A site of endless curiosity

Hawking: Heaven is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark

with 2 comments

I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark. – Stephen Hawking

I came across this interview with Steven Hawking (read it).

Over the past year I read about a dozen books written by physicists about various aspects of dark matter, the nature of reality, quantum reality, and so on.  I also read The Grand Design by Hawking and wrote a review of the book (read it).

What struck me about The Grand Design is its polemic against religion.  Of all the other books I read this year with similar topics none of them really mentioned anything about god or about religion.  My general observation has been that when physicists are promoting a book and are asked a question about god they generally avoid the question or say that god is not in the domain of physics or science.

But not Hawking.  The Grand Design is as much about religion as it is about Physics.  There is an unrelenting criticism of religion as the primary inhibitor of man’s progress in understanding the workings of the Universe.  And of course there is no need of god as the “first mover unmoved” (Aristotle (more) )

Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.  – Stephen Hawking

If it’s not crystal clear in the interview cited above, it is clear in The Grand Design:

1.  God was not needed for the creation of the Universe
2.  Miracles do not happen and there is no active role for God
3.  Man has no free will.  Free will is an illusion.

For the chief malady of man is restless curiosity about things which he cannot understand; and it is not so bad for him to be in error as to be curious to no purpose.  –Blaise Pascal

Pascal’s Wager – the gambit on the existence of god

Well Ok.  Nothing like putting a stake in the ground.  But, Hawking at age 69 is close to “getting all the answers”.  Perhaps a good use of Stephen Hawking’s  time would be to take a read of the  17’th century philosopher Blaise Pascal – especially The Pensées (free for Kindle).  In there Hawking will find perhaps the mitigation strategy he needs (decisions under uncertainty and faith in reason).  Belief in god vs non-belief in god does not carry equal consequences. 

Everyone must make a wager on God’s existence, according to Pascal.  Read about his struggle with the question of the existence of god  and his approach to a solution here.


Pascal’s wager in The Pensées  here

Written by frrl

May 16, 2011 at 8:05 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Beginning of any universe cannot be governed by its own laws, for the simple reason that a universe that has not yet come into existence cannot have any laws in it. But Hawking has written that when the universe was small enough it was governed by both general relativity and quantum theory. But these are the two laws of our universe and therefore these laws could not be there when the universe has not yet begun. So how did Hawking come to know that these two laws governed the beginning of our universe? Is he all-knowing God?

    Udaybhanu Chitrakar

    August 20, 2011 at 2:29 am

  2. Pascal’s wager is a pitiful attempt to placate an imaginary, but potentially angry deity. I hardly imagine that “pretending” to have faith in a god simply to avoid hell would make such a tyrannical supreme being pleased enough to swing wide the gates of heaven…

    Hawking is right and no “wager” is required.

    Jeff, KE9V

    May 17, 2011 at 12:01 am

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