Blog

Stephen Hawking Worships the “Unknown God”

If you have not already seen, you may be interested to know that Stephen Hawking, the brilliant British theoretical physicist and cosmologist who has never been a friend to Christianity, has made an announcement: the universe came into being from nothing. There is no God.

Of course we have all be sitting on pins and needles waiting for such a definitive announcement, right? This information comes from his new book The Grand Design, his first major work in nearly a decade (to be released later this month). What makes this information news, I suppose, is that before this announcement, Hawking could have been labeled as an agnostic with quasi-deistic sympathies. In other words, if Hawking allowed for a God, it was not one like the Christian God and he/she/it was certainly not interested in the going-ons here on earth. “The universe,” according to Hawking, “is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws” (source). In other words, no miracles, no transcendent love, and no God becoming man. How he was privy to the information that “God does not intervene” is for his eyes only.

However, as I said, there has been a change. Hawking seems to have figured it out. In his new book he says that “Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” He goes on, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going.”

But I don’t get it. Aren’t we as rational being supposed to be rational? Is it really rational to say that something comes from nothing. What about the axiom, ex nihilo nihil fit, “out of nothing, nothing comes.” What if this “spontaneous generation” answer was permissible in our every day life? Me: “Will, who made this mess in your room?” Will: “Ummm…no one. It just appeared from nothing.” Fireman: “How did this fire start? Man: “It was just one of those things. Nothing started it.” Policeman: “Who robbed the bank.” Robber: “No one. The money is just gone and nothing caused it to go.”

As irrational as this “something from nothing” philosophy is in the real world, it cannot and should not get a better shake when it comes to religion. People often ask, “If God created everything who or what created God?” Many times we just stare with a blank look on their face, not knowing how to respond. However, we do have a response. It is called transcendence.

(Hang with me, I will get back to the Hawking kind of faith thing in a moment.)

We believe in a transcendent God. This is what we call a “necessary” belief. “If something exists,” so the argument goes, “God must exist.” It is actually the best argument for God that is out there. If something exists, we have to have an adequate cause to explain it. This cause must be transcendent in order to avoid the infinite regress produced by the “If God created everything, who created God? Who created that which created God? Who created that which created that which created God?” You see, there must be an “ultimate cause.” This is called the “unmoved mover.” Because of the law of cause and effect (every effect has an sufficient cause) and because we know that time cannot go infinitely backward (or we would never reach the present because we would always have an infinity to go), we know that the “universe” in which God resides, must transcend the physical laws of our universe.

Back to Hawking…

Hawking understands well the ultimate atheist dilemma. It is not whether or not evolution can explain the the genesis of life. It is not whether God shows his face here and there. It is not even whether spiritual bodies can be scientifically proven. It is the problem of existence itself. Where did everything come from? The law of cause and effect says that there must be a sufficient explanation for existence. If there is no God, then there is no answer to the question, Why is there something rather than nothing?

However, Hawking has the answer. In his new book (from what I understand) he argues for the reality of multiple universes. From here he argues that if there are many universes (possibly an infinite number), one will have characteristics in physics that are much different than ours. One of these characteristics may be that it does not have to abide by the law of cause and effect. If so, in this universe, something can come from nothing.

At this point I pause and say to myself, Stephen Hawking believes in a god. You see, this is not so much unlike the tentative belief that aliens created our universe held by Richard Dawkins. In both cases, you have to have something above and beyond us which explains our existence. There must be something/someone which exists outside of our universe to explain the existence of our universe since the laws of our universe militate against self-creation. For Hawking there is a “universe” out there which is responsible for all things. Hawking’s creative universe where something can come from nothing carries the same basic and essential characteristic of the Christian view of God: transcendence. Sure, Christians add attributes to our understanding of God such as intelligence, love, and intervention, but the essential realm of existence is the same. God resides in a realm where the laws of physics do not have the same application. Why? Because he created them. They had their genesis with him through the creation of our time/space universe. God, in his essence, has no relation to time, space, or matter, therefore, he is not “under” the laws we are under. What we call heaven (often as a metonymy for God), Hawking calls “the universe where the same rules do not apply.” What this “universe” is like would most certainly be a great mystery to Hawking, but it exists nonetheless. Why? Because it must exist. There simply must be a sufficient explanation for all things. Therefore, Hawking believes in a mysterious creator of all things. Whether this creator is personal or not is not the issue right now. The point is that Hawking invokes a mysterious creator he calls “Other Universe.” This puts him in the religious camp of either pantheism or deism.

