A Brief Word on Stephen Hawking’s Birthday Present
by guest blogger Austin Gravley
In the January 11th issue of New Scientist, an article by Lisa Grossman appeared, entitled “Why Scientists Can’t Avoid A Creation Event”. The article highlighted a recent paper by Alexander Vilenkin that came at a very untimely occurrence for a popular scientist: the celebration of Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday. What made this paper’s appearance untimely was Vilenkin claiming, in conclusion, “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”
Hawking made a pre-recorded phone message which said, quote: “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God.”
I briefly wish to point out that what Hawking meant by “science” breaking down, he was more or less meaning “naturalism”. A point of creation would challenge naturalism (the belief that the natural world is all that existed), but it would not challenge science if such a conclusion (namely, that the universe had a beginning) was made via the scientific method. It’s ironic that he claims that a creation event is a “place where science broke down” given that his statement came as a result of Alexander Vilenkin, who is a renowned scientist himself, and his paper. Hawking is making a philosophical conclusion about a scientific observation, not a scientific statement – statements concerning religion and “the hand of God” are not scientific statements.
Science, contrary to populist belief, is not the supreme discipline for knowledge. It is a first order discipline that examines it’s various subject matter, but philosophy – the overarching discipline for all knowledge – is a second order discipline that studies science. Hawking, who said in his recent book “philosophy is dead”, would do well to recant that statement and supplement his abilities as a scientist with those as a philosopher, as his recent statement shows his confusion between the two.
Austin Gravley can be described as a Reformed Christian, apologist and philosopher, music nutcase, and sarcastic sage. Austin writes at his blog, Another Ascending Lark.