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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. Gil T

    Your double analogy, Tom, speaks to the undeniable, if not messy, interface between faith and science; how we can easily overlook evidence before us and how we interpret it. First, for example for seemingly pointing out the obvious difference between apples and oranges their similarity as fruit is overlooked. Second, the auto mechanic, perhaps completely unwittingly and unintentionally, has alluded to a plausible explanation for the bowler's game. The bowler's apparent tendency with spares in his game could well be affected by his daily experience of not having the a properly functioning, reliable turn signal on his car. Conversely, precisely because he has driven for a time without the use of a mechanical aid he may have learned to be resourceful in making his calculations which still does not dismiss his occasional inability to pickup a spare now and then.

    I appreciate, and concur with you, there is ample room in your mind for both science and faith. However, to speak of an exchange of courtesies between church folks and the research crowd and leave each to his own is the stuff that riles Richard Dawkins in his book, The God Delusion. Dawkins argues, and I would agree with him, faith (or religion as he prefers) ought not be given hands-off immunity in the arena of discourse.

    I prefer to press the Stephen Hawking assertion God is not necessary for the existence of the universe. There is something apart from the physical present in this universe. It is the moral dimensions of right and wrong, good and evil. Dawkins claims the evolution of morality is from nothing less than, _ rocks, "stuff", etc. This, for all intents and purposes is the same as Hawking's claim: something from nothing, morality from something as inanimate as rocks, nothing.

    I find the eloquence and tendencies by scientists as being not much different than many of my brothers and sisters in the faith when it comes to interacting and explaining to others their understanding of the world. One tends towards a preference to pepper his explanations not necessarily with the use of logic, just their use of the term. The other peppers his explanations not necessarily with faith as per the scriptures, just their use of the term.

    The common, though arguably disputed by scientists, makeup of science and religion is knowledge. Lets not kid or deceive ourselves. Our human nature is as much a part of church folks and the research crowd. What this means is we are both susceptible to the blinding effects of pride and arrogance.

    September 4, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
  2. Rudy

    The genesis fable is in direct opposition to scientific discovery. The bible was thoroughly debunked centuries ago.

    Science haters prefer to believe ancient superstition rather than fact based scientific findings.

    The people who fabricated xtianity held beliefs such as the earth being flat, pi = 3, god poured rain through windows in earths domed cover, the sun revolving around the earth.

    September 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  3. Bandot

    WE MUST HAVE A GOD TO BELIEVE, After all everyone knows that if you do not say you are a believer in Da Lord, then you cannot possibly be a moral person. This is what socity is taught, this what CNN wants us to believe. As sheep lets just go by what the media and the church tell us. Heavens forbid we think for ourselves.

    September 4, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  4. amma maw

    the funniest thing about this...and unfortunately nearly all discussions (arguments/wars/hatred) pertaining to religion is that probably every person responding to this blog has a different definition of 'God'. So how could there possibly be any consensus?

    September 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
    • Rudy

      That's a very good point.

      Ask a number of believers in different religions to -define god- and you'll have as many different respomses as people you have asked. Further, ask 10 Christians to -define god- and you'll have 10 different answers.

      Before any debate concerning the existence of a god, the debater must clearly and thoroughly define their god in valid terms and explain how they reached this definition. The bible is not valid evidence for a god since it is not supported by any non-religious texts; "the bible is true because the bible says so!".

      Collectively define your god with supporting evidence, agreeing amongst yourselves if you expect to be taken seriously. No free passes to make bizarre unsubstantiated claims.

      September 4, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
  5. Paul

    Dear Naahmah:

    Calm down. You are pushing a fictitious being on the rest of them. To some of them, you GOD is an irresponsible, sadistic, powerless and cruel being. Think of a parent creating a child and leaving him unattended to destroy the environment, to prey on loving animals, to cultivate animals just to devour for their gluttony, to rape and to plunder on their fellow beings! Do you really WANT such a GOD? Go out, relax, smile at the first cat you come across and say hello to the first homeless person, treat him to some food, sit down on the grass, show him some real human warmth. May be that is all he needs, from a stranger, from you!

    September 4, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
  6. TheRationale

    It amazes me that religious types have the sheer arrogance and audacity to think that their unjustifiable, irrational ideas are somehow on the same playing field as science. Science is supported by evidence, faith is the lack of it. Faith by its own definition precludes itself from pertaining to reality, yet people are still egotistical enough to think that it does.