Does he worship this “other universe”? It depends on what you mean by “worship.” He credits it with the creation of all things, believes in its power and transcendence, and, now, is evangelizing on its behalf. But he does not have a relationship with it and does not believe it cares about him. Like Paul walking through Athens and noticing the alter built to the “unknown god” (Acts 17:23), Stephen Hawking has a similar alter with the same kind of generic name: “Another Universe.”

The point is that ultimately you have to avoid the “Where did it all come from?” question if you want to be a consistent atheist. Hawking’s pronouncement that God is not necessary dies the death of his own qualification. His faith step here is in the right direction, but needs to go further. I simply call on him to see that this God has revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ and call us to a life of recognition and service to him.

Having said this, I do say what a brilliant mind Hawkins truly does have. Even though he is an unbeliever, he is shows God’s image so brightly in many ways.

26 Responses to “Stephen Hawking Worships the “Unknown God””

  1. Your argument against ex nihilo nihil fit for God doesn’t help. The things you apply to God to get around it can easily be said to be the same for the laws of the universe itself. This is simpler because now we have removed the need for God in the explanation.

  2. How can nothing create anything? Duh!

  3. The Guardian have a poll based on this “news”

    Is physicist Stephen Hawking right that physics, not God, created the universe?

    The pro-God choice is at a paltry 13.1% at the mo…give it a boost folks….

  4. CMP,

    I saw this story earlier today and almost fell off my seat laughing. You’re absolutely right CMP – he is creating a god (using multiverse – which is at best a hypothesis and an untestable one at that) and then just not calling it god. Ultimately this way of getting around the problem is no better than the “alien’s did it” hypothesis. At the end of the day some people just don’t want to believe in God and will accept any idea, no matter how absurd, that allows them to do this. I would like to see Hawking have a debate with William Lane Craig on this matter. I’m not a betting man, but I might be willing to make an exception for one debate.

  5. Paige-Patric Samuels 2010-09-03 at 2:39 am

    Hawking book has posed a number of problem hear in the UK, as to supposedly suggest that those within the the circle of Religion are put on the back peddle, by way of suggesting that the questions posed as to the Creation and its origin is now answered by Scientist. René Descartes (1596-1650) posit “I exist” by inferring that anything that is deceived must exist in order to be deceived. but what if that inference is false? What if he is deceived even about that ? Descartes goes on to demonstrate the can overcome doubt only if he can demonstrate two things: first God exists, and second, that God is a good deceiver. If both cannot be demonstrated, Descartes concludes, then nothing can be certain. similar posit of Dawkins God delusion.
    Kepler, Galileo, and Newton believed that God played an essential role in the continual governance of the cosmos., God’s routine activity as the prim mover or pusher of the planets gradually receded in the minds of most scientists. the idea of theory of many other universes within the solar systems a many suns and moons are in fact another attempt to create a Deity that is a God of the Science. If there is no absolute Cause then their can be no causation . I think that based on the biblical revelation god is the absolute Prime cause and everything that He creation is the causation of that which He causes. Creo Et Intelligum

  6. I did think that Hawkins is describing God and not realizing it.

    It is sad though that our culture and media propels atheistic material to the top, when an equally newsworthy study such as McGrath’s ‘A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology ‘, is, well, ignored. There is a culture war going on, and we are losing- and its not because of the arguments.

  7. I thought this part of the story is interesting:

    “But some of Hawking’s Cambridge colleagues said the physicist has missed the point. “The ‘god’ that Stephen Hawking is trying to debunk is not the creator God of the Abrahamic faiths who really is the ultimate explanation for why there is something rather than nothing,” said Denis Alexander. “Hawking’s god is a god-of-the-gaps used to plug present gaps in our scientific knowledge.”

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/09/02/hawking.god.universe/index.html?hpt=T2

  8. Rick,

    Good quote by Alexander. That’s exactly what I thought when I read the Hawkings excerpts. As though what has natural causes automatically excludes supernatural ones. The God of the Bible works through the natural laws He creates, not as an ad hoc deity who fills in the gaps. It’s simply another example of a false dichotomy. They ought to make scientists do more philosophy (specifically cognitive argumentation) and even more theology if their going to continually comment about it.

