Stephen Hawking (8 January 1942–14 March 2018)

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Published: 20 March 2018 (GMT+10)
Stephen-Hawking
Stephen Hawking (8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018)

Probably the most famous physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking, recently died, coincidentally on the 139th anniversary of the birth of the most famous physicist of the 20th century, Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955)—and Hawking was born on the 300th anniversary of the death of another great physicist, Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642). Indeed, both Hawking and Einstein were 76 when they died (and Galileo only a year older). This is particularly astounding for Hawking, living a fairly normal modern lifespan, although he was diagnosed with the degenerative Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease back in 1963, and was told that he had only two years to live.

But it slowly paralyzed him, so he was well known for being dependent on a motorized wheelchair and voice synthesizer. The latter has an American accent, different from the Oxford English accent he had naturally. But even later he decided to keep the former accent for newer synthesizers because it had become so well known.

His greatest work in physics was showing that black holes would slowly evaporate. But he has become known in the popular world for his popular books that delve into philosophy and religion. In an earlier paper, Hawking atheopathy: Famous physicist goes beyond the evidence, I provided more biographical details and critiques of his claims, so there is no need to rehash them here.

Hawking is no longer an atheist

From a human perspective, it’s sad to see anyone go into a Christless eternity, and indeed God Himself has “no pleasure” in it (cf. Ezekiel 33:11). But we can’t escape the truth: “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment …” (Hebrews 9:27).

While living to 76 might seem like a decent lifespan, death in reality is “the last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). This is true no matter how long this was postponed—even the prodigiously long lifespans of our ancestors recorded in the chronogenealogy of Genesis 5 couldn’t change that fact. Indeed, after the lifespan of every patriarch (except Enoch who escaped death), we are reminded over and over, “and he died”.

However, atheists naively regard death as a natural part of the evolutionary process. Indeed, Hawking himself gave a defiant interview to the leftist British newspaper, the Guardian, back in 2011.1 He was reported as claiming:

The belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a ‘fairy story’ for people afraid of death.

Unfortunately, this commits a fallacy rife in atheopathic agitprop, what C.S. Lewis called Bulverism:

you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he came to be so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism”.

In Hawking’s case, he tries to explain away why (he thinks) people believe in an afterlife before demonstrating that this belief is wrong. However, similar arguments can always be turned back on their user, which is one reason this is a silly mode of argumentation. I.e. “The belief that no afterlife awaits us is a ‘fairy story’ for those afraid that there really might be a God who is also a righteous Judge.” Also, Hawking’s account is demonstrably wrong for many people, e.g. C.S. Lewis again:

I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.

A computer running down?

Anyway, Hawking’s attempt at justification for his own belief system was:

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.

This is a similar statement to that from the late cognitive scientist and atheist Marvin Minsky (1927–2016), who asserted more earthily, “The human brain is just a computer that happens to be made out of meat.”

Well, many people think with some justification that the brain is a computer. But this understates the complexity of the brain, and the large differences between them, as neuroscientist Peter Line explains:

For instance, if you knock out a portion of a computer’s circuitry, the whole thing malfunctions. But the brain has a lot of built-in redundancy—if part of it is damaged, other parts can usually take over some of the function. It’s hard to even begin to comprehend the incredible complexity of the brain.

Actually, never mind the human brain—even an insect brain is extremely complex. E.g. the advanced tracking system of the dragonfly operates in a pinhead-sized brain, while human designers trying to copy this needed very bulky systems.

Also, no one has ever built a computer by time, chance, and natural selection. A fortiori, how less credible it is that those processes could have built the far more complex brain? Dr Line explains:

In the real world, such accidental DNA changes cause defects, they don’t build things up. A defect can give a local survival advantage, like a beetle born without wings on a windy island having less chance of being blown out to sea. But mutations in the brain cause brain defects, not bigger and better brains.

To continue, while a computer will indeed stop working if critical parts fail, this doesn’t logically imply no afterlife. All this argument could prove is that the brain also stops working. But his argument begs the question about whether the human being is no more than his body.

Certainly, in living humans, the mind rides on the brain, which explains why brain damage can affect the way people think. But this doesn’t entail that the mind is nothing more than an epiphenomenon of the brain. Former leading atheistic philosopher Antony Flew (1923–2010), who turned to theism a few years before he died, pointed out:

Although certain areas of the brain are associated with consciousness, they do not produce consciousness—a certain area of a person’s brain may show activity when thinking about a certain idea, but a neurologist cannot tell from that person’s MRI what he is thinking about. Consciousness is correlated with certain regions of the brain, but when the same systems of neurons are present in the brain stem there is no ‘production’ of consciousness.2

Previously, he had illustrated this point as follows:

Let us begin with a parable. Imagine that a satellite phone is washed ashore on a remote island inhabited by a tribe that has never had contact with modern civilization. The natives play with the numbers on the dial pad and hear different voices upon hitting certain sequences.

