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September 3rd, 2010
10:11 PM ET

Letter to the White House: My beef with Hawking

From CNN's Tom Foreman:

Dear Mr. President,

So I was reading this article about how the esteemed physicist Stephen Hawking says there is no God; about how everything that exists can be explained by science, and spontaneous creation; which, I guess, is like spontaneous combustion, only not so messy.

And once again I found myself thinking: How the heck would he know?

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Culture & Science

soundoff (145 Responses)
  1. Kate

    So from this we can safely say that there are CNN staffers who have noticed that if Professor Hawking either gives you God's phone number, or shows he's moved on and left no forwarding address, they'll be out of a job either way?

    Then CNN won't get the advertising revenue from people frantically refreshing the Belief blogs, making such staffers surplus to requirements and out of a job before you can say "you suck as a copyeditor", therefore they'll argue about it whichever way he goes.

    Then again, so will everyone else (even if the Christians and s3x thread seems to be on course to overtake both Glenn Beck Is A Mormon and Muslims Aren't Mormons threads).

    I suggest a new blog post "AC360: How Glenn Beck Mormons, Stephen Hawking, and Muslims Spoil CNN Staffers' S3x For CPM"

    If not, if you're gonna write letters to the President, CNN, at least pick a hyper-intelligent quantum physicist to do it 🙂

    Just brainstormin'

    September 4, 2010 at 2:30 am |
    • Arrr

      A woman!

      Arrr!

      September 4, 2010 at 3:05 am |
  2. William

    Mr. Foreman (and whoever else is offended by Mr. Hawking's comments) how is it that someone saying that a creator isn't NECESSARY to create what we experience somehow an attack on your personal faith?

    Galileo was tortured for saying that God did not make Earth the center of our known universe, but rather the Earth revolved around the sun. . . and while I suspect Mr. Hawking is safe, let's at least not have the same childish naivete that they had.

    It's possible to believe in a God that doesn't do a half-baked job of creating a universe, isn't it?

    September 4, 2010 at 1:58 am |
    • Fast Eddie

      @William
      It's also possible to believe in a CNN employee, but sometimes I wonder...

      September 4, 2010 at 2:20 am |
  3. Dan

    @Monty – "And with this Stephen Hawking which I personally feel he has no clue when there has been mulitple scientist that have proven that there is a God."

    Scientists...have already proved the existence of God...ooookay. You wanna feel free to list those scientists and their "proof" for the rest of us that aren't magic?

    September 4, 2010 at 1:51 am |
  4. Terribly sorry

    @Brandon

    You misunderstand my position. I happen to agree with most of your original post. But your assertion that a God must be the one doing chemistry in the universe was begging to be addressed.

    Perhaps, since that part of your post did not match up with the rest, you stumbled at the end of your post and left out some essential word that would have made the ending more in line with your actual position.

    Science and religion are not mutually exclusive any more than Psychology is exclusive with regard to Mental illness.
    The two words "science" and "religion" are not opposites and they are not what I would call the proper names anyway..

    You don't define them, either, so that leaves me free to interpret them my own way – hence the misunderstanding. Sorry.

    September 4, 2010 at 1:40 am |
  5. Thomas

    Here is an idea, lets all go read the book then form an opinion, instead of just responding with our own prejudices and opinions.
    Informed discourse will make your life better.
    My opinion about the book is, I haven't read it yet so I can't discuss it."

    September 4, 2010 at 1:35 am |
    • bobby

      Hawking's idea is that there is no God the creator period. I already got his point unless CNN account is wrong. Why waste your money and time for somethig that is unacceptable, at least from the biblical point of view. Science could never explain creation. If a scientist focus his attention and try to explain how this universe was created he may be near losing his mind. Next, he will be counting the stars in the universe. I rather believe in something that gives me hope than in "something that gives me nothing theory" of Hawking.

      September 4, 2010 at 7:46 am |
  6. Jessie

    The butthurt is palpable.

    September 4, 2010 at 1:21 am |
    • Arrr

      Abandon all hope, ye hemorrhoids who post in here!

      Arrr!

