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Stephen Hawking still can’t explain how something came from nothing

Even if physicists had a Grand Theory of Everything, they could not solve creation

By on Thursday, 2 September 2010

Stephen Hawking says the laws of physics do away with the need for God (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Dave Chidley)

Stephen Hawking says the laws of physics do away with the need for God (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Dave Chidley)

So that’s that then. Stephen Hawking has assured us that the laws of physics are sufficient to explain the universe we live in – and that we have no need to posit the possibility of God. His book, The Grand Design, will be published on September 9.

This is neither the time nor the place to focus on the detail of his arguments, and no doubt plenty of description will be forthcoming in the popular press and elsewhere. I want to focus initially on one remark he makes: “philosophy is dead.”

Bang goes the wisdom of two and a half millennia. But philosophy is not only not dead, it was never needed as much as it is now. One of the most important tasks in philosophy is to ensure that the right questions are asked and that the arguments which proceed stand up to rigorous examination. No wonder Hawking would like philosophy to be dead because he is wrong on both counts.

The drive of Hawking’s approach is that the theory, or rather the family of theories, he espouses leads to the possibility of 10 to the power of 500 different universes (try that on your calculator and watch it explode). Thus the extraordinary fine-tuning required for a universe which would eventually be able to support human life is not evidence for a designer God; it has in fact come about by chance. Since our universe is, by definition, the only one we can experience, we are fooled into thinking that it is the only one which exists, or has existed.

M theory, as it is known, is highly controversial within the scientific community; indeed there are eminent names who claim that it cannot properly be called a scientific theory at all. The idea of multiverses to explain the fine-tuning has been known as the “last refuge of the agnostic”. But let us assume that it is true, that there is an infinity of universes, and that our universe is an inevitable result of chance at work – where does that get us?

First, we are reminded of the theory of evolution. We have no difficulty in reconciling our belief in God as creator with evolution in which myriads of tiny chances, inevitably filtered by fitness to survive, develop into higher forms of life. God is not some sort of inventive superman who performs in the same sort of way as we do – but at an infinitely higher level. He transcends the universe; his creative action is utterly beyond our ken. If we use terms like “designer” it is only because the human mind and human vocabulary has no further reach. Our descriptions are only useful if we always bear in mind their gross inadequacy.

Similarly, if all the physical laws had been explained and proved (known as the Grand Theory of Everything) – which is a million miles from the case – our understanding of the actions of God would not be one whit greater: his existence and his actions are of a different order.

Most particularly it would not touch the question of how something existing comes out from nothing. That is a question which science cannot answer, and will never answer, because nothingness is not within its domain. Hawking apparently does not address this question – which is the true and ultimate Theory of Everything. But what philosophy can teach us is that neither he, nor you, nor I will ever explain creation, except through faith.

  • AskelKana

    'manipulating the theory so that it fits the facts' – isn't that what happens to theories? If they don't fit the facts then they're not much use! =D Your statement about proving the (non-)existence of God cannot be tested. How do you know that? But I agree that appeals to the anthropic principle (as made by Dawkins) are completely pointless; the anthropic principle proves nothing. And I agree that peoples' perception of God (whatever He may be) is extremely subjective unless God reveals Himself. But that is a core component of many peoples' faith, which is not scientific, nor could necessarily be verified/refuted scientifically. That is also my experience. Certainly, I do not claim to understand or know God, but I have experienced enough to be impressed that He is there. A large part of the problem is that skeptics are unwilling (and indeed unable) to take the steps necessary to make the test and find out for themselves, and so have to be content with considering the argument from a solely rational or scientific position, and that, as has been discussed elsewhere in abundance, is totally inadequate to resolve the question of the existence of God.

    It is indeed as you say that 'something could have happened by chance or that something could have happened due to the divine'. Restricting ourselves to this line of argument, I would say that one could make a reasoned “stab” at the most likely cause. I am persuaded that intelligent origin is more probable that chance origin.

  • AskelKana

    There are a number of ways in which the fine-tuning of the universe is “necessary”. Surely you are familiar with the notion of a fine-tuned universe. Personally, I find it very compelling. Sure, one could argue that if it were not the way it is it would simply be something else, probably lifeless. Perhaps precarious would be a more accurate way to describe the fune-tuning, rather than just precise, i.e. the precision required is extremely high.

  • AskelKana

    Bob, I cannot see that you're adding anything new here, and Rationality's comments add little insight IMO. Again, I see the issue as being not one of improbability, but of necessary improbability. As for multiverses, I have two main issues: firstly, their existence cannot be determined scientifically, as we have no means to interact with them, and secondly, if they really do exist, and infinitely so, then there must exist universes in which God (and all other gods for that matter) exist. Who knows, perhaps our universe happens to be one of them! lol

    I imagine we could spend an awful lot of time on this without making any headway, so I don't intend to keep up this conversation. Peace.

  • epiquelurquer

    hawking's a hack

  • littleorcs

    the physical does not/cannot explain the metaphysical, though it can provide a context for what the latter entails.

    most of these comments don't address this, which is the heart of hawking's failure to debunk the existence of god. norse myths and the afterlife are completely irrelevant to this debate.

  • Egypt Steve

    Point 1. Regarding the rhetoric of this post:

    Are there a meaningful differences between the statements:

    “Our descriptions are only useful if we always bear in mind their gross inadequacy.”

    and

    “Our descriptions are only useful if we always bear in mind their gross inability to be used for the purpose we would wish to use them for.”

    and

    “Our descriptions are only useful if we always bear in mind their uselessness.”

