Although it was a temptation, I resisted titling this article “Gawking at Hawking.” June and I have, though, been “gawking” at Hawking some this past couple of weeks.
We first watched “The Theory of Everything,” the engrossing 2014 film of the world-famous cosmologist, who possesses an extraordinarily brilliant mind despite suffering near total paralysis from ALS. That movie was excellent partly because of the tremendous acting by Eddie Redmayne, who won the best actor Oscar this year for his portrayal of Hawking.
Then we watched “A Brief History of Time,” based on Hawking’s bestselling book published under that title in 1988—and with “From the Big Bang to Black Holes” as the subtitle. In that 1992 biographical documentary film much of narrative is by Hawking speaking through his speech synthesizer.
From early in his life, Hawking has sought to discover “the theory of everything” (ToE), a single, all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework that fully explains and links together all physical aspects of the universe.
Finding a ToE is one of the major unsolved problems in physics, and Hawking hasn’t made that discovery yet—although just last month he claimed that he’s solved a huge mystery about black holes. (See this article.)
I confess that I don’t understand much that Hawking says. I do, however, have a little expertise on part of what he writes/speaks about: God.
One reviewer calls “The Theory of Everything” a “God-haunted film.” And in A Brief History of Time, Hawkins mentions God more than 20 times.
He concludes that book by asserting that if we humans do find “a complete theory” (the ToE), “it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God.”
At the end of the penultimate chapter Hawking states that “our goal is a complete understanding of the events around us, and of our own existence.” But is that possible for a physicist as a physicist?
In the movie version, his and Jane’s friend Jonathan asks, “You no longer believe in the Creation?”
Stephen replies, “What one believes – is irrelevant – in physics.”
That may be true for physics, but one’s beliefs may be highly relevant for life, just as feelings or emotions are in a different sort of way.
When Stephen inexplicably divorced Jane in 1995 and married Elaine, he said, “It’s wonderful – I have married the woman I love.”
Like belief in God, love is also, I assume, irrelevant in physics. It was highly relevant in his life, however. But was there any kind of scientific proof that he really loved Elaine or that she loved him?
Can love ever be proven scientifically? Most probably not, even by a great physicist like Stephen Hawking. So, does that mean love is not real or important?
In Brief History, Hawking’s ideas can be correlated with belief in God to a certain degree. But through the years his ideas have become more and more anti-God. But not all of his students/colleagues agree with him.
Don Page was one of Hawking’s associates/helpers back in the 1970s, a few years after he graduated from William Jewell College. (I have heard about him often from his WJC professor, and my good friend, Don Gielker.)
Page, one of Hawking’s colleagues interviewed in the 1992 film, was and has remained a devout Christian believer, evidently seeing no contradiction between being a first-class physicist/cosmologist and a firm believer in God.
In May 2011, I posted “Hawking on Heaven” a blog article I invite you to read (again).