Hawking Is a Great Mind but Not a Master of Debate

The Evening Standard (London, England), September 3, 2010 | Go to article overview

Hawking Is a Great Mind but Not a Master of Debate


Byline: John Cornwell

EVER since publication of his Brief History of Time in 1988, Professor Stephen Hawking has been a brilliant purveyor of hyperbolic sound-bites. He argued in that fantastic best-seller that the future goal of physics was to discover a formula that would explain how the Universe began. He called it a "Theory of Everything". It would even enable us "to know the mind of God". He was being sarcastic, of course.

Now, in advance of a new Hawking co-authored book, we have the soundbite to end all scientific and theological sound-bites: "God did not create the Universe."

His reasoning? "Because there is a law such as gravity the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing ... It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going."

It was one thing for him to make that earth-shattering promise about the quest for God's mind. But does Hawking's new claim cut the mustard? He actually talks vaguely about clusters of Theories of Everything and lards his claim with conditionals. Even worse, there is a whopping hole in his logic -- comparable to the Black Hole that he famously discovered. And you don't have to believe in God to see it.

If the law of gravity "caused" the Universe to come into existence, it is nonsense to say that the Universe came from "nothing". Surely the law of gravity counts as "something"? Hawking has not explained why something came from nothing.

He boldly goes on to say that "philosophy is now dead" and physics has all the answers. Yet that logical slip exposes him as philosophically naive. …

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