    If so, doesn't that statement cancel itself and every conclusion based on it?

    Point 2: Why does the universe have to “come” from anywhere? I presume you believe that God is uncreated. Therefore, it is possible for something to exist without having been created. Why not entertain the possibility that the Universe is that uncreated thing? Especially since: There is nowhere that the Universe is not; therefore the Universe is omnipresent. All knowledge is contained within the Universe; therefore, the Universe is omniscient. All possibilities for action are contained within the Universe; therefore, the Universe is omnipotent. Add in the possibility that the Universe is uncreated and eternal, and you have a pretty fair description of God.

  • Duck

    OBVIOUSLY IT WAS GOD LOL.

    Please.

  • Duck

    It's a higher power than mythology, anyway.

  • Liam

    I think the necessity of the specific arrangement of the universe is just a result of the many more arrangements that have arisen and continue to arise from it.

    Consider BobtheMathsWhiz's analogy as an initial step. Now consider N, the number of the original trillion tossed coins that landed face-up. Imagine that from these N coins have “survived” and are tossed up again. From these, we have another set of face-up coins (close to N/2 or a quarter trillion). Continue this process until only one face-up coin is produced.

    To this one coin, the arrangements which preceeded it, while initially merely specific, are certainly now necessary to its survival. Consider also the fact that this coin would have been tossed Log_2[10^12] times. A lucky coin to say the least; I bet he's questioning the nature of his origins too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neil-Wanlass/100000622117191 Neil Wanlass

    Is this an opinion being offered by the same Catholic Church that found Galileo to be “vehemently suspect of heresy,” namely of having held the opinions that the Earth is not at the centre of the universe and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture? Perhap you need to be reminded that Galileo was required to “abjure, curse and detest” his opinions.
    I doubt that it will take another 400 years before Hawking's current thinking is as uncontroversial as that of Gilileo's is today. The Catholic Church will look sadly stupid as ever.

  • http://www.whomadegod.org Edgar Andrews

    Good point Quentin about philosophy being needed now as never before. And we do need to be able to distinguish between philosophy and science. People like Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins are quite astute at rebranding their own philosophical conclusions as “science” (when these conclusions are beyond the reach of scientific study) and then insisting that all alternative philosophies (such as theistic ones) are dead. We shouldn't let them get away with this. This is why I wrote my recent book “Who made God? Searching for a theory of everything” which although it was published a year ago, rather remarkably anticipates, examines and repudiates most of the arguments that Hawking apparently offers in his book for rejecting belief in God as the Creator of all things.

  • Robert

    One thing no one can totally take in or understand is eternity. Eternity never had a beginning and will never have an end and with our extremely limited minds we will only always be trying to figure things out but never with a “total” satisfaction of explanation. I have a relationship with God through a belief in Jesus, through an out of body experience and along with noncoincidental reasons why things have happened in my life to get me to this pont in my life. I will never believe anybody on this planet will ever be able to explain the most powerful word to me which is “eternity”. Just the simple fact of being able to look up in the night sky and literally “see” eternity is enough for me. I don't need anybody to explain it…I can see it. You scientists just keep trying to explain how something started with a “Big Bang” LOL!

    How about explaning how that darknesss you see through your billion dollar telescopes “ends”!! It doesent. It “never ends” and that is what is eternity. Just except it and quit thinking you will ever be smart enough to explain it because you won't….not in this life:-)

  • MarkNS

    Ok…nobody can explain where the first thing (whatever that was) came from. Saying it was done by magic (i.e. god) is a cop out. People just made that up because they don't know.
    There is no fine tuning of the universe. We exist because the conditions existed for bio-genesis and our evolution not the other way around. After “things” started, something had to happen…maybe not life as we know it but something. Thinking otherwise is like looking at the winning lottery number the day after it is drawn and saying “Wow, that number had only 1 in 14 million chance of occurring yet it happened! Must be divine intervention!”

  • Grumfan

    Quentin, I'm ashamed of you. Hawking's new book says nothing of the sort. In fact Hawking does quite a bit of thinking about philosophy and other types of meta-thought. Your review above is a total hash. Its almost as though you didn't even actually read the book. In fact, I suspect that's actually the case. By the way – set of circumstances you describe as “nothing” was a huge super-dense collection of matter, denser than solid neutronium.. Hardly “nothing” as you so blithely describe it. You ability to make such a huge basic mistake indicates that you're not really engaging in a discussion, you're just trying to denigrate the book. Perhaps you should focus more on how to improve the Catholic church. For example you work on trying to get the Church leadership to start behaving with some integrity. Of course that would mean you would have to know how to do that yourself. The 'review' above indicates that may be a problem.

    To get a better handle on the theories Hawking is espousing, i suggest you read his last 6 books. That will help you get a better handle on the issues therein and you will get an understanding of how Hawking is approaching philosophy. He doesn't say its worthless, He is saying that certain approaches used by some philosophers are worthless. Now thats a discussion worth having.

  • Louis

    if something comes from nothing in quantuum mechanics that “nothing” is something that produces.It cannot therfore be a nothing

  • J J Jordan

    The way you become a good Christian is not thinking logicaly, closing your mind to only some views and believeing in an old book witih no evidence, as word of a creator (just because it says it in the book). This is dillusional. Why would a God create a world where as soon as you are born, someone somewhere hates your guts for believing in whatever it is you believe? Even if you believe nothing, you are an infidel to someone. This doesn't sound like a creation of a peaceful, loving God, you could easily mistake this as the creation of a rampant mainiac hell bent on the death and suffering of Human cultures and colonies and be forgiven for it.

