Looks like were all going to be “treated” to a new series on the Discovery Channel wherein British Physicist Stephen Hawking will ponder theological and philosophical questions. A rather strange thing for a scientist to do actually.

I have no doubt that Stephen Hawking is a fine, even a brilliant scientist and theoretical physicist. But science has a limit, a limit rightly imposed on itself, which explores the physical world using empirical and evidential models that do not go beyond the physically observable world. Scientists, even theoretical physicists,   do well who recognize their sphere, their field. And most scientists are quite willing and happy to acknowledge the self defined world of the physical sciences.

Stephen Hawking however, while clutching the mantle of his scientific robes,  has recently strayed beyond what science can say.  In my opinion he he causes harm to science and also proves himself a poor philosopher to boot.  He is free to philosophize of course like any human being, but he ought not cloak it as science and we ought not give any special weight to his philosophical and theological statements, fields in which he clearly has no proper training. When it comes to these fields he is just “some dude” sipping a beer and opining on the deep questions.

But, sadly we DO have to pay attention to him because so many in our world bow their heads with religious reverence as he speaks, and give a weight to his words on these matters that the words do not deserve.

Mr Hawking was recently interviewed in USA Today about his new series. I would like to excerpt the article here and make some comments of my own. As usual the article is in bold, black, italics, my comments are in plain text red. The full article can be read here: USA Today: Science Snapshot

“I recently published a book that asked if God created the universe. It caused something of a stir,” Hawking, 69, begins on the episode. (The “stir”, in fact, was religious leaders denouncing his book’s conclusion that God was unnecessary to the universe.)

Well, of course we shouldn’t expect USA Today to be sympathetic to “religious leaders,” but “denounce” is an unnecessarily provocative description. Why is our position not described as a “principled opposition” rooted in concerns that Mr. Hawking may be making conclusions that science really cannot make, and that he strays from science into philosophy? Or why was our position not described as an “unconvinced?” For, frankly Mr Hawking’s argument is not airtight or invincible. There are many, who find his premises faulty and his conclusions questionable.

But USA Today would rather just depict us as “denouncers” who shout angry things and throw rocks from the sidelines.

As for me, I love science and am very excited about the amazing discoveries of the past 200 years. But I do not expect science, which studies the physical world using empirical observation, to be able to conclude one way or another about God who is pure spirit. To some extent I think science can draw conclusions that there is a design to the universe, but I do not expect it to make definitive claims, one way or the other, as to the who exactly this designer is.

Is this to “denounce,” or is it, as I propose, to take a principled stand that the physical sciences are a careful discipline which study the material world? And that they ought not be invoked to take philosophical and theological stands on the existence of God or angels, or the soul, or anything non-material.

On the show, he takes viewers on a walk through humanity’s history of appraising our place in the universe, from Vikings facing down eclipses to the laws of modern cosmology, which explain the origin and structure of universe. “I believe the discovery of these laws is mankind’s greatest achievement,” he says.

So it would seem that Mr Hawking, in his series, sees ancient and modern belief in God as just some sort of way to “find my place in the universe,”  as a mere anthropological projection of cosmology? Somehow we are seen as similar to the superstitious of Vikings and other ancients who feared eclipses and other things things they did not understand.

I suspect I am also to suppose that just like we would laugh at, or pity someone getting spooked by an eclipse, we should also laugh at, or pity those who believe in God? It would seem that I am also supposed to presume that modern cosmology has it all figured out, unlike the pitiable ancients?

Mr Hawking has said elsewhere that he thinks belief in God is just a coping mechanism for believers. Well of course that is one way to believe in God. But it is not why I believe in God. Nor is it why most people I know believe in God.

I believe in God because I have experienced his power and presence in my life. I believe in God because I see evidence for his existence in the things he has made, things that manifest both a first cause and evidence an intelligent and purposeful design. I believe in God because he is changing my life, and in the laboratory of my own life, I have tested his wisdom and Word and found them to be true.

I am not consciously obsessed with dying, nor do I need to be comforted and reassured in the face of it. Frankly my faith challenges, more than comforts me. My faith holds up a cross before me, not a pillow. There is surely some consolation in there being a “meaning to my life,” but Mr. Hawking, indeed every human being, seeks meaning.

