According to Stephen Hawking, the brilliant scientist and mathematician, there is no God. Defending the faith isn't the subject of this post. Hawking's opinion doesn't offend me, and I don't think God has anything to fear from it or any other opinion. But I was especially struck by two statements Hawking made during his Discovery Channel series, Curiosity.
First, he said something about human beings feeling pleased with themselves for having figured it all out, i.e., how things work, how the universe was created and the laws that govern it. (My paraphrasing is subject to correction, and maybe I mistook the context of his words. I don't believe I did.)
I'd find the idea amusing if it didn't astound me, coming from someone like Stephen Hawking. Figured it all out? All? Just in the last fifty years, scientists have figured out a mind-boggling amount of stuff. They've done experiments and made observations of atomic and subatomic particle behavior, etc. They've theorized a great deal more. But a claim everything has been figured out strikes me as--oh, I don't know--arrogant? Mistaken? Has the scientific community not only figured out, but also proved everything in strictly empirical terms? Hawking didn't say so, though he implied it.
The second thing to get my attention was Hawking's opinion that God doesn't exist because before the Big Bang, time did not exist. The matter and energy released at the Big Bang were compressed like a black hole, or so scientists theorize. How can one prove such an event, much as the evidence may imply it? Anyway, inside such a singularity, nothing moves. No energy is produced; matter doesn't interact. Essentially, nothing exists, including time. Hawking says:
You can’t get to a time before the big bang, because there was no time before the big bang. We have finally found something that does not have a cause because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me this means there is no possibility of a creator because there is no time for a creator to have existed. Since time itself began at the moment of the Big Bang, it was an event that could not have been caused or created by anyone or anything.
Hawking assumes God needs time to exist. Human beings do. We use time. It serves us. St. Augustine of Hippo, a greater thinker on this subject than I, described God as an eternal present. God said: "Before Abraham was, I am." It's hard to wrap a human understanding around the concept of timelessness. Some of the most brilliant minds through the ages haven't been able to conceive of existence outside time, I suppose because they can't prove it with math and science.
St. Paul wrote that if we had proof of what we believed right in front of us, we wouldn't need faith. Those without religious faith probably call that a very convenient philosophy. I suppose it is.
But I'm not debating faith versus science--I don't think they're mutually exclusive. I do think probing the secrets of creation and the depths of the universe requires as much humility as faith does. In that sense, and in my slightly obsessive-compulsive quest for accuracy, Hawking's statements sound careless for a mind as brilliant as his and trained, as his must have been, in careful, experimental proof.