As it turns out, shockingly, we don’t need god after all to explain the origins of the universe. Science is good without god.
Science continues to erode the need for god or gods to explain how and why we came to be here, and one of the popular figures leading this march is Dr. Stephen Hawking. Hawking hit the popular stage with his publication of ‘A Brief History of Time‘, a best-seller (over 10 million copies sold) that outlined Hawking’s and his colleagues’ research in cosmology, including the Big Bang Theory and black holes. Hawking, beyond his genius in Science, has a real knack for popularizing difficult scientific material, though I would hazard to guess that most folks who read his books likely don’t understand much of what he covers – it is very difficult material indeed.
Hawking has caused a recent stir with his latest publication ‘The Grand Design‘, in which he deals with questions related to the origins of the universe. In the book Hawking and his collaborator Dr. Leonard Mlodinow conclude, “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.”
Obviously this does not sit well with the purveyors of the Judeo-Christian creation myth which holds that God created the universe in 6 days and created the first man from the earth and the first woman from the rib of the first man. They shout “How can something come from nothing?” Yet they settle on god, who they claim is eternal as he is god (why is it always he?) – a serious case of tautology there. This is essentially the Cosmological Argument – and for the life of me I can’t see why you can’t just replace god with a natural phenomenon.
Whether Hawking’s notion is true or not, at least he and the scientific community have a way forward, and that is through the scientific method. The scientific method is a set of principles and processes to probe the universe in order to acquire new knowledge (explanation of natural phenomena), and to self-correct erroneous explanations. It relies on the generation of hypotheses, or proposed explanations of natural phenomena, whereby predictions are made explicit and subject to experimentation and observation. With sufficient supporting observations, a hypothesis will become a scientific theory.
A scientific theory must be falsifiable, that is, it must be subject to testing – this is really a distinguishing feature of science as compared to belief systems such as religion. This is the true strength of the scientific method, but engenders confusion in the uninitiated. One criticism levied by believers is that nothing can be 100% proven by science, and they see the falsifiability aspect of the scientific method as its weakness, while in fact it is its greatest strength. Their certainty in a creator is held in opposition to the uncertainty of science, and this really paints them into a corner. There is no way forward for the Judeo-Christian believer to distinguish the ‘truth’ of his/her particular creation myth from other creation myths, such as:
The Greeks: from a primordial chaos arose Gaea (Earth) who then made the sky (Uranus). Together they created other gods, as well as the earth and all of its inhabitants.
The Hindus: The Hindus have very many creation myths, but the most prominent involves the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma created the universe which lasts for 4 billion years and then is destroyed Shiva and the whole thing starts again.
The Chinese: A cosmic egg containing two opposing forces, the yin and the yang, gave birth to the first being Pan-gu. The yin of the egg created the earth, and the yang formed the sky. Pan-gu was responsible for keeping the yin and the yang apart – he stood on the earth and held up the sky and grew every day for 18,000 years, which explains why the sky is so far away from the earth. Upon his death, his body was transformed into various components of the universe. Another god, or goddess, Nuwa made humans from the mud of the Yellow River.
Which of these creation stories is true? How can the believer tell the difference? He must rely on scripture and faith, which will be in contradiction with all of the other religious faiths, but they will each hold on to their belief as the ‘truth’. Hawking is in a much more privileged position as two opposing theories cannot be held as truth – the one with the most supporting evidence will carry the day and the other will fall by the wayside. THAT is the beauty and strength of science.