Believers should not be demeaned and our faith simplified by equating us with spooked Vikings staring at an eclipse. The Roman Catholic Faith is a smart and thoughtful faith extending back 2000 years to Christ, and 5000 years further into Jewish antiquity. We are not the yahoos some like to think we are. We have a strong, lasting and profound theological and philosophical tradition. And these have served as an important foundation for the development of the natural sciences.

In a short, exclusive interview with USA TODAY, Hawking e-mailed his answers to why he is taking on religion to start off the show, and discussed his life and legacy. Here are his answers to some of the questions:

Q: First, we wonder if you could comment on why you are tackling the existence of God question?
A: I think Science can explain the Universe without the need for God.

And I would answer that physical science cannot conclude one way or another on the existence of a purely spiritual Being. Science need have no opinion on whether God is “needed,” for it limits its scope to studying effects, and secondary causality. The primary cause of all things is a philosophical and theological pondering, for it exists before singularity, and thus lies beyond what science can currently measure. In other words, science is not equipped to answer the ultimate question of “why” things exist. It studies things that do exist, and can probe their secondary causes. But primary causality, the ultimate why of the existence of all things lies outside the system.

What Mr Hawking is doing here is not science at all, it is philosophy, and poor philosophy at that. For philosophy carefully distinguishes cause and effect. It also distinguishes primary causality from secondary causality. Even more, it  distinguishes material, formal, efficient, and final causality. Mr Hawking would seem to gloss over all this, and thus portrays his amateur status as a philosopher. If you’re going to enter the world of philosophy you might at least brush up on terminology so as to have a reasonably thoughtful discussion with your interlocutors.

Q. What problems you are working on now, and what do you see as the big questions in theoretical physics?
A: I’m working on the question, why is there something rather than nothing, why are the laws of physics what they are.

Well, stick the laws of physics please, because science is not well equipped to answer the ultimate question of why. Ultimate meaning and “why all this”  it just not a physically measurable thing. It is not a question physical science can really answer. How do you physically measure meaning? What are the scales you weigh it in? Does meaning have physical weight? That said, at least he is describing his work as theoretical physics. But remember, physics is going to have “physical” limits and must limit itself to the physical, material world.

Q: What do you see as your legacy in science or for the people who have become enthusiastic about physics as a result of your work and writing?
A: I think my most important discovery is the fundamental relation between gravity and thermodynamics (the study of how heat moves through matter) which gives a black hole a temperature and causes it to evaporate slowly.

Cool!

Essentially on “Is There A Creator?,” Hawking notes that on the sub-atomic scale, particles are seen in experiments to appear from nowhere. And since the Big Bang started out smaller than an atom, similarly the universe likely “popped into existence without violating the known laws of Nature,” he says. Nothing created the universe, so in his view there was no need for a creator. That is his explanation for “why there is something rather than nothing.”

Well, the philosophical and logical errors here are more numerous than there is time to explore.

Even scientifically I wonder how we define “nowhere.” It may be a true fact that we do not know where the particles come from or how they appear, but we cannot logically leap to the absolute conclusion that they come form “nowhere.”

To say that they come from nowhere is an a priori assumption.  It is unproved that the particles come from nowhere. And how would we prove that something came from nowhere? It may be that we simply don’t understand where they came from or how.

And, even if we could reasonably prove that something came from nowhere, does that ipso facto mean that it did not exist before it came from nowhere?

I suppose, as a theologian I could proffer that it existed spiritually before it materialized? But of course physical science cannot measure the spiritual and cannot accept my theory or measure it. So it would seem to science that the particle came from nowhere. But that does not mean that it did come from nowhere, only that science cannot explain where it came from or how; at least not now.

For example, a blind man might theorize that raindrops on his head come from nowhere, because he cannot see their cause. But that does not prove they come from nowhere, only that he does not know where they come from or how.

“The series is all about satisfying our curiosity about the world,” Hendricks says. Rather than tackling science like classroom topics, the shows will ask questions and see what research has to say about them, he says, an inversion of the standard science show formula. “That is why we are starting with Stephen Hawking,” Hendricks adds. “We want to be asking the deepest questions we can, such as ‘Did God Create the Universe?”

A question which science can’t answer.