      September 4, 2010 at 3:15 am |
  7. RosaFranklin

    Well said, Jeff and Brandon, and I'll further add an old but true statement I always learned in my classes: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This was generally applied, in my personal experience, to paleoanthropology and archaeology (just because we haven't found any Homo erectus fossils older than 2mya doesn't mean they aren't out there...) but the principle works for any situation. So I respect that some people are positive there is no God or similar "higher power"...but I respect that other people choose to believe there is. It's not like there's any evidence disproving some sort of god. As mentioned above, faith is not scientific – hence the reason you must take religious beliefs *on faith*. You absolutely cannot use science to cancel out religion, or vice versa. They exist in different realms of thought, which do not conflict. Science is fact, and everyone should accept it. Religion is faith, and that's something a person chooses for him- or herself. And just as it's not a problem to dismiss the idea of religion and stick purely to science...it's no problem at all to choose faith in addition to science.

    September 4, 2010 at 1:21 am |
  8. Malluto Jones

    Honestly, considering the hand in life Hawkings has been dealth, I have no issues with him being allowed to voice his thoughts. What else does the man have? Bottom line too it, he is entltled to his opinions. Like them, or not.

    I would be a little suspicious too if I was in his shoes, and if he can think for himself, which so many of you are unable to do in this day and age, more power to him!

    September 4, 2010 at 12:22 am |
  9. CJ

    Brandon. They are exclusive because they require the mind to behave in completely opposite ways. Science challenges your view of the universe and demands you back up that view with evidence that is independently verifiable by your peers and can be disproven. Faith does not. Faith is believing when there is no reason to believe, or even in the face of contradictory evidence. It is not falsifiable. There is no independent verification of true vs false belief – as attested by the great multitude of sects and subsects of various religion that believe they are the only ones that really understand god. Science and religion can coexist in a single person's mind, such as Francis Collins, but that does not mean they are compatible. Newton was a believer in alchemy as well as a physicist. The physics was rational the alchemy was not. People can compartmentalize faith and reason in their minds, but that is not compatibility. People simply give their rational minds permission to 'switch off' when they are 'doing faith'. It is always comforting to say that humans can 'have both', it also sounds like compromise which is also a friendly thought. But it simply does not apply. Some things are mutually exclusive. You cannot be both married and a bachelor. Similarly, a mind acting rationally is not a mind acting on faith.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
  10. Brandon

    Why must science and religion be mutually exclusive? Is it not possible that a higher form of being than humankind – call it what you will – created a diverse system that could sustain itself and evolve and change as does our universe? Could this higher being not have created a system that conforms to a set of rules and limits – let's call it science, or physics – that could perform its function without interference? Is it not possible for the scientific system Mr. Hawking uses as the basis of his assumptions about the beginnings and functions of the universe to have been created and not just appeared out of nowhere? Mr Hawking has merely explained that God has no hand in the daily operations of the Universe. This I can believe. It seems to conform very strictly to physical law and need no governance. He has not proven, however, that it merely appeared without a catalyst from a higher form of being. If he doesn't believe in that – good for him. If someone else does – good for them. In my years, I have yet to find a reason why science and religion MUST contradict. Do we really believe that "God" – or whatever you may believe – can't do chemistry???

    September 3, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
    • Sorry, old chap

      Considering all the things chemistry can do?

      NO...I do not believe "God" is doing chemistry. That is the most ridiculous thing I have read in this thread so far. Facts and fiction will always be mutually exclusive for the most part.
      Try truth vs lies instead of "can't we all just agree to ignore the powerful web of lies?"
      I have been reading that sort of thing entirely too often.

      September 3, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
    • Brandon

      Fair enough. If you want to call religion a "web of lies" – so be it. I may even agree with you. But you must prove it if you're going to go to bat so fiercely for the scientific method. Explaining how something works does not even begin to address why it exists. They are fundamentally different questions and should not even be mentioned in the same serious conversation. Again I ask, why does one disprove the other? You have not answered that.

      September 4, 2010 at 12:06 am |
    • Luc

      Actually, that seems to be the point of Hawkings current theory: that the universe does not need a catalyst to be bought into existence. It's own laws make such a thing possible, and so do not require an act of God, or any other external force, in order to exist.

      September 4, 2010 at 7:09 am |
    • Vynn

      If a god "created" the universe, it begs the question, "what created god?" If everything must have an intelligent creator, then god is no exception to the inquiry. In the universe we find that the first creations were very simple, where life is very complex. Simplicity begets complexity. There is not one example of the reverse –complexity begetting simplicity. If there is an intelligent creator, such a thing would be highly complex. Why then would it evolve things simpler than itself?

      But if there has to be an eternal creator, then why does it have to be a complex god, when it could be someting as simple as an eternal universe spontaneously creating more and more complex things over time?