  9. consulscipio 2010-09-03 at 10:19 am

    It is interesting Hawking says that the laws of physics were adequate to create the big bang. No one actually knows what the law of physics were at the instant of the big bang. That is the source of the greatest problem in physics, that quantum physics and relatively cannot be reconciled, and only here (and at the center of black holes) does this became an issue. Every time physics has appeared to unlock the nature of reality, it finds that what they have is an approximation of a deeper level of reality: Newton’s laws were an approxomation as Einstein proved; Einstein’s relativity was incomplete without quantum mechanics (which he attacking by saying “God doesn’t role dice”); relativity and quantum mechanics were approximation of a deeper reality that super string theory might explain, but then super string theory is an approximation of a deeper level that “M Theory” might explain, which itself is an approximation…

    Hawking, like many (or all) secular people are arguing from negative evidence: lack of experimental evidence proving God proves there is no God. Yet science itself admits that experiemental verification is not an intrinstic trait of al reality, as in the case of mathematics.

  10. Valerie Coffman 2010-09-03 at 11:59 am

    Reminds me of something I read on NPR recently:
    Is Believing in God Evolutionarily Advantageous?

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129528196

    Also think about 2 Thess. 2:11-12
    11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,
    12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.(ESV)

    Great article! As a scientist who is also a Christian, these issues are important to me.

  11. Just a note: I do not think Dawkins has ever suggested that Aliens created the world… He simply finds it more credible than Theism. (Accordingly, an alien would be the product of natural laws, and not more “complex” than the universe.) I believe Francis Crick may have offered the alien option, because 14 billions years just isn’t enough time!

  12. A beautifully-constructed piece of rhetoric, CMP, in which you manage to completely misrepresent what Hawking is saying. Is this lying for Jesus all over again? (P.S. – Dawkins does not, as you assert, believe that aliens created the universe. Another bit of mendacity.)

  13. What about the axiom, ex nihilo nihil fit

    I’m afraid your physics is out of date. These days it is accepted that particles can appear out of nothing. These are called virtual particles.There are two conditions:

    1) That the energy that creates them must eventually be repaid (e.g. by their disappearance or by “borrowing” energy from a nearby strong field)

    2) That the “Fermion number of the universe stays constant. What this means is that particles appear in particle/antiparticle pairs.

    This explains, for example, how black holes can emit radiation (“Hawking radiation”). If a particle/antiparticle pair appears near one, it’s possible for one of the particles to get enough of a gravitational kick to escape, while its antiparticle gets sucked in.

    The reason this effect isn’t seen on a macroscopic level is because of rule #1. However it is easily detectable on a small scale, for example in the Casimir effect.

    Basically, “ex nihilo nihil fit” is not a good counterargument.

  14. C Michael Patton said:”
    We believe in a transcendent God.

    This is what we call a ”necessary” belief.

    “If something exists,” so the argument goes, “God must exist.”

    If something exists, it must be caused by another thing.

    This cause must be transcendent in order to avoid the infinite regress.

    You see, there must be an “ultimate cause.”

    Because of the law of cause and effect,,,,,and because we know that time cannot go infinitely backward,,,,, we know that the “universe” in which God resides, must transcend the physical laws of our universe.

    The infinite regress of causes is not a problem, because our universe has only been around for a finite amount of time; ~14b years. So, all the causes and effects are contained within the 14b year time period.

    So there is no need to claim that some event was caused by a deity from outside the universe, because each event was caused by another event inside the universe, within our 14b year period of time.

    —-

    C Michael Patton said:”You see, this is not so much unlike the tentative belief that aliens created our universe held by Richard Dawkins.” Richard Dawkins does not hold this belief, even tentatively. He was nefariously quote-mined in a movie.

  15. Where did the conditions, energy and normality of the laws that create ex nihilo come from? You don’t escape the question merely by saying that X can happen. Does X happen from LAW Y by itself or because there is a hand behind the condition and law. This is not a question of observation, but of worldviews. Ergo, it is a theological and philosophical question. This is like saying that we observe gloves performing surgery on a normative basis. Ergo, there is no need to posit a surgeon. It’s simply a matter of whether you believe the glove works on its own or that there is a hand connected to a surgeon with a mind behind it. The argument that something does not come from nothing still stands, as it has nothing to do with descriptive data.

