Questions for Stephen Hawking


  1. kenny says on Sep 6, 2010 @ 12:40 PM:

    Thank you for this, Dr. Craig! Why not debate Dr. Hawking :-)

  2. robaylesbury says on Sep 7, 2010 @ 12:44 PM:

    I think making absolute claims about this matter is very difficult. Were I to put my money anywhere, I would have to err towards Hawkins simply by virtue of his experience in the field. Still, deep time is unfathomable to me and may always remain so. Best to have a bit of humility, methinks.

    WLC is certainly correct that Hawking has picked a perfect method of stirring the pot. He should be in marketing.

  3. Jason says on Sep 7, 2010 @ 04:19 PM:

    I would never accept someone’s position due to expertise in a field, that is the equivalent of ceasing to think for oneself. It is naïf indeed in the midst of the Information Age to suppose there are no qualified critics of an expert, particularly when so many keep a close eye on these issues.

    I’ll think for myself about the questions Professor Craig poses. So far Hawking doesn’t have tenable answers.

  4. Wade A. Tisthammer says on Sep 7, 2010 @ 04:30 PM:

    "I think making absolute claims about this matter is very difficult. Were I to put my money anywhere, I would have to err towards Hawkins simply by virtue of his experience in the field."

    There are however people with relevant expertise and experience who have criticized some of Hawkins proposals (e.g. mathematical physicist Roger Penrose) on scientific grounds. Whether one reasonably sees Hawkins as right here might depend on how and whether he responds to these scientific objections.

  5. MG says on Sep 7, 2010 @ 08:47 PM:

    Expertise in this field doesn't count for much in terms of being reliable. Newton was the expert until Einstein and Einstein was the expert until quantum physics. The experts are wrong all the time, it just takes a few (sometimes hundred) years for someone to point it out.

  6. robaylesbury says on Sep 8, 2010 @ 04:18 AM:


    I agree. Absolute claims about anything should be approached with a healthy skepticism. That's the beauty of the scientific method. When an established hypothesis is overturned we should rejoice in the fact that we have learned something new and thrilling. It sends a shiver down my spine when I contemnplate the discoveries that await us.

    The response to Hawkins publicity drive has been very predictable. Theists are going to do a lot of the work for him, and for free.

  7. JJF 3 says on Sep 8, 2010 @ 07:19 PM:

    WLC is correct to point out that Hawking and his compatriot who wrote the piece in todays WSJ is not talking about metaphysical nothing. They are talking about nothing with the existence of certain laws of physics i.e. quantum gravity. This is not metaphysically nothing. Richard Swinburne often talks about God sustaining the physical laws of the universe. Alex Filippenko the noted Astro-physicist has said science will never probably know why the laws of physics are in place to begin with. It will be interesting if Hawking will address these questions or are these tidbits and editorials slick marketing to sell books.

  8. hamlet says on Sep 9, 2010 @ 10:15 AM:

    Paul Davies comments:

  9. robaylesbury says on Sep 9, 2010 @ 11:15 AM:

    I find myself wondering whether Hawkins expertise would have been so scorned had he deigned to venture a theory that added credence to the concept of a creator?

    I think we all know the answer to that . . .

  10. Ray Cowan says on Sep 9, 2010 @ 01:09 PM:

    I just purchased a copy of *The Grand Design*. I note with some amazement the following statement (from the first page of Chapter 1), which immediately follows a list of questions that people tend to ask about the universe and its origin:

    "Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge."

    This sort of grandiose posturing and simple contempt for other intellectual fields illustrates the provincial attitude of too many well-know physicists and other scientists today. As a physicist myself, I know this first-hand. It most reminds me of a humorous New Yorker magazine cover ("A New Yorker's View of the World," March 29, 1976) that spawned a popular poster series.

    It also tells me that careful reasoning
    and lucid arguments are not likely to be mainstays of the book.

  11. KStret says on Sep 9, 2010 @ 05:58 PM:

    I would hope the book isn't just restating the same thing in a Brief History and just asserting that we don't need God to explain the origins in the universe. However, the head lines are what people are going to remember.

