Monday, January 01, 2007

What Does Stephen Hawking Believe?

I have been thinking about this post for a long time now. Stephen Hawking has some important things to say about the universe and his best selling 'A Brief History of Time' is a fantastic introduction to the scientific understanding of what the universe is:

The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence? Or does it need a creator, and, if so, does he have any other effect on the universe? And who created him?
However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.
I tried to find out what Hawking actually believes in regards to the existence of god, and this is what I turned up:
TFR: Did you derive your idea of an impersonal god from Buddhism, Vedanta, or some other tradition or have you developed your own religious ideas?

His attendant then told me that I had misunderstood what Dr. Hawking had said at his press conference, which was that he didn't believe in a personal god, not that he believed in an impersonal god.

HAWKING: It is better not to use the word "god" to describe what I believe because most people use the word to mean a being with whom one can have a personal relationship.

TFR: Do you sense a connection between how the universe operates and why it exists?

HAWKING: I don't. If I did, I would have solved the universe.
I think I take from that a belief on the part of Stephen Hawking, in some kind of intelligence, somewhere down the line. Reading 'A Brief History of Time' you certainly get the impression that he does not believe in a religious god, who made the universe just for us. But he appears to still be a kind of theist.

There are two things which might be considered interesting in the light of this. In 2004, newspaper reports were published claiming Stephen Hawking was being abused at the hands of his new wife. From one such article:
The nurse said: "She allowed him to slip down low in the bath so the water goes down the hole in his throat. She would withhold the bottle which he used to go to the toilet so he wet himself." She added: "The verbal abuse is unbelievable. Her mouth is like a sewer, she is always angry." The nurse also claims, in today's Times newspaper, Mrs Hawking left her husband in the garden on a hot summer's day without his computer mouse so he could not talk and call for anyone.
The other thing is that he suffers from motor-neurone disease. From Hawking's own website:
I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family, and being successful in my work. This is thanks to the help I have received from Jane, my children, and a large number of other people and organisations. I have been lucky, that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope.
What do these things tell us about Stephen Hawking? That in many ways he is a man like any other. He has an amazing skill at working with complex scientific concepts, but he is also a disabled man, with normal wants and a seemingly less than perfect home life. And he is a theist (of sorts).

I understand why Hawking hopes for a god; to give some kind of purpose to life. But praying for a point to life, is as pointless as anything else. Grand unified theory or not, there is no god.
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Update: Seems Hawking has come right out and stated the bleeding obvious.