Last week, the renowned English physicist Stephen Hawking passed away at the age of 76. His contributions to contemporary physics cannot be overstated. And aside from his intellectual genius, his tenacity in the face of a debilitating disease, with which he lived for well over 50 years, was truly inspiring. It is well known that in his early groundbreaking work, “A Brief History of Time,” Hawking admitted that contemporary cosmological models of the universe could not account for an actually existing universe, and therefore the existence of God could not be ruled out definitively. In a more recent work, however, “The Grand Design,” Hawking claimed that the existence of God was no longer needed to account for an actually existing universe.
Respecting the undeniable contributions Hawking made to contemporary advances in physics, many may be inclined to accept Hawking’s philosophical conclusion about the non-existence of God by virtue of his scientific achievements. That would be a grave mistake. Hawking’s more recent claim that the law of gravity itself is indicative of a universe that can create itself rests on an unsound philosophical, not scientific, principle: something can come from nothing.
As learned as Hawking was, he missed the point. It takes a blinder faith to believe that a universe is capable of creating itself than it does to recognize that a contingent cosmos requires a stable metaphysical foundation for its existence. And that is what we call God. We are right to hail Hawking the scientist, but not Hawking the philosopher.