  • Daniel

    Philosophy is dying, its not dead yet, but its definitely dying, but more importantly you're using god as an example for why Philosophy exists and should continue to? That's actually quite absurd that you think your idea of god has anything to do with philosophical concepts at all, especially since it is a tent for you, and others like you, to explain why and how things exist simply because we don't have the answers 'yet'. Just because we don't know means that faith or god is even necessary, in fact it is absurd to come to such a conclusion when we haven't even begun to chip at reality's secrets.

    Science is replacing philosophy mainly because philosophy hinges itself more on the metaphysical (which is speculation at best). Philosophy is transforming into 'hypothesis' which can then be tested and rectified through science. Philosophy was simply the precursor to scientific thought. The scientific method has now been developed, quite thoroughly, and has the ability to give us all the answers we need. Philosophy is dying, science is replacing it. Science is philosophy without all the unprovable speculation. Anything that was once speculated by 'philosophy' has either been validated or invalidated by science. End of story. Your argument is effectively invalid by proxy as well.

    Because it can't be explained it must be 'god' or some 'supernatural' force that created existence? Um, hello? Nothingness and existence are as equally paradoxical, each unbelievably complex or 'unexplainable' (but hopefully there is an explaination) and its simpler to consider them supernatural in and of themselves. If god can be supernatural, the universe would be supernatural by association, so cut out the middle man. Reality 'is' in effect super natural.

    Additionally, it would be INHERENTLY impossible for humans to NOT describe god. If god exists, and is all knowing, then god would be able to explain himself in our own words, which means that an explaination of god would be inherently possible. But you say it is the opposite, if we ourselves can not explain god, then that means god can not explain himself, and ergo he is not all knowing and not god.

    Basically your argument is one big oxymoron.

    Allow me to rephrase it one last time. If we can't explain it, god can't explain it. Why? God is supposed to be all knowing, therefore WOULD be able to, which means an explanation of god exists in our own vocabulary (as god would be capable of using our vocabulary to explain it), but since you claim we can not, then it is also out of gods ability to do so.

    Oxymoron.

  • Justinhwll

    The fact people can believe in something like Quantum Physics, (which by the way could explain how God could physically manipulate the world) would have a problem believing in God. Seeing as the whole explanation of what quantum theory means is that everyone and everything exists in Superposition or that we are all One, it would be silly to deny the possibility that God could be affecting us without our knowledge in any way. What I mean to say is that Quantum Theory not fails at disproving the existence of God but leaves all the room in the universe for Him to work

  • Skeenrr

    Equivocation of “nothing” is rampant. Does no one understand “nothing”? If particles are generated in quantum physics as some say here, please understand that they do so in an already existent universe…..not true nothingness. Pleeeeze people……you are out thinking yourselves.

  • Dac38555

    1st question to ask a theist ; which of the million gods do you believe created the universe and listens to each and every prayer you make and influences your life
    2nd question : If you know which god created the universe, why do you think you are right and all other religions are wrong?
    3rd Question : How did something get created from nothing? God ? Thats a childishly foolish explanation.. who created God then? Supergod? who created Supergod? Allah? whatever .. you get my point…

    Think freely … live without the fear of hell .. there is neither a heaven with 73 virgins awaiting nor a hell with satan and his eternal fire… and God doesnt exist .. if it did .. you wouldnt know it .. also if he did .. you are not the center of the universe for him and so he doesnot give a shit…

  • james O'Shannonhannon

    im prolly miss quoting, but did not he say in the book that the universe came into existance out of nothing? but then he says that gravity existed before that.

    well…then, doesnt that mean we came from something due to gravity's prior existance??

    i dont know… im not a scientist.

    and yes, “something comes from nothing quite frequently”.

    but its like 1 atom that only exists for like a millionth of a sec.

    and i agree with louis, good post.

  • Gordon S

    In his book, 'COSMOS AND PSYCHE,' Richard Tarnas, professor of philosophy, Cosmology, at the California [USA] Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, says: 'that after 30 years of research and study of accumulated data, we find that the cosmos as a living whole appears to be informed by some kind of pervasive creative intelligence-an intelligence, judging by the data, of scarcely conceivable power, complexity, and aesthetic subtlety, yet one with which human intelligence is intimately connected.'

    My friends, the answer to it all is so much bigger then a Steven Hawking, a Christopher Hichens, or even a bunch of old clerics in a palace in Rome.

    The Biblical perspectives are only the weak attempts through such means as allegory to express our intuitive perception or sense of otherness-the divine, the sacred.

    We don't have the answer anymore or any less than Hawkins and Hitchens. Yet, we find ourselves hard wired for something sacred. That something is for want of another name 'God.'Not the traditional literal expression of God that we learned as children in catechism class, but so much more- it is even somewhat presumptious of us to think we really know what this divine otherness is. Or, to believe we have all the answers.

