Hawking disproved God with M theory?

Stephen Hawking’s book The Grand Design claims to have shown God unnecessary, or at least it seems so. But many critics disagree quite fervently, including long time partner Roger Penrose. Penrose says that M Theory, and all string theories for that matter, are purely speculative with no way of truly testing them, given that what they try to describe is unobservable and therefore, at least currently, are untestable outside of their own consistency.

But while string theories seem promising, they still don’t do what Hawking says they do. He makes the claim that given M theory, there would be 10 to the 500 possible universes, and that this constitutes a multiverse. And that given M theory, gravity would actually “cause” the universe to be created out of “nothing.” At first glance, he seems to present a decent case. Gravity has power beyond what we intially granted it, including the ability to bend light. But upon further investigation, the “nothing” he refers to is really a quantum vacuum, and that is not the “nothing” that philosophers have defined. This is a major obstacle, since the “nothing” that would have been “around” before the universe is absolutely nothing. No probabilities or chance, no particles of any sort, no gravity for that matter. A quantum vacuum simply is not nothing. And if we posit a quantum vacuum, we merely move the origin back one step and we must ask, “What caused the quantum vacuum.”

This should not come as too much of surprise, however, since early on in the book, Hawking makes the claim that philosophy is dead. And so it seems that he is quite content with his ignorance of the philosophical side of things that defines that terms and science that he himself uses.

Much of the book is quite technical, but interestingly, despite saying philosophy is dead, he gives his own shot at philosophizing and saying the way he thinks things are. Interestingly, these turn out to be quite inconsistent with his own views. He espouses a sort of anti-realism based on underdetermination, as well as determinism to the extreme. Given his view of how things really are, his model becomes merely his way of organizing his own personal sense data. The irony being that not only does this seem to undermine any claims he makes about reality (there is no God, philosophy is dead, there is a multiverse, etc.), but his staunch determinism requires that he holds that he is not free to think this for himself based on evidence, but rather that he has been determined to think and “organize his sense data” in this way because that’s simply how things are. Not the greatest way to convince others of your own beliefs, is it?….

In the end, he seems to be getting more and more desperate to justify his own disbelief, this being the latest step in that process. Despite many of those he has worked with, Penrose included, having adopted some form of theism, he has gone further and further in the opposite direction, maybe in part because of this. It is unfortunate to see such a brilliant mind squander things away, including the reputation he had built up, as many in academia have even withheld review of some of his later works do to the extremism that they present.


About sorentmd

I am a student at the University of Cincinnati and am majoring in Philosophy and Marketing. I love the Lord, and I try to live my life in a way that pleases Him. View all posts by sorentmd

11 responses to “Hawking disproved God with M theory?

  • katejohnson77

    I agree. I haven’t read the book yet, but I did see the Larry King live interview….and the “nothingness” seemed the greatest hurdle to overcome.

    Now that Hawking–or M Theory–has “explained” the universe without the need to invoke a God, I am anxious for his next book, which I very much hope he will write.

    For, in his next book, I should think that, the universe being so sufficiently explained, now he ought to begin his explanation of the “nothingness” from which it all supposedly originated. [but I’m warning him, this exercise may very well result in something not unlike very urgent prayer].

    M Theory gives the universe [or multiverse] this odd appearance of being something like a “living” symphonic composition. Perhaps the “M” stands for “Master Conductor/Composer?”

    Could the universe or multiverse simply be the result of applied music transposed from some grand sheet of music?

    I have no way of testing this. So the world, for now, shall not believe it!

    Great post.


    • sorentmd

      I have actually become quite interested in super string theories lately, which is one reason I found this book interesting. M theory is one of the string theories, and while there is no observational evidence for any of the string theories,( that is because 1) they are part of theoretical physics, and 2) they try to explain the first nanoseconds of the universe that we can not see in our telescopes and such), they do have the capability of unifying current theories and making them compatible with one another. Also, as a biproduct of some of them, we get the theories of relativity independently of Einstein’s methods.

      Nonetheless, this is by no means an explanation par say, but merely a descriptive theory of the way things are. What I mean by this is fairly simple. Natural laws merely describe how things are. Gravity, for instance, is an “arbitrary” name that describes the attraction of objects to one another. Gravity does not “cause” things the way we think of free willing creatures causing things. The reason this is important is because gravity still needs an explanation itself, for why it is the way it is. In the same way, M theory, or any string theories, if true, merely push us back one step, where we still need an explanation of why M theory and not something else, like applied music?

      Penrose’s critique, found here is quite interesting.

      For some more in-depth commentary, check out these podcasts:
      Unbelievable 9/24/10 (Roger Penrose)
      Stand to Reason 9/20/10 (William Lane Craig)

  • Ron Krumpos

    In “The Grand Design” Hawking says that we are somewhat like goldfish in a curved fishbowl. Our perceptions are limited and warped by the kind of lenses we see through, “the interpretive structure of our human brains.” Albert Einstein rejected this subjective approach, common to much of quantum mechanics, but did admit that our view of reality is distorted.

    Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity has the surprising consequences that “the same event, when viewed from inertial systems in motion with respect to each other, will seem to occur at different times, bodies will measure out at different lengths, and clocks will run at different speeds.” Light does travel in a curve, due to the gravity of matter, thereby distorting views from each perspective in this Universe. Similarly, mystics’ experience in divine oneness, which might be considered the same “eternal” event, viewed from various historical, cultural and personal perspectives, have occurred with different frequencies, degrees of realization and durations. This might help to explain the diversity in the expressions or reports of that spiritual awareness. What is seen is the same; it is the “seeing” which differs.

    In some sciences, all existence is described as matter or energy. In some of mysticism, only consciousness exists. Dark matter is 25%, and dark energy about 70%, of the critical density of this Universe. Divine essence, also not visible, emanates and sustains universal matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and cosmic consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). During suprarational consciousness, and beyond, mystics share in that essence to varying extents. [quoted from my e-book on comparative mysticism]

  • sorentmd

    But in the philosophical section of the book, Hawking pretty much endorses an extreme relativism that says there is no objective world beyond our interpretations or theories of it. This is even different than saying that we are all looking at the same thing but through different lenses.

    On the idea of different lenses, it may be somewhat true, but when certain things are entirely incompatible with each other, I don’t see how they could be describing the same thing. For example, Buddhism vs. Christianity. No gods, since Buddhism is pretty much a religious atheistic monism, vs. one God. Somebody is completely blind here or making something up entirely.

  • Ron Krumpos

    sorentmd, there is a divergence of viewpoints of mystics vs. their orthodox religion. Buddhism and Christianity may seem incompatible in their doctrines, but their mystics had quite similar insights. See their quotations in my ebook.

  • sorentmd

    I would agree here. Mysticism is interesting, somewhat fruitful at times (love A.W. Tozer and he was a Christian mystic), but we need to be careful how some experiences are interpreted. If anything, I think one of the interesting things is how a lot of religions have parts similar to Christianity. Like their ethics and morality, what they see as virtuous, etc. And vice versa. To me, this says that minimally, something is out there, maximally, based on the relative amounts of evidence we have for religions, seems Christianity is the most reliable.

  • Corné

    how can one disprove M-theory in time . if M-theory is incorrect than a creator should have existed . i don’t understand these things if everything was infinate than the multiple universes or whatever hawking stated couldn’t have been there . there must have been someone that caused it . M-theory can still proves a creator since multiple worlds could have existed before nothingness and a creator could have still existed before everything . atheism always claim and ask what created creator than i ask same things what created everything into nothingness that hawking states . i still believe in a natural creator cause i can’t answer all these things .

  • Andrew Jennings

    Your remarks are entirely self-defeating to your own position. On the one hand you say that ‘before’ the universe began existing there was absolutely nothing. Congratulations, sir, by your own logic you have just proven unequivocally that your god does not exist. God is not nothing (unless you want to define the quantum vacuum or whatever it was that universes spring from as god), god would by definition be something. So you have just falsified your own ideology, not Stephen Hawking’s.

    In the naturalistic worldview there has never been ‘nothing’ in the absolute possible sense of the term. There has always been something. It simply isn’t some magical anthropomorphic immortal mind that violates all laws of logic.

    • sorentmd

      I will address your final comment first, here. And you actually affirm that point I as making, that on a naturalistic view, the “nothing” isn’t really nothing. It seems you have not answered the question of where this came from, since it does seem to require an explanation. Hawking fails to give this in his book and even seems to try to avoid the discussion entirely as to what features his “nothing” consists of. I would love to hear your defense of this concept.

      Secondly, in this particular post, I don’t address my own views or any general Christian views of the beginning of the universe. I did so on purpose, as merely to give a critique of Hawking’s writing.

      In response, however, you are correct in saying that God is not “nothing” in any sense of the word. I would personally say that since He is “supernatural,” whatever we take that to mean, it has to mean something along the lines of not being subject to typical natural restraints to some degree. So furthering this type of thinking, there is a natural “nothing” logically prior to the universe, while there is a supernatural “something.” This supernatural “something” then creates a natural something, namely, the universe.

      I’d love to hear what you think of this line of thinking, as I always try to keep myself open to constructive criticism of my views.

  • mtpitre

    Hi there old post, saw your article looking for Multiverse Theory. I think Stephen Hawking is trying to hard to deny the source (AKA God). Multiverse essential disproves his and other atheist arguments big time. If M theory is correct than the spaghetti monster exists as a deity in some dimension essentially making it a real being. Another thing, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Zeus, yup they exist too. So essentially when I see people use this argument against God, I really don’t see its logic. It is beyond illogical. To clarify it is also says that Evil God version of Christianity in the bible essentially exists too. Every fictional or cartoon character that ever created exists in another dimension. I hope this theory gets traction. It will be cool to talk to the spaghetti monster Pastafrians supposedly faux worship so much if we get the tech to do so.

  • Quora

    Could quantum vacuum admit the denial of God?

    The last time I answerd this type of question, i spent a week being piled on. Mainly theories dont disprove anything nor do they prove anything. They are just ideas….(synonyms: hypothesis, thesis, conjecture, supposition, speculation, postulation, po…

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