Stephen Hawking, God and the universe

Let us suppose Mr Hawking does now have a full explanation from the laws of physics of how the Big Bang created the planets and stars as we now see them. Some scientists will assert that the job is done, and they now know how the universe was made without divine intervention.

Religious people will respond and ask where did the matter and force come from that led to the Big Bang? They will see in that the hand of God.

This one will run and run.

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22 Comments

  1. Mark
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Indeed it will. There is considerable academic rivalry for alternative views – for example those of fellow Cambridge mathematician and physicist Rev John Polkinghorne, or his pupil, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, or mathematician Roger Penrose who has also written about his lack of intellectual satisfaction with the science as an explanation of the world we live in (or, as Neils Bohr concluded the many worlds we live in). Pascal's wager, anyone?

    • Simon Gates
      Posted September 2, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Pascals wager implicitly assumes a the existence of a Christian God, and is at best just begging the question.

  2. Derek Duncan
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Giving us a bit of light entertainment, Mr Redwood today!

    A question we might ask "Religious People" is – where did God come from … ?

  3. Simon Gates
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I don't think Prof. Hawking does claim to have a complete understanding of the universe, just a reasonable idea of how various parts of a complete picture will look if we discover them. Getting the distinction over to a lay audience has never been easy.

    From what I gather, Hawking's problem with God is fundamentally with the personal, interventionist God prescribed by the various religions. Not particularly with a mere prime mover.

    As for the religious view – I suspect that those with a strong religious belief in something will continue to have that belief, even if it runs counter to the evidence.

    • Simon Gates
      Posted September 2, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      I see he has now said "no need for God to light the blue touch paper", which is at least a more consistent view: if God doesn't need a prime mover, why does the universe?

  4. Mr Ecks
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    What evidence?

    Hawking and others are good at theories but not so hot at experiment and dealing with inconvienient facts.

    Cold Fusion for example (yes–it does exist, despite massive attempts by the science establishment to dismiss, discredit and even disprove it) drives a coach and horses through their theories. Science is, in many ways, just as rotten and corrupt a field of endevour as politics.

    • Pete
      Posted September 2, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      If you think cold fusion is possible, you should get to work. How much do you think that patent would be worth? Even if it's true that people want to discredit it right now, it won't stop them handing over a lot of cash for your electricity once you've made it work.

      John—I'm not sure if you're saying that you personally believe in God because of that argument, or whether you are just saying that other people will. However, my response is that I don't know where the universe came from. Not knowing something can feel uncomfortable, so the temptation is to look for any possible explanation. Christianity is as good an explanation as any other, so I might pick that one.

      The problem is that I don't have evidence to justify my choice of Christianity, as against all the other theories that are out there. Because of that, I feel it's more honest to say that I don't know.

      Actually I think there is a continuum of possibilities. It's possible that the creation event happened by operation of some physical law. The physical law might, though, be very complex. If it is complex in a certain way, it might start to look like intelligence, like a god. In other words, there isn't an either/or decision to make, between creation and nature. The two possibilities actually blur into each other.

  5. John
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    There is evidence, incomplete for sure, of how the Universe created itself spontaneously – none about God and his works except what is written in the Bible; some of which we are told we should take literally, some allegorically and some to ignore, lost in numerous translations and interpretations.

    Curious that someone who can create a Universe is incapable of writing an accurate, factual autobiography.

  6. forthurst
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Science as distict from belief is concerned with trying to deprecate versions of reality which are not supported by overwhelming evidence such that a version of reality more in accordance with the facts can prevail.

    When science embraces versions of reality which are either in conflict with the facts or unsupported by sufficient facts it then decays into a belief system: such is Anthropological Global Warming or indeed the Big Bang theory itself.

    The Big Bang theory is premised on a Creation from a singularity. In support of this is the Red Shift and background radiation; but that the Red Shift is wholly a manifestation of the Doppler effect or that background radiation is evidence of the Big Bang itself is not entirely supported by the facts because on the one hand, more proximate objects can appear to demonstrate greater red shifts and on the other background radiation lacks uniformity thus contradicting its alleged origination. Then of course there is the slight puzzle as to why the Creation singularity would give its habit of a lifetime and explode.
    Of course to keep the universe expanding in conformity with the physicists equations, it has become necessary to invent 'dark matter', and as we know they themselves have decently revoked the alleged known laws of physics until a few microseconds after the event since that event would directly contradict too many of them.

    Too many known unknowns and unknown unknowns. Its time for scientists to stop trying to knock other peoples' belief systems ans start to address their own more critically.

    • Amanda
      Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      Why is it that a belief in a 'greater force in life', call it God, has to come down to the creation myth? Was it God or was it physics? It could be one, the other or both – we just don't know.

      I see nothing wrong with accepting that physics created the universe whilst also seeing God as a 'figurehead' for something greater than ourselves – a force for good in the world that helps us harnesses the power of love – a very powerful force.

