Is this the best Stephen Hawking can do?

It was with some trepidation that I started reading the piece in the WSJ over the weekend headlined “Why God Did Not Create the Universe,” and with the byline of Stephen Hawking and some other guy.

I mean, he’s a smart guy. He knows lots of stuff. Maybe he’ll make a good argument that I don’t want to hear. Right?

But I read it anyway.

And the whole time, I figured he was lulling me, leading me down a logical primrose path, so that when he finally hit me with the reason WHY God didn’t create the universe, I wouldn’t see it coming. I was all ready to be indignant over such a cheap trick.

That’s because most of the piece, to me, beautifully expresses the reasons why one would naturally believe in a Creator God.

I knew that he knew this, and he acknowledged it by saying “Many people would like us to use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God.” And when he did say that, I thought, here it comes. Here’s the Whammer coming up to the plate. He’s going to knock God’s pitch right out of the park.

But he didn’t. At best, he took a walk.

Near as I can tell, what he had to say was that, ummm, it doesn’t have to be God. Even though, you know, this is kinda the way it would look if God DID create it. But he didn’t have to. At least, I don’t think so…

It was weak. When I was finished, I understood why the WSJ had buried it on an inside page in a back section. If he’d made a better argument, it would have been real news. Far better to play Tony Blair’s essay on the front of that section. He made more sense. He always does. (You know, he converted to Catholicism. Just like me.)

Sure, Newton’s thinking was kind of fallacious, if Hawking is accurate in the way he describes that luminary’s attempt to stick up for God by saying our habitable solar system did not “arise out of chaos by the mere laws of nature.” The problem was with the “mere” part. As though said laws would be anybody’s but God’s. I mean, duh. Whether you’re a deist or a Prebyterian, the original Designer fits perfectly with observable facts.

But I always come away from these things thinking that. When I look at life evolving over billions of years, I think to myself, Yep, that’s exactly the majestic way He would do it. As Tom Sawyer would say, I wouldn’t give shucks for any other way. Or for a God who wanted to do it any other way.

But that’s just me, I guess.

11 thoughts on “Is this the best Stephen Hawking can do?

  1. Herbie

    I think humans’ small minds can’t comprehend a nature of a higher power, or a Universal, named God, Allah, Yahwey (spell? Been a long time sine college), Buddah, Brahman, whatev. We can’t agree on a name, even. But I believe we don’t have to, as these names all point to the same Universal truth. And I do not really know what that is, but I think about it.

  2. Barry

    It’s not just you.

    I’ve read a little of Hawking’s stuff before along these same lines. He’s a brillant guy but his arguments in this realm often remind you of something you might read from a sophomore in high school trying to make the debate team. In other words- they are often very weak arguments full of the exact holes he’d never accept if he read them about another subject.

    I don’t say that to put Hawking down. But he’s no more of an expert on the existence of God than I am on physics.

    and that makes sense if you think about it. How much time does that man think about God or even the existence of God? I can’t imagine he thinks about it much because why spend time thinking about something you don’t believe in? It’s like asking a professional fisherman what his thoughts are on the role of auditing in the accounting profession.

  3. Brad

    Barry, you nailed it. Obviously, this is something Hawking hasn’t thought through. At all. Hasn’t even thought about as much as I thought about one of my weekly columns at The State. If that had been a column of mine, I would have gotten about 80 percent through it and then thought, “Whoa! This doesn’t work!” and scrapped it to write about something else.

    But there are atheists who have thought a lot more about it, such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Daniel Dennett has thought about it a LOT, and worked hard at crafting persuasive arguments.

    Those guys all give believers something to contend with. Hawking just basically failed to show up for the fight…

    An interesting thing I’ve noted, particularly in Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell” — atheists can be more rigidly orthodox than, well, than the ex-Cardinal Ratzinger. They INSIST that believers have a certain concept of God so that they can knock it down (as Hawking tried to do with Newton). Dennett, who writes in a very amiable tone, seems offended by those of us who have a squishy, nonspecific concept of God. Like we’re not playing fair.

    But as Herbie said, “humans’ small minds can’t comprehend a nature of a higher power…”

    Or, as it was put long ago, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

  4. Herb Brasher

    Well said, Brad. Somehow people don’t comprehend that the statement, “there is no Absolute Truth” is in itself a statement of absolute truth, the substance and proof of which lies only in the claim itself.

  5. Mark Stewart

    Netflix can’t deliver it to you, but check out the IMAX movie Hubble in Omnimax (IMAX Dome).

    The trip out through the staggering expanse of the universe (as seen by Hubble) is something to behold; even if the main part of the movie about the telescope’s repair is kind of pedestrian.

  6. Brad

    Stan Dubinsky, over on Facebook, said about this, “I find articles (on both sides of this argument) to be tedious, unconvincing, and mostly pointless.”

    He did like Ron Rosenbaum’s “An Agnostic Manifesto,” though. Its subhead was “At least we know what we don’t know.” Here’s a link.

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are far better polemicists. I think Hawking is more in the Marilyn vos Savant league of rhetoric.

    Kathryn shrugged.

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