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Stephen Hawking's Illusion of God's Absence

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Introduction

A question that has been always questioned by many of our ancestors is “Where did we come from?”. “How did it all begin?” And the answer was always “God created us.” “God created the universe.” And that was a pretty valid explanation for much of the scientific community, normal people, let alone me. However, not everybody was satisfied.

Most of philosophers and scientists believed that the universe has always been there, and that time has no beginning. It was a belief similar to the current belief that Earth revolves around the sun: definite and unquestionable. However, in 1929 The expansion of the universe was discovered by American astronomer Edwin Hubble, which led to the discovery of the Big Bang, and the beginning of the universe — 13.77 billion years ago. And later in the 1960s, most cosmologists accepted the fact that the universe has a beginning.

However, not all cosmologists were happy with the discovery. Now atheist cosmologists were facing a trouble: they had to explain the beginning of the universe without a God involved in the process. Because if now the universe has a beginning, that assures that someone had created it, right? Well, that’s what many atheists tried to do. One of which is the Cosmologist, Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking.

Stephen Hawking’s Concepts

Brief Answers to the Big Questions is a book written by Stephen Hawking and published in 2018. The book examines some of the universe’s greatest mysteries, and promotes the view that science is very important in helping to solve problems on planet Earth. The reason I am mentioning this book, and, in fact, why I am writing this whole article, is the first chapter of the book named Is there a God?, in which Stephen Hawking addresses several concepts in which he tries to prove that God doesn’t exist. I pretty much disagree with his concepts. In the following paragraphs I am going to analyse his concepts and try to prove it just doesn’t make much sense.

(Disclaimer: I am not trying to attack Stephen Hawking but only his thoughts and concepts.)

God and The Laws of Nature

In the book chapter, Stephen Hawking denies that God has a role in the universe, and then he denies his existence entirely. He first says that the universe is governed by laws or principles, all of which happen to be fixed. Well, this might sound totally convincing till he said:

"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?"

He also said:

"The laws of science determine the evolution of the universe, given its state at one time. These laws may, or may not, have been decreed by God, but he cannot intervene to break the laws, or they would not be laws. That leaves God with the freedom to choose the initial state of the universe, but even here it seems there may be laws. So God would have no freedom at all."

As I was reading this, I just felt that Stephen Hawking is just making things more complex than they are supposed to be, and then coming out with an irrelevant conclusion. So first of all, we need to ask ourselves: what are scientific laws? Here’s a definition I think is quite valid: statements based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspects of the universe. I don’t think that scientific laws governing the universe is the best way to say it. Scientific laws are our statements based on our observations on how the universe works. In other words, they are our observations on how God governs the universe. And saying that God cannot intervene to break the laws is just similar to saying that God cannot intervene to break the way he controls the universe. It just doesn’t make sense.

A Misconception of The Beginning of Time

Stephen Hawking tries to explain the birth of the universe without the need of the existence of a creator. He starts by breaking down the universe into three ingredients. The first one is matter — anything that has mass. The second is energy — the quantitative property that must be transferred to an object to perform work on, or to heat, the object. Energy is critical for the universe to endlessly change and to be dynamic. The third ingredient is space. As Hawking says in his book:

"You can call the universe many things — awesome, beautiful, violent — but one thing you can’t call it is cramped."

He then considers two of the main ingredients — mass and energy — as the same thing because of Albert Einstein’s famous equation E = mc². It simply means that mass and energy are the same physical entity and can be converted into each other (mass could be considered the same as matter since mass is a property that refers to the amount of matter within a sample).

Then, to explain the actual birth of the universe, he draws a simple analogy:

"Imagine a man wants to build a hill on a flat piece of land. The hill will represent the universe. To make this hill he digs a hole in the ground and uses that soil to dig his hill. But of course he’s not just making a hill — he’s also making a hole, in effect a negative version of the hill. The stuff that was in the hole has now become the hill, so it all perfectly balances out"

According to Stephen Hawking, the Big Bang produced a massive amount of “positive energy” as well as the same amount of “negative energy”. In which, both negative and positive energy cancel out each other, as both of them add up to zero. This hypothesis is called “zero-energy universe”. The positive energy in the universe happens to be in the ingredient of energy and matter (it’s also referred by the hill in the analogy), and the negative is in the ingredient of space (also referred by the hole). So, if all negative and positive energy add up to zero, and the universe add up to nothing, then you don’t need a God to create it, according to Stephen Hawking of course.

This is what’s explained in the book. The thing about this “zero-energy universe” is that it’s a hypothesis. Stephen Hawking didn’t say it’s a hypothesis, but he directly addressed it as an explanation of the birth of the universe. So first of all, what’s a hypothesis? Well, that’s very interesting because a hypothesis is actually an assumption or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation. That’s literally the definition of a hypothesis. So, what does that mean? The scientific procedures followed in a hypothesis could be correct. But if the entire hypothesis is based on a false starting point, the whole hypothesis would be false, therefore its conclusion.

There is a law called The Law of Causality, also known as the Law of Cause and Effect, or the Law of Causation. It simply states that an event — cause — will always contribute to the production of another event — effect. In other words, any effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. What does that have to do with the zero-energy universe hypothesis? Well, according to the hypothesis, before the universe existed, nothing else did. No space. No matter. No energy. No time. Not even scientific laws. So how could scientific laws be the cause of the birth of the universe, if it didn’t exist before the universe. A cause should always precede its effect. And if time didn’t really exist before the universe for anything to take place, it’s even a bigger impossibility. The cause for the universe has to be supernatural — beyond scientific laws. Not to mention, Stephen Hawking himself in the book chapter said:

"The laws of nature itself tell us that not only could the universe have popped into existence without any assistance… but also that it is possible that nothing caused the Big Bang. Nothing."

Yes. That’s a violation of the Law of Causality. Stephen Hawking denied entirely the existence of God as a cause for the universe because the theory that time didn’t exist before the Big Bang, and, therefore, there was no time for a cause to exist. As he said:

"Time didn’t exist before the Big Bang so there is no time for God to make the universe in."

Well, I think that that’s just ridiculous. Regardless of whether time existed before the Big Bang or not, God is, well, metaphysical. God is not someone on which you can apply science. Simply, God’s perception of time is something, and ours is completely something else. As I said, there’s a cause that existed before time did, and it’s supernatural.

A Word about Atheists

There are a lot of atheist figures out there who seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to prove that God doesn’t exist. A lot of figures like Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss, let alone Richard Dawkins. And the beautiful thing about it is that most of them never seem to be certain of what they are claiming. Richard Dawkins, For instance. On his spectrum of theistic probability, a way of categorizing one’s belief regarding the probability of God’s existence, which has seven levels between 1 (100% certainty that a God exist) and 7 (100% certainty that a God do not exist), Dawkins has said he is a 6.9. He said in his book The God Delusion:

"I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."

Many scientists would address hypotheses and theories with which they’re concluding that God doesn’t exist. All “in the name of science”. Nevertheless, hypothesis and theories are not always facts. And if anything contradicts our beliefs, we should never stop questioning.