Stephen Hawking gets one more chance to give “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” in his new book, finished after his death last March by friends and family members. And in this book he assures us that there is no God.
How does he know? Because his last theory about the Big Bang needs no such hypothesis. And so that’s that.
It apparently doesn’t matter that for at least part of his life, and even quite recently, he was open to the idea that God created the world. It doesn’t seem to matter that his wife was a churchgoer. It certainly doesn’t matter that his expertise was in physics, rather than in theology and philosophy—the intellectual disciplines that do deal with the existence of God. What will matter, for many, is that a major scientist (= Big Thinker) answers some big questions, no matter his credentials to actually address them.
What is perhaps most interesting, however, is that even a brief news account mentions what may be the central reason for Stephen Hawking’s lack of belief in God:
“For centuries, it was believed that disabled people like me were living under a curse that was inflicted by God…. I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature.”
Rather than believe in a God who allows extensive suffering for whatever mysterious reasons—as a young man, Hawking contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease—he preferred to believe in a universe devoid of design and purpose.
Charles Darwin, not incidentally, also conceived of a world without God under the impress of tragedy. While he had formulated much of his thinking about evolution while young, he resisted publishing his thought out of his regard for his wife’s earnest Christian faith. (Darwin had studied toward becoming a clergyman, but he abandoned that vocation for his first love, natural science, upon returning from his voyage on the Beagle.)
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