How do we respond when prominent scientists like Stephen Hawking write books propounding atheism?

by Chaitanya Charan dasMay 27, 2014

Answer Podcast

Transcription by– Keshav Gopal Das & Ambuj Gupta

Question: How do we respond when prominent scientists like Stephen Hawking write books propound atheism like the grand design?

Answer: We should respond with scientific skepticism.

Not everything that scientists speak is science. When Stephen Hawking is a respected scientist. He one of the prominent physicist in the world and he is also a person who is inspiring in a way he has conquered over his physical inabilities. As a human being, as a scientist he can be respected, but beyond that when a person speaks about things that are beyond one’s jurisdiction then we cannot grant undue trustworthiness or authority to them, just because is a person expert in finances. He is good in share market, what shares to invest and what shares is to not invest. That person doesn’t become an expert in say diseases diagnoses. If I have a stomach pain, just because a person is expert in diagnosing the trends in shares that doesn’t mean that the person’s advice will be authoritative when the person is talking about claiming to analyze or diagnose stomach pain. Or if person caught a serious diseases like cancer, that person cannot give treatment based on expertise in some other field. Same way scientists may have expertise in their fields but God is outside their field.

When Stephen Hawking is writing a book like “Grand Design”, he is not writing as a scientist. He is writing as a metaphysician. He is trying take up the role of a philosopher and he is making philosophical statements. He is completely out of depth in his philosophy. He is not a philosopher at all. We should not give a credibility that comes from science and from his stature of scientist to his book. If he writes a book on theoretical physics which is his specialty, on black hole which is a specialty, that is fine. But this is not his field. So he is not authority. Because he is not a authority he ends up making all sorts of logical blunders which are often go to the point of being ludicrous. For example, right in the beginning he says that these questions are initially considered to be in domain of philosophy but philosophy is dead now because it is not kept up with the progress in science and therefore the questions has to be answered by science. Well philosophy is far from dead. In his own university philosophy department is there and there are thousands of philosophers in the world. This sort of arrogant dismissive of another respected field is not indicative of a objective mindset that wants to do reasonable inspection. And paradoxically, after declaring death of philosophy, what Stephen Hawking does throughout his book is philosophize. For example, when he states that because there is a law of gravity, the universe will create itself out of nothing. Even little bit of training in philosophy which also brings training in logic. Even little bit of training in logic would have helped him to recognize the logical fallacy. It’s not absurdity in the statement. Once you are saying on one side because there is a law of gravity. Law of gravity is obviously something and then the universe will create itself out of nothing. What is it? Is it something law of gravity or is it nothing? Here he creates a logical blunder by equating nothing with the law of gravity. I have also answered in another question that whenever scientists propose or atheists propose most specifically to explain how everything came out of nothing they have to redefine nothing so that it is something and quite a lot of things that is. In this case he has at least done that with the law of gravity. The law of gravity, where has it come from? That he does not explain. Even if he is assumes that the law of gravity is there, laws are simply modes that describe how things happen. Laws are not causes and laws are not definitely creators. If a batsman hits a ball, the law of motion will describe how the trajectory by which the ball will go to the boundary. But the law of motion does not hit the ball and law of motion does not definitely create the ball, the bat and the batsman. Ascribing these kind of powers to a law of nature is actually a pure fiction. Basically what he does is that he transfers omnipotence from God to the laws of nature. This book “Grand Design” when it was published, a Mumbai newspaper, the Mumbai Mirror decided to do a review and they approached different representatives of different religions. So for Hinduism they approached me. My response was also published in the news paper. Basically I wrote the same point that Hawking assumes that laws of nature existed before the universe. He simply substitutes God with the laws of physics. But now we see that laws of physics organize intelligence. Laws do not come about by themselves and laws do not act. Laws are simply modes that describe how things happen.

Another statement if we see, “the universe can and will create itself from nothing”. Now when we say universe will create itself. What does this mean? The idea that something can create itself if we say that, that means to create it has to exist before itself. How can it exist before itself? This is a logical absurdity. Like this the book is filled with logical absurdities. Basically in attempt to prove that there is no designer behind the universe, basically he makes the laws of nature which cannot be causes also, what to speak of creators, into God. He asks us to have faith in that and he is basically making a religion centered on faith and laws of nature. Off course he is not the founder of this religion. There are many atheistic scientists who have been espousing this religion before him but the only difference is that he is abusing his scientific authority to give credibility and to demand faith in this religion, which is wrong. This book is simply not a scientific book , it’s a philosophical book. Although it may use scientific terminology, it may talk about m- theory, gravity and many scientific terms which may intimidate common people but the basic argument which he is making is first of all, not scientific. It’s a philosophical argument and even in the philosophical argument, it is not a sound philosophical argument. It collapses when it is subjected to serious logical scrutiny.

How the laws of nature act? God acted, Krishna lifted Govardhan hill. He says the laws of nature acted and this happened. Basically the laws of nature are having miraculous potencies. The m- theory according to him. Its like a begetter, it creates. It’s like a creative force. It’s a prime mover. It existed before it started moving and then it is everywhere, it is nowhere. It has omniscience, it has omnipresence, it has omnipotence. Does it remind you of somebody? Basically it is just a substitute for God. It is not a logically satisfying substitute also. We shouldn’t get disturbed or beguiled by atheists claiming atheism as being scientifically credibile by abusing the scientific authority for that. Non sense remains non sense even if it is spoken by people who have a lot of credibility otherwise in their own respective fields. Their credibility in other fields does not make the nonsense sense when they are speaking nonsense in fields which are not in their specialization. Thank you.

Some logical absurdities from The Grand Design:

“Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing.”

“The universe can and will create itself from nothing.”

***

The book simply demands faith in M-theory, making it into a surrogate God. My review comment about this book that was published in the Mumbai Mirror article here:

http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/others/Did-God-create-Universe-or-did-it-create-itself/articleshow/16049770.cms

Chaitanya Charan Das, ISKCON:

Hawking assumes that the laws of nature existed before the universe. He simply substitutes God with the laws of physics. Our experience shows that laws need an organising intelligence.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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