Entering the ongoing debate between faith and science, renowned British scientist Stephen Hawking claims that modern physics has now proved that God played no role in the creation of the universe."Proved?" How can anyone, no matter how brilliant, prove that God was not involved in the birth of the cosmos? Moreover, there's no ongoing debate between "faith and science." There's only a debate about which interpretation of the empirical evidence best explains the data. Is it best explained by intelligent agency or is it best explained in terms of blind, impersonal forces?
The article goes on:
In a new book -- "The Grand Design," co-written with American physicist Leonard Mlodinow -- the theoretical physicist sets out to demolish Sir Isaac Newton's claim that an "intelligent and powerful Being" must have shaped the universe, which he believed could not have emerged from chaos. Hawking and Mlodinow rule out the possibility of divine intervention, saying that new theories have made the idea of a supernatural creator redundant.Upon reading this my friend Mike wrote to ask me my thoughts. He said:
"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing," the pair write, in an extract published in today's London Times. "Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going."
I feel as if I must be missing something, because it doesn't seem right that a mind as astute as Hawking's could make such an obvious and elementary mistake, but am I wrong in perceiving a gaping hole in his point: He argues "Because there is a law such as gravity" the universe can create itself from nothing, and yet if a pre-existing law of gravity is necessary for the universe to create itself out of nothing, then the universe can not create itself out of nothing because it requires a law of gravity, the existence of which would constitute more than nothing.This is a very insightful observation on Mike's part. If there was indeed a force like gravity prior to the creation of the universe then surely the universe didn't create itself from nothing. In addition, there seems to be a chicken and egg problem. Gravity is a property of matter, so how did gravity exist before matter did?
The Hawking quote strikes me as remarkably stupid, but given that my brain and body of scientific knowledge is so much smaller than his, I feel as if I must be missing something. Maybe the article just gave a snippet that's better clarified in the book?
Not only might one wonder where, in Hawking's theory, gravity comes from, one might also wonder how gravity actually creates matter and how matter comes to possess just the right properties, and organize itself in just the right way, to allow for the emergence of creatures capable of wondering about these things. If it can do all of these marvelous things it would seem that gravity is God.
I'm sure, or at least I hope, that Hawking addresses these questions in his book which is due to be released next week.