In which I take on Stephen Hawking

Here’s something I never expected to do:  disagree publicly with one of the best minds of our time.  Last Friday the Wall Street Journal published a book excerpt of Hawking’s under the title “Why God Did Not Create the Universe.” His thesis:  “Yet the latest advances in cosmology explain why the laws of the universe seem tailor-made for humans, without the need for a benevolent creator.”

Hawking goes on to describe the “strong” and “weak” anthropic principles and argue that recent discoveries in cosmology demote the strong principle to the status of the weak principle.  Yet at the heart of his argument lies a tautology.

James Buswell among others has said that the basic question of cosmology is “why there is something rather than nothing.”  Hawking’s answer?  “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” (emphasis added).

There’s the tautology.  All he does is affirm that the universe came from nothing without any divine agency, and prove his affirmation by giving a name–“spontaneous creation”–to the process.  Spontaneous creation proves that spontaneous creation is true.

After reading Hawking, we still don’t know why “universes . . . appear spontaneously from nothing.”  We’re right back where we started.

When Hawking or anyone else speaks about the “why” question, he speaks only as a man and not an expert.  There are no experts on the why question.  People trained in cosmology, people trained in theology, and people trained in running a cash register all stand on level ground before the mystery of existence.

I prefer to go with the near-universal human intuition that God created the world.

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6 Responses to “In which I take on Stephen Hawking”

  1. Jack Weinbender Says:

    Fair enough. I saw this yesterday, proving that I am a skeptic of the worst kind 😉

    http://churchmousepublishing.blogspot.com/2010/09/what-stephen-hawking-said-vs-what-we.html

  2. Darris Says:

    Yeah, I’ve been mocking this since Sept. 2. Welcome to the party. Would you like a slice of hubris pie? 🙂 Just because someone is a great mind in one area doesn’t make him great in all areas. Hawking’s physics don’t seem to back up his philosophy. So who is the greater mind: the one who proposes a fundamentally flawed theory in a major book, or the one who immediately sees the flaw in the theory?

  3. Ken Gawne Says:

    Excellent post Carl. I absolutely agree with Darris on this. I see so many smart people at the lab that are experts in a very narrow field. I just listened to an argument of how the method of science falls under philosophy. That would be epistemology specifically, but I’m sure you know that. My point is you and Darris are probably more of a subject matter expert than Hawking in this area.

  4. Kyle Kelley Says:

    I can understand the logic behind his infinite number of monkeys banging on typewriters will eventually write Shakespeare argument when applied to the universe. But its kind of difficult to get behind an article that says “recent science proves or dis-proves something,” yet doesn’t cite that recent science.

  5. Dirk Holt Says:

    I keep forgeting that these insane physicists keep changing the correct answers. It used to be that the spontaneous creation of gravitons/photons/do-not-remember-the-names-of-the-other-two-particles would require a gravitational/electromagnetic/strong force/weak force field. Which always struck me as a “which came first – the chicken or the egg” type dilemna. I suppose Hawkin’s latest statement is the logical conclusion to his “God had to create the universe this way” idea. Carl’s statement that it is a mystery is so true – does Hawkins think he solved all and the future will add nothing?

  6. Josh Lees Says:

    Oh, don’t you just love circular logic. I have studied the arguments for the last decade. It is like how they date objects. Those radiocarbon and other tests give a wide variety of possible ages, and they select from the list the one that fits the theory of how old they believe that particular layer of dirt to be. And they date the layer based upon finding that fossil in it whose age is determined from the layer. And they cannot explain the polystrate fossils, or the ichthyosaur fossil buried giving birth, or fossilized footprints and raindrops, which according to thee slow burial theory, should have eroded away.

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