In September 2010, Stephen Hawking, the icon of modern science, made headlines with his new book, The Grand Design. The title is quite ironic, as it alludes to design and intention while arguing for an impersonal chance beginning of the universe. Interestingly, Hawking holds to the notion that the universe was an inevitable natural reality given the natural laws of physics. According to Hawking, there is no need to infer a Creator because gravity is able to create the universe all by itself.
The initial reaction to the views of such an authority might be to concede to his intellect and accept what he’s saying as fact. But let’s think about this a bit. His views are, of course, based on a set of assumptions, such as the brute realities of the laws of physics and gravity. But if nothingness preceded the universe, is it warranted to believe that these laws also preceded the universe? The induction of gravity would itself require some sort of catalyst. Since the force of gravity is also finely tuned, isn’t it unwarranted to simply infer it in the first place as a blunt reality preexisting all things? At the end, contrary to Hawking’s contention, this does not explain why there is something rather than nothing because his “nothing” assumes all sorts of natural laws, measurements, and precision, none of which is really “nothing.” He simply chooses to invoke theoretical “somethings” instead of one supernatural catalyst. It is also somewhat disappointing that he greatly overlooks the extreme fine-tuning of the conditions required for life.
What is Stephen Hawking Claiming in the Grand Design?
He essentially claims that nothing has created everything, but he hijacks all sorts of theoretical and even substantive somethings (i.e. gravity) as brute realities in his version of nothingness. But what is nothingness? Anything at all included before there was any particular something is not really “nothing,” and we don’t know of anything natural the preceded the Big Bang. As such, it appears to be quite a fascinating position to posit a something, anything at all, and yet still freely call it nothing.
Should we be amazed how a mind as brilliant as that of Hawking can fail to comprehend the flaws in this manner of thinking? May we question his intellect? We may. But it may prove to be far easier to see his flaws as the result of his will, not his mind. After all, psychology is the groundskeeper of human intentions and thought scientists are trained to be objective, they are after all human, and have their own feelings, fears, biases, and expectations from which they draw conclusions. Presuppositions of a certain type of reality or a worldview and political and monetary persuasions are precursors to every paper, research, book and lecture.
Stephen Hawking claims in the beginning of his book that ‘philosophy is dead.’ He then goes on to make all sorts of philosophical claims. One such claim is that ‘we are somewhat like goldfish in a curved fishbowl; that our perceptions are limited and warped by the kind of lenses we see through.’ What this brilliant scientist is failing to see (and I’m almost ashamed to point this out) that he shares in this reality and his perceptions must be just as warped as ours. Thus, his claims to some absolute that excludes God is charged by his misconception of this reality as well. Alas, he can not lay claim to any sort of presentation of such a reality either as that of a ‘goldfish in a curved fishbowl.’ Why? In order to be aware of this sort of reality, one must surely be able to witness it from outside of it. Hawking, a mere fish just like the rest of us, is relegated to the same fishbowl. I am not aware of any way for Stephen Hawking to be capable of transcending ‘this fishbowl,’ this reality to which he is so bold at administering a non-supernatural cause. Alas, his claims in a book that is purported to be a ‘science’ book is ironically more of an illogical philosophy book.