Stephen Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design, goes on sale next week. Here’s a preview:
“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,” Hawking writes. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
For a long time my response to “there is no God” has been to point out that we are here. Even if evolution produced homo sapiens over millions of years, and all that we see came from the “Big Bang,” where then did the stuff that banged come from? Something doesn’t just come from nothing. If you believe something comes from nothing, then that is creation, and it then becomes tough to argue there is not a creator. Well, Hawking has done it. Spontaneous creation, a magic cure all that allows creation to take place without a creator. And the kicker is that spontaneous creation is within the realm of possibility according the the new theories of physics. I’m glad that’s settled.
“Because there is a law such as gravity…” I wish I could ask Professor Hawking why there is a law such as gravity. The universal constant of gravity is expressed as the attraction between two bodies that have mass. If there was a time that no mass existed, then there would have been no gravity. Gravity cannot therefore be the cause behind spontaneous creation.
It takes a leap in logic to arrive at the conclusion that there can be creation without a creator. Hawking offers spontaneous creation as the smoking gun that kills even a need to believe in God. Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth. Why do physicists insist that God must obey the laws of physics? When I go to a basketball game, there are rules of play. The players stay in bounds, they cannot foul, some shots are worth 3 points but others only 2. The officials are there to see that the rules are adhered to, and there is also a clock keeper, score keeper and an official book to record the details. But I’m in the stands. I can be outside the boundary lines because the rules do not apply to me. I can leave the gym. James Naismith did not spend his entire life trapped on a basketball court; he existed before the rules of the game since he created them. Those rules did not apply to everything he did since he existed outside of the game. And so with God.
God existed before the rules of our physical universe did; he created those laws to apply to everything physical. He exists outside of them. Gravity, the passage of time, having mass and taking up space, only moving at 186,000 miles per second or less – laws we are bound by, not God. In a way, I find Hawking’s claims beneficial in promoting a belief in God not detrimental. For centuries those doubting the existence of God have argued that God could not create something from nothing. Hawking is arguing that creation happens randomly and without any cause whatsoever. Creation from nothing is possible, and according to Hawking inevitable. Believing in creation is therefore the only logical thing to do. Hawking said so.
Someone is bound to come up with an argument that goes something like this: Stephen Hawking is a professor of advanced theoretical physics, Clark Bunch teaches high school. Obviously Hawking is smarter, why even listen to this guy?
Are you sure? His argument for not believing in God is believing in creation. We don’t need God because something comes from nothing. Say that out loud a time or two and actually listen to yourself. Is he smarter than me?
Said it nine times, Clark. Then one more to be sure. Yup. Still sounds smarter. You know why? Because Stephen Hawking has spent his whole life trying to answer one of the most important questions there are and didn’t rely on a book of mythology. He comes to conclusions based on experiment, observation and reason, which is an infinitely superior methodology. His (and others’) theories are testable and falsifiable. Mythology is not, and can therefor have no confidence in their truth value.
Hawking is not saying that there is no god, but that the universe with and without a god are indistinguishable. And I hope you aren’t a science teacher because your statement that “something comes from nothing” is a non sequitur. The sum total mass/energy of the universe is 0, so it is really “nothing which came from nothing.” I choose to cut remove god totally out of the picture for this reason. It is simple fact that there is no evidence for the existence of god and since I live by Clifford’s Creed-
I do not believe in gods, your oblique appeal to Pascal’s Wager notwithstanding.
On what basis do you make this claim?
And if you insist that “something just doesn’t come from nothing” then you’ve placed a burden on yourself to explain where the creator came from.
Doesn’t it equally take a “leap of logic” to arrive at the conclusion that there can be a creator without some higher creator? And so on?
Right. No mystical creator behind the curtain pulling the strings is necessary, as theists have long insisted.
“He comes to conclusions based on experiment, observation and reason, which is an infinitely superior methodology.” -shamelessly atheist
What experiment? When did he observe spontaneous creation? The new physics which make the previously impossible possible cannot be recreated in the lab, experimented on, measured, observed nor anything else that scientists do to validate their theories. It’s highly theoretical; the scientific method we have used since Aristotle cannot even test such a theory.
