Is there a God?
Published: 12 February 2019 (GMT+10)
This is Question No. 1 in a new book of Stephen Hawking’s writings published posthumously in 2018.1 The publisher has drawn on Hawking’s enormous personal archive of his speeches, interviews, and essays, which was in development at the time of his death and has now been completed in collaboration with his academic colleagues, his family and the Stephen Hawking Estate.
Before discussing Hawking’s answer to the question about God, which he does in terms of the origin of the universe and big bang theory, we will comment on some aspects of his funeral.
Stephen Hawking was a Fellow of Gonville & Caius College at the University of Cambridge for 52 years, and was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics there. He died on 14 March 2018, aged 76, and his ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey on 15 June 2018. The memorial stone on his grave is etched with the representation of a black hole, his formula for the temperature of a black hole,2 and the words, “Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking.” See below.
On 19 September 2018, Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge, issued a statement that contained the following information:
“A memorial to Professor Stephen Hawking, Fellow of Gonville & Caius College for over 50 years, has been laid outside the late scientist’s rooms in Caius Court.
“It was Hawking’s wish to have his famous ‘Hawking Entropy’ equation [which expresses the disorder of a black hole in terms of its surface area] engraved on his tombstone. Professor Hawking’s memorial stone in Westminster however, has on it the equation for the Hawking Temperature [of a black hole]. After discussions with his colleagues in Cambridge, with whom he had worked closely, the correct equation is displayed on the new memorial stone in Gonville & Caius College.
“The memorial was unveiled in a private ceremony for Fellows and guests in September.3
On p. 15 of the book that we are discussing, underneath the Hawking Entropy equation, Hawking wrote: “The emission of this thermal radiation from the black hole is now called Hawking radiation and I’m proud to have discovered it.”4 He obviously regarded this formula for the entropy of a black hole as the most important one of his whole life, and the one by which he wished to be remembered for all time. So having his burial stone inscription correct is obviously of the highest importance.
We asked the University of Cambridge for permission to publish a photograph of their memorial to Stephen Hawking in this article. They asked to first see a copy of the article, which we sent. They then declined our request “out of deference to the family”. Their memorial has the formula for Entropy (S in terms of the area A, and other symbols identified in ref. 2)
above the words “Stephen Hawking”, “Fellow”, “1965–2018” in the centre, surrounded by the words “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet”, but without any representation of a black hole.
The University of Cambridge calls this “the correct equation”, meaning the one Hawking requested to be on his tombstone, contra the one in Westminster Abbey, which is for Hawking Temperature. The Press has been largely silent on this monumental(!) faux pas.
These matters have some ramifications, as follows.
For the Dean of Westminster Abbey
By burying Stephen Hawking’s remains in Westminster Abbey, you have chosen to honour a self-proclaimed and adamant atheist. But will this cause people to regard the Abbey more as a tourist attraction than a place to worship God? God says in the Bible: “I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other” (Isaiah 42:8).
For Christians who believe God’s Word
Much of Hawking’s theorizings about the big bang are far removed from his discovery of black hole radiation, which he regarded as his greatest scientific achievement. Experts in theoretical and astrophysics would tend to concur with him, as did CMI in a review of an earlier Hawking book. However, his writings by which he is best known to the general public, i.e. his ostensibly scientific justifications for atheism, are not held in such high esteem by his scientific peers. These include his own former scientific co-authors George Ellis and Sir Roger Penrose.
Modern big bang theory is an attempt to describe the origin of the universe without the Creator. It has no God. Hawking wrote: “No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.”5 In contrast, God says in His Word, the Bible: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). God also says: “those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30).
The big bang is an attempt to describe the origin of the universe by the physical laws in operation today. However, no one was there to measure anything, so big bang theory relies on the assumption that the real universe can be described by the mathematics and physical laws assumed to exist (and some not to have existed yet) in an alleged past epoch where it is impossible to test anything.
In fact, the big bang theory that Stephen Hawking promoted so strenuously is one of the most non-scientific hypotheses of all time. It has multiple problems, including ‘fudge factors’ without which it would not ‘work’ (see box). On the other hand, there is a huge amount of scientific evidence that the universe is young. See 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe.
Back to ‘Is there a God?’
In Hawking’s answer to this question,1 he said our universe can be regarded as consisting of just two elements, energy and space (with mass thought of as a form of energy as per Einstein’s equation E= mc²), and he wrote that “space and energy were spontaneously invented in an event we now call the Big Bang” (p. 31). He went on to say: “The laws of physics demand the existence of something called ‘negative energy’” (p. 32), and he explained this as follows:
“Imagine a man wants to build a hill on a flat piece of land. The hill will represent the universe. To make this hill he digs a hole in the ground and uses that soil to dig his hill. But of course he’s not just making a hill—he’s also making a hole, in effect a negative version of the hill. The stuff that was in the hole has now become the hill, so it all perfectly balances out. This is the principle behind what happened at the beginning of the universe.
“When the Big bang produced a massive amount of positive energy, it simultaneously produced the same amount of negative energy. In this way the positive and the negative add up to zero, always. It’s a law of nature” (p. 32).