Frankly, save your time from watching this Hawking show. If you do watch it, please remember that Mr Hawking is free to wonder and theorize. But that is all it is, a theory. And remember too that he is wandering as he wonders. He is wandering beyond the proper limits of his discipline. While he may be a fine physicist, but that does make him a good philosopher, any more than it makes him a good car mechanic. I would not want him to work on my car any more than I want to give weight to his amateurish philosophical ponderings. He is free to make them, but they are poorly set forth, based on poor philosophical foundations and logical flaws.  Do not be fooled by his lab coat.

Photo Credit: Yortw via Creative Commons

24 Responses

  1. Daniel says:

    Dear Msgr.,

    Your insights are so appreciated–thank you. What is it about our modern world that celebrity-status invites “expertise” when there is none on so many topics?

    I especially liked the very simple and true reasoning of being given a cross, not a pillow! I wonder how St. Therese of Lisieux would respond to this man. How would she explain a Love that inspired her to “offer herself as a holocaust to His Merciful Love”? (Act of Oblation)

    Are we not all called, at some point to close the wings of our intellect, and concede that all knowledge is not worth bearing if it impedes our salvation? The modern atheists seem to regard this as the ultimate heresy. Like John Nash says in the film A Beautiful Mind, “It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logical reasons can be found.”

  2. Bernard says:

    Dear Msgr,

    I appreciate your points. I totally agree with your assessment, especially with the fact that a physicist is trying to make philosophical pronouncements.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t “to appear from nowhere” basically the definition of creation? (as in God creating everything ex nihilo) Even if you concede Hawking’s observation, don’t these experiments just end up proving that the process of creation ex nihilo is not just some archaic theological dogma, but actually occurs “without violating the known laws of Nature” and is hence at the very least reasonable even for an atheist to believe? Isn’t God always bringing things out of nothing anyway, such as every human soul conceived in the womb?

    It boggles my mind on how Hawking can go from “on the sub-atomic scale, particles are seen in experiments to appear from nowhere” to all of a sudden “Nothing created the universe” or “there was no need for a creator.” Apparently the fact that particles “pop into existence” means that nothing is causing the popping. It seems to me that this unbelievable logical mistake on his part is that his concept of God (Who is the uncaused cause of everything) is simply inadequate or lacking. Please correct me if I’m wrong Monsignor.

    Thanks and God Bless,
    A poor college student

    • I think Ismael does a pretty good job of answering your question just below. I would only add that in denying efficient cause Hawking has still not tackled formal causality, or final causality. We do not argue in the biblical and theological world that creation explains itself when we assert creation ex nihilo. Rather, standing behind this is the unmoved mover, or the uncaused cause we call God. Now I understand that science cannot opine on this matter for God is outside the system science is equipped to measure. But my point is that we do not simply assert creation ex nihilo as if that alone explains creation.

  3. Ismael says:

    “Q: First, we wonder if you could comment on why you are tackling the existence of God question?
    A: I think Science can explain the Universe without the need for God.”

    I think here Hawking is answering the wrong question.

    Science MIGHT ‘explain the (material) universe’ without invoking God… science, after all, deal in explaining the motions of the material universe.

    The question ‘why is there a universe in the first place’ is a different question.

    “Essentially on “Is There A Creator?,” Hawking notes that on the sub-atomic scale, particles are seen in experiments to appear from nowhere. And since the Big Bang started out smaller than an atom, similarly the universe likely “popped into existence without violating the known laws of Nature,” he says. Nothing created the universe, so in his view there was no need for a creator. That is his explanation for “why there is something rather than nothing.””

    Yes but here Hawking is LYING (or has become so stupid he does not understand the concept of ‘nothing’…). Ontologically virtual particles do not come from ‘nothing’ or ‘nowhere’… that’s BS.

    Virtual particles pop into existence because there is a vacuum (which is not nothing) with a vacuum energy which is NOT zero (which is definitively SOMETHING). It’s energy becoming matter and then matter annihilating into energy again. It’s a transformation, not a ‘creation’.

    Sure perhaps there is no ‘efficient cause’ to the formation of virtual particles in vacuum, but there is definitively an ‘ontological cause’.

