Stephen Hawking (b. 1942) is a theoretical physicist. He has numerous accolades and is recognized as one of the most brilliant physicists of our time. He wrote a very popular book called "A Brief History of Time," which was a bestseller. He suffers from neural muscular dystrophy and is completely paralyzed but speaks with the aid of a digital device.
In the article, "Stephen Hawking: God did not create Universe"1, he is quoted as saying,
"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. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."
Now, I believe it is always risky for a mere theologian like myself to tackle the statements of such a renowned, world-class physicist as Stephen Hawking. But, I must throw caution to the wind and address what I see as a serious problem of logic in what Mr. Hawking has said. From the above quote he said, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing."
In order for something to create, it must perform an action, but if it performs an action it must already exist. This is a logical problem. Does Mr. Hawking know something we don't about logic and the universe? Is he privy to information about physics and the ontologically prior existence of whatever-it-was-that-created-the-universe that we don't have? I don't know, and the article doesn't tell us. It is certainly probable that he, in his brilliance, is able to see things the average person cannot when it comes to the origins theories. I will defer to his knowledge in this area. However, logic is not something he can violate, no matter how smart he is, and be expected to be taken seriously -- at least on this issue. Therefore I, a mere mortal, must take umbrage with Mr. Hawking's statement. It just doesn't make any sense and cannot be true.
There are only two possibilities to account for the cause of the existence of the universe: personal and impersonal. This is called an antonymic pair. It is a set of opposites and encompasses all possibilities within its category. Something is either personal or impersonal in its essence. Therefore, we have two worldviews from which we can derive possible explanations for the existence of the universe. Furthermore, if there are only two possibilities and we negate one of them, by default the other is validated. This is logically necessary.
So, we must ask ourselves how an impersonal cause, the universe, can bring itself into existence. Aside from the obvious logical problem I've already cited above, how is it that an impersonal, non-existent "stuff" can spontaneously create? Again, it can't since it doesn't exist by which it would then have the ability to perform an action such as creation.
But, let's not stop there. Let's take a look at the idea that there is a cause of the universe that is other than the universe, and is itself impersonal.
In order for something to bring about an effect, it must have the necessary and sufficient conditions. Let me illustrate. Let's say I want to move a small boulder. It is too big for me to move without a lever. Therefore, I apply a lever to the rock and move it. The necessary conditions to move the rock are 1) my existence, 2) the existence of the rock, 3) a lever, and 4) a fulcrum (something the lever must press against). The sufficient condition is that I must have enough strength. Therefore, when the necessary and sufficient conditions are met, the rock can be moved. But, I am a personal being and I must decide to apply the lever to move the rock.
In the case of an impersonal cause of the universe, there must have been necessary and sufficient conditions that brought the universe into existence. But, the question is if the pre-existence stuff that brought the universe into existence had the necessary and sufficient conditions, then it would automatically have brought the universe into existence. In the case of the lever and boulder illustration, if a "necessary rock" of "sufficient weight" were placed on the end of the lever, it would spontaneously move the boulder. When impersonal conditions that are both necessary and sufficient exist, the result is automatic.
If the necessary and sufficient conditions that brought the universe into existence were impersonal, then the universe would have been spontaneously formed an infinite amount of time ago -- since the necessary and sufficient conditions would have existed for eternity. If the universe was brought into existence an infinitely long time ago, there would be no usable energy left in the universe (entropy). But since there is usable energy left in the universe, the universe is not infinitely old. Because the universe is not infinitely old, the theory that an impersonal cause that is both necessary and sufficient brought the universe into existence cannot work.
It would seem more logical to say that since the universe is not infinitely old, that there must have been a personal cause that brought it into existence. Furthermore, Hawking's statement that "the universe can and will create itself from nothing" is incoherent. It is illogical and not possible.
- 1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11161493