Prof Stephen Hawking, in an interview in the Guardian, has now rejected the God whose mind he previously desired to know. His latest comments go beyond those in his 2010 book 'The Grand Design' in which he claimed there is no need for a Creator to explain the existence of the universe.
They go far beyond the closing line of his 1988 book A Brief History of Time. There he said, in connection with his dream of a complete theory of everything:
'If we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God'. (p.193)
Now, Prof Hawking says 'I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.'
MISUNDERSTANDING OF RELIGIOUS FAITH
That insulting remark betrays not just an arrogance but a complete misunderstanding of religious faith. We walk not in the fear of the dark but in the fear of God. The Bible says: Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me (Psalm 23:4).
Hawking also claims: 'Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing.'
Where does science predict that 'many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing.'? But this claim in itself contradicts his disbelief in life after death. If something as complex as the universe can be spontaneously created out of nothing then it is child's play for the same creative force to create something out of the nothingness of death.
Oddly enough, to say that things can be created out of nothing is in a way to stand in support of religious faith. We believe God created the world and all we see around us out of nothing, ex-nihilo.
THE SOFTWARE OF OUR SPIRIT IS IMMORTAL
In one sense, the broken down computer can itself have an afterlife because its broken down components can be fixed and restored. Looked at another way, a computer is nothing without a programme and programmes persist longer than the hardware they function on. Clearly our body can be regarded as the hardware and our immortal spirit as the software which lasts into eternity after our body has ceased to be of any use to us.
Hawking may be on good ground when he sticks to his subject but is less steady when he goes into areas he knows nothing about. If he is going to talk about religious faith we might as well ask him about greyhound racing.
Not being a spiritual man himself he cannot comprehend the spiritual dimensional. Paradoxically, the spiritual dimensional should not be too much of a struggle because he already has a theory which demands a universe with 11 dimensions.
It is interesting that sometimes when people run out of arguments they resort to insults and so when Hawking becomes insulting about religious faith it's a clear sign that he has run out of arguments.
SCIENCE IS ABOUT UNDERSTANDING WHAT WE SEE
Science is really about attributing causes to effects, understanding what we see around us and then making some kind of model of it.
And of course scientists have been unable to demonstrate in the laboratory or reproduce the claimed creation out of nothing. It occurs to me that it was the alchemists who were searching for the philosopher's stone which would create gold out of base metal.
They were unsuccessful and scientists have been equally unsuccessful in trying to create something out of nothing. The physical laws of the universe, Boyle's Law for example or the basic gravitation, electromagnetic an atomic laws of physics can be demonstrated in the laboratory.
Science demands that results be reproduced. Quite often in a paper scientists say more research is needed. In one sense they say that because that's how they make their money. But it is necessary to demonstrate results to substantiate a theory. If results cannot be reproduced that particular theory ends up being discarded. In theoretical physics, which is Hawking's field, theory can be years ahead of the experimental results which would justify it.
THE WISEST MAN KNOWS HE KNOWS NOTHING
Hawking also says 'science is beautiful when it makes simple explanations of phenomena or connections between different observations'. He gives examples of the double helix of biology and the fundamental equations of physics, which I mentioned above. Arguably, science is less beautiful when it tries to come up with a theory of everything.
Of course Information Theory tells us that we will never understand something even as complex as ourselves. It stands to reason that the human brain can never understand the human brain, so for humans to even to attempt a theory of everything is hubris: it's pride going before a fall.
Someone on the Guardian website observed that Prof Hawking 'makes a mistake that many experts are guilty of - believing that knowing a lot about one thing means you can speak with authority on matters of which he knows little.'
Somebody else says, 'he is the most intelligent man alive so don't try to disprove him.' Well, it might be said there are no people on earth as intelligent as the members of Mensa and yet I hear that sometimes they can't even elect a chairman.
The more you find out the more you realise how little you know which should bring about the same humility as a Christian feels when he realises that the closer he gets to God the more he recognises his own sinfulness.
The Greek philosopher Socrates was asked who is the wisest man in Athens and he replied the man who knows that he knows nothing. He is saying that true wisdom lies in humility, which is very much a Biblical concept. It is one which Prof Stephen Hawking has clearly yet to master.