“The sum total mass/energy of the universe is 0, so it is really ‘nothing which came from nothing.’ ”
In his theory, Hawking says something came from nothing. It is Hawking that claims spontaneous creation is why something exists rather than nothing. If he sounds smarter than me, why are you disagreeing with him?
Stephen Hawking may be a theorretical physicist, but his ideas have been confirmed by experiments performed at CERN and FermiLab. In otherwords, IN THE LAB. A good chunk of the remainder comes from astronomical observations. Black holes were once thought to be nothing more than curiousities that only existed in the minds of theorists. This is no longer true. There are stars at the center of our galaxy that whip around a point where nothing can be seen. The mass of what doesn’t seem to be there is a modest 2,000,000 solar masses. Pretty strong evidence for their existence.
Are you saying we need to actually observe the origin of the universe to know how it was generated? I reject this. If a hypothesis makes predictions that can be tested and verified, then we have confidence in the truth behind the hypothesis. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity could not be tested in the lab, yet we know that it is extremely accurate. How? Through observation (the inital observations of the shift in the position of a star by the effect of the mass of the sun on the path of its light having been made by Eddington).
Let’s take a look at a more terrestrial example. If I hear a loud noise from my kitchen and come in to find an overturned plate on the floor and my cat looking up at me guiltily, is it necessary that I have been there to be confident that the hypothesis that my cat knocked the plate off the counter is an accurate theory which fits the data? Not by your reasoning, apparently.Sure, it could be death rays from Mars trying to assassinate my cat, but I don’t think so.
And where do I disagree with Hawking? It is in fact a consensus of the cosmology community that what I said is correct. That includes Stenger, Greene, Kaku and yes, Hawking. What we know of as the universe (what was :created: spontaneously, in other words) is, in sum total, actually nothing. The positive energy contained in mass is balanced by the negative energy (mainly in gravitational force). This is hardly new to anyone who follows cosmology.Do learn something about the man and his arguments before dismissing them for what seems no good reason whatsoever ohter than it challenges your own beliefs.
And, yes.The informed opinion of an expert in the field in which a claim is made carries far more weight than any teacher who has no expertise on the subject and rejects his conclusions without addressing the arguments at all.
Let’s talk about reasonable expectations.
I do not expect that after reading my post on Hawking and exchanging a few comments that Shamelessly Atheist is going to change his mind, question his belief system, and decide God exists. I hope (surely to goodness) that S.A. doesn’t expect me to suddenly become an atheist based on the proposition that his cat knocks plates in the floor. I believe him about his cat; we got rid of ours for doing that and much worse.
I have been a Christian since age 12. I am presently an ordained minister and teach at a private Christian school. I don’t know all S.A.’s personal background and convictions, but I mean come on; he publishes a blog titled “Shamelessly Atheist.” He is as steadfast certain there is no god as I am there is one.
So what do I expect? I’m sure most of my readers are Christians that will read the quote I gave, shake their heads, and either laugh or else be a little sadden by the ridiculous claims made in the name of science. That something from come from nothing is impossible. It is not reasonable to believe that such a thing could happen. It either takes highly theoretical physics to say that the universe can and will create itself, or a belief that a higher power not bound by our laws of the physical universe is at work. I contend in my post that God created the laws (I listed a few) that we are bound by, but those do not apply to him. Hawking seems to say that the laws of physics as we have understood them for the past 3 or 400 years do not apply to the laws of physics.
Good science can neither confirm nor deny the existence of God. I can tell you there is a God while knowing that I cannot prove it; others will contend there is not a god and, whether they admit it or not, cannot prove that claim either. What I expect is that people looking for answers not sure who to believe will consider these facts and believe one of us. The universe exists. We are here. This cannot be denied. All that exists presently at one time did not. Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heavens and the earth. Hawking says that the universe created itself from nothing because there are laws such as gravity. Where did that come from? This is my closing argument. You the jury may now deliberate.
I expect that Christians will read this thread and agree that I won and perhaps even be glad I’m on there side. Atheists will contend I am a poor debater that is both conceded and arrogant. Stephen Hawking will go lecturing and writing books and never read a word of this. What will you do?