    September 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  7. Dani3l

    Rather than trying to refute what you object to in an article ABOUT what Prof. Hawking has said, which is bound to be an emotional response unhinged from reason, the responsible reply would be to read Hawking's BOOK, and to educate oneself not only about what he is saying, but the reasons he has for saying it.

    If he can demonstrate a theory whereby gravity can explain spontaneous generation, then yes – philosophically, one does not need to postulate a divine Creator to get the show going. Prof. Hawking is not saying "there is no God", he is saying that explaining how the universe came into being can be achieved by coherent scientific theory, predicated upon what we know of physical laws, without any need for a Creator.

    September 4, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • Dani3l

      I also fail to see why one needs to drag the President into this. As far as I am aware, resolution of ontological disputes is not among the powers or responsibilities vested in that office by the Constitution.

      September 4, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
    • bostonjim

      ahhh, sanity and reason. You, my friend, are in the wrong place

      September 5, 2010 at 7:39 pm |
  8. zemi

    I'm sorry but could you give me a link to the full story? I can't see the link

    September 4, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
  9. Enrique

    So who or what created God????? this question I have asked many catholic priests, none has given a logical answer, most only say that it is a matter of faith. and my asking only promotes my lack of faith.
    At last I get the right answer opinion from Stephen.....

    September 4, 2010 at 11:51 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Enrique

      You said, "So who or what created God????? this question I have asked many catholic priests, none has given a logical answer, most only say that it is a matter of faith. and my asking only promotes my lack of faith."

      Believers of all faiths and denominations, do not want you to challenge your failth in any way. You are to believe, believe, believe!
      Once you start to think, you are on the slippery slope to not putting money in the collection plate.

      Go and sin no more my son! But since you are Catholic, be cautious about bending over to pick up dropped items.

      September 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  10. David Johnson

    There is no god, people get over it!

    September 4, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  11. John, USA

    Thank you Stephen !

    September 4, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  12. DoubeW

    Ooo-kay, two questions:
    1: What has the White House got to do with Hawking? Hawking, for one, is a British subject.
    2: Why should Hawking, or anybody else for that matter, give a damn about a "scientific" argument that is ultimately based on faith– blind, unquestioning, slack-jawed faith– in an "ultimate mover?"

    September 4, 2010 at 10:29 am |
  13. Reality

    From guidestar.org: And then we have the likes of Franklin Graham who gets $800,000/yr for preaching 2000 year-old mumbo jumbo. Hawking just wants a piece of the pie acting as a contrarian.

    From the latest that astrophysics has to offer: A better view at no cost. The universe is and always will be. It "simply" expands and shrinks recycling as the Big Bang and then going into the Gib Gnab stage and then repeating the cycle every 40 billion years.

    September 4, 2010 at 10:24 am |
    • Dani3l

      But the Big Bang Gnab Gib descriptor still leaves us without an explanation of where the Universe came from, which I think is the issue that Hawking is tackling.

      September 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
    • Reality

      There was no beginning. The Universe just IS!!!

      September 6, 2010 at 8:33 am |
  14. Naahmah Gordon

    Scientists have never and I repeat NEVER proved that God does not exists! from my perspective for some reason they seem to be bending over backwards to try and disprove His existence but have always failed! they always come up with their own theories but bottom line, the more they try the more they prove God exists,they just don't want to accept what they themselves have proven to bee the truth! I find it amazing that after all these centuries this is the one subject they can't move past.Funny how they have so much staring them in the face but yet they still don't see...so close but yet so far! They have the truth yet still choose to believe a lie. Once again just cause you may be smart in one area does not mean you can't be,again just fill in the blank,-–! We may not all be Scientists and degreed in certain fields to have intelligence and common sense so we should ask questions and research and study for ourselves what the scientific community is always trying to spoon feed us.Have you not noted how they come up with different drugs and notions for our well being to later change their minds a few years down the road and say it was wrong?we are a world that accepts everything they say because they deal in Science and most times they get it wrong to our detriment and they go merrily along their way with their unproven theories and no accountability.Just an observation!

    September 4, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  15. Naahmah Gordon

    And to the "pretend god",I am responding to your post because I believe in God and if I am wrong,go ahead,do your best work,I double dog dare you!! If you are God you will know how it turns out so you don't need anyone to tell you how it does turn out! Ha ha ha!...On another note for the one who calls Faith based believers,"non thinking sheep"....Can you see the wind? you can see the effects of the wind,feel the coolness it can bring,see the trees and other things move because of the wind but the wind itself you have never seen. Well you believe the wind exists without a shadow of a doubt,so I believe my God IS! He knew me before I was in my Mother's womb,He knows me by name,out of the billions in this world,He knows me by name,He knows you too! every hair on my head is numbered and He took the time to name all the stars,even the ones we have yet to discover.Say what you will but I'll take God any day!

