This week we were informed on internet news sites that in his posthumous book Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Stephen Hawking has left us the message that there is no God.
According to the report I read, this was a “bombshell”. Well, as far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t even news, since Hawking declared himself an atheist long ago, and said similar things throughout his career.
But what I find annoying is this presumption of many scientists, and it is mostly quantum physicists doing the presuming, that only they can say what is real. No one else – biologists, chemists, geologists, psychologists, historians, novelists, poets, anthropologists, theologians, literary critics, artists, or philosophers – have any business saying anything about reality.
According to what I have read so far, Hawking is supposed to have said this:
“There is no God. No one directs the universe.”
Most scientists have this simplistic, very unscientific view of religion where God sits at a workbench constructing and meddling with the universe. They don’t seem to know that Hindu, Islamic, Judaeo-Christian and other thinkers have presented many sophisticated possible ideas of what God is and what God does. They don’t seem to recognize that the experience of God has long been understood to be an experience of the psyche. And the nature of the psyche is something scientists have been avoiding for a century.
When I was a young man, I dismissed God as illogical. But during my life I repeatedly came across the mysterious tracks of something obviously much bigger than me, until I realized that I had to back off from that position.
Today my view is this – something is there, unknowable to me, but it may not always be unknowable. So, for the time being, I am “agnostic” (see my post, I am an Agnostic, but I believe in God).
In the 23rd century, when super-intelligent computers have been at work for a while on these problems, there may well be extensive knowledge of gods, spirits, other levels of reality, etc. Maybe that will come in this century, but only if the scientific community backs off from this peculiar phobia they have towards any experience that can’t be explained by current science.
Instead they make immodest statements like “There is no God”, as if there will be no scientists of the future who may say something else. All they are qualified to say is, “Based on natural laws as we know them, we don’t think there is a God.” That would be a reasonable statement, yet no one wants to be reasonable anymore.
We live in an age of assertiveness, as if only the most aggressive statements are valid.
I’ve read all of Stephen Hawking’s books to date – enjoyed and benefited from each of them – and I look forward to reading this one too. But unless it turns out that Hawking has been discovered in some after-life corner of reality reporting back on what he has found there, I doubt whether I am about to learn anything new about God.