    This very ground of our being is even more than that- how can we really express it? We can't. Yet we know. This is what real faith is all about. We all must come up higher, because there is so much more for all of us… Gord

  • Sekharpal

    A CRITIQUE OF THE VOID

    If at the beginning there was something at all, and if that something was the whole thing, then it can be shown that by logical necessity that something will have to be spaceless, timeless, changeless, deathless. This is by virtue of that something being the whole thing. Something is the whole thing means there cannot be anything at all outside of that something; neither space, nor time, nor matter, nor anything else. It is the alpha and omega of existence. But, if it is the whole thing, then it must have to be spaceless, timeless, changeless, deathless. Otherwise it will be merely a part of a bigger whole thing. Now let us denote this something by a big X. Now, can this X be in any space? No, it cannot be. If it is, then where is that space itself located? It must have to be in another world outside of X. But by definition there cannot be anything outside of X. Therefore X cannot be in any space. Again, can this X have any space? No, it cannot have. If we say that it can have, then we will again be in a logical contradiction. Because if X can have any space, then that space must have to be outside of it. Therefore when we consider X as a whole, then we will have to say that neither can it be in any space, nor can it have any space. In every respect it will be spaceless. For something to have space it must already have to be in some space. Even a prisoner has some space, although this space is confined within the four walls of his prison cell. But the whole thing, if it is really the whole thing, cannot have any space. If it can have, then it no longer remains the whole thing. It will be self-contradictory for a whole thing to have any space. Similarly it can be shown that this X can neither be in time, nor have any time. For a whole thing there cannot be any ‘before’, any ‘after’. For it there can be only an eternal ‘present’. It will be in a timeless state. If the whole thing is in time, then it is already placed in a world where there is a past, a present, and a future, and therefore it is no longer the whole thing. Now, if X as a whole is spaceless, timeless, then that X as a whole will also be changeless. There might always be some changes going on inside X, but when the question comes as to whether X itself is changing as a whole, then we are in a dilemma. How will we measure that change? In which time-scale shall we have to put that X in order for us to be able to measure that change? That time-scale must necessarily have to be outside of X. But there cannot be any such time-scale. So it is better not to say anything about its change as a whole. For the same reason X as a whole can never cease to be. It cannot die, because death is also a change. Therefore we see that if X is the first thing and the whole thing, then X will have the properties of spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness by virtue of its being the whole thing. It is a logical necessity. Now, this X may be anything; it may be light, it may be sound, or it may be any other thing. Whatever it may be, it will have the above four properties of X. Now, if we find that there is nothing in this universe that possesses the above four properties of X, then we can safely conclude that at the beginning there was nothing at all, and that therefore scientists are absolutely correct in asserting that the entire universe has simply originated out of nothing. But if we find that there is at least one thing in the universe that possesses these properties, then we will be forced to conclude that that thing was the first thing, and that therefore scientists are wrong in their assertion that at the beginning there was nothing. This is only because a thing can have the above four properties by virtue of its being the first thing and by virtue of this first thing being the whole thing, and not for any other reason. Scientists have shown that in this universe light, and light only, is having the above four properties. They have shown that for light time, as well as distance, become unreal. I have already shown elsewhere that a timeless world is a deathless, changeless world. For light even infinite distance becomes zero, and therefore volume of an infinite space also becomes zero. So the only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that at the beginning there was light, and that therefore scientists are wrong in asserting that at the beginning there was nothing.
    Another very strong reason can be given in support of our belief that at the beginning there was light. The whole thing will have another very crucial and important property: immobility. Whole thing as a whole thing cannot move at all, because it has nowhere to go. Movement means going from one place to another place, movement means changing of position with respect to something else. But if the whole thing is really the whole thing, then there cannot be anything else other than the whole thing. Therefore if the whole thing moves at all, then with respect to which other thing is it changing its position? And therefore it cannot have any movement, it is immobile. Now, if light is the whole thing, then light will also have this property of immobility. Now let us suppose that the whole thing occupies an infinite space, and that light is the whole thing. As light is the whole thing, and as space is also infinite here, then within this infinite space light can have the property of immobility if, and only if, for light even the infinite distance is reduced to zero. Scientists have shown that this is just the case. From special theory of relativity we come to know that for light even infinite distance becomes zero, and that therefore it cannot have any movement, because it has nowhere to go. It simply becomes immobile. This gives us another reason to believe that at the beginning there was light, and that therefore scientists are wrong in asserting that at the beginning there was nothing.
    I know very well that an objection will be raised here, and that it will be a very severe objection. I also know what will be the content of that objection: can a whole thing beget another whole thing? I have said that at the beginning there was light, and that light was the whole thing. Again I am saying that the created light is also the whole thing, that is why it has all the properties of the whole thing. So the whole matter comes to this: a whole thing has given birth to another whole thing, which is logically impossible. If the first thing is the whole thing, then there cannot be a second whole thing, but within the whole thing there can be many other created things, none of which will be a whole thing. So the created light can in no way be a whole thing, it is logically impossible. But is it logically impossible for the created light to have all the properties of the whole thing? So what I intend to say here is this: created light is not the original light, but created light has been given all the properties of the original light, so that through the created light we can have a glimpse of the original light. If the created light was not having all these properties, then who would have believed that in this universe it is quite possible to be spaceless, timeless, changeless, deathless? If nobody believes in Scriptures, and if no one has any faith in personal revelation or mystical experience, and if no one can depend on any kind of authority here, and if no one even tries to know Him through meditation, then how can the presence of God be made known to man, if not through a created thing only? So, not through Vedas, nor through Bible, nor through Koran, nor through any other religious books, but through light and light only, God has revealed himself to man. That is why we find in created light all the most essential properties of God: spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness.

    Footnote: If the universe is treated as a whole unit, then it can be said to be spaceless, timeless. I first got this idea from an article by Dr. Lee Smolin read in the internet. Rest things I have developed. This is as an acknowledgement.