  16. Lifewish and Hodge,

    William Lane Craig has responded to the claim that quantum particles can spring into existence out of nothing in the context of arguing for the Kalam Cosmological Argument from his 2008 revision to Reasonable Faith. I couldn’t find my copy of the book to give the full discussion of this issue. I couldn’t find the section from that book online either except for this quote from good ole wikipedia.

    “Craig has responded that the examples that employ quantum mechanical principles are not counterexamples to the first premise, because these events happen within the context of the already existing quantum vacuum. ‘[These] particles do not come into being out of nothing. They arise as spontaneous fluctuations of the energy contained in the sub-atomic vacuum…Popular magazine articles touting such theories as getting ‘something from nothing’ simply do not understand that the vacuum is not nothing but is a sea of fluctuating energy endowed with a rich structure and subject to physical laws.'”

    A more scholarly article which discusses this on some level can be found here
    http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html

  17. @lifewish

    You’re “virtual particles” still come from something. You even alluded to this in your explanation. They come from energy. This isn’t new physics. It’s explained by the equation e=mc2.

    Before the big-bang there was nothing. Not matter, not energy. Nothing.

  18. Many people will argue that energy isn’t created though. So it is true that something never comes from nothing. They just think that something is uncreated and from that everything else comes into being. I would simply step back and argue that it is ludicrous to argue that a mindful universe has no mind behind it. There is a continual logic/rhyme and reason to everything. I always love watching the Discovery Channel when scientists continually talk about evolution as though it is a mindful deity that is directing everything toward a logical purpose.
    So rather than argue whether conditions can “create” something that did not previously exist, I would argue from causality, presuppositions, and normative universal laws (whether they be of science or logic) that make Hawking’s statements ridiculous.

  19. Hodge,
    “Many people will argue that energy isn’t created though”

    I think that is the point Nick and myself were making. According to basic physics neither matter or energy can be created or destroyed. However, they can be interchanged (e.g. matter being turned into energy and visa versa). The “creation” of quantum particles in a quantum vacuum isn’t creation from nothing at all, rather it is the creation of matter from energy which can be explained by simple relativity theory. It is not creation from nothing or a uncaused effect as claimed by Lifewish earlier. Thus it is not a valid defeater for the various cosmological arguments out there.

  20. A.N.J.Aradhya 2010-09-05 at 1:19 pm

    The conclusion here of the writer or interpreter of the Stephen Hawking’s thought process ( C Michail Patton ), appears to have come from the objective of leading to conclude the existence of God while deciphering the extended thought process of Hawking.
    What can not be answered like, who the creator of the creator of the creator … ?, generally drives otherwise rationally thinking brains to find shelter under some thing out of our physical existence. Hawking may think of another universe out there which caused the creation of our universe, whereas some one else who does not want to stretch his mind to think further may call this as God, outside energy etc. to put a full stop for the seemingly unanswerable and un ending question.
    Discerning people throughout the history of mankind have always taken shelter under religion or God to answer these scientifically unanswered questions. It is interesting to see here the author, C Michail Patton , even going to extend the logic of God and tells that in the conclusion that he revealed to mankind like Jesus Christ. This does not augur well with the serious discussion of matter, space and time. I recall, according to the Hindu mythology, the lord Krishna, whose existence is predicted to be 5000 years ago, revealed the universe as part of himself and it is depicted that he is present in every conceivable part of matter and energy. Mankind has been challenged with such questions through out the history and always there has been rational approach to understand the universe much deeper.
    Giving respect to Hawking what he deserves for he being one of the brilliant minds of our time, we should try not to give a religious orientation to his thought process. Even if one tends to argue out for believing in God as a creator, linking God to a religion even remotely is something out of the context here.

  21. Wolf Veizer 2010-09-05 at 7:51 pm

    The author of this post is only going to lower the intellectual respect for his beliefs. He has misunderstood Hawking’s entire argument.

    The reason Hawking is receiving so much attention for his view is exactly because his solution would bypass the supposed contradictions presented here.

    The concept of a zero sum energy means that there is NOT a “something from nothing.”

