Spontaneous creation or God?

NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking.

Image via Wikipedia

Recently (3rd Sept. 2010) Stephen Hawking declared that it was not necessary to invoke the hand of God in the creation of the universe, that the powerful force of gravity could accomplish the fabrication of the vast and wonderful cosmos in an act of self-creation.[1] He was almost immediately rebutted by John Lennox (a professor of mathematics from Oxford University), who said that “As a scientist I’m certain Stephen Hawking is wrong. You can’t explain the universe without God.”[2] He then proceeds to offer rather flimsy examples of how objects need to be designed by an exterior mind, which I believe is deceitfully misleading and over-simplifies Hawking’s argument. He also makes utterly nonsensical statements like “…the Christian faith actually makes perfect scientific sense”, and “But support for the existence of God moves far beyond the realm of science. Within the Christian faith, there is also the powerful evidence that God revealed himself to mankind through Jesus Christ two millennia ago. This is well-documented not just in the scriptures and other testimony but also in a wealth of archaeological findings”. The first statement is utterly wrong, unless the science to which he is referring is the psychological study of mass hysteria, superstition, enforced tradition, cruelty, and genocide. The second statement is dishonest; the evidence offered for the existence of God comes from ‘within the Christian faith’, which makes it faith, not evidence. The ‘well-documented scriptures’ are delightfully corrupt texts, there is no non-Christian ‘other testimony’, and there is no, I repeat, no archaeological evidence for the Christian god, or Christ himself. Lennox even says that “The existence of a common pool of moral values points to the existence of transcendent force beyond mere scientific laws. Indeed, the message of atheism has always been a curiously depressing one, portraying us as selfish creatures bent on nothing more than survival and self-gratification”. Both of these statements are fallacious, morality has nothing to do with faith, and atheism is hardly depressing, and in fact encourages community over selfishness because it does not believe that a myth will save humanity from destroying itself.

Lennox does have a vaguely defensible point though; he believes that there must have been a being to set things in motion, an unmoved mover, a first cause which, at the very least, created gravity, which in turn created the universe. This is the crux of the debate, as it has always been, and probably always will be. Every time science deduces a rational answer for the existence of the universe, and all that lies within it, faith takes one step back. When it was found that the earth was not at the centre of the solar system, religion said it was still the centre of the universe. When it was realised that we evolved from chemicals, religion declares it was a development guided by the ‘hand of God’. The Big Bang must have been seen as a wonderful theory by the established faiths; it provides a point in time, a creation event to which they could attach the label ‘God did it’, even though this was not what science had sought to achieve. And then science pushed back further, but still ‘god’ must be the first cause.

The simple fact of the matter is that science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of ‘god’ (yet). And a true scientist, a skeptic to the core, must accept that there is a possibility, however remote, removed from reason, or absurd, that there is a supernatural force that impelled the universe into being. It must be made clear that this ‘god’ is a very different to the ‘god’ of religion. This hypothetical unmoved mover would be far removed from human discourse, a detached entity existing outside the universe. Arguing that this ‘god’ has anything to do with Christianity, as Lennox does, is intellectually misleading. The revelation of ‘god’ to desert nomads, a carpenter’s son, or faith healers might provide many people with some notion of comfort, but it should not be accepted as the basis for society, morality, laws, or educational practices, which, sadly, it is. His arguments grant credence to oppressive religions, allowing them to argue that there is scientific evidence for ‘god’, and, consequently, all of their incumbent traditions and bizarre beliefs and practices. The ‘god’ of faith is an irrational creature, prone to violence and jealousy, and the religions based on the deranged visions of so-called prophets and messiahs are uncritical of their own practices and beliefs, cling to tradition, and deflated dogma.[3] They can hardly claim to have any scientific basis or any grounds as historical fact.

Whether ‘god’ exists or not is an opinion, not a fact which can be proved or disproved. Hawking believes the weight of the evidence suggests that the universe came into being through the agent of gravity, and Lennox holds that ‘god did it’. What can be proved or disproved are the links in the chains of faith, the shackles of religion which fetter the freedom of thought, and of humankind. Everyone should be free to believe what they wish, but they are not. Religion is imposed on society, indoctrinated from birth, and enshrined as the font of all morality. It is not open to criticism, or investigation. Religion is a closed concept, a narrow viewpoint which seeks to eliminate all others, a parasite of the mind. Whether or not ‘god’ exists is not the point; religion does, but it shouldn’t.