  12. John Quin says on Sep 10, 2010 @ 04:24 AM:

    I think it is high time that philosophy classes are made compulsory for all physics majors. Well not quite but it would help greatly if prominent scientists familiarised themselves with philosophy before rushing in to make sweeping statements on matters of philosophy.

    If that kind of sophomoric excursion into other areas of academia were to occur there would be ridicule and score for all the perpetrators. However owing in no small part to our enchantment with science we get men like Dawkins being taken at face value because he is a leading scientist in his field.

    The Hawkings announcement would have rattled me if I had heard it some months ago. But it seems that even a small amount of training philosophy is enough to illuminate the folly of many philosophical arguments made by scientists.

  13. Paul says on Sep 10, 2010 @ 09:57 PM:

    robaylesbury asks

    "I find myself wondering whether Hawkins expertise would have been so scorned had he deigned to venture a theory that added credence to the concept of a creator?"

    Almost certainly, consider the reaction to the late Antony Flew's conversion from atheism to deism. It was inferred, if not outright stated, by many, that Antony Flew was in intellectual decline, due to advanced age etc. and had been victimized by his co-author when he published "There is a God". I rather imagine that the storyline for Dr Hawking would be much the same, perhaps with references to his long affliction with ALS perhaps affecting his thought processes, and I can only imagine what might be alleged against his aids, interpreters etc.

  14. habi says on Sep 11, 2010 @ 02:04 AM:

    Oh yeah! A cosmological juggernaut!

  15. Elijah says on Sep 16, 2010 @ 06:57 PM:

    Yes... mmmm. sophomoric excursions and folly... mmm... yes... lol. Yeah, I agree that scientists should be scientists and philosophers should be philosophers. Which isn't to say that they should refrain from asserting themselves in unfamiliar areas entirely but that people ought to have some criticism waiting.

    I remember reading that CS Lewis had said something similar to Freud. I forget what he said exactly, but it ended in something like "about which he knows nothing".

  16. robaylesbury says on Sep 17, 2010 @ 01:47 AM:

    And wouldn't it be equally lovely if theologians reciprocated, venturing no comment on the biological sciences or cosmology?

    Here's a plan. Let those with ideas put them on the table. And then we see how the chips fall.

  17. John Quin says on Sep 17, 2010 @ 04:39 AM:

    I'd welcome that robaylesbury. However are you talking about theologians refuting scientific facts or when they place scientific facts into a religious narrative. I don't think they should do the former but should be free to do the later.

  18. robaylesbury says on Sep 17, 2010 @ 07:06 AM:

    If theologians feel the need to do the latter then they are free to do so. I would personally want to see some empirical support for any conclusions drawn, however. That would avoid a credibility deficit.

  19. Brian Chilton says on Sep 17, 2010 @ 08:36 AM:

    What do you make of this thing called "the New Physics?" It is said that the electromagnetic field may not be a constant. Dr. Craig, if this is proven, what does this do to the apologetic argument about cosmological constants if anything?

  20. some dude says on Sep 19, 2010 @ 07:55 PM:

    I think the interesting thing about the issue of expertise in a field is the problem of attributing expertise to a person of stature, and whether or not expertise means the same thing as stature. Who is to say that Dr. Hawkings has more knowledge than Joe Nobody at Nobody State University? The difference is that Hawkings has done a great platitude of things to merit credit from the scientific institution. He has created theories and expounded them, and they've made great impact on the scientific community. However, people of high stature are not necessarily the last word on anything. Many of Freud's theories have been greatly amended since he made them, and while his theories were important many of them were wrong.

    It all comes down to the fact that Hawkings has flipped the coin and landed on the "I will never use God to explain what can't be explained in human terms" side of the supernatural explanation spectrum. Whether or not he's the smartest person in the world does not make him more right or wrong in making that assertion to himself, because by nature of the very question, humans are unable to know if they are right or wrong in their answer by knowing more about the world, because they simply will never be able to fully comprehend it. Just watch Pi.