Stephen Hawking is at it again:
The Big Bang and the subsequent expansion of the Universe did not need God to set it off, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking suggested to an audience in California this week.
A combination of quantum theory and the theory of relativity [would better] explain our existence than divine intervention, he told a packed auditorium at the California Institute of Technology.
Hawking is doing a tremendous disservice to science. In his later years he is transforming himself from respected physicist and successful author of popular science books to a pathetic amateur philosopher with a grudge against the notion of God. Here are the major problems with what he said in California:
1. The combination of quantum theory and the theory of relativity would explain a great deal. That’s why so many great scientists have tried to unify the two theories for almost a century. The problem is that no one has yet figured out how to combine them. So, Hawking is writing God off on the basis of a scientific achievement that hasn’t occurred and shows no sign that it is even achievable.
2. Even if physicists manage to combine them or figure out some other way to the long sought after theory of everything, it would not provide the ultimate answer to the question of how the universe came to be. At best, we might be able to push back the question of the universe’s origin one step. But, then what? Hawking’s speculation implies the laws of nature pre-date the universe, which raises the question, where did the laws of nature come from? Are they eternal? How would we know? Remember that science is limited to studying our material universe.
3. Far from ruling out God as the creator of the universe, the idea of pre-existing laws of nature is supportive of biblical truth. As Gerald Schroeder points out in his book, God According to God, the Bible tells us that wisdom (the collective laws of the universe) predates the creation of the universe:
John 1:1: “In the beginning was the logos [logic, intellect, word].”
Psalm 33:6: “With the word of God the heavens were made.”
Proverbs 8:12, 22-24: “I am wisdom. … God acquired me [wisdom] as the beginning of His way, the first of His works of old. I [wisdom] was established from everlasting, from the beginning, from before there ever was an earth. When there were no depths I [wisdom] was brought forth.”
Putting these passages together with a translation of the opening words of the Bible more faithful to the ancient Hebrew of Genesis 1:1 (“With a first cause, God created the heavens and the earth.”), the Bible tells us that with the first cause of wisdom (the laws of nature), God created the universe. We already know the laws of nature predate the universe, and with the help of the Bible we know Who acquired those laws.
I have respect for Hawking as a scientist and great admiration for him as an individual who has prevailed over a devastating disease. But, he is tarnishing his reputation and diminishing the public’s respect for science when he abuses the authority that comes with being a physicist by making these silly and unscientific pronouncements about God’s redundancy.