One would think that a world-renowned physicist would be more precise in his language. Surely he cannot mean what it sounds like he is saying in this BBC report. Hawking, who once thought there was room for a supreme being in explaining the origins of the universe has changed his mind. There is no need to include God in the explanation for how the universe came into being. Now I realize that Hawking is considered one of the most brilliant thinkers on the planet with a reported I.Q. of 160. But even the most brilliant of us can develop tunnel vision and fail to see how our preconceptions have led us down an illogical path.
Hawking is quoted as saying “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, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch-paper and set the Universe going.”
So what is wrong with that statement? I don’t have a 160 I.Q. but a few things jump out immediately. First, Hawking invokes the existence of laws such as gravity. Since such laws of physics exist, it is those laws that account for how the universe came to be, “from nothing”. One could stop at that point and say, “Aha, that answers it. No need for God because gravity and the other laws of physics work together and the necessary outcome is a universe created from nothing”. But if there was in fact, nothing, then where did these laws come from. On a very simple level, the existence of laws implies some source behind the law, some law-maker. But even if you don’t want to have a lawmaker, if there was nothing, how and why would there be laws which govern this nothing. Why would such laws exist if there is nothing for them to rule?
Secondly, there still exists the question of where the physical material came from that makes up the created universe. Hawking wants to have creation out of nothing based on existence of the laws of physics. The most widely accepted scientific explanation for the existence of the universe is what we call “The Big Bang Theory”. In short is says that prior to the universe coming into existence there was nothing. Then about 13.7 billion years ago nothing became a something that we call a singularity. (Star Trek fans hear about singularities all the time) So with this singularity, something with physical properties, the universe started. Hawking says the laws of physics explain that. Yet large numbers of his fellow scientists, especially physicists are at that point saying “God just might be behind the whole thing”. Why? because the laws of physics can help explain what happens once you have matter, physical, material stuff. They can explain how large bodies of planets impact and are impacted by gravity. They can explain how the motion of matter accounts for heat. They can explain a great many things if you already have physical material. What the laws of physics cannot explain is how that physical material came to be in the first place. Those laws certainly cannot take credit for causing the existence of matter.
We can rely on the laws of physics to explain the physical world as it exists. That is what physics is all about after all. What we cannot do is rely on them to explain how something that did not exist was made by the very nature of those laws. Far from leading in the direction of saying there is not need for God, more and more evidence from the realm of physics is actually supporting the need for God behind it all. In the end the laws of the universe will ultimately point us to the law-giver.