Stephen Hawking has recently stirred the pot again with his new book, “The Grand Design” in which he asserts that the laws of physics, not God, are all that is needed to explain the beginning of the universe from nothing to something. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1:
We will describe how M-theory may offer answers to the question of creation. According to M-theory, ours is not the only universe. Instead, M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing.
Their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law. They are a prediction of science.
Each universe has many possible histories and many possible states at later times, that is, at times like the present, long after their creation.
Of course, this excerpt is not enough on which to base too many comments. But since I had the opportunity to speak to a friend of mine who was in town when this came out, a Jesuit astrophysicist, I asked him what he thought of Hawking’s comments. His reply was what I tell my seniors in our section on “God and Science.” Basically, Hawking’s assertion is that gravity will be able to explain the origins of the universe from nothing to something. But doesn’t that beg the question? While this theory may explain the existence of matter, it still does not explain how physical laws such as gravity and the speed of light were present prior to that which they effect. Or even worse, if they are posited as simultaneous to the events they govern, then how do they come to exist? There are some hard questions to ask about physical laws. What are they? Are they immaterial? Can we categorize them as “form” writ larger than form as we usually think of it? They structure our entire universe as we know it without exception. Yet where do they come from? Spinoza and Einstein would make them identical to our universe. But that still makes no sense to me. If we are dealing with these laws as givens which explain the origins (or so Hawking thinks) of our universe, then where did they come from?
I look forward to reading the book.