Prof. Hawking presumably hoped you didn’t notice several facts that negate this whole scenario. These are:
- The formation of the hill needed a cause—the man.
- It also needed a means—the shovel the man used to dig the hole.
- It also needed a large quantity of land—the material.
- All three of these existed in time and space before the man started to build the hill, and each of them required a cause and a means for their existence also.
Prof. Hawking then asked: “So where is all this negative energy today?” (p. 32) and he answered his own question:
“It’s in space. This may sound odd, but according to the laws of nature concerning gravity and motion—laws that are among the oldest in science—space itself is a vast store of negative energy. Enough to ensure that everything adds up to zero. … The endless web of billions upon billions of galaxies, each pulling on each other by the force of gravity, acts like a giant storage device. The universe is like an enormous battery storing negative energy. The positive side of things—the mass and energy we see today—is like the hill. The corresponding hole, or negative side of things, is spread throughout space.
“So what does this mean in our quest to find out if there is a God? It means that if the universe adds up to nothing, then you don’t need a God to create it. The universe is the ultimate free lunch” (pp. 32–33).
For a comprehensive rebuttal of the claim that the universe sprang spontaneously from nothing, see Prof. John Hartnett’s article The Singularity—a ‘Dark’ beginning.
What caused it?
Prof. Hawking moved on to ask, “What could cause the spontaneous appearance of a universe?” (p. 33) And he replied to this question as follows;
“[At] the sub-atomic level, you enter a world where conjuring something out of nothing is possible. At least, for a short while. That’s because, at this scale, particles such as protons behave according to the laws of nature we call quantum mechanics. And they really can appear at random, stick around for a while and then vanish again, to reappear somewhere else.
“Since we know the universe itself was once very small—perhaps smaller than a proton—this means something quite remarkable. It means the universe itself, in all its mind-boggling vastness and complexity, could simply have popped into existence without violating the known laws of nature. From that moment on, vast amounts of energy were released as space itself expanded—a place to store all the negative energy needed to balance the books” (pp. 33–34).
”The laws of nature itself tell us that not only could the universe have popped into existence without any assistance, like a proton, and have required nothing in terms of energy, but also that it is possible that nothing caused the Big Bang. Nothing” (p. 35).
But wait a minute. We don’t know the universe was once smaller than a proton. That’s a postulate. It is not proved by merely stating it to be so, or by extrapolating mathematical descriptions of reality [the universe we live in today] to unobserved extremes in the past. And as to the laws of nature telling us that it is possible that nothing caused the big bang, consider the following by Jonathan Sarfati:
“It is a metaphysical principle that things which begin need a cause; it is also self-evident. All science and history would collapse if this law of cause and effect were denied. So would all law enforcement, if the police didn’t think they needed to find a cause for a stabbed body or a burgled house. Also, the universe cannot be self-caused—nothing can create itself, because until it exists, it is not in a position to cause itself.”6
Scientist critics of the big bang theory, Alex Williams and Prof. John Hartnett, comment:
“So is it possible that the universe just popped into existence out of the vacuum through nothing more than a quantum fluctuation? Some people think so, although they seem to conveniently forget that the laws of quantum physics would have had to already be in existence, so one could not say that the universe created itself ‘out of nothing’. Others have pointed out, however, that the lifetime of quantum events is inversely proportional to the mass of the object and this precludes any such cosmological quantum event. If a universe did pop into existence by quantum fluctuation, nobody would notice—the lifetime of a quantum event the size of our universe would be less than 10-103 seconds. Moreover, virtual particles today appear within the vacuum of space. In the primordial singularity there was no space and so no vacuum.”7
Here are some of the scientific problems with the big bang:
- The big bang contradicts the First Law of Thermodynamics, i.e. energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only changed from one form into another. So energy could not have been created by the big bang.
- Energy can be converted into matter according to Einstein’s equation E=mc2, but when this happens exactly equal amounts of matter and antimatter are produced. So where are the 200 billion galaxies of antimatter that had to form to balance the 200 billion galaxies of stars, for the big bang theory to ‘work’? See Missing antimatter challenges the ‘big bang’ theory.9
- The big bang is supposed to have begun by means of a quantum fluctuation. But what was it that quantum fluctuated? And how could this have happened before there was any time or space for anything to quantum fluctuate in? See In the beginning God created—or was it a quantum fluctuation?
- The big bang depends on early inflation of the universe that lasted from 10-36 to between 10-33 and 10-32 seconds at many times the speed of light, with no known mechanism either to cause this, or to uncause it once it began. See Does the new much-faster-speed-of-light-theory fix the big bang’s problems?
- The big bang has a light-travel time problem, arising from the fact that the cosmic microwave background (CMB) has the same temperature over the entire sky, namely 2.726 ± 0.001 K (i.e. above absolute zero). However, there hasn’t been time for radiation to travel between widely separated regions of space at the speed of light, to produce the consistent CMB temperature over the whole sky. This is technically known as the big bang ‘horizon problem’. See Light-travel time: a problem for the big bang.
- Big bang theory only produces an expanding cloud of gas. Expanding clouds of gas do not spontaneously reverse their expansion and condense into the objects we see in the real universe around us. See Stellar evolution and the problem of the first stars.
