When I was in college, I dated a philosophy major. She used to go around saying “Why is there air?” Well, I was a physical education major. Any phys-ed major knows why there’s air. There’s air to blow up basketballs.
–Bill Cosby, comedian.
Reporter: What is the most important position on the baseball team?
Sparky Anderson: That’s easy. It’s the catcher.
Reporter: Why is that?
Sparky: Because if it wasn’t for him, the ball would go all the way to the backstop.
–Sparky Anderson, major league manager.
Today’s news has an interview with Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist. That a physicist can become famous speaks very well of Hawking, who has become quite well known for his writings. Indeed, he is one of the most well-respected theoretical physicists of all time, having joined the same prestigious British science society as men like Isaac Newton. That he is intelligent in his field is an understatement.
Unfortunately, Hawking does not stick to his field, and continues to venture into philosophy, and now ethics and psychology. The Guardian interviewed Hawking in advance of a speech he is scheduled to give today titled “Why are we here?” In the interview, Hawking is quoted as saying the following:
What is the value in knowing “Why are we here?”
The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can’t solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.
Now this is very interesting. First we have a man who is arguably the leading scientist alive today telling us that science cannot solve all the problems. Perhaps we should tell that to the members of our culture that still think science can answer all of the needs of humanity. But even more profound is that Hawking seems to be supporting social darwinism, telling us that societies that are most likely to survive have a higher value. Obviously then, some societies have lower value. My questions to Mr. Hawking are these: Are we to adapt the methods of the cultures that survived the longest, like ancient Rome? How can we distinguish his view from racism? Or from Naziism? I thought social darwinism was abandoned years ago.
You’ve said there is no reason to invoke God to light the blue touchpaper. Is our existence all down to luck?
Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.
Now, I have a very simple question. How is it that a man like Hawking, whose intelligence is beyond the stratosphere, can make such a basic, simple mistake? Here Hawking repeats one of the most basic mistakes of causality, one that was settled 2400 years ago. If ever there was a time when nothing existed, then nothing would exist now. Nothing cannot generate something, for nothing is not a something that can generate anything. From nothing, nothing comes. But Hawking seems to think that many universes can come from nothing. The reason Hawking can make such a basic mistake is that he has ventured out of his area of expertise. I respectfully suggest that Mr. Hawking go back to his equations and leave the philosophizing for those who know what the history of the discussion has been.
So here we are. What should we do?
We should seek the greatest value of our action.
Actually this is not bad for someone with Hawking’s worldview. But it could also be stated, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” When one does not have a hope of eternal value, efficiency in this world is the best they can do.
You had a health scare and spent time in hospital in 2009. What, if anything, do you fear about death?
I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. 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.
Now Hawking has left the philosophy department and moved to psychology, one which he is not doing any better. Of course, the comment about heaven being a fairy story for weak people sells well, and makes headlines. But we must realize the obvious, large fatal flaws in this thinking.
First, this is no proof of anything, but merely one person’s opionion. It certainly does not prove that there is no heaven or hell. That some people are afraid of death and wish for a heaven to exist is no proof that there is no heaven. As Walter Martin pointed out, that some people, after a night of pain, wish for the dawn to come, does not prove that there is no dawn coming. Second, the shoe fits on the other foot just as well. For it could just as easily be said that those who deny hell and deny the existence of a holy God do so because they are afraid of having to answer for their own actions, so they go out of their way to believe that there is no God, no ultimate judgment day where their lives will be weighed against God’s commands. Atheism could just as easily be said to be a fairy story for people who are afraid of the light.
Hawking’s lecture is to be titled “Why are we here?” He believes that only matter and energy exist, no God, no supernatural, no afterlife. Therefore his answer will be forced into a rather small box. The question “Why?” for someone who only believes nature is a complex machine, nothing more, can be limited to only describing how the machine works, for to Hawking, the universe has no purpose. Asking ‘why’ to someone who only believes in ‘how’ will result in an answer that will miss the point entirely.
Men like Hawking believe that only the physical universe exists, therefore they are forever locked into explaining how the mechanism works. They can explain how a door works, but the only way they can answer ‘Why is this door here?’ is to presuppose a mind that has put meaning into the mechanism. If the universe had no mind that created it, then asking “why is it here?” is a meaningless question. Physics and chemistry can answer how the universe works, but cannot answer why it is here in the first place. Hawking will either sneak a host of unexamined presuppositions into the side door, or answer a different question, or both.