Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Take On Stephen Hawking's Comments

As many of you are aware, Dr. Stephen Hawking released some interesting statements to the media last week regarding the creation of the universe. There have been many responses, both good and bad. I’m going to start with sharing a couple of the responses that I found to be most beneficial (as of this post), then I will provide a perspective that I have not seen presented yet:

Reasons to Believe’s astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross and astrophysicist Dr. Jeff ZweerinkStephen Hawking Says God Did Not Create the Universe: What Do You Think?

Oxford’s triple Ph. D. (mathematics, physics, theology) Dr. John Lennox:
As a scientist I'm certain Stephen Hawking is wrong. You can't explain the universe without God

My Thoughts?
Hawking is not affirming atheism, but deism. But I think that he may be affirming a theology that no one has considered yet. He still recognizes that an outside intelligence is required for mathematics and logic. However, he does not ascribe any personal attributes to this intelligence. My understanding is that this is nothing different from what he affirmed in “A Brief History of Time.”

Hawking does seem to hold that the laws of physics are eternal, but not personal either. What he does not make clear is if the laws of physics possess intelligence. It sounds like Hawking would argue, like theists do, that logic and mathematics are part of the nature of God. God is eternal. Therefore, logic and mathematics are eternal. Also, though, that he (unlike theists) would add the laws of physics to being part of the nature of God- allowing the laws of physics to be eternal too. He ascribes the initiation of the Big Bang to the laws of physics, yet denies that God is ultimately responsible. However, if the laws of physics are part of the nature of God, then God IS ultimately responsible for the initiation of the Big Bang on his view.

This poses a problem if he wishes to affirm just one deity. In order to escape the problem, I think that Hawking might ultimately have to hold a form of polytheism if he wishes to maintain that the laws of physics are uncreated AND that the being responsible for logic and mathematics is NOT ultimately responsible for the initiation of the Big Bang.

Either way (deism or a form of polytheism), Hawking denies personal attributes of the deity(ies). I would almost propose that a new, more succinct term be coined for Hawking’s theology. He affirms that an intelligence outside the universe is required, so he denies atheism. However, he denies that the Intelligence(s) is personal, so he's denying theism. And finally, he’s affirming multiple (minimum two) distinct eternal beings. Its seems that “polydeism” might be the more descriptive theological term for Hawking’s position.

Even if Hawking affirms two distinct eternal beings, he must wrestle with the notion that the physical laws (attributes of one of the deities) relies on the existence of logic and mathematics (attributes of the other deity). He must explain how the physical laws are dependent on logic and mathematics, yet they be co-eternal. If he were to deny that they are dependent, then he must explain why such an illusion of dependency exists. If he can successfully separate the two deities (maintaining his theology), he must be prepared to recognize that all his equations may not actually reflect the laws of physics at all. He can maintain his theology at the cost of the certainty of his research that led him to such a theology. If he wishes to maintain the certainty of his equations, he must abandon his theology- recombine the two deities into a single deity that is responsible for the creation of the universe.

Check out this list of responses to Hawking compiled by Brian Auten at Apologetics 315.


  1. Hawking is probably pretty similar to Spinoza.

  2. I also don't think he affirms two distinct eternal beings.

  3. Please read my last paragraph again- focus on the final sentence.

    Hawking has a choice: the certainty of his equations or the independency of the universe's beginning on God. He cannot have both.

  4. but he never puts forth two deities....?

  5. You are correct. However, Hawking is attempting to separate the "cause of the universe" from "God". I simply showed that he cannot do that without putting forth two deities.

    He either has God as the cause of the universe, or he has two eternal, separate deities; who's separation jeopardize the relationship between mathematics and the laws of physics.

  6. But he's just saying the universe is self-caused. You've lost me here.

  7. ...and do you know why THAT assertion fails?

  8. Why do you think the assertion fails? Have you taken the time to read the Grand Design before being assured that it fails?

    Stenger also has a debate with WLC which can be found here (

  9. The Grand Design is on my reading list. However, I don't need to read it before saying with certainty that self-creation is impossible.

    In order for something to create, it must first exist. And in order for something to be created, it must first not exist. Self-creation requires both states at the same time and in the same context. This is a direct violation of the law of non-contradiction.

