Hawking Got Everything Wrong

Creationists have never liked Stephen Hawking, and we’ve posted several times about their assaults on him. But we’ve only written once about his last book, titled Brief Answers to the Big Questions, compiled from his his essays, lectures, and speeches, and that was about a post from the Discoveroids — see The Designer Is a Lute Player.

Every day we see articles attacking Hawking’s well-known opinion, mentioned in his last book, that no deity was involved in the creation of the universe. We found a good one today in the Scottish Catholic Observer, published in Glasgow. They have a comments section. Their headline is Great minds falter on questions of Faith.

It was written by Gerald Warner, and this is probably his write-up in Wikipedia. Here are some excerpts from his column, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

After the death in March this year of Professor Stephen Hawking, the well-known physicist and cosmologist, his final book has just been published this month. Titled Brief Answers to Big Questions, it consists of 10 essays. Predictably, the one on which the media have focused is Hawking’s response to the question: is there a God? Since Hawking answers in the negative, it is convenient for the proponents of secular society to cite him as a kind of authority confirming the case for atheism.

Those “proponents of secular society” are probably people who understand science — like you, dear reader, so pay attention. Warner says:

One of the cleverest men in the world, who knew more about the universe than almost anybody else, says there is no God, so it must be so. Time to get rid of belief in a divinity and all that guilt about sin — time just to do your own thing. Man, creator of the world of high tech, is now God.

We doubt that Hawking ever said man is now god, but that’s Warner’s conclusion. He tells us:

Secularists are trying to conscript Hawking’s atheism as an authoritative endorsement of their views. The universe? He studied it, from Big Bang to the present day, and found no sign of God. Well, why on earth would he? [Huh?] Citing a physicist as arbiter of the existence of God is as logical as asking a plumber to rewire your electrical system. Since God is a pure spirit, the least likely person to encounter Him is a physicist. The term physics says it all: a discipline concerned with the physical world, however minute.

He’s right! When dealing with the supernatural, you need a mystic, not a physicist. Warner continues:

Hawking wrote: “I think the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing, according to the laws of science. If you accept, as I do, that the laws of nature are fixed, then it doesn’t take long to ask: what role is there for God?” Has anyone ever begged so massive a question in one brief comment as in that fine distillation of illogicality? [Huh?] Who established the laws of science? If the laws of nature are fixed, who fixed them? Fulfilling both those functions, as well as being prime mover of that creation out of nothing, is precisely the role of God.

Yes, it’s so obvious! How could Hawking have been so blind? Let’s read on:

It seems extraordinary that a man supposedly so intelligent as Hawking could, at the end of his days, respond to the primary question of existence in so confused and contradictory a manner. It is a typical instance of the decline of fine minds when they venture into disciplines that are not their own.

Poor Hawking. He lost his mind. Another excerpt:

Having stated that ‘there was no time before the Big Bang,’ he wrote: “We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me this means that there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in.” Since God exists outside of time, what does that argument amount to, other than that Hawking has eliminated any credible natural cause, accidentally making the case for the existence of God as the sole remaining agency that could have caused the Big Bang?

Right. When you can’t find a natural cause, the logical conclusion is goddidit. Here’s more:

Stephen Hawking believed the universe was once the size of a subatomic particle, a proton-sized, ultra-dense ‘singularity’ that exploded in the Big Bang. Fair enough; but where did that microscopic singularity come from? [The Cosmic Aardvark!] Hawking attempted to explain the creation of the universe by citing the laws of quantum mechanics, gravity, relativity, etc. But where did that whole coherent body of physical laws originate?

Yeah, who wrote the laws? And now we come to the end:

Hawking’s endorsement of atheism is being presented as the outcome of a life of scientific investigation. That is not the case: he was an aggressive atheist as a teenager and simply found no reason to change his views. Last year, in America, an 11-year-old boy prodigy, the son of a Greek Orthodox priest, challenged Hawking’s view: “It takes more faith to say the universe created itself than to say something other created the universe because that is more logical.” Out of the mouths of babes…

That was powerful stuff, dear reader. It’s too late for Hawking. He’s in the Lake of Fire now, and at last he knows The Truth.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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37 responses to “Hawking Got Everything Wrong

  1. Yeah, Hawking didn’t know where the laws came from so god. Completely and totally proves god. Now which god?

  2. “It takes more faith to say the universe created itself …”
    And it takes even more ignorance to say that any atheist physicist postulated this.
    OK, let me not bother Gerry the Warning with complicated stuff like quantum mechanics, which admittedly doesn’t disprove his god, but has serious theological consequences if he cares as much about consistency as he claims. Let me ask him a few simple questions instead.
    1) Does Gerry the Warning accept Infinite Regress?
    2a) If yes, what caused his god?
    2b) If no, why stop at his god instead of the Big Bang?

