Hawking Says: "God Didn't Create Universe"

I'm actually a fan of Hawking.  Some (not all) of his stuff I find nearly accessible - even comprehensible.
LONDON, England (CNN) -- God did not create the universe, world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book that aims to banish a divine creator from physics.  Hawking says in his book "The Grand Design" that, given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing," according to an excerpt published Thursday in The Times of London.
"Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he writes in the excerpt.  "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going," he writes.

…He introduces the idea of multiple universes, saying that if there are many universes, one will have laws of physics like ours -- and in such a universe, something not only can, but must, arise from nothing.  Therefore, he concludes, there's no need for God to explain it.

But some of Hawking's Cambridge colleagues said the physicist has missed the point.  "The 'god' that Stephen Hawking is trying to debunk is not the creator God of the Abrahamic faiths who really is the ultimate explanation for why there is something rather than nothing," said Denis Alexander.  "Hawking's god is a god-of-the-gaps used to plug present gaps in our scientific knowledge."
"Science provides us with a wonderful narrative as to how [existence] may happen, but theology addresses the meaning of the narrative," said Alexander, director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion.
And Fraser Watts, an Anglican priest and Cambridge expert in the history of science, said that it's not the existence of the universe that proves the existence of God.  But, he said, "a creator God provides a reasonable and credible explanation of why there is a universe, and ... it is somewhat more likely that there is a God than that there is not. That view is not undermined by what Hawking has said."
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It's funny, I think both scientists and religious folks miss the point when it comes to God.  God shouldn't be a requirement - a necessity for explanation.  If God must exist to fill some gap in logic - as Alexander says - we're using God as a crutch or a placeholder - we're fudging.  Too often, the purpose of God becomes explanation.  In fact, I'd even say that purpose itself is problematic (yes, sorry to Purpose Driven Amerivangelicals) because it's ultimately driven by economics.  Why can't we just "be"?  Why can't God just "be"?  As soon as we "have to be" we've placed restrictions and demands.  God doesn't have to be.  The universe could very well exist without God (I mean it might, I simply don’t know, and neither do you…) but the two are not co-dependent.  Interdependent?  Maybe...
The New Flatlanders: A Seeker's Guide to the Theory of Everything

I'm not threatened by Hawking's statements, nor do I completely disagree with the thoughtful responses to him from people of faith (more responses here).  What it really comes down to is, Hawking is answering a different question than the one religion itself is (should be) addressing.  Getting all worked up about that is an adventure in missing the point.

A great resource on this discussion is Eric Middleton's The New Flatlanders.


The Journey Man said...

great post pete!

i agree. i like what zizek says "only an ontologically unfinished universe can be truly free." i do think some of what hawking offers should be at least looked and thought about. right on bro!

Lutestring said...

"Why can't we just "be"? Why can't God just "be"?"

Excellent question - one I wish were asked more often. I can't count how many times I have heard or had people say to me - "But you won't be delivered from your problems, the world won't make sense, you won't stop being lonely and insecure, ect, unless you go to God and he will fix it all." Clearly God exists to be some kind of magical "filler" or "fixer". But is this a Person I have a relationship with or a construct to help me avoid how hard and cruddy life is sometime? If that's faith, count me out.

Is God valuable just because God *is*, no agendas allowed, or isn't he/she/it?

Peter J Walker said...

Great quotation, George.

Lute, awesome! I've been a Christian my entire life. Born-again, spirit-filled, etc... and guess what! I still feel lonely, insecure, etc... because that's part of the human condition. God isn't a bandaid. Yes, God is a great source of hope for me, but God doesn't "fix" everything. We still have to contend with this universe, faith or no.

Bryan said...

'God doesn't have to exists'

Are you sure? Most Christian theologians (me among them) would say that existence is an essential attribute of God i.e. God wouldn't be God did He not entail necessary existence.

The fact that most Christians believe something is, of course, no testament to its validity (indeed, usually the opposite!). However, if you do the logic, essential existence seems difficult to get away from if you want a theistic God.

Peter J Walker said...

Bryan, good clarifiers.

Yes, I absolutely believe that if God did not exist, God wouldn't be God. Existence essential to a theistic God - yes.

I'm not saying God doesn't have to exist for such-and-such to be true.

I'm saying that we (Christians) might all be wrong. There is the possibility that there is no God. And nothing in the universe DEMANDS the existence of God. Not the Big Bang. Not evolution. Not thermodynamics or relativity or emergence or complex adaptive systems, quarks or string theory.

Are there areas for synchronicity? Absolutely. Is it intellectually impossible to believe in God, or to reconcile God and science? Absolutely not.

I'm just saying that the existence of God is not a requirement for the existence of the universe. So when Christians make that argument, they set themselves up for all sorts of unnecessary and unhelpful problems that have nothing to do with faith and the supernatural, and everything to do with certainty and the natural.

Bryan said...

Perhaps 'the existence of God is not a requirement for the universe' is a little strong? How do you know that? Perhaps we could say that using the need for a creator is a weak or unhelpful argument for god?

Peter J Walker said...

Bryan, we're going to have to agree to disagree. And it may just be semantics ;) What I mean by "The existence of God is not a requirement" is that intelligent, thinking people don't NEED God to explain the universe. There are plenty of equally (or more) compelling theories and explanations for why things are. The existence of God doesn't make it any easier or any more difficult.

I do agree with you that "the need for a creator is a weak and unhelpful argument for God."

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