    If the law of non-contradiction can be violated, then all of mathematics and science fall to the ground.

    I'm hoping that Hawking does not make this elementary philosophical mistake in his book. Perhaps he nuances his explanation enough that the universe and the creator are actually different from each other. But, as I mentioned in the blog post, it will still fall. Hawking cannot escape the options presented.

  10. William Lane Craig: "Anything that exists has to have a reason why it exists either in an external cause or in the necessity of its own nature."

    I think Hawking is going for "the necessity of its own nature." I'm reading the book tonight.

    But you believe in an uncaused Cause, no?

  11. WLC is correct, and I'm glad that you are bringing that up. However, I think that you are equating self-created to self-existent when there is a huge difference between the two. Self-created violates the law of non-contradiction, while nothing about self-existent violates the same law.

    If Hawking posits a self-created universe, he has a major logical and philosophical problem. Anyone with an introductory course in Logic will concede that. His only other option to escape God's responsibility for the universe is if he posits a self-existent universe. But then he must explain away the beginning that his own equations that describe the universe demand.

    I don't see how the last statement changes anything. Hawking is positing at least one uncaused cause also: the laws of physics and whatever is responsible for the laws of mathematics and logic. He is not positing that the universe itself is an uncaused cause. If you can prove me wrong on that last sentence, please do- that is easily destroyed.

    However, I believe that Hawking is much more sophisticated in his philosophical argumentation than that. My hunch is that Hawking is not positing a self-created or self-existent universe, but rather one that is caused by an impersonal entity that we call "the laws of physics". He may even include math and logic in this "entity" (to avoid the separation I mentioned in the post and its implications). This entity must be an uncaused cause, but is not required to be personal, so that would leave Hawking as a deist, who still credits the creation of the universe to this deistic god.

  12. I think asking Hawking where gravity came from would be the same as asking WLC where God came from.

    Deus sive natura.

  13. Just finished the book. No deism or theism.

  14. "Because there is a law like 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."

    It's simply the necessity of its own nature according to Hawking.

  15. Gravity is self-existent, eternal, and outside the universe. That is a deity, granted an impersonal deity, but still a deity. Hawking is a deist.

    Now, did he mention anything about the laws of logic and mathematics, where they came from or if they are found in the same entity as gravity?

  16. Gravity is not eternal or outside the universe. I am not sure what you mean by that.

    It's just one of the fundamental forces of nature. Because it exists, Hawking argues that the universe will create itself from nothing.

  17. A deity is a supernatural being. Hawking is trying to explain the existence of the universe in purely natural terms utilizing M-theory.

  18. Do you understand that self-creation is a violation of the law of non-contradiction?

  19. Is wave-particle duality a violation of the law of non-contradiction?

    I think the assertion by Hawking would be that classical logic breaks down at the quantum level. I could be wrong.

    But concepts like God-man are paradoxes as well.

  20. We are not talking about paradoxes here. We are talking about A and non-A existing simultaneously in the same context. The only way to avoid the contradiction is to separate the law of gravity from the universe.

    Also, the claim that the laws of logic break down at the quantum level is not accurate. The claim is that we are uncertain of quantum states. Epistemological uncertainty is not the same as ontological uncertainty, neither does the former lead to the latter.

    You also have not answered my previous question: did he mention anything about the laws of logic and mathematics, where they came from or if they are found in the same entity as gravity?

    Sam, you have studied philosophy and logic. You know that science is dependent upon both. If you wish to destroy logic with science, how can you trust your science when you have destroyed its very foundation?

  21. I would also caution you in how you are using paradoxes. Just because a paradox exists in one place, does not demand that a paradox exists elsewhere. Each claimed paradox must be examined on its own merits, without appeal to other paradoxes.

  22. What Hawking puts forth is precisely a paradox.

    I have the book if you want to read it.

  23. I'm just putting forth the God-man paradox to show that you believe in an instance that violates the LNC on the face of things. Fully God and fully man (A^~A).

  24. Thank you for the offer to borrow the book; however, I have started taking extensive notes in the books I read. I do not read a book unless I can mark it up. If I read it, I would not be able to return it in the condition you provided it. As I mentioned before, the book is on my reading list; however, I do not need the book to recognize philosophical and logical fallacies.

