Stephen Hawking publishes old ideas, World ends, Film at 11:00

President Barack Obama talks with Stephen Hawk...
Stephen Hawking with President Obama. (Image via Wikipedia)

Excerpts of Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design, have been published in Britain’s The Times newspaper, and the world seems to be having a hissy-fit.  (I’d include a link, but they require subscription. Here’s a Independent article on the same thing. Take that, Times!)  Actually, I will admit that I would love to finish a commentary I had started on the subject, but other things are pressing on me and it looks unlikely.  Compared to writing a commentary, this blog is simple stuff!

But for those who have somehow escaped the news, Dr. Hawking states in his new book that the newest (and shiniest!) theories demonstrate that that God is not necessary for the universe to exist.  Whether it oscillates, permanently contracts, or expands into the nothingness of “heat death” — it’s irrelevant.  Hawking has declared God an unnecessary variable in the equation.

I can understand the hissy-fit: Every time a famous and highly respected scientist (read: Richard Dawkins) becomes a lousy philosopher and theologian (read: Richard Dawkins) and says something sincerely-believed-but-still-dumb (read: Richard Dawkins), it makes news.  I do admire the intellect of both Dawkins and Hawkings.  I’d pay good money to have some of their neural synapses.  (I’d also pay good money to have vocal chords like those of Kevin Lee or Mario Hernandez, but that’s another story.)  But I don’t want the set of assumptions they work from.  Perhaps the synapses could be purchased separately…

The thing is, what Hawking (and poor, little recognized co-author U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, who might as well build a grass hut in Hawking’s shadow) is saying is nothing new.  Physicists and cosmologists have been hypothesizing and waxing hopeful about multiverses and  M-theory for years.  I’ve blogged a bit about it myself, and, personally, I find the research fascinating even if I disagree with the conclusions they are trying to justify.

The news is not what Hawking is saying.  What he is saying is incredibly old news.  It is that he is saying it.  I rip my pants, my wife and kids have a giggle.  Britney Spears rips her pants, Google searches go wild across planet earth.  And when it comes to statements about existence, God, and the universe: Stephen Hawking is Britney Spears.  (Please tell me I can copyright those last five words…)

I really don’t have time to write anything serious on the topic (that’s where insightful equations like “Stephen Hawking = Britney Spears” come from!), but I can link to a blog post from the past that discusses a similar topic: “Is the Universe Made of Math?”

If Hawking & Mlodinow’s book discusses M-theory, it might be worth getting.  Hawking is a good popularizer of scientific material that can be hard to grasp in the hands of others.  But his philosophical conclusions?  That’s another story.  Still, the bridge he tries to build from one to the other might be instructive.  (“Instructive” as in “The data from the Black Box we recovered was instructive.”)

I’ll finish the commentary if I can find some time.  Until then, don’t worry.  Stephen Hawking may have declared that the universe doesn’t need God, but a declaration doth not a reality make.  Old false news is still false news even if it is packaged as new false news — and even if Britney Spears announces it.

9 thoughts on “Stephen Hawking publishes old ideas, World ends, Film at 11:00

  1. “Stephen Hawking is Britney Spears”. 😀 Since you are probably the first to make that connection, you may indeed have copyright priority, or at least are first in the queue to quotable quotability.

  2. “Stephen Hawking is Britney Spears”

    Don’t worry about copyright. The important thing is, you are number one in search rankings for the term “Stephen Hawking is Britney Spears” (the only one so far in fact). You are even number one if you enter “Stephen Hawking” and “Britney Spears” as two quotes.

    What will you do with all the traffic from the millions of people who search for those people together?

  3. I like how Hawking put theory in perspective. Attempting to quote from memory, “Theory is our current understanding. Where theory differs from observation is the limit of our understanding.” How much observation do we have on the origin of life or the universe? I’m curious about something simpler like NASA’s FIVE MILLENNIUM CATALOG OF SOLAR/LUNAR ECLIPSES

  4. Responding to both Lyndell and Stephen (Hawking): too often what the curator of the British Museum called a “metaphysical research programme” (he was citing naturalistic biological evolution) is sailing under the false colors of a “theory”. I strongly suspect that Hawking’s “grand design” is put forward because of the GIGO Principle: not because it passes a close shave with Occam’s Razor, but because like so many others, he’s unwilling to let a Divine foot in the door.

    Mr. Smith, SOMEWHERE you have to take Hawking’s reasoning apart. See you at the, um, massacre.

  5. Ed Ewert

    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. It is not necessary to invoke God …” according to Dawkins in his book. This is of course, just nonsensical blather.

  6. Thomas

    In a future classroom:

    TEACHER: Who can explain what the Wallace Smith Equation aka The Hawking-Spears Equivalency means?

    JOHNNY PUPIL: When you have an audience the potential embarrassment is directly proportional to the size of said audience and inversely proportional to the care applied to words and actions chosen.

    TEACHER: Very good, Johnny. Would anyone like to add anything else?

    JENNY PUPIL: It was demonstrated that there was a one to one correspondence between Stephen Hawking and gravity mapped onto Britney Spears and her pants.

  7. Norbert

    When it comes to the sciences, on one level I would tend to agree with, ” Hawking has declared God an unnecessary variable in the equation”. That is because Atheism is just as much an unnecessary variable in the equation too. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander where in simple terms 1+1=2 whether or not a person believes in God.

    I believe it could be said, when a person declares God an unecessary variable in the equation. To remain unhypocritical of such an idea, the author must conclude Atheism as being unnecessary for themselves as well.

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