    CLIMAX

    I think we need no further proof for the existence of God. That light has all the five properties of the whole thing is sufficient. I will have to explain.
    Scientists are trying to establish that our universe has started from nothing. We want to contradict it by saying that it has started from something. When we are saying that at the beginning there was something, we are saying that there was something. We are not saying that there was some other thing also other than that something. Therefore when we are saying that at the beginning there was something, we are saying that at the beginning there was a whole thing. Therefore we are contradicting the statement that our universe has started from nothing by the statement that our universe has started from a whole thing.
    I have already shown that a whole thing will have the properties of spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness, immobility (STCDI). This is by logical necessity alone. It is logically contradictory to say that a whole thing can have space. Let us suppose that the whole thing is having space. Then the so-called whole thing along with the space that it is having will constitute the real whole thing. If my arguments that I have offered so far to show that the whole thing will always have the above five properties by virtue of its being the whole thing are sound, and if they cannot be faulted from any angle, then I can make the following statements:
    1. In this universe only a whole thing can have the properties of STCDI by logical necessity alone.
    2. If the universe has started from nothing, then nothing in this universe will have the properties of STCDI.
    3. If the universe has started from a whole thing, then also nothing other than the initial whole thing will have the properties of STCDI. This is only because a whole thing cannot beget another whole thing.
    4. But in this universe we find that light, in spite of its not being a whole thing, is still having the properties of STCDI.
    5. This can only happen if, and only if, the initial whole thing itself has purposefully given its own properties to light, in order to make its presence known to us through light.
    6. But for that the initial whole thing must have to have consciousness.
    7. So, from above we can come to the following conclusion: the fact that light, in spite of its not being a whole thing, still possesses the properties of STCDI, is itself a sufficient proof for the fact that the universe has started from a conscious whole thing, and that this conscious whole thing is none other than God.
    H.S.PAL

  • Bigass

    GOD DOESN'T EXIST FAGGOTS

  • Frankie

    If God created the universe out of nothing that still does not deal with creating something out of nothing because what created god out of nothing. If God has always existed then why can't the universe have always existed. You try and disprove Hawking's scientific argument with arguments which you define as out of the boundaries of science (the creation of something from nothing), this is a circular argument. Religion has been created over thousands of years to be undisprovable, to be based on faith which is willing suspension of questioning how the world works. Science actually allows us to try and attempt to understand the world while religion implements a power structure and says we are all infinitely ignorant. During the mid teen centuries the church was the ruling european elite and the largest land owner of most of europe. This basis of faith creates an ignorance which denies a questioning of the churches power allowing them to excercise it without anyone to stop corrupt use of it which was rife and is still rife as shown by the catholic churches covering up of child sex abuse scandals.

  • jack bauer

    lol: “But what philosophy can teach us is that neither he, nor you, nor I will ever explain creation, except through faith.”

    In that sentence you are tacitly assuming that there *is* an act of creation to explain!

    Hawking never said God doesn't exist, he himself is an agnostic, he only said that the version of M-theory he describes in the book has more explanatory power than when you simply say “God did it”.

  • http://twitter.com/bodley271 Ian Logan

    You misunderstood what I said and failed to answer the point I made.

  • Gary

    Hmmm, religious people commenting on science just doesn't work. The nothingness that Hawking is talking about is completely within the realm of science. As it the spontaneous creation which is an easily tested fact of quantum physics.
    So don't waste time saying that science can't show how something can come from nothing. It can't show how something came from “absolute nothing”, and will probably never be able to. However, if science successfully accounts for all matter and energy in the universe, any God that's left over is pretty small and is certainly not the God of the Bible (who didn't seem to actually know anything about the deep extents of space).

  • Gary

    If you're asking the question “who created the laws of physics?”, you've already made your mind up as to what kind of answer you want. Someone who truly wants to find the answers can't decided beforehand that it has to be a 'who'. It could simply be a 'what'.

    I could just then ask- “who created God?”. In which case you'll either fall into an infinite regress, you'll say God came from nothing (which violates your own objections) or you'll say God always existed. In which case, I'll respond by saying that the basic laws of physics are infinitely simpler than anything you could call a God. So if the thing which caused the universe had always existed, it's far more likely to just be the laws of physics than an omnipotent God. Simple things, by definition are more likely than complex ones- until we find evidence to the contrary.

    Your God may be useful in your own lives but in terms of an explanation, he begs more questions than he answers.

  • Gary

    I definitely care about what he has to say. As far as I can see, most religious people are really following a God of the gaps though they'd never admit it. For an idea to be tested, it needs to be concise and clearly defined. The god of the bible started out as an explanation for nearly everything we see and has been reduced to something that only explains things we are incapable of explaining. The idea of “God” is so elastic that it bends to fit whatever the people of the age want it to. Religious people need admit that these bronze age myths had nothing relevant to say about the universe and look to science. If there is a God, that's the only way we'll ever find him.

  • Gary

    The universe being ordered doesn't imply anything more than that the universe is ordered. The multiverse theory would easily account for that (as life could probably have never formed in an unordered universe).

    He's very right to say that nothing isn't “nothing”. That's one of the main points of this entire branch of science. It also highlights the fact that you're commenting on something before having read it! That should probably be your first move (as well as everyone else echoing the 'something can't come from nothing')

  • Gary

    Haha you want the mathematical term that represents nothing? It's '0'.
    The definition of a singularity is pretty much “something not currently understood”, in physics at least. That's from Einstein though. The whole point of this book is to try and explain the things that Einstein didn't. Hawking is claiming that M-theory can. And that is certainly something he understands as it's a man-made concept. Whether it turns out to be right, is more the thing up for debate. Read the book before you comment!

  • Gary

    Whoaaa, a horribly bad representation of science/faith!

