Is There a God? - Stephen Hawking (Documentary)

Article by Caitlyn Callaway

Curiosity - S01E01 Did God Create the Universe by William Pitts

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Stephen Hawking is one of the world's most famous physicists, widely known for his revolutionary ideas in the fields of cosmology and quantum mechanics. Having written numerous best-selling books on popular science, Hawking went on to present "Curiosity", an extensive documentary series that explores questions in science, technology, human history and culture. Narrated by Hawking himself as well as the popular British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, "Did God Create the Universe?" is the first episode of the series. In it, Hawking takes an objective approach to the theory of intelligent design which is commonly upheld by many of the world's religions.

Hawking delves into humanity's various perspectives on the universe by examining the ways in which man has interpreted natural and cosmological phenomena throughout history. The ideas presented in the documentary range from pagan religions and Christianity to modern theories in physics. Ultimately, Hawking concludes that God is an outdated concept.

Did God Create the Universe?

This documentary by physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking goes into whether there is a need for a supernatural being to create and control the universe in order for it to exist today. Humans, such as the Vikings, have invented deities to explain natural phenomena when scientific explanations weren’t available. These misinterpretations may provide insight into the question of needing a god to have created the universe. Another point to consider includes the set of physical laws that govern the way the universe works. These natural laws cannot be changed and are therefore very powerful. Hawking inquires that since these laws are fixed, what role is there for God? Finally, what were the vital “ingredients” needed to bring up the universe? Answering this question may explain if these components could have created the universe without the necessity of a supernatural being.

The Vikings, as well as several other groups of peoples, invented gods and legends to describe how their world was functioning. It is reasonable to believe that the majority of these tales were false, as they were created for the lack of scientific explanation of natural events.

For instance, the Vikings’ god who lived in the sky was the cause of solar eclipses, as described to sometimes “eat the sun”. In 300 B.C., Aristarchus studied the heavens and discovered that a lunar eclipse is formed when the shadow of the earth passes over the moon. This lead to the discovery that the solar system functions heliocentrically rather than geocentrically, as the common belief was. Understanding that the earth revolves around the sun is key to knowing how all eclipses are possible. A solar eclipse is then defined as the shadow of the moon passing over the earth. Therefore, the Vikings were wrong about their god being the reason for solar eclipses. This example shows how the universe is not as supernatural as it may seem to be. If science can explain natural phenomena such as eclipses, regardless of any gods, then perhaps the universe can also be explained without the involvement of gods.

Hawking says that the understanding of natural laws is humankind’s greatest achievement. Physical laws describe how things work in the past, present, and future. This is why the laws are so powerful, as well as because they are unexceptionally unchangeable. In a game of tennis, natural laws are responsible for how the ball reacts when it is hit. The motion of the ball is determined by the force and angle of the strike of the racket, and physical laws control the rest. The importance of these governing laws is that they not only apply to earthly events, but to everything else in the universe. Since the laws of nature control the way the universe works, are universal and fixed, what role is there for a god to play?

There were a few different things required so that the universe could be created and exist today. These include mass, energy, and space. However, Albert Einstein’s formula e=mc2 suggests that mass and energy are basically the same thing. Mass can be viewed as a kind of energy, and energy as a kind of mass. We are then left with only two components, space and energy. The famous theory of the “Big Bang” resulted in the spontaneous creation of all the space and energy in the universe. This space and energy expanded, much like a balloon being inflated. The question remains of how the universe could have came from nothing, and this is where God could be brought up again. However, it isn’t so that the universe is something that appeared from nothing. Hawking describes how if a man builds a hill from flat land, he will need to dig a hole. Let’s give the flat strip of land the value of 0. You can say he has created the hill, which is considered a +1, but you also need to consider that the hole counts as negative energy, or a -1. Adding the hill and the hole equals the same as what you started with- nothing. The principle is the same with the creation of the universe. The Big Bang produced a vast amount of positive energy, but in the process, also produced the same amount of negative energy. The negative energy is stored in the second component- space. Space itself is negative energy, and stores enough of it to level everything out to zero. We can conclude that the only requirements for the universe’s creation are energy and space.

In conclusion, the universe came into existence without involving any supernatural beings. Gods and legends are humankind’s way of filling in the holes of our understanding of natural phenomena when scientific explanations are not readily available. However, gaining knowledge of science works to correct these misunderstandings and removes the need of deities, such as the Vikings’ god of the sky. Furthermore, the laws of physics are known to be the things controlling how the universe functions. Physical laws are powerful because they cannot be broken, and they work in the past, present, and future. Since the natural laws work in this way, there is no need for a god to have created the universe. Finally, the components needed to result in the Big Bang are completely independent from deities. No mention of a god is included when explaining how space and energy spontaneously came to be. The Big Bang also did not produce something from nothing, so no god is necessary to bring up this something.

Space and energy are the sole “ingredients” of the universe. On a separate note, Hawking also explains how the question itself does not make any sense, as he compares it to asking directions to the edge of the earth. He says that since time did not exist before the Big Bang, there is no reason to ask the question at all. Nevertheless, no; God did not create the universe.

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