God, the universe and Stephen Hawking

He’s done it! Amazing! Who would have thought it? Stephen Hawking has proved there is no need for a God to explain the existence of the universe. Forget your Richard Dawkins and the rest of the amateurs. Here is one of the greatest living physicists stating definitively that ‘It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going’. In his latest book The Grand Design, co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow, he considers the great questions ‘Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why this particular set of laws and not some other?’ His response is that a vast number of universes spontaneously created themselves out of nothing and, with so many universes on offer, one happened to have exactly the conditions necessary for the evolution of human beings. Simple, isn’t it? And you thought physics was hard!

The attacks on Christianity mounted by popular atheists like Richard Dawkins are generally at the level of knockabout comedy, trying to give tired old arguments a new lease of life, vulnerable to the same answers that Christians used to destroy those arguments the first, second or third time that they came around. Hawking is a different proposition. His case against a Creator comes dressed in impressive sounding scientific terminology.

Hawking’s explanation for the existence of this universe, and many others, is ‘M-theory’. Don’t ask what ‘M’ stands for – even proponents of the theory don’t know. It isn’t even a single theory – it’s a family of theories, each applicable in different circumstances. I would try to explain M-theory to you, but the spectacle of the blind leading the blind is not edifying, and ditches are a constant hazard. Suffice it to say that it has to do with strings – not the old-fashioned sort that come in balls and are cut with scissors, but strings none the less. Think of it – the universe is made of string. And they laugh at Genesis! The bottom line for Hawking is this: ‘According to M-theory, ours is not the only universe. Instead, M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing. Their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law’.

Don’t be fooled, however. M-theory may sound impressive, and it’s certainly complex, but it’s actually as full of holes as a block of Swiss cheese. Stephen Hawking has no more disproved the existence of a Creator than has Richard Dawkins or any other noisy atheist. It’s worth noting that other world-class physicists have raised serious doubts about M-theory, and Frank Close, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford, has stated, ‘I don’t see that M-theory adds one iota to the God-debate, either pro or con’.

To begin with, Hawking is trying to tell us that ‘philosophy is dead’. Multitudes of the greatest thinkers, past and present, believing and unbelieving, would dismiss Hawking’s assertion for the rubbish it is. If only what can be observed and measured is real, what of love, loyalty and an thousand other non-material realities? Time and again such naïve materialism has been debunked, although it’s a persistent weed.

Irony of ironies, M-theory itself is not and, it is admitted, may never be open to testing. The multitude of universes of which it speaks cannot be observed, but we ‘know’ they must be there. Haven’t Christians been lambasted for speaking of God is such terms? In fact M-theory doesn’t qualify as science, even on the definition of Hawking and others of the same outlook. A hypothesis that cannot be tested is not science. M-theorists don’t need Christians to shoot them in the foot – they do it perfectly well themselves.

‘Ah’, Hawking disciples will say, ‘Religion is a matter of faith, science is a matter of fact’. A theory that asks you to accept multitudes of undetectable universes springing into existence spontaneously sounds very like a demand for a blind leap of faith, and a bigger leap than belief in a personal Creator. And by the way, scientific laws describe what happens, they don’t make anything happen, not even the spontaneous creation of universes. (And who made the laws??).

The fact is that such theories as Hawking propounds are simply ways of avoiding what is staring every human in the face: the universe is a testimony to the existence of a Creator. As Paul says with reference to all human beings: ‘what may be known about God is plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse’ (Romans 1:19-20). Physicists, cosmologists and others are seizing on M-theory and similar proposals because otherwise the evidence for fine tuning and design in the universe could suggest the hand of a Creator. Much better to opt for the unprovable and untestable than to submit your mind to divine revelation and lay aside your rebellion. M-theory – more nonsense on stilts.