    Also Hawking himself claims that the universe started ‘because of the law gravity’… so
    he’s basically making the fallacious equation gravity = ‘nothing’ (I wonder what Einstein would say… he’s probably turning in his grave like a dreidle)

    So saying:

    “Nothing created the universe, so in his view there was no need for a creator.” is basically not only bad philosophy, but also BAD SCIENCE, not to mention a very foul intellectual dishonesty.
    This is very very sad, because I respect Hawking for his scientific achievements and hearing him saying such nonsense is just painful.

    ALSO:

    let’s assume Hawking was right (he’s definitively not right, any decent physicist with no atheist axe to grind would see that) and particles did pop out from nothing and so did the universe… well… would this actually explain the universe?

    Not really: the question ‘why’ would still remain and the explanation of Hawking still wo0uld beg the question.

    Moreover: Hawking is committing the so-called “fallacy of composition”, i.e. if the part of something has a certain property, then the whole has a certain property (or vice versa).

    Although this might be true for SOME properties, we cannot possibly know that because particles come out of “nothing” the universe itself came out of “nothing”.

    Hence, even if Hawking was right regarding the “poppin’ out of nothing” nonsense, he’s conclusion would still be fallacious.

    ==========

    The very SAD thing is that Hawking is ill… no I am not referring to his paralysis… but a far worse illness: the “Dawkins-Myer-syndrome” which annihilates any common sense and reason in a brain.

    Only a good dose of humility can cure that.

    Also Hawking seems to prove that great intelligence and great stupidity can coexist in a person…

  4. Nguyen Thuong MInh says:

    Epistle 216
    My some thoughts about “the homily” of Msgr. Charles Pope are here below:
    Firstly, the homily talked about a debate between British Physicist Stephen Hawking and Msgr. Charles Pope, an American Theologian.
    Mr. Stephen Hawking thought that “Science can explain the Universe without the need for God”.
    And Msgr. Charles Pope said that Mr. Stephen Hawking wanders.
    I quite agree with Msgr. Charles Pope about Father’s comments.
    Secondly, now permit me to add some matters to relate to the homily hereafter:
    If I want to intervene in the debate, then I ought to know clearly both physics and theology. But, what a shame I only know a bit on physics. Therefore, I can’t say that Mr. Stephen Hawking’s words are right or wrong.
    Similarly, Mr. Stephen Hawking also doesn’t know at all about theology. Therefore, he shouldn’t say that “Science can explain the Universe without the need for God”.
    As an economist, I think that “Science including economics can’t explain origin of the Universe” because here Universe including human beings.
    I as well as Mr. Stephen Hawking can’t explain exactly on origin of human beings.
    In other words, I can’t know exactly who my Father is.
    But, as a secular seminarian, I know exactly that my Father is God, that is, God created me (and human beings).
    In fact, almost mothers don’t know exactly who their babies are because when their babies are born, they don’t see the birth with their own eyes.
    And in fact, almost mothers also don’t know exactly who Fathers of babies are because when they want to have a baby but they don’t have, and vice versa, when they don’t want but they had.
    When I say that I had two sons, that is, I want to say that just God gave me two sons. This is a theological language.
    But I can’t say that Physics or Science gave me two sons, though, in this case, Physics or Science can be understood as God./.

  5. Ismael says:

    @Bernard

    As I explain above Hawking is not referring to ‘creatio-ex-nihilo’… since particle-antiparticle pairs that ‘pop out’ in vaccum do so because there are not one but two things there: 1- vacuum, or better said: ‘space-time’ (an empty space is something, not nothing, and space-time itself was formed by the Big Bang…) and 2-Energy (the so-called ‘vacuum energy’).

    Also Hawking is confusing ‘ontological’ with ‘efficient’ cause. If you strike a match and lit it ther ‘efficient cause’ (or chainf of causes in this case) is the man moving the match, causing friction, which causes heat, which ignites the match.

    *Ontologicalliy*… there needs to be a match with the ‘inherrent power’ to be ignited in the first place. If there is no match there is no flame, and take away the match the flame will go away as well.

    So the efficient cause of certain quantum processes might be unknown or even unintellegible or completely stochastic (random), but the ontological cause is not. To have formation of particle-antiparticle pairs you need at least the two things mentuioned above: space-time and energy.

    Actually the formation of such particle-antiparticle pairs was one of the factors that lead to the discovery of ‘vacuum energy’… and thsi because scientists did NOT say ‘ooohhh particles pop out of nothing’… but obviously understood that there HAD to be something that was leading to these particles formation.

