Stephen Hawking has a new book called The Grand Design. An excerpt ran today in The Wall Street Journal under the title, “Why God Did Not Create the Universe.” Hawking concedes that our universe is finely tuned for our existence, but argues that the sheer number of universes makes it probable that life somewhere would exist, and that it would take the form of whatever its particular universe would allow. If our universe had different conditions then whatever life existed here would simply take a different form.
But why is there something rather than nothing? Hawking explains: “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
I’m not a scientist, but I have a couple of philosophical questions and observations:
1. How can spontaneous creation come from nothing? How can nothing do something? According to Maria Von Trapp, “Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.” I’m choosing to ignore her ensuing, Pelagian turn: “But somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”
2. How can there be a law of gravity and quantum theory if nothing exists? Gravity is a relationship between two bodies, and if there are no bodies then there is no gravity. So how can a non-existent law of gravity produce a spontaneous creation?
3. Hawking’s last sentence is a metaphor, but it does show how difficult it is to conceive of nothing causing something. What he is describing is more than igniting “blue touch paper.” He is claiming that a fire began from nothing–no paper, no wood, nothing.
4. Hawking’s assertion that nothing spontaneously created something is a religious rather than a scientific claim. It arises from his presupposition that God does not exist, and this faith commitment is not checkable by the scientific method. Hawking is committed to his religious belief that there is no God. He is not the objective, dispassionate observer that he portrays.
5. Rom. 1:18-32 declares that everyone knows there is a God, and Psalm 14:1 and 53:1 assert that only a fool would say that there is no God. Hawking is a genius, but his assertion that the universe spontaneously formed from nothing shows how far some people will go to avoid bowing down before the God they know exists.
6. So we have two couldn’t-be-more-different choices for the cause of the universe: God or nothing. Which do you think is more likely?