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6th September, 2010

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Old teacup, new storm

The most powerful intellect on earth has done it again. In supposedly showing that the laws of physics could have done what Scripture ascribes to God, Stephen Hawking has again thrown the cosmological fox into the creationist dovecote. According to recent reports that have been re-reported who knows how many times, a soon-to-be-released book, The Grand Design, by Hawking and Mlodinow, assures us that "science can explain the universe's origin without invoking God". In a nutshell, the authors apparently contend that the laws of physics enable the universe to "…create itself from nothing. Because gravity shapes space and time, it allows space-time to be locally stable but globally unstable. On the scale of the entire universe, the positive energy of the matter can be balanced by the negative gravitational energy, and so there is no restriction on the creation of whole universes".

To be fair, as best as one can tell from the limited pre-publication excerpts available, Hawking and Mlodinow do not commit the logical blunder of suggesting that "could be" is the same as "must be". In other words, even if the authors truly have proven that the laws of physics allow for spontaneous creation of universes, that of itself does not prove that the universe we live in got here by creating itself. Presenting a plausible alternative explanation does not establish the alternative at the expense of the previous explanation. Should you suffer from severe abdominal pain and you get two different explanations from two different doctors as to the cause of the pain you cannot take the second opinion as having more weight than the first simply because it is a plausible alternative. The original diagnosis may be the correct one. You must examine all the evidence if you hope to reach the correct conclusion.

The notion that their equations can explain spontaneous generation of universes has one obvious, glaring weakness — their equations depend on the pre-existence of something. In this case, the something is nothing less than the "laws of physics", in particular, gravity. You don't have to have a Hawkingtonian intellect to recognize that the whole theory amounts to one gigantic begging of the question. Inasmuch as the whole issue of origins revolves around what, precisely, constitutes the "first cause", they have proven nothing about the actual origin of all things. They assume the pre-existence of natural laws as the basis for denying the

pre-existence of God. Yes, gravity is a wonderous thing. Without it the universe would fly apart. Should we all now feel obliged to bow down before gravity, to sing its praises as the rock of creation? As best as this author can tell, Hawking and co have merely replaced the atheist's previous favorite first cause, the singularity, with a new first cause, natural laws. New storm, perhaps, but same old teacup.

Please try to understand that point. Let's accept the unacceptable premise that the laws of physics could and did pre-exist a material realm to be true. What do you have, then? Wonder of wonders, you find that the laws of physics stand in precisely the same position that God stands in according to the theistic model of origins. Instead of "In the beginning was God" you have "In the beginning was physical law". The laws of physics, then, are simply Stephen Hawking's current "God"; they have no "far side", only a near side. (Of course, someone may in the future dream up a different first cause, one that precedes even the laws of physics; Stephen Hawking himself did go searching for his big TOE for some time.) The difference between the humanist's God and the believer's God is to be found in. well. what single word best characterizes it? How about "intellect"? One wonders why skeptics can happily embrace a dumb God but resist to their dying breath the possibility that their God has mind power. Especially when the entire material realm is conspicuously marked by all the trappings of intelligent design!

Look. Here is an indisputable truth. The universe once did not exist, and now it does; you have to invoke something as the first cause. Anybody who contends that God has been decisively removed from the picture by Hawking's equations is kidding himself. Who really dunit? Atheists will, of course, plump for, say, gravity as the eternally-existing first cause while theists will continue to assert that the only eternally-existing "thing" is God. Let's face it; what are the chances that such exquisite workings of nature have simply always existed? One cannot help but admire the faith of those who hold such a conviction.

Who will you look to in helping you decide what to believe? Who has the more substantial authority in such matters? A mere math genius, or a genius who also has power to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead? And who is willing to give His own life to atone for the sinfulness of all mankind.


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