the famous human genome project. In his book The Language of God,  he wrote “Science is powerless to answer questions such as ‘Why did the universe come into being?’ ‘What is the meaning of human existence’ ‘What happens after we die?”

   Science cannot tell us why the universe came into being. The Bible starts with the words, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. In the beginning God. Only God knows why the universe came into existence. Only God knows why you and I came into existence. So, for any scientist, even someone as great as Stephen Hawking, to claim that they can tell us the purpose of this universe and human existence through their scientific discoveries is disingenuous. So, when he says, philosophy is dead, Hawking expressing his belief in metaphysical naturalism which is also called atheism. It has nothing to do with science.


   Hawking claimed gravity is the substitute for God. John Gray is an English philosopher. He is an atheist. Recently he wrote a book entitled Seven Types of Atheism. In this book, philosopher Gray writes that just like there are different types of believers in God, there are different types of atheists. They  argue against God without acknowledging their own God-substitutes. Hawking embraced gravity as the substitute for God and proposed a meaningful life without God. On the other hand, atheists like Nietzsche stated that once we get rid of God from the cosmos, we are left with nihilism and meaninglessness. But, Stephen Hawking tried to take us from atheism to purpose and meaning in life. He tried to construct science as a facade under which we can get all answers to life’s big questions.

           John Gray argued that atheists borrowed their progressivism from Christian doctrine of salvation. For an atheist that is a great admission. As Christians we believe in a God who made this universe, who created us in His image, who gave us His commandments, who came to this world in the person of Lord Jesus Christ, who redeemed us through his death on the cross, who gave us the hope beyond grave through his resurrection from the dead. One day in the future, he will come back to this world as King of kings and Lord of lords. That is Christian utopia. It is centered on the person of Christ. Our hope is in Christ.

         Atheism has no basis for utopia or progress or destiny. As John Gray argued they stole the idea of progress from Christians during Enlightenment. Stephen Hawking spread the same deception during his life: we can still hope for progress without God.

    Philosopher is someone who loves wisdom. Christ is the wisdom of God. He is the answer to all our big questions to life. Why is the universe? Who made us? What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of life? We find answers to those questions only in Christ.

   We read in Colossians chapter 1: 15

“Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence.”

Atheists complain that God did not reveal to us. That is not true. God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. God came to us as a human baby. What more revelation could bring God closer to humanity?

In John 14:9, Jesus said, ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father’. In the face of Jesus, we have seen the face of God. So, do you want to see the face of God? Look at Jesus.

We read in Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in the fashion of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death — even the death of the cross.”

This summarizes the Christian answer to all of human philosophy. Jesus Christ, who was God in heaven took upon the form of a servant, humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even the death of the cross. Why suffering? In Christian theism, God himself experienced the cross. God experienced the most excruciating experience of all of human pain and suffering. God brought something great out of Christ’s suffering: our salvation, our redemption and our fellowship with God.

If you go to Jesus and ask him the big questions of philosophy, what would he say?

‘Hello Jesus, why is the universe?’

Jesus replies, ‘I created it’.

‘Jesus, why am I here?’

Jesus replies, ‘I created you’

‘Why did you create me?’

‘I created you for my glory, for my purpose’

‘Jesus, why did you come to this world?’

‘I came to redeem you, to show you how a human being should live’

‘Jesus, why did you suffer on the cross?’

‘My suffering was not was not accidental, it was not random, it was not meaningless, it was not purposeless. My Father brought redemption for humanity through my death. God brought hope for humanity through my death. Now, my Father became your Father.’ Something so beautiful came out of most evil thing in the universe, the murder of the Son of God. Why existence? Why evil? We find the answers in Christ.

   Jesus Christ is the answer for all big questions of philosophy. Atheism has no answers. Stephen Hawking might ask, ‘Why am I suffering with Lou Gehrig’s disease? Why is this pain? Why am I confined to a wheelchair?’ Atheism says, this universe is accident, you are an accident, your disease is an accident, your wheelchair is an accident. In Christ, you are not an accident. You should have come to Christ for answers. Why is the universe? Why am I here? Why are you here? What is the meaning of life? What is the destiny of human race? How can I live a moral life? You should come to Lord Jesus Christ for those answers.
Prayer:  Lord Jesus, you are God in human flesh. You are the revelation of God’s wisdom. You are the answer to all big questions of philosophy. Help us come to you and find answers to our deepest questions. Help our generation to find meaning in you. Help our generation to satisfy its longings in you. In your precious name, we pray. Amen.

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