    “It seems to me that this unbelievable logical mistake on his part is that his concept of God ”

    Well I mentioned in my previous reply above that Hawking commits basically a ‘fallacy of composition’.

    Yet we do not even need philospohy to prove that Hawking is blurting out nonsense: science itself proves it.

  6. Shan Gill says:

    Msgr. Pope: You have it precisely right – science cannot declare anything on the existence of God beyond, Either He exists or He doesn’t exist. End of scientific analysis as to the existence of God. Everything else is merely a scientist’s opinion.

    Stephen Hawking does not ‘prove’ that the creation/existence of the universe is independent of God, he merely opines it. It is sad commentary that so many confuse opinion with factual analysis. Thank you for your hard work.

  7. Cynthia BC says:

    I promise not to spend any time watching this series. I will be too busy watching TiVo’d episodes of Dirty Jobs and Mythbusters.

    In all seriousness, those with expertise in philosophy and theology SHOULD watch, so that they can point out and explain to us the fallacies that Hawking presents. Assaults on our faith can be insidious; we need to recognize Hawking’s assault for what it is, and to have the knowledge and understanding to defend our faith.

    • Well said. To be honest I have a few folks who tell me that the best thing is to ignore Hawking and that I shouldn’t even blog on his antics. That might be true if he were more obscure, but a lot of people eat up what he says just because they think he is brilliant. Well, he ain’t not great shakes as a philosopher, that’s for sure. Any way you can see that I agree with.

  8. elcid says:

    As the great ArchBishop Sheen stated: “The chances that he (man of science) will be less skilful in the method of philosophy, for the constant handling of the concrete dulls his capacity for handling the abstract, philosophy is a form of spirituality, and it’s first condition is abstraction from matter”.

    I don’t question the scientific Intellectualism of a Stephen Hawking, but I do question his common sense, which is needed in philosophy and theology, there are first principles, common perceptions which are part of our human nature that are not material base.
    He speaks of the laws of physics that have been discovered…so in essence they have always existed; man did not create them they just discovered them…so man discovers new realities but why not posit the proposition of an unconditioned reality, Hawking himself posited a Singularity theorem that implied a creation event.

    I was reading a book by Lee Smolin called “The Trouble with Physics” when I read the excerpt below, the first thing that came to my mind was the Unity of the Trinity!

    “These two discoveries, of relativity and of the quantum, each required us to break definitively with Newtonian physics. However in spite of great progress over the century, they remain incomplete. Each has defects that point to the existence of a deeper theory, but the main reason each is incomplete is the existence of the other, the mind calls out for a third theory to unify all physics, and for a simple reason, nature is in an obvious sense unified.

  9. Kerstin says:

    Amen!
    It is important that we as Christians have the counter-arguments at the ready.

    I am continously amazed at the tortured “conclusions” of prominent secularist scientists explaining the ‘why’s ” of our existence. Their worldview excludes the non-material including God. So they have to find “solutions” that exclude God at all costs. Furthermore, the non-material is part of the human experience, such as love, truth, justice, beauty, virtue, evil, etc., etc. Even they can’t escape that. It’s no surprise secularist explanations of the why’s of our existense are usually a tortured, irrational mess – no matter how “logical” their wordsmithing.
    Another aspect is the sheer elitism they sprout. Being an expert in one discipline doesn’t make you one in another. However, when it comes to faith, all think they are experts. What they fail to realize is that the Bible, her theology and philosophy is a comprehensive body of knowledge in itself, and so is the Church and her teachings. Mr Hawkins, whom I admire greatly, is sadly going down the path of so many scientists before him, of colossally embarrassing himself publicly through his sheer ignorance.

  10. ejcmartin says:

    Monsignor your personal credo “I believe…” is one of the best summaries of faith I have ever read.

  11. Jeff Galloway says:

    “I believe in God because I have experienced his power and presence in my life. I believe in God because I see evidence for his existence in the things he has made, things that manifest both a first cause and evidence an intelligent and purposeful design. I believe in God because he is changing my life, and in the laboratory of my own life, I have tested his wisdom and Word and found them to be true.”

    Perhaps Dr. Hawkings and others don’t believe in God precisely because they haven’t experienced his power and presence in their lives…or have failed to detect them.