Ceterum autem censeo, religionem esse delendam


[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1308278/Stephen-Hawking-God-did-create-Universe.html.

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1308599/Stephen-Hawking-wrong-You-explain-universe-God.html. See also, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1308616/Stephen-Hawking-Archbishop-Canterbury-attacks-claim-God-did-NOT-create-Universe.html.

[3] See previous posts, ‘My Problem With Your God 1-5’.

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10 responses to “Spontaneous creation or God?

  1. “as the font of all morality”

    It reads well as it is, but did you mean FOUNT?

    A considered rant with which I agree but could never have uttered so masterfully.

    • Thank you, though I’m not so sure that my rants are ‘masterful’.

      Font –noun
      1. a receptacle, usually of stone, as in a baptistery or church, containing the water used in baptism.
      2. a receptacle for holy water; stoup.
      3. a productive source: The book is a font of useful tips for travelers.
      4. the reservoir for oil in a lamp.
      5. Archaic . a fountain.

      Dictionary.com

      ‘Fount’ and ‘font’ would be interchangeable in the sense that I use it in the essay, though I prefer the religious connotations of ‘font’ in the context of faith presuming to be the source of morality.

      • I assumed you meant the “baptismal” allusion but thought I’d just check!

      • I enjoy allusion, wordplay, and metaphor to a degree which might be disconcerting, and I am prone to using archaic words, or modern terms in their archaic sense. The English language can be such fun in that it lacks a certain clarity of meaning that other languages have.

  2. Why only two options to choose from? where is the third, or fourth option?
    ‘Spontaneous’ Creation ex nihilo, is still Creationism, only without a cause, rather than Creationism with a cause – God.

    • Indeed. That is one of the ironies of the discussion, which is one of the reasons I believe it to be redundant. Belief in a god, Christian or otherwise, is not important, the damage that religion does is the real issue. It can be found, however, that both sides of the debate confuse these differences to their own ends.

      One might even co-opt the scientific arguement by saying gravity is god, rendering the issue moot…

      What could option three or four be? I think the reason for there being only two options is Occam’s razor; either god did it, or didn’t. Could god have half done it? Created the universe with another agent, like Vishnu? I think that particular part of the argument illustrates a western bias; you never hear of scientists attacking Hindus, or of Buddhists arguing against Darwinism. I wonder is that an issue of geography rather than actualy bias…

  3. Spontaneous Creation or God, are both Creationism, one is Creationism without a cause and the other is Creationism with a cause, why only two options? Where are the other options? You don’t think there is any more? So your a Creationist without a cause? Or with a cause?

    The Universe was neither ‘spontaneously created’ ex nihilo, or created with intent by God, neither… Both Stephen Hawking and John Lennox are wrong.

    • If it was not created it exists, and has existed, continuously? The steady state theory fails in its predictive abilities (http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/stdystat.htm). The Big Bang theory is far more satisfactory, though not perfect. I do not agree that Hawking and Lennox are wrong about their assertions, I believe that they are simply arguing over something that cannot yet be known to be falsifiable. It calls to mind the Russell/Carnap debate over whether things that are real exist, or not.

  4. Yes it has always existed, Eternal.
    I am not using the Steady State theory.
    Hawking and Lennox debate Creationism, from a metaphysical view one recognizes a cause and one does not, it is still Creationism, just ex nihilo or with ‘God’ as cause, but still a point, a moment of Creation. They both admit it was not a destructive moment or point, they see it as the time of Creation. Lennox puts forward his agent of cause – a ‘Creator’, written about in books, Hawking says that there does not need to be the cause or agent, we need not imagine a ‘God’ as Creator, the Creation is ‘spontaneous’ to Hawking, although he covers himself, or contradicts himself would be more accurate, with an appeal to an agent i.e. ‘gravity’, gravity becomes the reason and cause of the Creation, logic would decree, that ‘gravity’ then must be the Creator, it was the agent and cause of Creation, whether it is impartial and impersonel makes no difference, Hawking still appeals to a Creator.

    Hawking and Lennox are involved in a staged argument whether they know it or not, they work within the Creationism paradigm, whether they know it or not, one is just a little more dishonest then the other.

    • I understand the key difference is that Lennox prefers an agent, while Hawking relies on probability, but yes, the arguement does become rather cyclical, relying on metaphysics rather than pure physics. Even then, the metaphysics of ‘god’ is a rather troublesome quagmire.

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