Stephen Hawking and the denial of God

The cover story on the front page of The Times (behind a paywall, alas) yesterday was: ‘Hawking: God did not create Universe’.

The story was based on extracts from Professor Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design, which is due to be published next week, in which Hawking appears to lend his support to theories about a multiverse.

Scientists have long known that our universe is governed by a number of laws and constants that are remarkably fortuitous and had they been even slightly different, it would have – in Hawking’s own words – ‘destroyed the possibility for life as we know it.’ To quote Hawking again:

“Most of the fundamental constants in our theories appear fine-tuned in the sense that if they were altered by only modest amounts, the Universe would be qualitatively different, and in many cases unsuitable for the development of life. For example, if the other nuclear force, the weak force, were much weaker, in the early Universe all the hydrogen in the cosmos would have turned to helium, and hence there would be no normal stars; if it were much stronger, exploding supernovas would not eject their outer envelopes, and hence would fail to seed interstellar space with the heavy elements planets require to foster life.

“If protons were 0.2 per cent heavier, they would decay into neutrons, destabilising atoms. If the sum of the masses of the types of quark that make up a proton were changed by as little as 10 per cent, there would be far fewer of the stable atomic nuclei of which we are made; in fact, the summed quark masses seem roughly optimised for the existence of the largest number of stable nuclei.”

This is the well-known Goldilocks enigma. This universe has laws and constants that seem to be ‘just right’ for the development of life.

This finding of modern cosmology has so disturbed many scientists that the great British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle once famously remarked that it appeared that the Universe was a ‘put-up job’.

Additionally, the increasing acceptance by the scientific community of the Big Bang theory from the 1960’s onwards and the fact that the Big Bang theory postulated that our universe had a beginning (estimated currently to be around 13.7 billion years ago) posed some very obvious and significant philosophical problems for atheists.

So, how have atheists responded? In recent years, an increasingly popular theory of the multiverse has been propounded. This suggests that our universe is but one of many – Hawking suggests 10 to the power of 500 – universes that exist and that therefore it is mathematically probable that at least some of them will have laws and constants that are conducive to life, so our universe is not as special as we might think. Furthermore, the mathematical laws that govern the multiverse are so compelling that they themselves bring the universes – including our own – into existence. Hawking says that:

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.”

It is an intriguing idea, but many scientists themselves have pointed out that it is also currently untestable and therefore cannot even really be classified as a genuine scientific theory. Additionally, as Professor John Lennox has responded: ‘But how did gravity exist in the first place? Who put it there? And what was the creative force behind its birth?’

Funnily enough, it all seems to boil down to a question of faith. Do you believe in a Creator of the Universe, or that laws can be so beautiful and compelling that they bring into existence multiple universes including our own out of nothing?

Read more:

Daily Mail: Professor John Lennox responds to Stephen Hawking

Guardian Cif: Professor Eric Priest responds to Hawking

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5 Responses to Stephen Hawking and the denial of God

  1. 'Uthmān says:

    I recommend reading the following comment piece by Hamza Andreas Tzortzis:

    He converted to Islam around 8 years ago, and is now somebody who I consider to be a leading figure in the Da’wah with a particular focus on deconstructing atheism and presenting intellectual arguments for Islam. He has a very well-researched site, for example, on the literary miracle of the Qur’an which can be found here:

  2. 'Uthmān says:

    Here is another comment piece by Adam Deen – another convert who is at the forefront of presenting intellectual arguments for theism and specifically Islam as well as refuting the atheist worldview.

  3. Ron Krumpos says:

    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. Pingback: Professor S. Misbah Deen’s response to Stephen Hawking | Inayat's Corner

  5. HH says:

    I believe God never intended for any of us to understand without first sifting through all the mires and deadend reasoning. One cannot expect to find a necklace in one town when it was lost in another. The scientific community has stalled out with Einstein’s theory re extra galactic physics and tried to interject alternatives such as string theory, dark matter, and so on. The answer, when one knows the basics first is right tbere in the bible, but you have to understand it is written in parables.What are the basics? The square root of Phi, and the square root of two! You then have to take it from there, it’s an unbelievable trip!

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