Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hawking says there is no heaven

This week Stephen Hawking was interviewed by the Guardian. The following statement has attracted significantly publicity:
I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
The Guardian article also states:

Hawking responded to questions posed by the Guardian and a reader in advance of a lecture tomorrow at the Google Zeitgeist meeting in London, in which he will address the question: "Why are we here?"
In the talk, he will argue that tiny quantum fluctuations in the very early universe became the seeds from which galaxies, stars, and ultimately human life emerged. "Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in," he said.
I beg to differ with Hawking. Science is about evidence. Hawking is a loud proponent of M-theory. However, there is no experimental evidence that string theory is valid. Furthermore, even if it is valid, making philosophical deductions from the content of scientific theories is problematic.
But, I would contrast this lack of evidence to the evidence for heaven. What? Yes, there is some evidence. There is some historical evidence (including eyewitness accounts) that Jesus Christ was crucified and that he rose from the dead. If Jesus really did rise from the dead then it is highly likely that there is an afterlife heaven exists. I agree that not everyone accepts the validity of or agrees with the evidence. But there is evidence that should be examined, weighed and considered. In contrast, for Hawkings ideas there is no concrete empirical evidence that I am aware of.


  1. Stephen Hawking also makes another, more fundamental error. He is not distinguishing between and empirical nothing (quantum vacuum) with a logical nothing from which the universe comes into being. The question everyone asks in the end regarding why we are here, is the logical question.

    Apparently Einstein said that scientist tend to make poor philosophers. I believe it was not a compliment. Stephen Hawking is another such scientist that demonstrates the point.

  2. Damn - that's such a good point on the evidence angle. It's especially crucial as there seems to be a certain meme in these discussion along the lines of 'if it doesn't convince me, it's not proper evidence/logic/whatever', which is just silly (an argument can be perfectly logical and you might still disagree with it but no one seems to get that).