- Big bang theorists require the universe to be composed of ~27% ‘dark matter’ in order to supply the gravitational force needed to keep galaxies rotating instead of flying apart. The word ‘dark’ means ‘unseen’, i.e. such dark matter is not in the form of stars or planets that have ever been seen, or ever detected from normal electromagnetic radiation.
- Another conundrum for big bang theorists is that they also need the universe to be composed of ~68% ‘dark energy’. This is an alleged form of anti-gravity that is supposedly supplying the force needed to account for the accelerating expansion of the universe. This too has never been identified in any laboratory experiment. These dark entities are best described as ‘fudge factors’ conceived only because without them the big bang theory would not ‘work’. All this leaves only ~5% of the universe as identified matter! See Big bang beliefs: busted.
No time, no cause, no big bang!
Prof. Hawking has told us that there was no time before the Big Bang and that this somehow eliminates God: “We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me this means that there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in” (pp. 37–38).
But God is the creator of time (Genesis 1:5), and as such He transcends (or exists outside of) time. Another way of saying this is that God “inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). Jesus Christ, the Son of God and second person of the Trinity in his high-priestly prayer recorded in John 17:5 prayed: “Father glorify me in your own presence with the glory I had with you before the world existed.” (Emphasis added.) All of this means that God is transcendent to the universe and outside of time, but He also chooses to manifest Himself within the universe, and within time.
Being eternal, God (alone) did not need a cause, and so God (not the big bang) is the one and only entity that did not need a cause. See If God created the universe, then who created God?
Incidentally, because, as Hawking says, there was no time before the universe came into existence, this means there was no time or space for anything to have undergone a quantum fluctuation in, hence no big bang, based on that cause. For the conflicting views of other scientist/philosophers on the cause or lack thereof for the big bang, see What happened before the big bang?.
Readers may well wonder why God-deniers spend so much time and effort trying to annihilate a cause for the universe. Well, the ulterior motive of all atheistic philosophy is to do away with God as Moral Lawgiver and consequently God as Judge of all mankind, as per the wishful thinking of German atheist Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) who wrote: “We deny God; in denying God we deny accountability.”8 The creation of the universe, the world, and man, by God, established for all time that God has the absolute right not only to prescribe His laws for holy living, but also to set the penalty for those who choose to disobey His laws. For more of this, see Creation—how did God do it?
Heaven, Hell, and Judgment
Hawking concluded his denial of the existence of God with what he called his “profound realisation”, namely, “… there is probably no heaven and no afterlife either. I think belief in an afterlife is just wishful thinking. There is no reliable evidence for it, and it flies in the face of everything we know in science” (p. 38).
On the contrary, when a person dies, his/her soul/spirit exits this space-time world by crossing the event horizon of death. This is the boundary at which our experience of space and time end, and timelessness begins. In the Bible, God tells us that beyond death there are Heaven, Hell, and Judgment to come (“it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27)). The latter decides which of the two former we end up in, based on our faith or lack of it (in this life) in Christ’s atoning death and resurrection.
The afterlife and what happens in it can never be examined by science, because it is hidden behind an event horizon. However, this does not mean that it is unreal. (Many of Hawking’s speculations are themselves outside the realm of observation or direct experiment.) The concept is perfectly scientific, and is in fact the ultimate reality. See The Gospel in time and space.
All those who wish to avoid the consequences of this (Romans 14: 11–12) are urged to make their peace with God now, that is, in this life. We do this through repentance of our sin, and faith that when God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, died on the Cross, He paid the penalty for our sins, and rose again from the dead to be the Saviour and Lord of all those willing to receive Him as such (Romans 10:9; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 2:24).
References and notes
- Hawking, S., Brief Answers to the Big Questions, John Murray (Publishers) London, 2018. Return to text.
- In the formula, ћ is Planck’s constant (used in quantum mechanics), c is the speed of light, G is Newton’s constant of gravitation, M is the mass of the black hole, and k is Boltzmann’s constant (it relates the energy of gas particles to the temperature of the gas). Return to text.
- Memorial to Professor Stephen Hawking”, Gonville & Caius, University of Cambridge, 19 September 2018. Return to text.
- Hawking, S., ref. 1, p. 15. Return to text.
- Hawking, S., ref. 1, p. 38 Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Refuting Compromise, p. 176, Creation Book Publishers, Atlanta, USA, 2011. Return to text.
- Williams, A., and Hartnett, J., Dismantling the Big Bang, p. 120, Master Books, Arizona, 2005. Return to text.
- Nietzsche, F., Twilight of the Gods, Chapter 6, The Four Great Errors, section 8, trans. by R.J. Hollingdale. Return to text.
- This problem is even more acute, with recent particle measurements. They show that the proton and anti-proton are exactly equal and opposite down to 1.5 parts per billion, whereas the big bang demands some asymmetry. Hence one report was entitled, “The universe should not actually exist, CERN scientists discover” (Newsweek, 25 October 2017). See also Sarfati, J., Big bang universe “should not actually exist”: Antimatter still missing! Creation 40(2):55, 2018. Return to text.