  3. FrankB It’s always confused me why the universe must have a creator but the creator doesn’t.
    Creationist method:
    1) Define rule
    2) Create exemption
    3) Claim only god can have exemption
    4) God exists!

  4. @Paul S
    The best guess that I have is that it is an example of the Fallacy of Compositon-Division. Each thing in existence has to have a cause/explanation – “therefore” (and here is the fallacy, to assume that the group has the properties of the parts) – the totality of things in existence has to have a cause/explanation.

  5. OK, I borrowed this from a tumblr site Atheist Jack. Hey I asked him if I could use any of his stuff on my blog if I gave him credit and he replied Hell Yeah! So here is one of his latest that I can see Hawking doing;
    Satan; Welcome to hell. You wasted your entire miserable life.
    me (or Hawking); says the grown-a** dude who still lives in his dads’ basement.
    Satan; *crying* go to here, you jerk

    He also has one on his site where Hawking does a *roast* of doG. I felt it was too long to post here though.

  6. eric collier

    All the wise-assery aside, does anyone have a compelling theory about how the universe could have come into existence out of nothing as long as there was “quantum gravity” when “quantum gravity” is decidedly not “nothing”? Nobody despises religion & religious belief more than I–but I think they got us over a barrel with that one.

  7. Michael Fugate

    All the wise-assery aside, does anyone have a compelling theory about how the God could have come into existence out of nothing?

  8. @Michael Fugate
    The standard reply is that God did not come into existence. His existence is explained by its being necessary.
    But the question remains open, how the appearance of existence of anything happens if God is responsible – as much so, as if God is not responsible.

  9. Doesn’t matter how implausible a universe out of “nothing” seems, it’ll always be more plausible than the God hypothesis. At least we can observe a universe. It’s the same basic problem/question, just posed slightly differently. The God hypothesis merely anthropomorphizes the problem.

    Without getting too mired in the semantic issues of defining “nothingness”, it’s probably fair to state this as a question for physics, rather than theology or philosophy.

    Gerry the Waffler’s appeal to dodgy abstractions like “God is a pure spirit” impresses only the impressionable.

  10. Michael Fugate

    But all those things claimed about gods, how are they known? Why do we call what is necessary a god? Why is a god thought to be pure spirit? Is there a theological method employed?

  11. I like to begin with, “Define ‘god'” and then wait.

    I rarely get an answer. If I do, it’s rather silly. So then I introduce them to Eric, the god eating magic penguin.

  12. Notice how smug the perpetually perplexed are about their non-explanation for how the universe supposedly came into existence. This is the result of arrogant willful ignorance carried to its logical end. One could also claim that the universe was created by an ultimate invisible magenta “spirit” farting, with the same amount of authority as theologians claim to have.

  13. Crickey. It has taken an 11 year-old prodigy to open my eyes.

    Wha… what’s that? Oh, the piano, eh. And the violin too? Right. Um, strike that last comment.

    Perhaps Hawking and the prodigy are each entitled to their point of view. Just so long as no-one expects me to go along with either of them just because they said so.

  14. @TomS tries as hard as he can: “The best guess that I have is that it is an example of the Fallacy of Compositon-Division”
    Your big mistake is assuming that Gerry the Warner understands what you’re talking about.

    @EricS is a pessimist: “I think they got us over a barrel with that one”
    Who says that quantum fields came into existence? If some supernatural entity can exist beyond space/time then nothing prevents quantum fields from doing the same, especially as “time before the Big Bang” is a muddy concept anyway, as no one less than Augustinus of Hippo already pointed out. Chapter 11 of his Confessions (you can google it and hence read it for free) beats the crap out of almost all apologists of the last 16 centuries.
    The relevant questions are:

    1) What does “god created quantum fields” add to our understanding and knowledge of our natural reality (of course you can deny that that exists too, but then “god the creator” makes even less sense)?
    2) What method can be used to do research on “god created X”? Logic alone is not good enough – reject its presuppositions (assumptions, whatever) and the conclusion “god” can be rejected too. By definition logic cannot argue for our against those presuppositions.
    3) Which means did god use when creating X and which procedures did he/she/it follow? Not natural ones, because then god would become at least partly a natural entity. So supernatural ones – but how can they affect anything natural?

    As long as these questions remain unanswered (and as far as I know no apologist even has tried) we must stick to Wittgenstein’s “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Apologists talk way too much. They should limit themselves to Credo (ie I have faith). Of course Kierkegaard already was aware of this 200 years ago.