    The whole point of science is that, even though most people do take it on 'faith'- we could check the results if we wanted to! (and lots of us do). When a biologist believes something they read in a physics paper, they'll often ignore it the first time but if it pops up repeatedly, they will start to believe it. That's not having faith, it's having an understanding of the scientific community where ideas are harshly criticised and claims which survive multiple publications are likely to be true.

    That's a long way from something is completely dependent on faith, by which you could justify almost anything.

  • Gary

    But gravity is only a law, a description of how things behave. It does need an explanation but the fact that it has no actual content, means that explanation doesn't need to come from outside the universe.

  • Gary

    It's a fine idea in theory. It's funny how people had been teaching that for about 4000 years and we had to wait til the 1800s to abolish slavery though. In all practical senses, we need more than just nice sayings. The religions that taught 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' always seemed to be pretty bad at following it when they met someone of a different religion.

  • Gary

    Better still, try and remember while reading about modern day Sweden, Norway, Iceland. The most atheistic countries as well as the most peaceful, best educated etc etc.

    Straw men tend to burn quite easily.

  • Gary

    Well said. The thing I also find interesting about theists is that by often resorting to “God always existed”, they seem to be actually saying that 'absolute nothing' doesn't exist. They then soon change their minds when the answer isn't one they like. 'Absolute nothing' is very much like 'God' in any discussion of this type, just a NON-ANSWER. If you're postulating something that can't be understood, you should NOT be postulating it. Get over your insecurities and wait til we do understand it!

  • Gary

    The Big Bang Theory doesn't explain the origin of the universe, just it's behaviour once it had started. That's what Hawking is saying M-theory can do. I think it may take a while before scientists agree on that though (or indeed disprove it)

  • Cormac Mulhall

    The confusion here seems to be from explaining something and picking an answer that claims to explain it.

    “God did it” is no more of an explanation that “We don't know what did it” since we don't know God did it.

    You can believe he did but that isn't the same thing. Throughout the history of the world people have given responsibility for creation to a whole range of gods and other supernatural agents. None of this means they actually did anything and so far no one has been able to demonstrate to any required scientific standard that they did or even might have.

    Also the question why is there something rather than nothing isn't answered by “God did it”, since by most definitions of something God himself is something.

    So why does God exist? Believers will say no reason, nothing higher than God decided he would, he just does.

    So if God can just exist why can't the multiverse just exist, infinitely churning out universes one after the other, eventually coming to our one?

  • Anon

    Well where did the intelligent force that designed everything come from. Wouldn't an intelligent force be complicated? If everything complex needs a designer then every designer needs another even more complicated designer none of whom we have an direct physical evidence that they exist. The fact that the universe exists is proof that either it really did just pop into existence on it's own (which means something can come from nothing) or there never was a beginning and the universe has existed for ever. Complexity is really irrelevant to the argument.

  • Pagespages69

    the problem is that ‘nothing’ means nothing. if we travelled to the location where nothing existed, when we arrived we would find nothing because nothing cannot exist in any location because nothing cannot exist, not just anywhere but not at all. if nothing existed it would not be nothing but something so nothing would still not exist. lets search for nothing! it can’t be found because how can that which does not exist be found when it doesn’t exist.

  • Rolyat182003

    would it be possible for there not to have been a beginning but through probability an end and then nothing?

  • Muhammed Sadique

    Who created God?

    The question of God’s existence has preoccupied man’s mind for many centuries. Those who believe in God seem to agree that the limited finite human intelligence cannot prove the existence of the infinite boundless God. It can only illustrate or demonstrate his existence to the satisfaction of the curious human mind. Those who deny God claim to rely on science, philosophy, or special theories of knowledge.

    It’s important to play devils advocate in order to ensure one’s position is accurate, and to understand the oppositions’ positions. So, that is what I shall do here –
    What caused God? Theist will respond with: God does not have a beginning. However, the Atheist can simply respond with: If God can be eternal, why not the Universe? If God created the universe, and exists beyond time – HOW did He create the universe? The act of creation is a process that involves change – this requires time. Would
    the act of creation occur in some sequential order? If so, then God is not absolute and is bound by time, and one can therefore question: Who created God? Why is this God necessary? If God is beyond time, then how can God even think? The process of changing thoughts requires time as well. There are questions beyond the scope of human comprehension.

    Yes, I have indeed found undeniable evidence for God’s existence – and here’s my hint: I only found such profound evidence AFTER reviewing my concept of God.

    “What is the definition of God?” For a person to say there is no God, he should know what is the meaning of God. If I hold a book and say that ‘this is a pen’, for the opposite person to say, ‘it is not a pen’, he should know what is the definition of a pen, even if he does not know nor is able to recognise or identify the object I am holding in my hand. For him to say this is not a pen, he should at least know what a pen means. Similarly for an atheist to say ‘there is no God’, he should at least know the concept of God.

    Many Atheists believe God must be an anthropomorpic Being (ex. a magical giant bearded man outside of this universe, the “man up in the sky” concept). when a Muslim says “Allah created this universe” often the Atheist pictures a magical invisible man who popped this universe into existence. We of course do NOT mean this,

    To shed further light on this point, we say that there are beings that exist now which previously did not exist, such as the solar system and living beings, both plants and animals. Their history shows that their existence is not eternal. Based on their differences, they did not exist a few million or a few billion years ago, and then they came into existence. Evidently, for the coming about of such beings, a cause or causes are necessary. Clearly, the separation of the Earth from the sun, based on Laplace’s hypothesis and others formed after him, was due to particular causes, whether we are completely aware of them or not. Similarly, the coming about of the first sprout of plant life, then animal, and then human life are all indebted to causes. Therefore, scientists are continuously striving to find these causes. If their existence was not due to causes, there is no reason for them to come about a million or billion years ago. Why didn’t they come about in twice as much time or half as much? The selection of these particular times is the best proof for the fact that the conditions and causes of their coming into being were only certain at those times.

