Thursday, September 2, 2010
Is God Really Needed?
Physicist Stephen Hawking has a new book, "The Grand Design", in which he apparently argues (only excerpts have been published) that a creator God is not necessary to explain existence of the universe.
Does God exist, or not? In my opinion, this agument is a rather useless exercise in philosophical polemics. Useless, not because the answer is obvious, but because the argument frames the question in misleading and irrelevant terms.
At first glance, Hawking casts the terminology in reference to the traditional assumption that God is some supernatural being, separate from creation, and therefore beyond our understanding. Such a God requires a "leap of faith" to believe in, a concept which science has understandably been reluctant to embrace.
Creationists cite the complex structure and order in nature as evidence of Intelligent Design, while agnostic philosophy counters with theories that speculate how endless variations of multiverses provide enough random combinations that make our ordered universe a likely probability.
So which side is Hawking defending here?
"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. It is not necessary to invoke God to ... set the Universe going."
Rather than invoking chance and random variables, Hawking appears to imply that the existence of natural laws offer evidence of a higher source. Yet the major question is left hanging, which is to explain how the universe created itself seemingly out of nothing.
Either Hawking's brilliant mind is beginning to succumb to age and disability, or he is cleverly steering the reader toward a more radical philosophical Satori: What astrophysicist Bernard Haisch terms "The God Theory" in his book of that title.
Haisch maintains that the two choices inherent in the classic "God vs. no God" argument are both inadequate and false. He redefines the question in terms of whether there is a discernable intelligence embedded within the universe. To draw distinction between creator and creation is a false dichotomy, and he suggests that this theory is testable with standard scientific tools.
Haisch's theory maintains that the classic ontological view of a distant, supreme God, external from creation, is patently false. Also, the presumption that order sprang from chaos without intelligent consciousness is equally false.
It certainly would be fascinating if Hawking is opening the door for considering classic Hermetic thought as a philosophical framework (which Hasich's work essentially is). We will have to wait until the book is published to find out.