  15. Completely off-topic, I see this nonentity has got himself a Wikipedia page. Can I have one too?

    Dammit, he’s even got one for his worst-selling book, published by Barnes and Noble who want to sell it (the publishing house) but no one wants to buy it

  16. @MichaelF replaces some wise-assery with his own: “a compelling theory about how the God could have come into existence out of nothing?”
    To which I happily add: “and how he created a natural reality out of nothing”? That’s the irony. It’s not unbelievers who postulate that our natural reality (the Universe, whatever) came into existence out of nothing. It’s believers who maintain that their god made this happen. Point this out of them and watch their faces – you’ll enjoy it.

    @TomS: “His existence is explained by its being necessary.”
    Indeed. My reply is a non-brainer: the existence of quantum fields can be explained in exactly the same way.

    @I happen to disagree with ChrisS: “it’s probably fair to state this as a question for physics, rather than theology or philosophy.”
    It’s rather two different questions. Nothingness in physics, assuming quantum fields (mutatis mutandis it applies to other theories as well), means all of them having the value 0 (zero). That’s unstable, hence fluctuations hence the rest.
    Quantum fields are not nothing. Neither is god. And as you already implied the first explanation is always more plausible than the second (see Hume).

    @JimJ spoofs the argument: “Eric, the god eating magic penguin”
    As far as the argument goes this Eric could have been the first explanation/cause as well. Or the FSM. Or the Pink Unicorn. Or Space Ponies. The strategy of apologists is first to establish a creator and only then find out if it’s name is Eric or YHWH. Then they’ll try to find out if they spoke our Universe into existence (Genesis) or rather farted it out (Zetopan).

  17. I found this quotation from Thomas Aquinas, that 13th century theologian. I don’t pretend to be a theologia, but it seems to me that he understood the difficulties which are not apparent to too many contemporary apologists.
    “For creation is not a change, but that dependence of the created existence on the principle from which it is instituted”
    and he goes on to observe that he’s not talking about “creaton from nothing” as if it were something called “nothingless” out of which the thing comes to be. Rather, “from nothing” is a statement that it is false that there is something which preceeded the thing.
    In other words, as I understand Aquinas, he is denying that there is a kind of snap of the divine fingers, and poof! something appears. He is talking about something different from that which the apologists are invoking God to explain. HIs concept may be indefensible, but it isn’t the silly stuff of creatonists.

  18. Richard Bond

    Warner has form when it comes to saying stupid things about science. I came across one that is so blitheringly crass that I kept a record of it. In the 29/12/1999 edition of Scotland on Sunday Warner wrote:

    [science]…is nothing more than a progression from the invention of the wheel. It represents only the more efficient organisation of matter.

  19. @FranKB
    spoke it into existence (Genesis)
    But nowhere in the Hebrew Bible is there “creation from nothing”. In particular, Genesis describes the begining of God’s creation as taking place where there are already the waters of the deep and the wind. God says, “let there be light”, not “let there be a universe”. He then moves stuff around, and gives orders to the land and the waters to bring forth living things.

  20. In spite of the recent evidence that the expansion of the visible universe is accelerating, that doesn’t mean the expansion will continue forever, eventually dissipating into virtually nothing. I don’t know what would end the expansion, but I still favor some version of the Cyclic model of the universe, according to which the universe has been eternally oscillating between expansion and contraction phases. A cyclic universe implies that there was no magic moment of creation, and no necessity of positing a creator.

  21. @FrankB
    As to necessary existence of God,
    the existence of quantum fields can be explained in exactly the same way.
    That is ignoring the original issue, “how do you explain the existence of the universe without invoking God?” My response was “How do you explain the existence of the universe with invoking God?”
    As we are often informed, we do not know the ways of God. To use X to explain Y involves an exposition of how the ways of X result in Y.

  22. @The Curmudgeon
    no magic moment of creation, and no necessity of positing a creator.
    But the orignal argument, how to explain the universe is not solved by positing a creator. The existence of a creator does not tell us how the universe happens to exist. To say that it does, one would have to claim knwledge of the ways of the creator.
    On the other hand, even if the universe does not have a “magic moment of creation”, even if it always existed, that does not solve the question of how it happens to exist. Indeed, Aristotle believed in the eternity of the universe. This caused a famous difficulty in the Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas, as a follower of Aristotle, accepted that one could not prove the existence of a moment of first creation, but that that was a matter of the Christian faith.

  23. I’m GOD and I brought this universe into existence. Actually, I’m just an alien from a bubble universe and this one just popped into existence as a result of an accident with my solar system sized particle accelerator that created a micro-sized black hole that underwent inflation as a result of a quantum fluctuation. Enjoy!! OK, so now you’re probable going to ask me how the bubble universe came into existence. Have I got a story for you…….