  12. Sherry says:

    I think that, deep down, many atheists are “wannabes” – they are still searching for the ultimate. They just don’t yet realize it is God.

    About ten years ago, I was blessed to be in an all-day seminar entitled simply “God” with a priest who is also a physicist (space science and applied physics) – and has a doctorate in Sacred Theology (Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete). He was a fabulous speaker. It was such a let down at the end of the day as we all felt we could have listened to him so very much longer. His discussion of the transcendent was truly a faith experience that I’ll never forget.

    He wrote a terrific small book called: “God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity”. It came about as a result of his being the consultant for a PBS Frontline program on John Paul II. He was with lots of people who had little use for religion and was asked penetrating questions about his faith that gave him pause. After the experience, he pursued the questions in greater depth and wrote this book. He has been on TV and has debated with various atheists.

    After a recent blog on the National Catholic Register, a discussion which generated lots of interest from atheists, I sent away for “God at the Ritz” to reread it. Msgr. Albacete is a really good evangelist – he does understand his audience(s)!

  13. Sherry says:

    On the above entry, I mentioned that Msgr. Albacete was a consultant for the Frontline Program on JPII. Actually, it was really not about the pope as much as the “challenges to contemporary culture posed by the pope – not in terms of doctrine and morals, but on the very nature of the religious claim to truth. It was not so much Pope John Paul II’s views but rather the “drama of atheist humanism”.

  14. Father Joe says:

    It is painful to read what Professor Stephen Hawking writes and says about God and life after death; no, not because he is persuasive, but because his departure from his own learned field of study will put him up for ridicule and make even his nore credible scientific theories suspect. We are all taken by this courageous man in the wheelchair. We all know immediately the synthetic voice which speaks for him. We want to think that there might be one genius who sees deeper than the rest of us in regard to the ultimate questions. But we cannot always get what we want and the good doctor is more show than substance. He suggests that the “laws of science” are all we need and that they alone can explain how the universe created itself from nothing. His notions brings him into conflict with a premise taught in first year seminary philosophy, that if there are laws then there must be a law giver. He wrote a book on the subject and this will be his theme in the first episode of a new Discovery Channel television program. By the way, the people from Discovery called me this past summer, urging me to get a discounted package of their biblical DVDs for use in parish religious education programs. I asked the lady on the phone, given that so much of the material is speculative and contrary to Christian faith, why would I want to partner with them? She said that they were trying to change their image. Well, I am glad I said no because it looks like we will be getting more of the same anti-Catholic fare on Discovery in the days to come. Yes, along with spurious claims about the lost tomb of Jesus and alien astronauts masquerading as angels, we will now have Hawking’s atheism to supplement all the programs on Darwinian evolution. Despite what the good doctor argues, I cannot believe that mankind is merely an inconsequential cosmic accident. The common thread in much of their programming is either to repudiate Judeo-Christian claims or to put the faith up to ridicule with fanciful religious shows and pseudo-science. Professor Hawking is trading in his credentials for a popularity based on the latter. Certain scientists, themselves, Christian and not, are becoming increasingly concerned about his eccentricities. I suspect people of faith will find it increasingly difficult to regard him and his ideas with any degree of seriousness. It goes without saying, that the reputation of Discovery will be further degraded by their pursuit of the sensational and oddly controversial. Speaking for myself, I give the same level of credence to their programs as to the so-called investigative programs on the SyFy Channel.