They assume first that it’s the device that makes these noises. Some of the cleverer natives, the scientists of the tribe, assemble an exact replica and hit the numbers again. They hear the voices again.

The conclusion seems obvious to them. This particular combination of crystals and metals and chemicals produces what seems like human voices, and this means that the voices are simply properties of this device.

But the tribal sage summons the scientists for a discussion. He has thought long and hard on the matter and has reached the following conclusion: the voices coming through the instrument must be coming from people like themselves, people who are living and conscious although speaking in another language. Instead of assuming that the voices are simply properties of the handset, they should investigate the possibility that through some mysterious communication network they are ‘in touch’ with other humans. Perhaps further study along these lines could lead to a greater understanding of the world beyond their island. But the scientists simply laugh at the sage and say, ‘Look, when we damage the instrument, the voices stop coming. So they’re obviously nothing more than sounds produced by a unique combination of lithium and printed circuit boards and light-emitting diodes.’

In this parable we see how easy it is to let preconceived theories shape the way we view evidence instead of letting the evidence shape our theories … And in this, it seems to me, lies the peculiar danger, the endemic evil, of dogmatic atheism.3

Hawking’s last stand

A few weeks before he died, Hawking gave an interview with his fellow atheopathic cosmogonist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, of the revamped Cosmos series and admitted ignorance about star formation.

Hawking claimed to know what happened before the big bang—according to a report, Hawking said:

that time was present in a bent state amid the nearly infinitely small quantum foam of the singularity before the Big Bang. Time was distorted along another dimension, it was always reaching closer to nothing but didn’t become nothing.

In short, according to Hawking, there was never a Big Bang that produced something from nothing. It just seemed that way from mankind’s point of perspective.4

But he also admits that this view is incapable of observational verification:

Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang. Events before the Big Bang, are simply not defined, because there’s no way one could measure what happened at them.5

But if they are incapable of observational verification, then how is it real science, as opposed to a quasi-religious belief? Hawking makes this clear as he continues:

This kind of beginning to the universe, and of time itself, is very different to the beginnings that had been considered earlier. These had to be imposed on the universe by some external agency. There is no dynamical reason why the motion of bodies in the solar system cannot be extrapolated back in time, far beyond 4004 BC, the date for the creation of the universe, according to the book of Genesis [sic]. Thus it would require the direct intervention of God, if the universe began at that date. By contrast, the Big Bang is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe. It is therefore intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside.

Conclusion

It’s now unfortunately too late for Hawking, but it’s not too late for anyone reading this—there really is Good News, as the late Billy Graham preached for decades!

References and notes

  1. Sample, I., Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story’, theguardian.com, 15 May 2011. Return to text.
  2. Flew, A., with Varghese, R.A., There is a God, p. 174, 2007. See review by Cosner, L., J. Creation 22(3):21–24, 2008. Return to text.
  3. Flew and Varghese, Ref. 2, pp. 85–86. Return to text.
  4. Dastidar, S., Stephen Hawking claims to know what happened before the big bang, techtimes.com, 3 March 2018. Return to text.
  5. Hawking, S., The Beginning of Time (lecture), hawking.org.uk, accessed 16 March 2018. Return to text.

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Reader’s comments

Heather S.
His final paragraph, saying that the Big Bang that happened long before the few thousand years the Bible says does NOT require God, that it's a beginning demanded by the dynamical laws that govern the universe. oh? Really? I was under the impression that the Big Bang was when nothing exploded to make the building blocks for everything, and then over billions of years stars and planets and eventually mosquitoes and mankind came into existence. But I don't think it's an intrinsic rule of the universe that a great big nothing suddenly explodes and creates everything. I mean, just from what I do understand about it—and I'm no physicist—the universe is still expanding, so how did all that matter created in the explosion not just keep moving outwards through the vacuum, never coalescing, never coming together? I think if the Big Bang were true, we'd be in a universe full of particles of dust, moving ever-further away from every other particle, forever. Stars? Planets? What stars? What planets?

Although if it is viable that all the dust or particles or atoms or whatever *could* have gravitationally attracted each other and built themselves up to stars and then somehow got an energy source to make them burn; and then they attracted other particles that had pulled themselves together but not set themselves on fire and that's where the planets come from—well, then I take it back. (I'm assuming this is something like what is supposed to have happened.) But the Big Bang producing anything but atomic dust, or something so like as to make no difference— it sounds eminently implausible to me.
ricardo M.
Hawking didn´t believe in God, now he KNOWS there is one and is judging him.
Bernard G.
Perhaps I am merely a simpleton compared to the ‘brilliant’ Doctor Hawking. But it stupefies me that a so-called learned person, can claim “the Big Bang is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe.” I mean, think about it. The laws of nature are merely descriptions of how things behave given a certain condition under various parameters. The laws by themselves cannot and do not ‘require’ anything, they cannot cause anything or create anything. Dr Hawking in my view is a prime example of the absurdity one has to accept in order to deny and reject the God one instinctively know exists...
Pratha S.
It was sad to hear the passing of Stephen Hawking. To say that he was a smart man would be an understatement. Unfortunately,being a smart man didn't mean that he believed in God. There’s a difference between being smart and having wisdom. If I had to choose between the two, I’d choose wisdom,because wisdom comes from God.Stephen Hawking is now on the other side of eternity—and unfortunately for him, is finding out that there is a God.
Terry D P.
He [Hawking] was reported as claiming:


The belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a ‘fairy story’ for people afraid of death.