      To those who claim the Bible is perfect, it's not. We don't live on a disc. You can't have plants without the sun. You can't stop the earth from turning to make the sun stand still as it would have caused such great tsunamis that it would have wiped low-lying lands clean of everything. And the geological record proves that a global flood never happened in the history of human kind or before.

      Faith needs ignorance to succeed. Without it, it will die a slow death.

      I have no idea what Mr Forman expects the president to do about Hawking's claim. I for one will not mourn the loss of another imaginary god from the world.

      September 4, 2010 at 10:04 am |
    • Luke

      Brandon, honey, the reason why they cannot be held mutually exclusive is because religion, particularly the abrahamic religions, make very specific scientific claims. When religion infringes upon science, we combat such claims with evidence based sciences hardened by concrete data. Thus, we cannot simply ignore religions claims. Great examples include profecy; no such thing exists. Noah's flood was disproven by the fossil record, and common sense. The story of Adam and eve is impossible; she had 2 sons. The creation story altogether is bogus; it states that trees were created before the sun, impossible. Moreover, if the universe was just 6k years old, we would not see stars when we look up at the sky at night because their emitted light would not have reached earth yet. I could list hundreds more claims that the biblical books make, but you get the point. They're all easily explained and debunked by the natural order of things and science.

      September 5, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  11. joen52

    Letter to CNN: My beef with Tom Foreman

    So, I was reading this "belief blog" by some moron with no scientific qualifications trying to discredit an outstanding physicist, Stephen Hawking's statements. If I wanted to listen to a bunch of religious nuts, I would be reading Faux News and not CNN. If CNN wishes to go crazy like Faux News, then it's losing at least one person in its audience: me.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  12. Gridloch of Sciotlund

    The article is so similar to the way some people equivocate around here...it makes me feel...peaceul....like I'm floating in clouds....

    September 3, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  13. Justina

    Yes, Mr. Hawking should admit he's been writing a science fiction regarding his opinion on the origin, if he's an honest man.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Re: fiction, I think it would be far more approrpiate, helpful and honest if religions would admit they are based on fiction.

      In fact, I often wonder why booksores insist on a Religion section, rather than lumping such books into the Fiction section.

      September 4, 2010 at 12:09 am |
    • Justina

      @hotairace, The Bible is altogether realistic and accurate so no sane bookstore will grant your wish.

      September 4, 2010 at 3:14 am |
    • UncleM

      Justina – the bible was written over thousands of years before the scientific age, and has since been translated, edited and minipulated. It is neither accurate nor true.

      September 5, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
  14. Jeff

    I was glad to see that the religious leaders over in Britain were more adult about this than people over here. They basically stated that science tells us when where and how, and religion gives us a reason why. In America, it seems that people want to treat the Bible as scientific truth, and any real data that contradicts their beliefs must be faulty. People need to realize, science and religion both pursue truth, but in fundamentally different ways. They don't have to conflict, unless you try to push one into the domain of the other. Science can't prove or disprove the existence of God, and a belief system is not based on hard scientific data (and has no bearing on scientific validity of theories).

    September 3, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
    • Brandon

      Well said.

      September 3, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
    • UncleM

      Of course god exists – in the mind of deluded religious folks.

      September 5, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
  15. Here's the link you scurvy dogs!

    http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/03/letters-to-the-president-592-disproving-god-or-not/

    September 3, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
    • Pirate number 42

      Are!

      September 3, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
    • Arrr

      Arrr!

      It's pirate!

      Arrr!

      September 4, 2010 at 3:02 am |
  16. Where is the link?

    O Great Ones of CNN, please hear our earnest plea for a link to the "full story" of your amazing grace.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
    • Arrr

      Dye, ye scurvy dog! Dye!

      Arrr!

      September 4, 2010 at 3:07 am |
  17. Sir Craig

    How the heck would he know?

    Funny, the same question could be asked of the religionists, and a 2000-year old book of silly myths is no answer. I'm guessing Hawking is using little things called evidence and data, brought about using things like testing and observation, to arrive at conclusions. It's all very complicated, I'm sure, but it all has to do with something called the scientific method.

    Truly, truly dumb question.

    September 3, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Sir Craig

      As usual, you said what I would have tried to say. You made my comment unnecessary. I salute you sir!

      September 3, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
    • Brandon

      Data, evidence, and observation do not answer the question. How does the scientific method exclude the possibility of religion? Can you please cite the source that says God does not use science? Or perhaps cite the religious text that explains how a higher power never learned chemistry and therefore refused to use it when creating the universe. How do you, bright one, know that a higher being didn't create the conditions that allow that very scientific method to be such a good way to learn about out universe? Just because we can now explain things about our Universe, you're saying this proves the impossibility of a higher being?? Not very scientific of you now is it?

