By Paul Baxter
Stephen Hawking followed in the oversized footsteps of Sir Isaac Newton (holding for three decades “Newton’s Chair” at Cambridge University deemed “perhaps the most prestigious ‘chair’ in science”). Hawking left his own super-sized marks on contemporary science with his pioneering work in exploring black holes. After being diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) at the age of twenty-one he defied the medical prognosis that he would die within two years and went on to live another fifty-five years.
He died this past March at the age of seventy-six. Thanks to scientific wizardry, he used a single cheek muscle to control communication devices to work and write within his paralyzed body. Atheist Lianna Brinded said in the online magazine Quartz how “Hawking had to aggressively face his own mortality every single day, (and it would have been understandable for him to abandon (his atheism) and fall into the old adage that there are no atheists in a foxhole.” He lived and died as an atheist who wrote about “the mind of God” but did not believe in God, co-authored The Grand Design, but did not believe in a Grand Designer.
What did this self-professed atheist mean by “the mind of God”? While being interviewed on the Discovery Channel he stated: “We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplist explanation is that there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.” For him “the mind of God” simply refered to “the embodiment of the laws of nature.”
It was not easy for Stephen Hawking to escape God. As he explored the universe, he was confronted a problem that challenged his faith in atheism. He was faced with what a born and bred Englishmen like him and me would call “a sticky wicket.” Oxford mathematician John Lennox, a Cambridge contemporary of Hawking, observes that while they were both “born into a world” where it was assumed by science that the universe had “always existed” and therefore needed no Creator, that assumption proved to be untrue. In fact, Stephen Hawking, the atheist, helped discover and prove that this assumption so dear to the heart of atheists was wrong, and that the universe had a beginning – just as Genesis 1:1 proclaims: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth!” This disturbing discovery was, of course, not his “cup of tea” (to use another English expression). John Lennox writes: “Mathematical physics leads to the question, how do we get a universe from nothing?”
Hawking’s attempt to find a way out of this “sticky wicket” is recorded in The Grand Design where he proposes a “spontaneous creation” to explain the existence of the universe “with no need to appeal to a Creator.” What is most intriguing is how he, like his famous predecessor Sir Isaac Newton, focuses on gravity. While Newton saw gravity as God’s law, Hawking uses this law to theorize about “spontaneous creation.” We may scratch our heads as we read his words: “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. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
We have just seen Exhibit A of how a brilliant scientist can and does turn a deaf ear to both God and logic. We also begin to see how the explorer of black holes in the universe has a gaping hole in his own logic. At first glance we are mystified by Hawking’s all-out effort to explain how the universe came to be without a Creator by asserting that because of gravity there is spontaneous creation. His leap beyond logic is exposed by John Lennox who points out how Hawking “fails because he doesn’t get a universe from nothing at all, because what he calls nothing isn’t nothing; it’s a quantum vacuum or something else.” His atheistic solution requires the prior existence of gravity and he does not even attempt to explain how gravity came to be nor how it can supposedly create a physical reality. We can certainly understand and appreciate how an atheist wants to find a way out of his “sticky wicket” (the universe not having always existed). If not created by God, then by whom and how?
There is an article in Forbes magazine about Stephen Hawking straying into a field where he doesn’t belong. Tim Worstall explains: “Hawking strays (out of his field of physics) into the effects of AI, of robots coming to take all our jobs, and sadly gets the answer entirely wrong. Thus proving Richard Feynman correct, that even great scientists working outside their own specialty can be just as dumb as they next guy.” Feynmann’s precise words are, “I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.” When Hawking delves into philosophy and theology as an atheist, and not so much a scientist, he ends up in what we call “scientism” – an opinionated attempt to justify atheism and avoid a religious explanation of creation. Lennox is quick to say that in his field of physics Hawking is “a genius by all accounts” but as one astronomer who knew him well notes, he “read very little philosophy or theology.” Stephen Hawking even began his philosophical book The Grand Design by declaring that philosophy was dead.
Who among objective scientists and philosophers can affirm his assertion that the universe created itself? It is as one scientist says: Sheer nonsense. What Stephen Hawking called a spontaneous creation out of nothing was anything but “nothing.” It was something. The problem that causes some scientists to stray out of real science into scientism is their inability to do what one leading scientist says: “Science within itself can’t answer the simple questions of a child. Why is there something rather than nothing? Where did everything come from? Why am I here? Who am I?” Science, however, when rightly used can and does point us to God, Who answers these questions!