    But if a being is eternal, whether we call that eternal being God or matter, it does not need any causes. It does not need a creator or a god, because there is no history of His coming about, and so that the place of cause and creator is empty in this history. The existence of an eternal thing takes rise from its essence, not from outside its essence so that it will be in need of a creator. Think over this.

    The Creator must be of a different nature from the things created because if He is of the same nature as they are, He will be temporal and will therefore need a maker. It follows that nothing is like Him. If the maker is not temporal, then he must be eternal. But if he is eternal, he cannot be caused, and if nothing caused Him to come into existence, nothing outside Him causes Him to continue to exist, which means that he must be self-sufficient. And if He does not depend on anything for the continuance of His own existence, then this existence can have no end. The Creator is therefore eternal and everlasting: “He is the First and the Last”. He is Self-sufficient or Self-subsistent, or, to use a Qur’anic term, Al-Qayyum The Creator does not create only in the sense of bringing things into being, He. also preserves them and takes them out of existence and is the ultimate cause of whatever happens to them.

    “ God is the Creator of everything. He is the guardian over everything. Unto Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth” (39:62-63).

    You, I, the Earth, the sky, the solar system, and so forth are in need of a creator, because our existence is not eternal and not from within ourselves. The first cause and cause of all causes is not such, because His existence is from His self.

    As we look around in our environments, we observe that the universe exists and functions in the most orderly manner, and that it has survived for hundreds of thousands of years. Can we, then, say that all this is accidental and haphazard? Or can we attribute the existence of man and the whole world to mere chance?

    If man were to come into being by accident or by sheer chance, his entire life would be based on chance, and his whole existence would be meaningless, and no rational being would leave his existence at the mercy of fluctuating chance. Every reasonable human being tries to make his life as meaningful as possible and set for himself a model of conduct according to some design. Individuals, groups and nations do plan their course of action. And every careful plan produces some desired effects. The fact of the matter is that man does engage in planning of one sort or another, and can appreciate the merits of good planning. Yet man represents only a very small portion of the great universe. And if he can make plans and appreciate the merits of planning, then his own existence and the survival of the universe must also be based on a planned policy. This means that there is a Designing Will behind our material existence, and that there is a Unique Mind in the world to bring things into being and keep them moving in order. The marvellous wonders of our world and the secrets of life are too great to be the product of random accident or mere chance. In the world, then there must be a Great Force in action to keep everything in order.

    He is God, the One and Only! God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not nor is He begotten. And there is none like unto Him.

    If the existence of God and the validity of the Qur’an are established in your mind, all else becomes far less relevant. i suggest you to go through a translation of Qur’an for more understanding on the concept of god in Islam. we can review and challenge the validity of Qur’an following that.

    Thank you, may Allah (swt) grant us enlightenment.

  • Avearguech

    Like all catholics you refuse to construct a debate, rather you scream bloody murder at anyone who has the intelligence and intuition to theorize and come up with reasonable ideas based on fact. Stop preaching and get a life.

  • Rationalist

    You actually make me laugh, you really do.

  • Tim

    Archimedes predated Abraham?  Please confirm…

  • Uchitrakar

                                    Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?
     
    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
    -         Stephen Hawking in “The Grand Design”
    “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
                                     – Stephen Hawking, Ibid
    Here three questions can be asked:
    1) Which one came first, universe, or laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    2) If the universe came first, then how was there spontaneous creation without the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    3) If the laws of gravity and quantum theory came first, then Hawking has merely substituted God with quantum theory and laws of gravity. These two together can be called Hawking’s “Unconscious God”. Therefore we can legitimately ask the question: Who, or what, created Hawking’s unconscious God?
                       Not only this, but there are other problems also. If the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes spontaneously appearing from nothing, then initially there was nothing. Then wherefrom appear those laws of gravity and quantum theory to allow universes appearing spontaneously from nothing? In which container were those two laws of nature?
                   Now regarding the M-theory: I have already written something on multiverse theory (not yet published anywhere). There I have come to the conclusion that if there are an infinite number of universes, then only within that infinite number of universes there will certainly be at least one universe in which life will emerge. If the number of universes is only 10 to the power 500, then it is very much unlikely that any one of them will support life, because no universe will know which set of values the other universes have already taken, and if everything is left on chance, then there is every probability that all the universes will take only those set of values that will not support life. There will be no mechanism that will prevent any universe from taking the same set of values that have already been taken by other universes. There will be no mechanism that will take an overview of all the universes already generated, and seeing that in none of them life has actually emerged will move the things in such a way that at least one universe going to be generated afterwards will definitely get the value of the parameters just right for the emergence of life. Only in case of an infinite number of universes this problem will not be there. This is because if we subtract 10 to the power 500 from infinity, then also we will get infinity. If we subtract infinity from infinity, still then we will be left with infinity. So we are always left with an infinite number of universes out of which in at least one universe life will definitely emerge. Therefore if M-theory shows that it can possibly have 10 to the power 500 number of solutions, and that thus there might be 10 to the power 500 number of universes in each of which physical laws would be different, then it is really a poor theory, because it cannot give us any assurance that life will certainly emerge in at least one universe. So instead of M-theory we need another theory that will actually have an infinite number of solutions.                              
                          Now the next question to be pondered is this: How did the scientists come to know that an entire universe could come out of nothing? Or, how did they come to know that anything at all could come out of nothing? Were they present at that moment when the universe was being born? As that was not the case at all, therefore they did not get that idea being present at the creation event. Rather they got this idea being present here on this very earth. They have created a vacuum artificially, and then they have observed that virtual particles (electron-positron pairs) are still appearing spontaneously out of that vacuum and then disappearing again. From that observation they have first speculated, and then ultimately theorized, that an entire universe could also come out of nothing. But here their entire logic is flawed. These scientists are all born and brought up within the Christian tradition. Maybe they have downright rejected the Christian world-view, but they cannot say that they are all ignorant of that world-view. According to that world-view God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. So as per Christian belief-system, and not only as per Christian belief-system, but as per other belief-systems also, God is everywhere. So when these scientists are saying that the void is a real void, God is already dead and non-existent for them. But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist. So how have they accomplished that job, the job of making God redundant in case of creation event? These were the steps:  
    1)        God is non-existent, and so, the void is a real void. Without the pre-supposition that God does not exist, it cannot be concluded that the void is a real void.
    2)        As virtual particles can come out of the void, so also the entire universe. Our universe has actually originated from the void due to a quantum fluctuation in it.
    3)        This shows that God was not necessary to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, as because there was no creation event.
    4)        This further shows that God does not exist.
                So here what is to be proved has been proved based on the assumption that it has already been proved. Philosophy is already dead for these scientists. Is it that logic is also dead for them?
       