In saying this, Hawking baldly ignores clear evidence of the existence of God and of life after death. For, in several New Testament passages, Jesus personally predicted the manner of his death and resurrection on the third day, for example:

  • From that time Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem, and there to suffer much from the elders, chief priests, and doctors of the law; to be put to death and to be raised again on the third day. — Matthew 16:21.

  • So Jesus set up a one off personal ‘scientific experiment’ in which the evidence of his resurrection after three days would prove irrefutably ‘his theory’ that there is life after death.

  • When a person dies, the spirit [breath of life] leaves his body. When a person’s spirit comes back into a dead body, the person comes back to life. For example, Luke 8:49–55.

  • Then Jesus [on the cross] gave a loud cry and said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit’; and with these words he died. — Luke 23:46.

  • Moreover, if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells within you, then the God who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give new life to your mortal bodies through his indwelling Spirit. — Romans 8:11

  • Thus Jesus disproved for all time atheism’s theory of no life after death, by raising himself from the dead as predicted. Moreover, Creator Jesus formed the lifeless man Adam from the dust of the earth and then put the breath/spirit of life in him. Jesus first resurrected Adam from the dead and later himself, thus proving the theory of evolution is just a myth.

Dan M.
The creation-evolution debate is a world view or belief system clash and is not empirical, testable science. It is historical science and although one or the other can be a more rational explanation for what we observe in the natural world, each view is according to the viewer and has only indirect evidence since we cannot duplicate the creation. But, I must say the evidence for a personal created universe is compelling if not obvious.
That being said, Stephen Hawking’s statement, “The belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a ‘fairy story’ for people afraid of death,” can be turned on itself. The reciprocal statement can be made, “the belief that there is no heaven or afterlife that awaits us is a ‘fairy story’ for people afraid of what happens when they get home and find out dad knew they've been misbehaving all along” (the quote is mine). That’s why they (atheists like (a href="https://creation.com/atheism-agnosticism-and-humanism-godless-religions-questions-and-answers#dawkins">Richard Dawkins) get so angry. He’s angry at a God he doesn’t believe in which is illogical! If there is no God, who cares what someone else believes in?
James K.
Hawking was weakening in his atheopathic faith during the final days of his life. Note: he says he sees no issue with extrapolating the natural laws beyond the Genesis account of Creation. What he is saying is if God really did create the world then one could be completely consistent with the evidence while maintaining a biblical faith (i.e. science supports the Bible). However, since he does not believe in God, he needs to interpret the evidence (albeit with many inconsistencies and difficulties) to accommodate long ages. It appears Hawking is aware of the scientific evidence pointing to a relatively recent creation, and dismisses it because he tells himself he does not believe in God. If I understood him correctly then this is a huge encouragement and evidence that Hawking is a somewhat open-minded atheist (unlike Dawkins).
Ad M.
Two people where mentioned below the article: Stephen Hawking and Billy Graham. The first one with no hope and without God. The second with eternal hope and forever with his Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Graham said in the documentary God’s Ambassador.

Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.

Also Stephen Hawking has changed address: Outside the presence of God in the eternal darkness. How sad!
Philippus S.
The closest he came to Albert Einstein was the fact the both were the same age when died. Einstein was a Scientist, Stephen Hawking a Theorist, lot said nothing proven. Einstein would never make judgements on things he did not know of or could not proof, No! Not even Religion and as such Christianity. The question I ask, who was the clever one the computer or the operator? Einstein was a religious nonbeliever, simply because he could not proof or disproof God mathematically. He was a Sadducee, did ot believe in afterlife, angels or Spirit. God and religion was to much for Albert Einstein's as he himself declared " A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty- it is this knowledge and its emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and this alone, I am deeply religious man."
Albert acknowledge that he is what he could understand, Stephen hawking's was to much a narcissist and self centered to even appreciate the beauty of creation even if he believed it comes form a big bang. Stephen Hawking's receive to much recognition for unproved theories.
Philip R.
"There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers;"
Hadn't Hawking heard of people who repair computers?

By analogy, why couldn't there be Someone who can repair our broken selves?
Jamie R.
Here’s what physicists believe:

Once upon a time there was absolutely nothing, no space, no time, and no matter. Then there was a giant explosion and there was everything. Given enough time, inanimate matter developed the essence of life and we evolved and lived happily ever after. The end. Now there’s a fairy story as Hawking put it!
Jonathan Sarfati
At least, this is what many atheistic physicists believe. But it's not what creationist physicists believe(d), e.g.

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