Thursday, September 02, 2010

Stephen Hawking Enters the Fray

I read A Brief History of Time some time after my year in Israel and it made me question God's existence for the first time in my life. It never came out and said God didn't exist, and in fact he threw in bits about "understanding the mind of God" (c.f. Einstein's "God does not play dice") but I was pretty sure he was an atheist.

In his new book The Grand Design, he's apparently more explicit:
Physics was the reason for the Big Bang, not God, according to scientist Stephen Hawking.

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing," the professor said in his new book, in a challenge to traditional religious beliefs.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going," he wrote in his book "The Grand Design," extracts of which are printed in London newspaper The Times.

The book, co-written by American physicist Leonard Mlodinow and published next week, sets out to contest Sir Isaac Newton's belief that the universe must have been designed by God as it could not have created out of chaos.

Newton, genius that he was, was crazy for religion.

I wonder if A Brief History was more effective for me as an invitation towards atheism than it would have been if it were more explicit. I wasn't looking to challenge my religious beliefs, just to learn something about cosmology. And maybe my religious defense mechanisms weren't activated in the same way they would have been if I'd picked up, say, a Dawkins book first. A Brief History opened my mind to atheism and Dawkins sealed the deal a year or two later. But would I have even read Dawkins if Hawking hadn't opened my mind first?

22 comments:

Baruch Spinoza said...

I do not like the expression "created out of nothing" because it makes the theists think that there was nothing and then magically something came to be. I much more prefer to say that the universe expanded in its size, like a ballon being inflated. There was no explosion. There was an expansion. Enough evergy that forced the initial state of the universe to expand rather to stay contracted as it was.

Anonymous said...

TO THE ATHEIST BLOGGERS, TAKE NOTE OF THESE TWO VERSES FROM THE WORD OF GOD:

Psalms 14:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

Psalms 53:1 To the chief Musician upon Mahalath, Maschil, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good.

EVEN THOUGH HAWKINS IS A "BRIGHT" SCIENTIST, HIS INTELLECTUAL ABILITIES IS NO WHERE NEAR THE INFINITE WISDOM OF GOD!!! HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE THINGS OF GOD BECAUSE HE LACKS SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT TO KNOW THEM:

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS AND PRAY TO GOD FOR SALVATION, BECAUSE, JUDGMENT DAY IS EXACTLY 8 MONTHS AND 19 DAYS FROM TODAY!!!
THIS IMPORTANT MESSAGE IS ALSO FOR THOSE IN THE CHURCHES OF TODAY. CHECK OUT FAMILY RADIO OR GOOGLE MAY 21, 2011 FOR MORE DETAILS. http://www.familyradio.com and http://www.eBiblefellowship.com

Puzzled said...

I don't get it. What does he mean by "physics created the universe"? As far as I know, physics is a science that attempts to explain the universe. What does his claim mean?

Random said...

Funny that. I read Brief History not long after it came out and was thoroughly impressed by it. It didn't trouble my religious beliefs at all however (in fact I'm arguably more religious now than I was then) - different strokes for different folks, I guess. I'm also looking forward to reading Grand Design, and based on what I've read in the media I'm not expecting any huge spiritual crisis to result from that either. But then my view has always been of a God who set up the initial operating conditions of the universe and stepped back to let them unfold, and I doubt Hawking is saying anything that will challenge that. The creationists may get upset however. Good.

Puzzled: Hawking seems to be using physics as a shorthand for the fundamental laws of nature (gravity is cited as such in the quote) as deduced through physics. It's a bit like using "Washington" as a shorthand for the combined apparatus of the federal government.

Suzanne said...

I haven't read any of these books yet. I started reading The Greatest show on Earth, which is fascinating. I'm not really sure how I started on the skeptic's path. I think it was sometime in high school that I asked a rebbe, the question, how do we know there's a god, and he gave me Aryeh Kaplan's book, "if you were god," which sufficed for a short while, and then I started questioning again.

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Non Jewish Atheist said...

I am happy to find your blog tonight after rosh hashanah dinner with my Jewish atheist husband and his extended family. I am at the breaking point after 20 years believing these were really just family celebrations. They aren't, being Jewish and their religion is all that matters. The family discussed all matters Jewish tonight with a touch of Florida Gator football. Sadly, Hawking's book will never come up. My husband and I are at odds because he wants me to understand "they are what they are" and live with it. Should I?

Dano said...

Question for the author:
When you say you are an athiest, are you saying you believe 100% that there is no God, or do you simply feel that until there is absolute proof of a God, you will not accept God as a belief?
thank you

Jewish Atheist said...

Non Jewish Atheist:

Yeah it really sucks when the religion is more important than the family, but that seems to happen a lot. I doubt you can change them, though, so living with it might be your only option.

Dano:

I believe there is no God. I don't believe "100%" because nothing's 100% but I'm pretty sure about it -- just like I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a werewolf or unicorn. See my FAQ linked to in the sidebar for more info.

Orthoprax said...

""Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,"

Is it Hawking's belief that the laws of physics themselves sprang spontaneously into existence?

The Chosen People said...

Interesting article.
Gmar Chatima tova!

Anonymous said...

The atheist movement doesn't need sectarian atheists who insult and throw shit at other atheists. You create much of the hatred that you blame other people for.

Anonymous said...

Nothing exists without the thought to know it does.

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