      The Universe is governed by matter and physics, God is from the relms of the spirit and metaphysics.

      The Universe is the study of energy ; the study of God is to find ways out of the morass of self imporance and indifference to others towards the altruistic truth that creates happy, healthy societies and lives.

      We should not give up either the study of the laws of physics or of God.

  7. richard wood
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    But there are other proofs which scientists seemto ignore or overlook.How can we understand the world so well?where have all the great hospitals and our own social securiity system come from if not from the parable of the good samaritan?why dont atheistic societies prosper or are even able to make their own people happy?hhow can a small tribe like the jews become so influential and successful?

  8. Geoffrey Berg
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    While John Redwood indicates why I think Science cannot Disprove the existence of the 'deist' version of God (Science can show that Scriptures and therefore existing religions are contrary to evidence and absurd),belief in any God is contrary to Logic, as I attempt to explain in my book, The Six Ways Of Atheism.
    If The Big Bang is the limit of scientific knowledge and scientific data, it is impossible for us to know anything beyond that – there are many different possibilities, such as chance within infinite time, the development of mortal intelligences or of computer like artificial intelligences or if other things did not militate against it, God. So in speculating on the cause of the supposed Big Bang,God is at most one of many possibilities in a topic we know nothing about. One may reasonably be an agnostic, not a theist on this question.
    Geoffrey Berg

  9. Alan Jutson
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    "This one will run and run"

    It already has, for 2000 years.

    Interesting that the older you get, it seems the more likely you are to believe, perhaps its an insurance type policy.

    Just in case !

  10. Epigenes
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, at the quantum level the forces are explained by the late, great Nobel Laureate Professor Richard Feynman in his theory of Quantum Electrodynamics.

    Their energy is borrowed from the vacuum to form virtual particles. Because they borrow the energy they have to repay it in a short period of time, a few nanoseconds, so that there is no net increase in the entropy of the Universe.

    The problem is how we deal with mass which is affected by gravity, a force which is mediated by the graviton and this is postulated to have a long life.

    The reconciliation of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity with Quantum Theory has not yet been possible.

    There is a lesson here for politicians namely, if you borrow something then you need to pay it back.

    Professor Feynman, when asked by a journalist if he could explain in two minutes why he had received the Nobel Prize replied, "If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize."

    Borrowing energy to create mass and gravitational force, from nothing, is plausible.

    There is no God in this equation.

  11. Joseph Smidt
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    "Religious people will respond and ask where did the matter and force come from that led to the Big Bang? They will see in that the hand of God."

    Exactly. I completely agree.

  12. guest2010
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    does it matter if he doesn't believe in god? as long as he is moral and doesn't harm other people, it's fine with me. many religious people are hypocrites, preach about god, go to church every week but doesn't respect other faith aside from their own.

  13. Alan Wheatley
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Where did god come from?

    Please make sure any answers make it clear which of the many competing gods you are referring to.

  14. StevenL
    Posted September 2, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

    What if it doesn't even exist and we're just brains in pots somewhere?

  15. DWMF
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    People who try to debate the existance of God from scientific phenomena are wasting their time by pursuing a nonsense. You cannot arrive at metaphysics from the laws of physics. The "God of the Gaps" which is wheeled out to cover humanity's ignorance of the physical universe will be forever pushed backwards.

    The states of being scientifically literate and a believer in God are not mutually exclusive. That's like saying becuase you know French, you can't know German.

    I suggest that readers investigate the concept of "Emergence", using Google or Wikipedia. I believe that God emerges (in the philosophic sense of the word) to us as individuals each from our own experience of Life. Some people understand, but most don't.

    Organised religion is far too tarnished with politics for me to take it seriously. I can respect a priest (or whatever) for his wisdom and honesty, but that's just him (or her) as a person.

  16. Bill
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Can anyone explain why it is said that Hawking believes in multiverses, in lots of parallel universes? You would have thought it was hard enough to get one universe going without suggesting that there are lots of them. And if there are lots of them, doesn't it make it even more improbable that they came into existence 'spontaneously'? Yes, I know it may seem improbable that there is a God, but it is, to my mind, even more improbable that there isn't.

  17. Robert Taggart
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    This one will run and run… sadly !
    Until this country (England) has the will to put the CofE in their rightful place… disestablished and but one of many such institutions. Given an equal footing… the order of the boot !

  18. Bickers
    Posted September 7, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    What do people mean when they allude to God? A bloke in a white beard, an alien being, a force that we may be incapable of dicovering or understanding.

    From my hilltop if there is some explanation for what entity/process created matter/the Universe(s) it most certainly isn't the God of the religious, who needs fawning over by His followers and has nothing better to do than listen to and be aware of all our thoughts and actions.

    Whilst science still has a lot to discover, the Gods of the many religions are becoming less credible by the Year.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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