Inspired and Blessed by Bob Acebedo
Inspired & Blessed

Stephen Hawking’s atheism

Apr 25, 2023, 11:48 PM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo


Stephen Hawking, who died in March of 2018 at the age of 76, was a world-renowned physicist and cosmologist who was best known for his discovery that black holes emit radiation which can be detected by special instrumentation. His discovery has made the detailed study of black holes possible.

Hawking lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease that impacts movement, and used a wheelchair most of his adult life.

But, the neurological disease, which Hawking was diagnosed of at 21, did not deter him from boldly proclaiming his unbelief in God.

In his final, posthumous book “Brief Answers to the Big Questions,” Hawking wrote “there is no God, and no one directs the universe.”

“The question is: Is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can’t understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second,” Hawking once said on a TV show in Britain. “If you like, you can call the laws of science ‘God’, but it wouldn’t be a personal God that you could meet, and ask questions.”

Now, here’s my take apropos Hawking’s atheistic pronouncements.

1. In his 2010 book “The Grand Design”, Hawking wrote: “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.” Here, Hawking argues that the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics.

However, I’d like to counter that laws themselves do not create anything – they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions. And neither gravity nor any other law of physics provides a mechanism by which the universe can be spontaneously created. What Hawking perhaps failed to answer was why such laws of physics exist? Who made them? Where did those laws come from?

But still, skeptics may dare ask: “Who created God?” Perhaps they already have the answer to such question – Nothing! Because “in the beginning, there was nothing except God, or nothing preceded God” (from the Judaeo-Christian perspective of creation).

2. Hawking’s purportedly “scientific” assertions that “God did not create the universe” and “God does not exist” are inconclusive, just as science too is in itself scientifically nebulous or inconclusive on this issue.

In Hawking’s view, the concept of God as the “creator of the universe” must be scientifically testable, like the empirically testable law of gravity or laws of physics. But it has remained manifestly evident, since time immemorial, that science – which is supposedly based on fact or evidence – has posed being inconclusive on such propositions regarding the origin of the universe, with theories having remained theories themselves. This only proves the “finiteness or incompleteness” of empirical evidence, of scientific inquiry, and even of reason or logic.

On the other hand, one cannot fail to note that belief or faith in an all-powerful and all-intelligent creator, which purportedly shuns the necessity of rigorous scientific investigation or astute logical reasoning, may yet provide a pragmatically profound or meaningful life.

3. Can the laws of science be equally characterized or ascribed as God? To re-state what Hawking said: “The question is: Is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can’t understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second. If you like, you can call the laws of science ‘God’, but it wouldn’t be a personal God that you could meet, and ask questions.”

There is likely an indicative tinge of “deism” in this statement of Hawking. Theism is distinct from deism. While theism views all things and beings to be limited and finite, and dependent in some way on one supreme or ultimate reality, called God, with whom one may also speak in personal terms, “deism” proposes that God exists, created the universe or has laid down its laws, but does not interfere directly with the created world or is not involved in human affairs. For the deist, God is just in the shadows and beyond, and proceeds as if there were no God, or there is one except that he is “absent.”

Similarly, for Hawking to give in to the idea that the laws of science, which does not require a creator, may be ascribed as “God” itself is but a repudiation of the existence of a “personal God” whom humans can meet, walk or talk with.

To put in my two cents, I’d like to adduce two points in this regard. First, as has been established, the laws of science cannot plausibly stand by itself as the prime creator or the “be-all and end-all of everything,” or as God. Second, as to whether God is “personal” or “not involved,” I am inclined to think that, in real-life experience, it is more practically beneficial (or “pragmatic”, to use the philosophic term) to believe and relate to a personal God (like the historical person of Jesus, who became like us and radically claimed himself as God) than an abstract or indifferent God. Verily, in the pragmatic scheme of things, it is plausible for us to know God’s existence even wholly apart from rational or scientific arguments.

After all, life’s meaning or worth cannot solely be sourced from rational ruminations or hard facts, but more significantly from such transcendent or immortal values as human faith, goodness, truth, beauty, and above all – love.

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