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Should we attach any weight to what Stephen Hawking says about God?

rees.jpgBy Hamish Johnston

“I know Stephen Hawking well enough to know he has read very little philosophy.”

So says Martin Rees (pictured right), who as president of the Royal Society is seen by many as the voice of British science.

Rees – who like Hawking is a cosmologist – was speaking to the Independent‘s Steve Connor about politics, the fate of mankind and Hawking’s views on the existence of God.

You can read Connor’s piece here.

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12 comments

  1. Ashwini Kumar Lal

    Life’s origin is not be comprehended only through knowledge of quantum physics and theory of general relativity . Hawking’s recent pronouncement about absence of God’s role in creation of the universe perhaps emanates from the interpretation of quantum physics and theory of relativity alone, whereas fact of the matter is, study of origin of life involves study of different faculties of learning such as molecular biology, genetics, and astrobiology besides cosmology. It is ironic that despite considerable advancement in the above cited fields, science hitherto remains clueless about origin of life.Readers may like to refer to the review article titled “Origin of Life” published in the peer-reviewed European journal, ‘Astrophysics & Space Science’ (2008, Volume 317, Issue 3-4, pp. 267-278),
    e-print of which is posted at the website: http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0907/0907.3552.pdf for current status of scientific research in the inter-disciplinary field of ‘origin of life’. Hawking has made his statement about creation of universe without involvement of God in the light of his limited vision of the complicated issue relating to origin of life.

  2. Well, I read Hawking’s Grand Design and the way I understand it – he is not denying the existence of “God” – he is only saying that the nature of the Universe doesn’t require the intervention of a God to explain how our Universe came into being.
    We no longer have to invoke the notion of a God driving his fiery chariot across the sky to explain the sun, and not too many people have a problem with that.
    Read more on my blog -
    http://hugh-chatfield.com/Blog/Entries/2010/9/10_Hawkings_New_Book_-_The_Grand_Design.html

  3. Michael Duff

    ”The universe in which we’ve emerged belongs to the unusual subset that
    permits complexity and consciousness to develop. Once we accept this,
    various apparently special features of our universe–those that some theologians
    once adduced as evidence for Providence or design–occasion no surprise.
    This line of thought–the enlarged perspective of the multiverse–supplies
    a motive for this book.”
    Stephen Hawking? No, Martin Rees in his 1997 book ”Before the Beginning”.

  4. John Duffield

    Well done Martin for stepping up to the plate. Bit of a shame that commentators focus on the theology thing and rather ignore the philosophy thing. But then I suppose like Hawking, they don’t know what PhD stands for either.

  5. Imre von Soos

    Life did not “come about”: LIFE IS! The different forms of its physical manifestations are the ones that are “coming about”: manifestations originated by individual “underlying life-units” – individual minds – without which no prima causa of any physical manifestation can be explained. Hard as it is tried by self-appointed “science” driven by compulsory materialism and using misleading semantics.
    Note: the antithesis to materialism is not religion; and vice versa. What it is, everyone must find out for himself through understanding.

  6. Gaina Alex

    I agree with Martin Rees.
    Hawking has till now only one experimetally valuable result:
    Hawking theorem about singularities.
    But, the Black Holes explosions due to evaporation is not an experimentaly valluable result. Let’s wait and see for the confirmation of the Hawking evaporation of black holes…

  7. Really what matters of the origin? Until you can actually saddle a wormhole and go back and see for yourself, you’ll never answer the questions so why bother? Philosphy is for those that can’t handle testable research.
    It’s more important to figure out where the last stop is on this cosmic train and what powers it, than when the first ticket was punched.

  8. On the subject of God (and His creation, Nature), may I kindly refer readers here to my letter, http://www.sittampalam.net/TheRoyalSociety.pdf, to Sir Martin here?
    Though no response seems forthcoming from this esteemed voice of British science (that guided two of my kid brothers well into graduation), he may kindly consider commenting on the letter to Dr Hamish Johnston here, if the latter gentleman would kindly agree to the proposition and to the true advancement of science. Thank you all.

  9. Ashwin Mohan

    I am an atheist and find Stephen Hawking’s idea of the multiverse not being created by a god or gods. Apart from many logical paradoxes relating to gods, i always find the question reverted to what made god. I also find his something came out of nothing because of gravity and the laws of physics completely believable if you abandon the intuitive notion of something not being able to come out of something. This is only a law in our universe.