      September 3, 2010 at 11:53 pm |
    • Jason

      @brandon- God is not a scientist, nor can he be one, for, being omniscient, he would have no need for positing a question, which is the fundamental basis of science. He already has all the answers, which is why the idea of a creator God, possessing infinite knowledge, is so alien to the concept of rational thought in anyone who takes the idea to its ultimate conclusion.

      Religion is not necessarily a web of lies, however. For a lie to exist, the liar has to be conscious of deception, knowing the declared fact to be untrue; a true believer and follower of God is by definition not lying. That does not, however, preclude those suffering from delusions or hallucinations from declaring something true that is contradictory to well established theories strongly supported by physical evidence. Thus, not a lie, but also not true.

      It really comes down to how one would define the term "God". If defined as an invisible immortal who tweeked the physical world in ways impossible to find evidence of, which resulted in the emergence of man, well, there's no way to refute- or support- that. Congratulations, you win. If defined as most Judeo-Christian,fundamentalist, evangelical, literal creationists define God- which is what most of us Americans are familiar with on the Internet- that can, and has, been refuted, over and over again, to the point where everyone who isn't suffering from zealous euphoria is sick of hearing about it, and even the most die-hard trolls are beginning to get bored toying with.

      If defined by a feeling, well, everyone feels that. In this case, the discussion belongs in the realm of philosophy and cognitive theory, not physical cosmological science, and is a matter of contrasting spirituality against organized religious dogma, a totally different school of thought.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:39 am |
    • learnb4txt

      @ Brandon: Scientific method doesn't have to eliminate the possibility of religion. By providing rational explanations, it eliminates the need for irrational ones. You can't eliminate the possibility that leprechauns exist (a negative proof fallacy), but you can find a explanation for rainbows that doesn't require superstition or magic.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:44 am |
    • JP

      You invoke the scientific method like a god. The method is only as good as your "test". The problem is that setting up a test assumes a basic theory and understanding. You are implicitly expecting a result and therin lies the weakness (oh my gosh!) of the scientific method. Many theories have been tested and proven by an expected result –> only to be disproved later (just look to the evolution of atomic theories).

      Your invocation of blind faith (it really is faith if you disect it) in the scientific method shows a lack of serious cricitical thought and a shallow understanding of the knowledge gathering process (high school science, or even post-secondary schooling, is not enough to certify you as an expert in the scientific method). That is a major problem in modern times – science is blindly trusted and thought to be always pure (our new modern god), but it is bent and shaped by it's users. It's a wonderful thing, but we have to remember that it fails us just as often as it works.

      September 4, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • learnb4txt

      "You are implicitly expecting a result and therin lies the weakness (oh my gosh!) of the scientific method." What? Of course you expect a result from testing. It might be a surprising result, but there will be some result. The ability to refine or disprove scientific theories is its strength... and the utter failure of religion. Example: one of the basic foundations of Judeo-Christian religion is belief in resurrection "proven" by the disappearance of Jesus' body from the tomb. The body was no longer there because he had physically risen from death, and the bible explicitly promises that the exact same fate awaits his followers. Yet no matter how sincerely we say a loved one is "in heaven now" or has "gone to a better place," we expect the body to be right where we buried it. Heck, the Vatican insists that it has found the remains of St. Paul. If resurrection were a scientific theory, you would be trumpeting non-disappearing bodies as disproof, but such plainly obvious fact has no effect whatsoever on blind faith.

      "Every Christian sect gives a great handle to Atheism by their general dogma that, without a revelation, there would not be sufficient proof of the being of god." – Thomas Jefferson

      September 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  18. bwhite, Honolulu, Hawaii

    What does this have to do with the White House??? And where is the story? NO LINK!

    September 3, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  19. Wagging head in disbelief

    Not only do I NOT get why this would be the subject of a "Letter to the White House",....

    ... but I do not get to read "the full story" without a proper link.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • amimagic

      Only people that believe in God get the link. All the others nonbelievers can not click on link. Therefore, who ever is complaining about nonworking link is atheist!

      September 3, 2010 at 11:58 pm |
    • amigay

      Then that explains why I am linkless.....Would that this would also explain why there is no god.

