Stephen Hawking: Great Science with Worst Atheism!

Augustine Pamplany CST

“If the universe is really completely self contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end; it would simply be. ‘What place, then, for a creator?’,” asks late Stephen Hawking, ‘the genius on the wheelchair.’ In his bestseller, A Brief History of Time, Hawking envisages a model of the universe which is beginningless and endless. Many have used Hawking’s theory to reject God’s role in the universe. Carl Sagan in his preface to Brief History of Time said that it was a book about the non-existence of God. But this is a mistaken interpretation of Hawking’s vision. More than Hawking’s theory, it was Carl Sagan’s preface that created such an atheistic image about A Brief History of Time. It is interesting to note that when a reader of an earlier summary draft of Hawking’s book in American Scientist complained that Hawking seemed afraid to admit the existence of a supreme being, Hawking said: “I thought I had left the question of the existence of a Supreme Being completely open …. It would be perfectly consistent with all we know to say that there was a Being who was responsible for the laws of physics.” In another book Hawking has said that his Brief History of Time “says nothing about whether or not God exists.”

It does not look that Hawking has a grasp of the one-dimensionality of his thinking about science and religion. He is a great scientist but his philosophical position is that of scientific reductionism and lacks understanding of the role of teleological causality in the universe. A brief critical overview of Hawking’s atheism reveals that the God, he tries to dispel is a God of the gaps. Scientific theological speculations are yet to free itself from the overriding clutches of deism. This is true of the theologisation on both the Big Bang and Hawking’s models. Neither the Hawking version of atheism itself is free from this. Ted Peters reassures our theological critique of Hawking by observing that Hawking’s “anti-religious agenda” is one in which the God whom He rejects is the God of deism, not the God of the monotheistic religions. Given the philosophical limitations and theoretical loopholes in Hawking’s no-boundary theory, even some of the vehement exponents of scientific atheism might be inclined to dispel the pernicious theological claims of Hawking as fallacious, as is evident in the remarks of Quentin Smith on Hawking’s atheistic arguments that “this is probably the worst atheistic argument in the history of the Western thought and I shall not waste the reader’s time refuting it.”

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