    Paradoxes are in the category of epistemology.
    The law of non-contradiction is in the category of ontology (and must be accepted if we are to even have epistemology- knowledge is not possible unless we can distinguish between true and non-true propositions).

    As I mentioned before, epistemological uncertainty does not force ontological uncertainty. We may know something as a paradox (the limits of our epistemology), however our epistemological limits have no bearing on reality (ontology). Also, we cannot just say that something contradictory is a "paradox" then accept the contradiction as reality. This is an argument from ignorance.

    If something begins to exist, it does not exist before its existence is started. Since its existence is in the negative, it cannot perform any action, thus it cannot cause a reaction. It cannot cause any thing, including itself. Entities either exist or they do not. This is not a paradox; it is an ontological absolute.

    So once again, we are not talking about paradoxes; we are talking about reality.

    If "philosophy is dead," as Hawking has stated, then so is science and all other ways of obtaining knowledge. Do you accept that quote from Hawking as true?

    It still remains that you have not addressed any of my questions and challenges. Including how Hawking addresses mathematics and the laws of logic and how you plan to know this is true if the ability to know is destroyed. These are questions that must be answered if you are to continue to assert that Hawking's view has any possibility of accurately reflecting reality.

    I have addressed the possibilities that you put forth of self-creation and self-existence directly. I have also showed why your mentions of "paradoxes" is not related to this conversation. However, you have not bothered to directly address any of my challenges, and you have continued to put out red herrings even after I have attempted to keep the conversation focused.

    If you are unwilling to show my arguments and challenges the respect that I show your's, I will not publish any more of your comments on this blog.

  25. Hi Luke,

    Long time no speak - you mention physics and Hawkings, you have my interest.

    So what are your conclusions?

    Hawking is not affirming atheism, but deism.

    Since I've not read the book, I will trust you on this one.

    So, let assume deism for a moment... erm, erm... erm.

    OK, I've assumed it, I cannot prove it wrong so here is the question for you - from deism, how to you get to theism?


  26. he must explain how the physical laws are dependent on logic and mathematics, yet they be co-eternal

    Why does he need to do this? If Hawking is a deist, he can just say "god did it" and leave it at that.

    YOUR problem is how you go from deistic god to theistic.

    YOU claim your theistic god interacts within the universe today - have you any evidence for this claim? Nope? Well, until you do - don't start telling Hawking what he 'needs to do'


  27. Hi Samuel

    Is wave-particle duality a violation of the law of non-contradiction

    Don't think so (but what do I know about formal logic)... it is a failure of the English Language though.

    A photon is neither a wave nor a particle BUT it will behave like a particle and/or wave in certain situations.

    The English is crap, but the maths works (so I remember, it has been a few years)

    Oh, and this language is all what the theologians are playing with when they ask “What caused the Big Bang?”

    Grammatically sound maybe… but only in the sense that asking “What is north of the North Pole?” is.

    Asking temporal questions before space and time is nothing but word play with these theologians.

    Don’t believe me? Just ask a Christian what God was thinking BEFORE He created the universe… and then what He was thinking BEFORE thinking about creating the universe… and then BEFORE that.

    Suddenly temporal questions are not important to the Christian either.

    Now ask a Christian do they believe their God created the universe out of nothing? If the answer is yes, then who cares about the debate of how the universe ‘came out of nothing’. It is another none question/debate.


  28. Lee,

    Thank you for posting the information about light. However, I believe that Samuel's point that it is a paradox still stands. On the surface, it appears contradictory, but as you have pointed out, further investigation and understanding demonstrates that there is no violation of the law of non-contradiction. Where I believe that Sam is mistaken is that he seems to be forcing a paradox onto reality- that in reality the law of non-contradiction is actually violated (which you and I agree is not the case with light). Self-creation is not a paradox, it is a violation of the law of non-contradiction, so it is an impossibility.

    The point of this post is that Hawking must account for the inconsistency between the laws of physics and mathematics if he wants to separate the two. Deism (single) is unable to do such a thing. Having multiple deities would accomplish his goal; but create another problem. I cannot peg Hawking on his theology because of his irreconcilable claims.