      September 4, 2010 at 9:03 am |
  20. ab

    The different religious leaders quoted in this article do not seem to be confident to stand on their own feet. They continue to look for some bigger thing to explain to them what they refuse to understand. It is socialization that casted them in this fashion. They look for 'dad' to assume leadership role.

    They are lost without giving credit to the 'dad' above. They are true to their paternalistic upbringing.

    September 3, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • query

      @ab
      This might seem a little personal, but what fraction of a six-pack is a single "ab"?

      September 3, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
    • Monty

      And with this Stephen Hawking which I personally feel he has no clue when there has been mulitple scientist that have proven that there is a God. It is people like stephen hawking that say there is no God and poor souls that believe him and realize that without believing in something gives them no reason to go to work or any reason to eat or even any reason to live and i feel that if this stephen hawking really believes what he says he mind as well kill himself because if what he says is true there is no reason to live

      September 3, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
    • Woody

      Monty writes, "there have (grammar corrected) been multiple (spelling corrected) scientists (spelling corrected) that have proven that there is a God". Please name ONE scientist, or any non-scientist for that matter, that has proven that ANY god exists. This person would have made the greatest discovery in the history of the world. If god existed, there would be no need for people like Hawking or Galileo or Copernicus or Pasteur or Ehrlich or Salk or Fermi and the list goes on and on. Science and experimentation would be totally unnecessary. All one would have to do is pray to the magic sky god, and all the wonderful conveniences and medical marvels, that we take for granted, would just pop into existence. I love the way religious people start to back pedal and tap dance when anyone tries to poke a hole in their fragile balloon. I don't believe the leaders of the various religions have too much to worry about, however, they'll always have an endless supply of indoctrinated fish to reel in.

      September 4, 2010 at 6:17 am |
    • bobby

      ab, if you want to look for your "dad" go ahead. Poor soul. My "Dad" above teaches me about faith. Its all that I need. I dont need Hawking to tell me about his "spontaneous creation" blah blah blah. No one could understand much more explain creation unless you have faith. Why try to explain when you could never understand.

      September 4, 2010 at 8:15 am |
    • methinksalot

      @Bobby. "ab, if you want to look for your "dad" go ahead. Poor soul. My "Dad" above teaches me about faith. Its all that I need. I dont need Hawking to tell me about his "spontaneous creation" blah blah blah. No one could understand much more explain creation unless you have faith. Why try to explain when you could never understand."

      And since YOU have "faith" you know what creation is all about?? Interesting. I'll be looking for you on YOUR book trail. Have you ever read ANY of Hawking's books? Do you have any clue what physics contain? Because you feel YOU have faith, you close your mind to any scientific method(s) that could explain how spontaneous life could occur, not even reading the book in it's totality because you are offended by his claim? Because it may put you in a position to question your "faith?" How very narrow-minded of you and your ilk. Same old, same old. I bet you are covering your ears with your hands and singing: I can't hear you...LALALALALAAAA! Yeah. That works really well for positive communication between religious belief and science. Sheesh!

      Could it be that Hawking has the ability to look beyond the christian mythos and see the universe for what it is? Perhaps Hawking was given his particular faith in order to further science and create dialog (real dialog) between two disparate belief systems. If you truly have "faith"...then toddle about your life as if Hawking doesn't exist, but if you are open-minded and not living in a cave, then give the man credit for tackling that niggling question in the back of most peoples' heads: Where did we come from? If your god created everyone, then he created Hawking as well...he has a job to do. And is doing it brilliantly.

      September 4, 2010 at 9:10 am |
    • Clyde

      Do ANY of you seriously believe that any of this over-hyped religious nonsense will really lead to anything beneficial or worthwhile for you or those you care about?
      Each person has their own beliefs, and each belief is as valid as the next....it doesn't matter what you call it – god, yahweh, jehovah, allah, mohammed, jesus, your conscious, or fred...or whether you believe in an all powerful deity figure or not:
      what DOES matter is the relationship you have with that deity, or the way in which your belief or disbelief affects your life and your future.

      September 4, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • Duh

      Clearly an "ab" is ... 1/6th of a ... "6 pack."

      September 4, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
    • scott

      hawking is a tard and deserves to be in a wheelchair, you get what you deserve. Praise God the creator of all things

      September 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
    • UncleM

      Scott who writes semi-literately: "hawking is a tard and deserves to be in a wheelchair, you get what you deserve. Praise God the creator of all things."

      Thanks for showing us how nasty your religion really is!

      September 5, 2010 at 11:53 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.