    September 4, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Naahmah Gordon

      You said, "Can you see the wind? you can see the effects of the wind,feel the coolness it can bring,see the trees and other things move because of the wind but the wind itself you have never seen. Well you believe the wind exists without a shadow of a doubt,so I believe my God IS!"

      Hmm... You said "Well you believe the wind exists without a shadow of a doubt"

      That's because everyone of us can feel the wind on their skin. I can measure the wind's speed and direction. Science can tell us why the wind occurs.

      There is no proof for your god. You have only your belief and your faith. Science is proving that your god is unnecessary. Sorry.

      September 4, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  16. E

    I don't care who believes in God or who doesn't, but I do know that our government is based on separation of church and state and that the President has nothing to do with any of this debate in any official way.
    and what the heck is up with CNN being the Jesus news network all of a sudden?

    September 4, 2010 at 9:46 am |
    • 3DPhD

      E, if you are talking about that recent interview with Obama where they questiioned his religion, I totally agree with you. Regradless of my position on Obama, I wonder what will eventually happen in this targeted attempt to crucify him in office? He is keeping all of his campaign promises yet nothing he does is good enough...

      September 4, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  17. greg

    We may not know what created the universe, but at least we know who created god.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:43 am |
    • 3DPhD

      Hi Greg, are you paraphrasing the scripture, "I am in my Father, and my Father is in me."? Great job and you are right, I create my reality daily. If a person does not want to acknowledge an Intelligent, first cause in his or her life, that choice is available. Not believing in an Intelligence greater than us is like daring the universe to prove you something. However, you human eyes are not evolved enough to see what Uni-verse (One Word/Verse) is telling you ever nanosecond..."the One giveth, and the One taketh away. Your comment applies to every single thing, see or unseen, in the human experience. All is perceived and therefore created through our abilities, divine and empirical, to analyze and interpret them. I like your phraseology though, it was catchy!

      September 4, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  18. Ike Abootment

    "How the heck would he know?" Lol, I think the exact same thing when I hear anyone talk about God or religion. Irony, it's not just for breakfast anymore.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:35 am |
  19. Naahmah Gordon

    Funny how it's stupid to believe in God but not the Tooth fairy,Easter Bunny,Santa Claus etc. The world is full of hatred and anger and a lot of bad things because of us humans and the way we all fall short but to blame it on God! come now, He did not do this to us,we did so how about dispensing with the blame game and take responsibility for our errors and call it like it really is.Remember,God is Love and has always been consistent with His love, in His love,He made this wonderful world,put us in it,we screwed up royally but He sent His son to cover our past,present and future screw ups and yet you still wanna blame Him for our wrongs or refuse to admit He does not exists! who is the stupid one here?

    September 4, 2010 at 9:34 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Naahmah Gordon

      You said, "Funny how it's stupid to believe in God but not the Tooth fairy,Easter Bunny,Santa Claus etc"

      You are right. That is not fair. So from now on, let's not believe in any of the fairy tales you mentioned!

      September 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
  20. 3DPhD

    It is important while defending a position of GOD IS that we also represent it in our treatment of Haking. How could Hawking believe in a 1st cause, divine and compassionate Intelligence, and then keep his sanity? He lives inside a body-prision, his only true companion his own "spontaneous" thoughts – I don't think I could withstand his condition. Creating this controversy provides him with public interaction and a moment of relevance in a world where he is otherwise avoided. How many of us would believe in an intelligent and creative First Cause, reglardless of position in the Royal Society, if your body was so violently fighting against your mind?

    Hawking does not want to see the creations of the world as intentional because where would that leave him? Compassionately submitted, (although I'm sure Hawking will have NONE of my [condescending] compassion)

    3DPhD

    September 4, 2010 at 9:34 am |
    • bostonjim

      A couple of issues with your claims. First- Hawking does not need this theory to be relevant or noticed- he is one of the most famous, respected mind in physics today. He was doing just fine before this paper and will continue to do just fine after the controversy has died down. Also, I would think that his condition would be helped by faith in god and an afterlife. If there is an afterlife, he could hope for a day when he would walk in a whole body again, right? Lack of faith means this is all there is.

      September 5, 2010 at 7:36 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.