    Hawking does not "need to do" anything in virtue of my statement. If he wishes to make multiple truth claims that are to be taken seriously, those claims need to be consistent and not undermine the other. You and I opperate on the idea that the world we live in is consistent and does not violate the law of non-contradiction. Since Hawking has proposed ideas that are inconsistent and that undermine each other, by our own worldviews, BOTH OF US require that Hawking MUST address these challenges. If we do not require such an address, then we demonstrate that either we do not hold to consistency or the law of non-contradiction- both of which are assumed for science to be useful. Meaning that if we do not hold Hawking responsible for his claims, then we admit science is a useless endeavor.

    Your linguistic challenge of time has been addressed. Your argument fails because of the assumption that "before" is a term limited to temporality; when, in fact, it is also a spacial, causal, and an epistemic term. The fact that it applies foundationally allows for metaphisical "before"'s. The first example that comes to mind is the law of non-contradiction itself. Before science can take place, the law of non-contradiction is epistemically required (this "before" is not limited to space and time). Hawking is using a causal "before" to explain where time, itself came from. There is a much more nuanced form of your challenge that has been addressed by philosophers, physicists and theologians. Two Christians who come to mind who have nuanced the arugment in ways that dispell a more stable form of your challenge are Dr. Hugh Ross and Dr. William Lane Craig. They each propose a different way of handling the challenge. Their respective books are Beyond The Cosmos and Time and Eternity. You may also interact with them on their websites ( and, respectively).

    Also, keep in mind that I want to keep all discussion on the topic of the original post, and I prefer sincere and honest questions, as opposed to rhetorical questions with assumed and sarcastic answers. I do not allow this form of discussion as stated in my "Comments Now Open" post that is linked to above all comment boxes. Please take the time to read that post, then adjust your commenting behavior accordingly.

  29. "These are questions that must be answered if you are to continue to assert that Hawking's view has any possibility of accurately reflecting reality."

    Where did you see me doing this?

  30. While this has nothing to do with my basic point that Hawking is an atheist....

    "On the surface, it appears contradictory, but as you have pointed out, further investigation and understanding demonstrates that there is no violation of the law of non-contradiction."

    Wave (A) Particle (~A).
    A ^ ~A. Violation of LNC.

    Wave (A). Particle (B).
    A = B. Violation of the law of excluded middle.

    Euclidean geometry works in a 2 dimensional world.
    Aristotelian logic works in a static world.

    "The point of this post is that Hawking must account for the inconsistency between the laws of physics and mathematics if he wants to separate the two. Deism (single) is unable to do such a thing."

    1. Where is Hawking separating the two?
    2. Why do you think deism is unable to do such a thing?

  31. This is Hawking in a nutshell.

  32. Samuel,
    By taking the time to discuss Hawking's position, you are demonstrating that you believe that it has the possibility of accurately reflecting reality. If you don't believe this possibility exists, then I must ask, "why are you wasting your time discussing this?" We have discussed this in the past. If I remember properly, I showed that the only other possibility for discussing it, is for your entertainment- which you flatly denied. But since this is not the topic of this thread (a red herring that I don't have time to deal with- see the updated comments policy), any further comments about it will not be published.

    Regarding your response to Lee: there is a difference between "behaves like" and "is". Lee was showing that light behaves like a wave and a particle. He did not show that light is a wave and a particle. "Behaves like" is not a violation of the LNC. The interpretation that you are attempting to force on light is a misunderstanding of light and should be abandoned.

    Regarding the video that you claim sums up Hawking's position: Since I have not yet read Hawking's new book, I am not going to respond to the video as representing Hawking. First problem: the first premise of the Kalam has been confirmed not undermined by this argument. The author of the video fails to recognize that the vacuum and the laws of physics present causally before the big bang is the cause of the universe on the naturalistic view. The identity of the cause is the true issue- not the validity of the Kalam argument itself.

    Second, even if that "vacuum" is demonstrated to be the source of the big bang, that does not rule out God being the one who initiated the fluctuation that resulted in the big bang.

    That video contains two major problems, thus does no damage to the case for the Creator.

    Regarding your last two questions: read the original post and my comments regarding these questions again- repeating your question is not going to get either of us anywhere. If you wish to not accept my responses, just say so. I can't do anything to help you if you are unable (or unwilling) to recognize fallacies and respond to my challenges.

    If you wish to continue avoiding my challenges and giving out red herrings, don't waste your time posting, it won't be published from here on out.


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