  10. Ashwini Kumar Lal

    The celebrated scientist, Stephen Hawking appears to have wrongly referred to the ‘Big Bang Model’ as the viable explanation for origin of the universe in his latest book,’The Grand Design’. The said model is highly controversial with number of inconsistencies (the redshift controversy being the most hotly debated controversy) brought to the notice of the scientific community by the leading researchers in the field from time to time.It is ironic that the mainstream cosmologists have remained indifferent to admit the cosmological realities despite several loopholes with the said model.The article titled “Big Bang Model? A Critical Review” published in the peer-reviewed US journal, ‘Journal of Cosmology’(2010, vol.6, pp.1533-1547), modified version of which is posted at the website: http://vixra.org/pdf/1005.0051v8.pdf details the prominent shortcomings with the Big Bang model that remain unresolved so far. I would request Sir Martin Rees to kindly look into the anomalies pointed out in the web-paper.

  11. Imre von Soos

    Specialization, in evolutionary history, is regressive. Nietzsche called the specialists “inverted cripples”: people with one overdeveloped member hanging onto a weak trunk.
    Rational thinking, that brings about natural philosophy as much as it brings about scientific reasoning, should be behind any mental activity.
    The question raised in the title of this blog should be even extended to further subjects, to which I will give only one example of the many and let everyone judge for himself.
    In attempting to explain and substantiate the actually reigning Big Bang Theory, S. Hawking writes: “All the evidence seems to indicate, that the universe has not existed forever, but that it had a beginning, about 15 billion years ago. In fact, the theory that the universe has existed forever is in serious difficulty with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law, states that disorder always increases with time. It indicates that there must have been a beginning. Otherwise, the universe would be in a state of complete disorder by now, and everything would be at the same temperature. In an infinite and everlasting universe, every line of sight would end on the surface of a star. This would mean that the night sky would have been as bright as the surface of the Sun. The only way of avoiding this problem would be if, for some reason, the stars did not shine before a certain time.”
    In the meantime he came to the conclusion, that the universe had a beginning after all, but without a Creator, purpose, plan, aim or principle, and that “the Big Bang – thus Hawking – is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe. It is therefore intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside [by a Creator]. .. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago.”
    In other words: once upon a non-time and non-space, when only “the blue” existed so that out of it a dimensionless and pointless point can appear, because it was so “required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe”, which this pointless point had to big bang itself into, in order that the dynamical laws that govern it should have something to be intrinsic to and be able to govern.

  12. Jerry Wigglesworth

    Does anyone think it is an accident that the “media buzzline” on this book is “Hawking says there is no need for God”? Either he is trying to sell more books or he is worried that science could be forced into a corner of permanent inexplicability as concerns “our” universe, he is worried that we might have to invoke an explanation for “our” universe from an organizing order, agency or rationality from outside “our” universe…which is…sort of….what he does! (it has been said that the atheistic scientists spend much more time “worrying about God” than do theistic scientists)
    I favor the latter explanation (worry) for the following reasons: Apparently there is no explanation inside our universe for our universe…. There is no axiomatic, self-evidently true foundation for the explanation of why the fundamental physical properties, or “constants” of the universe are what they are. These would be such basic, given constants as the charge and mass of the electron, the mass and charge of the proton,( …coming from its constituents, the quarks), the extremely fine-tuned “flatness” of the universe…the list goes on and on of inexplicable, yet empirically demonstrated properties.
    Nor has science explained the reason why the physical laws should be such that they have “order” and are not only “rational”, but are rationally understood by evolved minds that were only randomly generated by evolution for survival fitness. It is one thing for Homo Neandertalis to abstractly contemplate the locomotion habits of the wooly Mammoth, but quite another thing to contemplate the ontology of apperception. Science has always been concerned, generally, with the “hows”, the “whats” the “wheres”, the “whens” the “how much”, -the descriptions, more or less, of the universe.
    Now science, through one of its most reputable practitioners, has laid down the “final” imprimatur of the great “why?” of “our” universe…The thing we’ve all been waiting for! I guess Dr. Hawking found that region north of the North Pole, after all. I guess it is not only “turtles all the way down” holding up the Earth, but “universes all the way down” too! But not really, he’s joined forces with the greatest scientific cop-out in history, I still can’t believe they call it an “explanation”…..once more, another tiring variation on the theme of this “explanation”: “infinite physical possibilities exist…this (“our” universe) is one of them”.
    -Well no kidding Sherlock Holmes! How ’bout them apples! -That, and $5.40 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks….This seems to be an anthropic, fizzling dud! It explains nothing! It is as useless as the explanation of the origin of life…’Life is self-generated from non-life because it is possible to be self-generated from non-life.’ Indeed the proposition that “all physical possibilities exist” by definition includes life. There is as much scientific evidence for abiogenesis as there is for other universes…. Actually this is philosophy, -metaphysics, which is a fine thing, but it is not science, so far. I will gladly eat crow when there is direct, unambiguous physical evidence for abiogenesis, or the multiverse, or any variation on those themes.

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