      
              

  • Froh

    Saying it ain’t so does not make it not so.  Plenty of evidence exists as others have said below, that matter and energy spontaneously emerge from a vacuum.  Those who say that things cannot emerge from nothing don’t know nothing.

  • Froh

    And in answer to Uchitrakar, laws and the physical universe coexist.  Always have done since the beginning.  Don’t ask what happened before the beginning because that is when time began. To ask such a question makes no more sense than asking what lies North of the North Pole.

  • J.Pepin

    Uchitraker,
    I shall start by answering your three questions:                      1) To fully understand quantum physics is to understand the most basic particle. That is to go beyond the electrons, qwarks, positrons and neutrons but, rather, to understand the most basic element: the higgs bozon. This particle would explain mass and, at the same time, would explain whether gravity a part of mass or if it is an entirely different thing that happens to be affected by mass.                          Hawking believes that mass and gravity are fundamentally related and both exist everywhere.                           As for which came first: they both came into existence at the same time as time was created alongside the big bang. Time as we know it has not always existed. The concept of no time is certainly hard for our brains to grasp but so is the idea of a sub-atomic particle: something smaller than matter, yet we know they exist.
                          2) As I’ve already explained: neither the universe nor quantum physics came first. quantum physics exist outside the bounds of our universe. This is a hypothesis of course. We know that the universe has expanded from a point. It is logical to deduct from this that an explosion occurred that gave energy for momentum: the big bang.
                             The mathematical explanation that physicists are pointed to is spontaneous combustion. This happens in vacuums. It is the creation of subatomic particles from nothing. Usually these creations balance each other out: anti-particles equal particles. Hence the average density of space is zero. However if you take any one part of space you will find there is a density.
                              Physicists think it is the unbalance of one of these creations that caused our universe. Somehow it did not balance and the effect snowballed, hence our universe is still expanding. If this is how our universe was created then it is ridiculous to think that it could only have happened once, hence we have             
    M-theory.
                           3) Again: neither came first. And I would very much like to stress that quantum physics is not a God as it is not worshiped. It is not taken as true without question but rather it is studied, analyzed, experimented with. The theory will become more understood with new discoveries in other fields.
                              Also I question your attitude in the latter part of your question: ‘who or what created Hawking’s [unconscious] God?’. When you ask that question you have already chosen your answer: quantum physics was purposefully created.
                          Now you talk about ‘nothing’ which does not exist. If there is not matter then there is a vacuum in which spontaneous creation occurs.
                           OK, on to M-theory. And in this section your mathematical ignorance is clearly shown. You don’t understand chance, and I can’t explain that to you in words in the time I have to write this. 10^500 subtracted from infinity is not infinity; it is a singularity as is infinity minus infinity. In the next couple of lines, however, you sum up M-theory perfectly. The chance of any universe having life is minute, as our your chances of winning the lottery but it can happen. If, however, you had an infinite number of universes: an infinite number of universes could support life.
                          Your next question I have answered throughout this post, I’m too tired to write it all out again.
                           In the next part you say that we should assume the existence of God because most people believe in the existence of God. That is a complete waste of time. 
                           Consider a tea pot in orbit around the sun. our telescopes aren’t powerful enough to pick it up so we cannot prove it does not exist. That is not to say it does exist. There are any number of things that cannot be proven to be wrong. But it would be a waste of time, money and resources to go in search of a celestial tea pot. If there is no tangible evidence to support the idea of God then to go in search of one would be like searching for the celestial tea pot. We shall assume God does not exist for the purposes of advancing our scientific knowledge.
                           Philosophy has always been dead for scientists. Philosophy is the study of what could be but without the necessity of proof or conviction. Science is the study of what could be based on current fact and proof. There is logic in that.
                           Finally: I apologize for the clustered and hastily-put-together nature of this post, I can explain anything you like in more detail.
                           Yours,
                                    J.Pepin.