You won? Oh, my! You’ve done no such thing. You have simply asserted Hawking is wrong without addressing any of his or my points and claimed victory! How is that winning? You keep saying that “something came from nothing” when in fact the sum total of the mass/energy of the universe is in fact nothing, a conclusion which is based on observing the cosmos. You completely block yourself to this fact and continue to say it without addressing it at all. That is intellectual dishonesty.
The law of gravity (that is, relativity) comse from the guage symmetry of the universe and this and all other physical laws are simply a consequence of the fact that there are no special positions or directions. Not an easy concept, but there are a lot of books out there that talk about this, including this one by Hawking that explain this.
Which brings me to another interesting point. You pooh-pooh his conclusions, but have not read any books on this subject (that is obvious). So, I challenge you to open your mind to new ideas (something religions invariably try to stop) and read this one. I’ve read Christian apologetics books. I have a hard time finishing them, though. I get nauseous at the lack of logic and inconsistency of arguments.
So instead of attacking Hawking without even bothering to look at how he came to his conclusions, why not have the courage to actually read his book? Or will you cower in denial and continue to wallow in ignorance? I suspect the latter, but you may surprise me. I honestly hope you do.
You claim that you know how the universe originated, yet admonish Hawking for making such statements because he wasn’t there to observe it. Where were you? The Genesis story can not be used to support your view since the author was not there to have observed it either. You could retreat to saying that it is “God’s word” or that it is “revelation”, but that helps your case not one bit since you now have to demonstrate that the former is true and that the latter can be distinguished from the ravings of lunatics.
You can tell me that there is a God while knowing you can not prove it. That’s very different from my position. I can not say that there is no God (not explicitely true, since some gods are logically impossible), but I have no reason to believe that there is and so do not. A far more honest position. That which can be asserted without evidence can be – and should be! – rejected without evidence.
Good science can neither confirm nor deny the existence of god? I beg to differ. Who are you to decide what is or is not good science? Good science is about testing hypotheses regardless of whether they are claims about deities. If science can’t test claims made about gods, they must be unfalsifiable. And I have no use for unvalsifiable claims. Butr eligions make claims about the universe and these claims are eminently testable by the methods of science. Your statement is preposterous. Science has filled so many of the gaps where gods have traditionally has been stuffed that the statement at the beginning of this paragraph is absurd. We once thought lightning to be the gods demonstrating their anger over something humans did. That gap was closed when we realized that it is actually nothing more than a discharge of static electricity built up by the friction of layers of air. Hawking and other cosmologists have only filed one more.
I could be convinced there is a god quite easily using the science toolbox For example, we can test for a god that answers prayer as one of its attributes. Most Christians believe their god does indeed have this attribute, so it’s quite apt. We can design an experiment where people are prayed for so that they will have a more speedy recovery from surgery, for instance. The study would have to be controlled to avoid confounder effects..
Well, such studies have been done (the STEP and MANTRA studies are the two largest and best). The researchers, very Christian, wanted very much to show that prayer works. But they found it did not. Had it been shown that there was benefit I would change my mind and become a believer. No question. I doubt the same can be said for you.
You claim (absurdly!) that you have “won”, yet haven’t given any reason to accept your position or change their mind from a contrary one. There is no argument here which would convince anyone that Hawking is wrong. In face, the best argument you seem to be able to muster is Hawking is a silly poopyhead. Hawking’s conclusion are based in sound physics, while yours is but ad hominem. You’ve won nothing.
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 theory.
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.
Let me try this again –
I didn’t say that I won. I was making a prediction. I predict that Christians who already beleive in God and are not apt to change their mind will read the originial post and some or all of the above comments and reach the conclusion that I won this debate. Atheists will read the same post, same comments, and consider me narrow minded and arrogant.
And you are right about one thing: at some point I just quit responding to your arguments. For one thing, as I stated the last time I commented, neither one of us will change the other’s mind. For another, you’re only half listening. It is Hawking that said “something came from nothing.” You argued that such a statement is non sequitar, and that the sum total of the universe is zero. I believe something came from nothing when God spoke the universe into existance, Hawking believes something came from nothing because of spontaneous creation. You are arguing with your own guy, and continue to do so even after I pointed it out.
To continue this discussion is fruitless. No one is going to read this far into the comment thread, and neither of us have anything new to bring to the table. If you must have the last word, go ahead and have it. I will post the next comment you make in response to this one and remain silent.