  15. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Well, it certainly seems that Stephen Hawking has found a way to broaden his interest beyond the academic community; which may have (or may not have) become a little drab for him; and found his way into the limelight again.
    However, I don’t know if that’s his motive but, here I am straying toward one of my pet peeves – namely when when a person is criticized for what they said by attacking the person and not what they have said. So, I’ll address what he has written because, if I don’t then I could create the impression that I don’t feel that it is possible to effectively dispute his claims.
    Firstly, Bernard’s response on particles that seem to appear from nowhere and Ismael’s comment that a vacuum is not nothing reminds me of things that show a definite lack, and not just Mr. Hawking’s “nowhere” and what we call a “vacuum”. These both lack something and yet have existence or else they wouldn’t have a name, a description (lack of where existence is or lack of matter) or other things.
    There have been some wonderous discoveries based on seeing a lack. For starters, how about zero? It could have been dismissed out of hand because of its nothingness; and probably was until knowledge of it drifted from the sub continent of India through the scientific cultures of South Asia and into Western Europe. Then long multiplication and division, among other things, became much simpler. It’s at the centre of the four quandrants of Rene Descartes’ Cartesian Co-ordinate system (unless one adds a third axis to the original two which naturally fit a piece of paper, in which case there are are eight cube-like sections instead of four quadrants and…this system is the basis of the graphs we use to chart so many of our endeavours.
    Then there was the silhouette of a key that occured on a photographic plate which had never been exposed to light and which a professor at the Sorbonne University showed to Pierre and Marie Curie. Some, including myself, have called it a picture from time to time but a picture is a result of light being reflected off of an object and onto something like a retina, a photographic plate, the digital readout of a camera. It could also be light passing through something, such as an old fashioned transparent slide or movie film. However, when it originates behind something and goes to the photographic plate, etc. everywhere except through the object then we find a dark representation of the object which illustrates the outline of the object and nothing else. This is a definate lack. The Curies knew that the energy wasn’t light so; rather than dimiss it as “nothing” they searched for another energy and began the nuclear age.
    Monsignor Pope, in the originating post here, tells us that; “I believe in God because I have experienced his power and presence in my life. I believe in God because I see evidence for his existence in the things he has made, things that manifest both a first cause and evidence an intelligent and purposeful design. I believe in God because he is changing my life, and in the laboratory of my own life, I have tested his wisdom and Word and found them to be true.”
    Rene Descartes shows scientic responsability when he finds a lack that exists (zero) and uses it to make a positive contribution to our knowledge. The Curies, especially Marie (nee Sklodowska) find a lack that exists (the missing details of the key inside the outline) and use it to make a positive contribution to our knowledge. Monsignor Pope seems to perceive a lack of our current visible representation of God (Deuteronomy33:17&18 and Ezekiel 39:23-29) and turns to studying the effect God has on us; somewhat like the way the energy which was discovered by the Curies was studied in cloud chambers, gieger counters, the blue glow of visible light which has been known to appear in water near some nuclear reactors. I can only speak for myself here but, I appreciate how his approach (in this post and elsewhere) has helped my knowledge to grow.
    On the other hand, Stephen Hawking seems to have found a lack and dismissed it as a proof that other seekers are wasting their time. This may appear to be a personal attack on him; in disregard of how I began by turning away from the temptation to judge at the beginning of the response; but, the main post here definately illustrates that he is claiming to use a scientific basis and I feel a need to challenge the quality of the use of how he does use scientific principles, “Is There A Creator?” and other related issues.
    So many people have seen that a “lack of” is something and some unfortunates haven’t. I wonder how many benefits have worked their way from Daniel’s lesson in how to conduct a scientific experiment in the 7th Century BC: as related in the first chapter of the chapter of the Book Daniel; to Professor Hawking and if he is able to appreciate it.
    I am so glad that I prayed more than usual for guidance on this one and am so grateful that God heard my prayers and came to my aid. I know that He did because, while this composition wasn’t particularly easy, it became much more do-able after my prayer. These proofs may never be measured on a scale but they are much more real than the noise from a gieger counter .

  16. JR says:

    The immaterial meanderings of Hawking will never garner a mathematical proof because there isn’t one.

    A much simpler explanation of Hawking’s belief system might simply be there actually was no beginning. Since we cannot intellectually grasp the concept of a beginning from nothing (which to Hawking looks like an absence of God), it may just be a non-question. He himself has also postulated multiple dimensions (11 I believe) and the Universe as we currently know and observe through science is only 3 dimensional. So what/where are the other 8?

    Funny thing is that the vast majority of us have no inkling toward or sufficient grasp of physics like Hawking; our brains (or minds as I’m more inclined to believe) are different. And perhaps, it is simply unnecessary for us to arrive at an optimal truth through physics. We do not live our lives or relish the essence of things through math and numbers, at least not cognitively.

    As for individual accounts of transcendant experiences (near death/out of body experiences or even the profoundest feelings of love), it is useless for us to try to prove them because we never will. I won’t dissect another person’s accounts or go into detail about my own because it’s pointless. You can either have FAITH in another’s subject’s story or disregard it because of skepticism. Fair enough. But don’t try to prove or disprove it, because it’s not possible.

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