The publication of Stephen Hawking’s book, The Grand Design in which he said he proved that the universe was created without a God, did not bother the British public. Dr Williams, the Head of the Church of England made a statement: “Belief in God is not about explaining how one thing relates to another. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent, on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence.”
This sort of thinking (philosophy) was started by the early Christian philosopher Thomas Aquinas (c 1225-1274), who adopted the view and used it to argue for the existence of God. He wrote: ‘it is clear that inanimate bodies reach their end not by chance but by intention… There is therefore, an intelligent personal being by whom everything in nature is ordered to its end’. The German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) believed that planets had some sense perception and consciously followed laws of movement that were grasped by their mind. Hawking’s mathematics proves that the universe exists following certain laws of physics.
Still, the question of where we came from and why we are here has only cryptic answers. To a layman the answer could be ‘why do you bother to ask’? Throughout history humans have had a thirst for knowledge to know why things happen. It is like the old English riddle – ‘why does the chicken cross the road? It’s simple for us: it wants to be on the other side of the road. Not so, for scientists. They will try to work out an answer with evidence, while philosophers will have quips and quirks, which seem actual conundrums, but yet are none.
The relationship between science and religion is still a delicate one. But as my feelings are scientific intuition, I will go out on a limb and put my arguments in the face of pretentious blather delivered in profound gravitas by high priests of religion. The paradox of religion is that much of it is demonstrably wrong yet it remains a driving force in all societies. In the past, God had been used to stunt creativity and as a blanket answer to all the problems of humanity.
Perhaps it is time to stop mixing science with theology. On the other hand, there is now John Templeton Foundation with an offer of millions of dollars, whose aim is primarily, a research to support science that in turn supports religion, mixing complex philosophical ideas and sophisticated mathematical physics. That is, to find a mathematical order of the universe with God lurking in the equation. Many Catholics including the Pope have latched on to this idea – to reconcile natural laws with the concept of God.
My views on ‘where we come from, why we are here’ do not subscribe to any religious philosophy. I do not believe that it is really a designer God who created us and organised for us to come and stay here for a short span and suffer before we die? What could be the purpose of such carnage of human lives because of religions? No graphic image is needed to portray the horror of the waste of human lives by fundamental religionists in the name of gods. Shakespeare famously wrote in King Lear:
As flies to wanton boys, are we to the Gods,
They kill us for their sport.
To the question of ’who am I’ my feeling is that as science has promised computer modified human beings in the near future through genetic engineering such as cloned human beings, the concept if ‘who am I’ would be so altered that it would be not worth bothering.
The idea that God created the universe has been a more respectable hypothesis until the Big Bang Theory – a holy grail of cosmology. As to the how holy of a grail we needed proof. Hawking has brought out further proof in his ‘M-theory’ in ‘The Grand Design’. But The Grand design is so mathematical that it is of no help to the atheists, who have already chucked the idea of God from the universe. To the creationists it is codswallop. To Joe Bloggs it is gibberish. But we still need time for the scientific theory to make accurate predictions.
Until Galileo’s (1564-1642) heliocentric theory (the sun is at the centre of the solar system) people believed the biblical interpretation of the Aristotelian and Ptolemic geocentric theory (the earth is at the centre of the solar system). Galileo was in trouble for his innovative Copernican theory. He was imprisoned with a fixed penalty.
While waiting for the philosophers to prove the existence of God, some of us wonder whether the universe requires a Creator to decree how the universe began. Or is the initial state of the universe determined by laws of physics? Did life begin as an accident and become more complex through sheer chance and evolution. Or were we deliberately made as we are by an almighty creator? Are we here because of a deliberate intervention by a designer God or because of random chance?
Creationists believe that we were made by God to understand that life has some purpose – to declare the glory of God. Life on earth is perfect, well balanced and perfectly designed. Random chance could not have produced an orderly and fine-tuned world as complex and diverse as ours. This is the core philosophy of the existence of God.
For scientists, they need evidence to answer as to how the universe was formed and how human beings as we are evolved from simple cell organisms. They believe in evolution and that all life began as an accident from a ‘primordial soup’ when conditions on earth were just right to make random molecules join together and then replicate themselves and finally blossoming into human beings. To the question of why we are here, the answer is that the genes are immortal and they continue to replicate.
While the creationists have nothing to show, scientists have made tremendous progress in cosmology. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and the discovery of the expansion of the universe by the Hubble’s telescope that orbits the earth every 95 minutes have shattered the creationist theory of an ever-existing and ever-lasting universe. Instead, general relativity predicted that the universe, and time itself, would begin in the big bang. It also predicted that time would come to an end in the black holes. The discovery of the cosmic microwave background and observations of black holes supports these conclusions.
Hawking tried to answer the question – where did we come from and why are we here in a lecture delivered on March 13, 2007 in the University of California, Berkeley. “Scientists believe that the universe began with the Big Bang. The universe was contained within a single point of infinitesimally small, dense and very hot point at a finite time, 13.7 billion years ago. It still continues to expand today.”
Hawking’s new M-theory – a grand unified theory is ‘theory of everything’. At this point of time, he has no more proved that there isn’t a God than the most hardened theologicians have proved that there is a God. He has successfully brought together classical and quantum physics. The new theory is that there are other universes (other than ours) – an infinite number, and eleven dimensions of space (used to be a four dimensional sphere initially). In theoretical physics, M-theory (M comes from membrane theory, which is discarded) is an extension of string theory in which 10 dimensions are identified. This new theory explains the existence of multiverse (10^500). That means there are an infinite number of huge different universes of varying probability and that there is no one version of reality.
To the question of why we are here another question overlaps. Why has God chosen this universe, knowing that many unfriendly universes do exist? To the notion that our universe is a friendly one where life can exist and its physical laws are such that life can exist, the question asked by some – why is that this life-allowing universe should be the one God has chosen?
Hawking’s M-theoretical argument is that theologians are firm in their conviction of a divine creator and assert that life could not have come coincidentally (ie it must have been created deliberately). But if there are an enormous number of universes, then the chance of coincidental appearance of life greatly increases. The universe appeared spontaneously “because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself. There is no reason to call it a divine creation.”
Well! No panic. Hawking is not really trying to explain the absence of God. It is high level mathematics – an abstract theory he is pursuing in which there is no room for God.
The writer is based in the UK.