Banda Aceh, Indonesia (The Jakarta Post/ANN)- The world's most famous physicist Prof. Stephen Hawking has declared that God does not exist.
Hawking joins the opinion of several other world-class scientists like Richard Dawkins, Peter Atkins, James Watson, Victor Stenger and many others who deny the existence of God in the name of the latest advancements in physics, biology and other scientific domains.
The so-called "New Atheism" (championed by Richard Dawkins) sees God as a delusion, a by product of the mind of superstitious and scientifically uneducated people.
"Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing ... Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists and why we are here". This is the conclusion of The Grand Design, Hawking's latest book.
Hawking's assertion is based on the predictions of his famous M-theory. But is Hawking's theory really an ultimate explanation? Has the grand master of physics checkmated the grand master of the universe? Let's examine things in more detail.
Einstein's theory of relativity says that time is not the same for everyone but is "relative" to how fast one is moving. At variable speeds or in the presence of weak and strong gravity time behaves elastically, it can stretch and shrink and even stop.
This phenomenon has been observed by measuring the rate of atomic clocks mounted on supersonic jet planes moving at different speeds at various distances from the Earth's surface.
Under extreme gravity like at the moment of the birth of the universe (the big bang), gravity was so intense that time was "compressed" to a zero point. Not only space but time itself was born at that moment. There was no "before".
Hawking states that a "law of gravity" exists and this (not God) creates the universe. Hawking surely also believes that gravity itself exists (since a law of gravity without "gravity" to describe would be meaningless). Now, if we say that X creates Y, we must presuppose the existence of X in the first place to bring Y into existence. Likewise, we must presuppose the existence of gravity to bring the universe into existence.
But Einstein's theory of relativity shows that this is illogical because it is like saying that gravity existed "before time" which is absurd. Did gravity spontaneously generate itself then? It is important to realize that it is logically impossible for a cause (gravity) to bring about an effect (its own creation) without already being in existence.
Hawking sustains that "the universe creates itself out of nothing". But Hawking's nothing is actually something: "Gravity" (first self-contradiction). Hawking then says that the universe creates itself (second self-contradiction). Thus, the conclusion of The Grand Design is actually a double self-contradiction.
Let's consider an Apple computer. Should we account for it by mentioning its inventor (Steve Jobs) or should we follow Hawking's reasoning and say that the Apple computer arose naturally from the laws of physics?
It actually makes no sense to choose between Jobs and the laws of physics to account for the existence of the Apple computer since both levels of explanation are needed. Jobs is needed to conceive and design the machine and the laws of physics are needed to make the computer processor work.
These two levels of explanations are not mutually exclusive but they complement each other. Science is concerned with "how" questions (how does the computer work?) and with functional questions (why is that circuit there?).
But science does not ask the "why" question of purpose (why was the computer built?) Purpose (Jobs in this case) does not even appear in the scientific account. But it would be ridiculous to say that Jobs did not exist. He is the actual reason why there is an Apple computer in the first place.
This is exactly what many scientists (including Hawking) do with God. They ask questions which exclude God ("how" questions and "functional" questions) and then they claim that God is unnecessary. This reasoning shows that offering a choice between God and the law of gravity is, in fact, illogical as both are needed.
Hawking in his book confuses two levels of explanation; "personal agency" and "physical law" and he attributes creative power (which is a personal agency) to a physical law.
Let's look at another example. If I put ¿1 in my bank account and another euro, the next the law of arithmetic 1+1=2 will explain "why" I have ¿2 in my account, it will not "create" ¿2 for me and it will surely not tell me anything about the purpose of me having ¿2 in my account.
Likewise, the law of gravity does not "create" gravity it only "explains" what's already there (gravity) and "predicts" how gravity behaves.
The bottom line is that the laws of physics cannot create anything or cause anything to happen. Rather than ultimate creators of the universe, they are just descriptions of how things behave.
What actually needs explaining is the logical characteristics and intelligibility of nature and the universe, not whether the universe generates itself spontaneously out of nothing or not.
Nobel laureate in physics Richard Feynman once stated: "The fact that there are rules like the law of gravity is some sort of miracle as it leads to the possibility of prediction; it tells you what you would expect to happen in an experiment you have not yet done".
Not denying the genius of Hawking, it appears that self-contradiction is possible even for world-famous scientists. The problem is that sometimes the illogicality of certain statements is obscured by the authority of those who make such statements and the general public often fails to see this.
World-wide prestige and distinguished scientific authority do not compensate for faulty logic and far from being a delusion the God hypothesis remains a rational explanation of why there is a universe rather than nothing.
The writer, an environmental scientist, works for the European Union Delegation to Indonesia. The opinions expressed are his own.
COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK