I finally watched "Curiosity" last night. I had recorded the show out of...well...curiosity. The hype leading up to the show said they were going to tell us whether or not God created the universe. I knew, of course, that the likely outcome would be that He did not. My suspicions grew when I noticed how many different channels had the same show at the same time. Gracious, they really wanted to get the message out.
The program was hosted by eminent Professor Stephen Hawking. I had read his history of time, and generally followed along his physics career in a dilettante way. With Stephen Hawking on board, I expected to be challenged to think about my positions, and to have to justify myself. Unfortunately, the thinking and reasoning put forward could be easily knocked down by any high school advanced placement physics student.
Hawking uses significant time during his hour to either assert theories as proven fact, or to reiterate old canards. For example, he posits the existence of something called negative energy. To my knowledge, nobody has proven the existence of negative energy, though its existence is a necessary condition if wormholes actually exist. But then, wormholes are not a proven theory either. Fine, but what does that really have to do with the question at hand?
Hawking also reiterates the idea that the Luddite "church" stands against brave scientists like Hawking, citing the story of Galileo to prove his point. But Galileo wasn't imprisoned for discovering that earth revolved around the sun, or that Jupiter has moons. Rather, what the church could not abide is that Galileo insisted on telling students not only what is, but what it means. In other words, Galileo was invading the church's turf. Galileo was only reluctantly made to recant after he became so outspoken that the church had to do something or risk losing all credibility. He was imprisoned in rather lavish surroundings where he was allowed to continue his work until his death. Not the work of an angry church on the run from science, is it? But Hawking is a physics professor, not a historian, so one can easily let this little slip up pass.
Getting to the heart of the matter, Hawkings basic argument is that at the very beginning of the universe, matter and energy were condensed to an infinitely small point, a black hole of infinite mass compressed into an infinitely small point. You could say that the universe was packed into nothing. You will recall that as something gets closer and closer to a black hole, time slows down, and if the black hole is sufficiently massive, time eventually stops all together. So, at the moment of the big bang, there was no time, and no space (because the two are inextricably linked.) Now, because there was no time, and no space, therefore there could not be a first cause, because God would have no time in which to initiate the first cause. The universe must have created itself.
I kid you not. That is the argument. Nowhere does Hawking see fit to address objections.
This betrays an extremely juvenile notion of what and who God is. It is hard for us to imagine anything outside our universe. For instance, into what did the universe expand? What did God do "before" creating the universe? Both questions are meaningless because they assume that space expanded into space, and that time actually existed. But that does show the difficulty since what we can know is bounded by our known physical laws. Everything else is speculation. Then there is the idea that the universe created itself. How? If you are going to live entirely with the physical laws of the known universe, you will die with them too. By what physical law does the universe suddenly decide to start inflating? Because one of the things we first learn is that a body at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Something had to initiate that force. I am betting it was God. Hawking makes a statement at the beginning of his show that he will prove that there is no God who created us and controls our fate. Of course, I don't believe God controls our fate. We do that, through free will. But God knows what we will do, while at the same time allowing us to choose. Since God can stand outside of time and space, he knows our fate, and what we will choose to do. He doesn't sentence people to hell, but he doesn't force them to choose rightly either. Ultimately, I believe God wants a relationship with each of us, but allows each of us to choose. Why? I have no idea. It is grace beyond all understanding, beyond human reason...I am left speechless.
Professor Hawking could be right, of course. It may be that the universe is a completely random affair, and that our existence here is entirely a matter of luck. If so, it represents one of the cruelest of "jokes," because such a random collection of matter and energy can not actually have the intelligence to make a joke. But you understand. Going from the smallest of particles that make up all matter, to the largest galaxies, the order of the universe becomes less random, more ordered. If one could get "outside" the universe, and see the whole, it would be, I think, unimaginably beautiful. How cruel for Professor Hawking to come this far and think there is nowhere else to go.
It is unfortunate that Professor Hawking has chosen as he has, though there is time to change his mind. I hope you, dear readers, will choose differently.