September 2, 2010

Universe, Create Thyself

Very smart people can say things that make no sense.  For example, Stephen Hawking is reported to have written in his new book The Grand Design, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. . ."  Because of this, a Creator God is redundant and unnecessary. 

Hawking is dealing with the deep question of why there is something rather than nothing. This question is more profound and troubling that it may first appear.  If something--anything--exists, then we are forces to ask why it exists.  Things would be much simpler if nothing existed.  But since things do exist, what is the sufficient cause of everything?

Hawking's book doesn't come out until next week, but for now let's look at some of the difficulties in the quotation above.  (1) It violates the law of non-contradiction to say that the universe created itself.  (2) If the laws of gravity exist, then it is not true that nothing exists.

First, Hawking states that the universe created itself.  This cannot be true because it violates the law of non-contradiction.  This law states that something cannot be both A and not-A at the same time and with the same meaning.  For example, a bird cannot be dead and not-dead at the same time and in the same way.  It can be both of these in different times and different ways, but not at the same time and in the same way.

So, in order for the universe to create itself it would have to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same way. Why? If the universe needs to be created, then it must not exist. This is obvious, because if it already existed at that time, then it didn't need to be created.  But if it doesn't exists, then it can't do anything since it isn't around to do anything.  Nothing can't do anything!  So for the universe to create itself, it would need to exist and not-exist at the same time and in the same way, which is impossible.

Second, Hawking states that the universe can create itself from nothing "[b]ecause there is a law such as gravity. . ."  But how does the law of gravity exist if nothing exists?  If the law of gravity exists, then how can someone say that nothing exists, since at least this law exists?  Is there a sufficient reason for this law to exist?  And even if the law of gravity exists--without anything at all to act upon--how does help get anything going at all?

If you are looking for reasons to push God out of your mind, you can take comfort in the fact that an incredibly smart person like Stephen Hawking has said that God isn't necessary.  But please be aware that for whatever reasons, very smart people can say things that make no sense.

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