  24. @TomS, “To use X to explain Y involves an exposition of how the ways of X result in Y.” This is also exactly why Design does not suffice to explain the occurrence of the thing allegedly designed

  25. @Paul Braterman
    Yes, exactly!!!
    At last, I’ve made my point. O frabjous day, callooh callay!

  26. Michael Fugate

    Is there anywhere in the Bible where the god behind the story claims to omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient? claims to be a necessary being?, a pure spirit? Where do these things come from?

  27. @Michael Fugate
    The King James Bible and other versions have the name of God “Almighty”,
    but that is a translation of the Hebrew word “Shaddai”, which is of uncertain meaning, probably not anything like “all mighty”. But KJV is definitive for many English-speakers.
    I don’t have a good answer to your good question. I suspect that it is a product of Greek philosophy, especially Aristotle. It certainly appears early in Christianity.

  28. @Michael Fugate, God feels regret over having created humans before bringing onNoah’s flood. So presumably He’s not omniscient. And Adam and Eve hear the sound (or voice; Hebrew Kol means either) of God walking in the garden. So either God or His voice is corporeal enough to take a walk. Does that help?

  29. There is also the Greek word “Pantocrator” which is used in the early Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, as well as the Greek New Testament for “Shaddai” as well as “Sabaoth” (“of armies” or someting like that). “Pantocrator” is made up of “pan” (“all”) and “krator” (“capable” or “ruler”). So I’d say that all-powerful appeared in the last few ceturies BCE, and it still sems to be on the influence of the Greeks.
    Even such concepts as the uniqueness of God appear only in later books of the Hebrew Bible. God is early on presented as one of many gods, the one who has chosen to be special to the children of Abraham.

  30. @TomS, indeed; henotheism (only one god to be worshipped) rather than monotheism (only one God exists). Even the Commandments while forbidding idolatry don’t deny the reality of other gods; They just say don’t worship them because I’m a possessive god. Ofc, Psalm 135 is unambiguously monotheist.

  31. Hawking’s endorsement of atheism is being presented as the outcome of a life of scientific investigation. That is not the case: he was an aggressive atheist as a teenager and simply found no reason to change his views. Last year, in America, an 11-year-old boy prodigy, the son of a Greek Orthodox priest, challenged Hawking’s view: “It takes more faith to say the universe created itself than to say something other created the universe because that is more logical.” Out of the mouths of babes…

    And so the opinion of an eleven-year-old “boy prodigy” raised in a fiercely religious household outweighs the thinking of one of the greatest scientific minds of the past 100 years.

    Just maybe there’s a good reason why Stephen Hawking “found no reason to change” his atheist views: that the evidence supported them.

  32. I wonder whether Gerald would define for us what a “pure spirit” is. And it’s not only physicists who are unlikely to encounter one. I’m a biologist, and the only “pure spirit” I’ve encountered is good single malt scotch whiskey.

  33. @beastwood
    For our vegan readers, I checked on barnivore.com and it seems that every single malt scotch they tested is indeed pure in the sense that no animal products are involved.

  34. I think a better arbiter regarding the presence of a god is not necessarily whether a genius believed there is one but rather all of the dumb asses that do believe without any substantiation.

  35. @Michael Fugate @Paul Braterman
    Here is an essay from Christine Hayes (Wikipedia has a brief bio) which addresses the issue of omniscience of God in the Hebrew Bible:

    “The character “Yahweh” in the Hebrew Bible should not be confused with the god of western theological speculation (generally referred to as “God”). The attributes assigned to “God” by post-biblical theologians — such as omniscience and immutability — are simply not attributes possessed by the character Yahweh as drawn in biblical narratives.”

  36. @TomS, thanks. “One of the greatest challenges for modern readers of the Hebrew Bible is to allow the text to mean what it says”; indeed! And, central to any rational discussion, “The Hebrew Bible is not a timeless or eternal work that stands outside the normal processes of literary production. Its books emerged from specific times and places. Reading the Bible alongside parallel materials from the many cultures of the Ancient Near East shows the deep indebtedness of the biblical authors to the literary heritage of the Ancient Near East” as in my recent piece on Noah’s Ark, echoing SC’s presentation of Finkel’s account of Atrahasis’ coracle: Noah’s Floods https://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2018/11/noahs-floods.html#more-147927

  37. @Paul Braterman
    And to quote you, in that essay, “The Old Testament text itself refers to many books that are now lost to us.”

    If we allow the text to mean what it says, the Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses), while it does not identify its author, it does, on occasion, cite a source. Yes, sometimes, I quotes the Divinity, but it also refers to another, lost, work, or even folklore.

    It is ironic (that’s the polite way of saying it) that the people who call themselves “Bilbical literalists” have not allowed the Bible to speak for itself, but have imposed upon it all sorts of constructions with no justification in the text itself. And in trying to make it consistent, they contradict themselves.