    The simplest way of explaining it is this: if you borrow $10 and pay back $10, you still have no money (-10 +10= 0). In th case of the universe, you get positive mass energy and negative gravitational energy, and if it adds to zero as appears may be the case, there is nothing needed to explain the violation of energy conservation. Because no violation would be necessary.

    So, if the need to explain “something from nothing” is the strongest argument for God’s existence, Hawking’s proposal should probably treated a little more seriously then repeating a philosophical argument that has long failed.

  22. Paul in 1 Cor asks, where is the wise man? The answer is he died. He could not save himself. So he was not that wise after all.

    I think about that chart (we are shown in grade school) of how man evolved from a monkey to a man over a course of some gazillion years. Anyone remember that picture?
    Is it not a little disturbing to see that no one will conclude that there is a God when this chart is shown…because we will have to conclude that God looks like a drum roll…. “monkey”????? So it simply does not compute.
    I have seen that evolution theory is a religion all by itself. And there are many adherents to this religion. Do you remember that creation scientist who demonstrated this so well. Those moon rocks that came back from the moon were tested by carbon dating (which has a half life of 5,000 years and is a theory all of its own), but anyway, these had numerous dates that ranged vastly. But the evolutionists picked the ones that went into their books; the others were left in the dust. The same creation scientist showed a slide of a man and dinosaur walking or running in the same fossil sediment. Actually, I think I could go on and on about the facts that are included and excluded in the evolutionists book(s).

    Another thing thinking about highly intelligent scientists. If they discern that people have physical “eyes” that see in the physical realm–Why don’t they ever conclude that these eyes only see in the physical realm? How do they know that there is a realm or not that they can’t see because of just having Physical Eyes?

    It is all so pitiful.

    Some non-believers will show Christians how intelligent animals are, as if we do not know. As if this has some weight into thinking evolution is correct. Christians know many animals are extremely intelligent. There is only one difference, humans are created in the image of God. This is the one thing that makes us different from animals, but it is an extremely important one.

  23. I heard a wonderful sermon in more recent past, and it was beautifully given, such a scientifically detailed based sermon but for lay people. He spoke on the physical heaven and earth in a most simple but intelligent way, and showed how amazingly God held everything together. What was so astonishing, was the wonder of it all when he concluded his message by saying…referring to Jesus’ Return…what happens when the God Who holds it all together,–… lets go?

  24. I am not able to see why the laws of the universe are constant, why should it be that what is always a constant should always be what is to be expected? this assumes you would know as a eternal truth as something always being so, it is not possible to say what seems a constant can only be as a constant in time as we know time, considering it is not possible to know time as time is a mystery that has not been explained as yet.

  25. Stephen Hawkins made a deal trading supposed “knowledge” with health of body requiring stipulations on his soul meaning that demon Stephen Hawkins serves lives within him encompassing his heart, mind, body, and soul
    to deny the demon and admit God’s omnipotence would bring destruction, torment, and torture upon him
    SH has a demon living inside whom he serves…that’s why he thinks he knows it all…he will believe in God and Hell where the Traitors are kept inside the PIT in the abyss when he gets there
    all one would have o do is confront SH to his face asking him in front of everybody present “you do serve your demon and do witchcraft don’t you? when SH replies no…then you got him because then the demon SH serves will torture him even more than what SH’s body has been through…and we will never hear a peep from SH ever again. SIMPLE SH is a stupid idiot once he thought he’d sell his soul to the devil for knowledge because Jesus already paid the ransom for all of us as God’s only Son dying for us all on the cross shedding those 28,430 drops of His Precious Blood for us all already on Calvary. SH soul was not for sale to begin with since it’s already been purchased by Jesus precious blood…nuff said for all of you ridiculous deaf dumb blind and naked numb nuts leading each other straight via your disobedience to hell…do not pass go do not collect $200 (Monopoly re:)
    even that demon passing angelic knowledge on through SH has limits…research Noah (Ark) grandson Kanaan who disobeyed Noah and interpreted those angelic knowledge information writings and symbols after the flood releasing all forms-kinds/types of evil witchcraft onto the earth through Kanaan’s disobedience used by all those performing evil and worshiping the evil one to this day on earth since then.
    All you idiot posters that are full is Shiite prepare yourself for the final battle for your souls because Archangel Michael and his warrior angels will find every single one of you traitors—I can guarantee this for sure no doubt about it. So keep on singing your pagan blasphemous heretical bs

Leave a Reply