I’m on page two of Stephen Hawkings book “The grand Design”. It was launched with the following sound bites:
Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself 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. The fact that we human beings – who are ourselves mere collections of fundamental particles of nature – have been able to come this close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our universe is a great triumph.
Statements such as these are fighting talk and have already drawn out responses from various theological heavy weights.
“Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the universe” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1308616/Stephen-Hawking-Archbishop-Canterbury-attacks-claim-God-did-NOT-create-Universe.html
“It is worth making the point that an enormous problem still remains for Stephen Hawking and his followers. One of the most fundamental of all questions is ‘Where did the universe come from?’ The Christian answer is to simply state that God made it out of nothing. Hawking’s answer to such a question is to say that nothing made the universe: that this greatest possible something came, of its own accord, out of absolutely nothing. Both views require faith but I know which of the two I find it easier to believe in!” http://www.philotrust.com/blog/2010/09/stephen-hawking-and-god
“Contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1308599/Stephen-Hawking-wrong-You-explain-universe-God.html)
While others have already read and responded to the book I’m still only on page two! It’s exhilarating and exasperating at the same time. It’s exhilarating because I am spending time with one of the brightest thinkers in the country (world?). (Intellectually I feel like an ant looking up at an elephant. Hawking can work with 11 dimensional formula in his head while I never really got the hang of all those squiggly d’s in fluid dynamics). It’s exasperating because God is being ruled out of the equation. On page one he signed philosophy’s death certificate, now and on page two it seems he did it using the ideas of a man who played the bongos in a strip club! Actually, of course, this guy, Richard Feynman, was also phenomenally intelligent and highly regarded. In a recent Guardian interview (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/sep/11/science-david-attenborough-richard-dawkins) Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough were asked which living scientist they most admired, and why? Dawkins replied “David Attenborough” but David’s answer was “Richard Feynman…. I admire this man who could not only deal with string theory but also plays the bongos!”. I am genuinely intrigued to follow through the ideas presented in this book as best as I can. Hold on to your seats. Here’s some highlights from the rest of chapter 1:
“The universe has no single history, nor even an independent existence…..[there are] a great many universes that were created out of nothing….their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or God. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law…only a very few worlds allow creatures like us to exist….Although we are puny and insignificant on the scale of the cosmos, this makes us, in a sense, the lords of creation.”
He then asks some questions. Not the traditional “How” questions of science, but the “Why” questions of the wheezing, can’t run for toffee, philosophy that physics has recently left for dead.
Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why this particular set of laws and not some other? This is the Ultimate Question of Life, the universe and Everything. We shall attempt to answer it in this book.
This is a massive jump, from mechanism to agency. From description and predication to purpose and reason. How has this feet been performed? I have no idea but it’s hard to imagine a more exciting, provocative and bold start to a book. I know I am going to learn tonnes by ready it and be really stretched.