Non-Theists vs. Atheists
Confucianism (unlike Taoism), much of Buddhism and most of the Samkhya of Hinduism are non-theistic: they simply omit the concept of God. Many atheists, however, seem intent on attacking the idea of God.
Ultimate reality is what is is, whether we think, believe or desire otherwise. If there is a God, not believing does not change that. If there is no God, then believing will not make it so. Mystics seek the universal reality which underlies our conceptualizing and imagining. I was personally introduced to mysticism by a Nobel physicist who said “God is man’s greatest creation.” In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a chapter “To the non-religious.” You do not have to be religious or a believer in God to be a mystic, although most of the prominent mystics were both.
God has not been proven scientifically. Neither has dark matter, dark energy, the Higgs Boson, or M-theory. They are all quite good guesses, though.
there are some Christians that get offended when I say one cannot prove the existence of God. I do not think good science can be used to do that nor negate such existence. Science attempts to answer our questions, or at times lead us to ask better questions. God cannot be measured, observed or experimented on. As a believer, I am not against scientific investigation or query. I recognize the theory of evolution for what it is – the best science can do with its own rules to answer the question of biodiversity. I respect the opinions of those who believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old, as well as those believing in a 6,000 year “young earth.” I just don’t think it would affect my faith one way or the other regardless of who turns out to be right. I can’t even see that it matters, but to some it does greatly.
There have always been people that do not believe in any god (atheists) as well as people that just don’t know (agnostics). The new atheist is a person of great faith that there is no god. Rather than silently go on not believing, he “preaches” his faith system so that others may be converted as it were to also believe there is no god. Some new atheists are quite fervent in their “religion.”
OK, not sure I agree with that statement, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s true. What does this act of creation tell you about the alleged creator?
Very little, I think.
There’s nothing about the start of the universe that implies the “creator” intended the universe to be the way it is. For all we know this may be one of an infinite number of universes created for unknown reasons or no reason at all.
There’s nothing about the start of the universe that implies the “creator” has any human-like attributes – desires, ideas, intentions, personality.
So we’re left with asking what is more likely? That a super-human being with a distinct personality and opinions spontaneously came into being then created the universe with a specific intention.
That a simple force between massive objects either came into being or had always existed causing the universe(s) to be created.
To me, the latter seems simpler and therefore more likely. The “creator” may be nothing more than gravity.
Note also that Hawking is not saying “there is no God”. At most he’s saying, “The start of the universe provides no evidence that a god was involved”. A Christian could say that without contradicting themselves, just as some Christians believe in evolution.
However, if there is a god, I would have expected He/She/It to be involved in creation and this to be obvious from observations. The fact that there’s no evidence of a god’s involvement makes it seem slightly less likely that a god exists. Of course it could still be that a god created the universe and made it look simply like a natural effect of gravity, but why would a god who wanted to be discovered “hide” in this way?
You are referring to an anthropomorphic image of God. Perhaps you should learn about al-Haqq, Brahman,
Dharmakaya, Ein Sof, and/or the Godhead which refer to the absolute nature of being itself.
Eshu, very well said. This is a discussion I enjoy.
I don’t think God is hiding. Paul (in Romans chp 1) seems to think that sufficient evidence exists to suggest God, that being the creation. He says the sun, moon, stars etc. give glory to God, and that even without reading the Old Testament the Romans are without excuse to realize God exists, even if they cannot know him in a specific way. I think the evidence is in front of our face and some of us look at it and decide it doesn’t mean anything. At least it doesn’t mean what some of us claim that it means.
For the record, Hawking has said some things that I very much agree with. For some years, NASA and other agencies have done more than look listen for intelligent life in outer space. They are sending messages, both on our deep space probes and by radio, hoping to catch the attention of anyone out there. Perhaps a higher intelligence has better technologies, faster than light travel, what have you that would allow them to come to us even if we can’t conceive travel that far out in a single lifetime. Hawking has suggested we should do that. History has shown that when an intruder comes in with greater technical ability the native population is often subjected to outside rule – or extinction. Consider imperialism in Africa, or the near eradication of Native Americans. I think keeping a low profile makes good sense, whether there is life out there or not. If there is, we may not want their attention.