Hawking joins the opinion of several other world-class scientists like Richard Dawkins, Peter Atkins, James Watson, Victor Stenger, Sam Harris and many others who deny the existence of God in the name of the latest advancements in physics, biology, neuroscience and other scientific domains.
The so-called "New Atheism", championed by Richard Dawkins, sees God as a delusion, a by-product of the mind of superstitious and scientifically uneducated people.
"Because there is a law like 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 and why we are here." This is the conclusion of The Grand Design, Hawking's latest book.
Hawking's assertion is based on the predictions of his famous M-theory.
Now, a certain Giovanni Serritella, an acclaimed environmental scientist, who works for the European Union Delegation to Indonesia expressed his own opinions on the matter.
He said that Einstein's theory of relativity says that time is not the same for everyone but is "relative" to how fast one is moving. At variable speeds or in the presence of weak and strong gravity, time behaves elastically, it can stretch and shrink and even stop.
This is true as this phenomenon has been observed by measuring the rate of atomic clocks mounted on supersonic jet planes moving at different speeds at various distances from the Earth's surface.
Under extreme gravity like at the moment of the birth of the universe (the big bang), gravity was so intense that time was "compressed" to a zero point. Not only space but time itself was born at that moment. There was no "before". Now why is this? As previously stated in Einstein's theory of relativity, time is relative to the speed one is moving, and in the presence of weak and strong gravity, time behaves elastically. In this same case, time is influenced by gravity, and with the presence of this powerful unseen force, time itself can be halted. So there was no time to begin with - there was only gravity.
Furthermore, Hawking states that a "law of gravity" exists and this creates the universe. The writer assumed that Hawking believes the gravity and not God created the universe. Now note, Hawking is not a full-blown Atheist, he is more of an agnostic, perhaps, someone who shares Einstein's point of view - that of a Monist Physicalist, otherwise known as Scientific Pantheists. The view of Scientific Pantheists can be quite confusing to both opposing sides (Atheism and Theism) because while Pantheists do not believe in a deity, Pantheists do treat nature sacred and divine. Quoting a statement he said on CNN back in 1999; when Larry King interviewed him if he believes in God. Hawking's answer was "Yes, I do, if by God you mean the embodiment of the laws that govern the universe." So when Hawking says "God does not exist", he was referring to a deity (the Theistic subjective view of God).
Now, Giovanni Serritella goes on with the philosophical argument that if X creates Y, we must presuppose the existence of X in the first place to bring Y into existence. Likewise, we must presuppose the existence of gravity to bring the universe into existence. Now, I believe that is not true, as Hawking's also said it's like asking the question "What lies North of the North Pole." Of course, in a circular world, North of the North pole would simply bring you South, not North, which goes to say that such an argument falls under the category of "Circular Reasoning," a type of formal logical fallacy.
Another confusing statement (surprisingly, from a scientist) he made, is when he said Einstein's theory of relativity shows that Hawking's statement is illogical because it is like saying that gravity existed "before time," which is absurd. I'm not sure which part of Einstein's theory he did not understand... I am no scientist, but I am familiar with Einstein's theory which I will quote again:
Time is relative. It speeds up or slows down depending on how fast one thing is moving relative to something else.What does this mean? It means that before the big bang, when everything was held together by forces of gravity, there was no time to begin with. In simple analogy, just try to picture up two cars racing in a time trial. Of course, the fastest gets in the finish line in the shortest time span. Now, in the case of heavenly bodies, assuming the Earth moves still? Will your clock remain accurate? Now, on an even difficult analogy, as far as the atomic scale... if the atoms stop moving, would a person gets older? Would the planets move? Would you be able to count time when your brain stops operating? As you can see, everything in the material universe is composed of atoms and even subatomic particles, and if these stop moving, time itself will halt. This was what Einstein meant when he formulated the theory of relativity. In other words, time is simply a measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects. There is no time when there are no events taking place. So, in the case of "before the big bang", there was already gravity, but time does not seem to exist yet as the movement of particles was prevented by an unseen force. Now, call this force God if you may, but in Physics, it's called gravity.
The writer also asks hypothetical questions such as "Did gravity generate itself?", which is hitting the walls of "Circular Reasoning" again. Okay, let's assume God did it? Is it relevant to ask who created God then? Of course, if God created Himself, then how does it differ with gravity being there in the first place?
Now, he goes on to quote Hawking saying Hawking sustains that "the universe creates itself out of nothing." But Hawking's nothing is actually something "Gravity" (first self-contradiction). Hawking then says that the universe creates itself (second self-contradiction). He says that this is a case of double self-contradiction. But, it is also worth noting that the laws of nature as with gravity is already part of the universe, and not as a separate entity. It appears Serritella misunderstood gravity for an object. Also note that Pantheistic stand point maintains that everything is connected and is one.
Furthermore he gives an analogy as with the case of an Apple computer. He asks "should we account for it by mentioning its inventor (Steve Jobs) or should we follow Hawking's reasoning and say that the Apple computer arose naturally from the laws of physics?" Of course, how the computer was made was brought about by a series of natural processes. As Carl Sagan had once said "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." This is true. In other words, if man himself is a product of nature, then it is part of a process that made up the computer.
However, there are some parts of his reasoning I agree on.
He said that science does not ask the "why" question of purpose. This is true, but that's because the answer to the "why" question falls under subjectivity, and Science only accepts objective reasoning.
He also states Hawking and many scientists claim that God is unnecessary. This reasoning, he says, shows that offering a choice between God and the law of gravity is, in fact, illogical as both are needed.
He continues to say "Likewise, the law of gravity does not 'create' gravity it only 'explains' what's already there (gravity) and 'predicts' how gravity behaves. The bottom line is that the laws of physics cannot create anything or cause anything to happen. Rather than ultimate creators of the universe, they are just descriptions of how things behave."
Furthermore he said, "What actually needs explaining is the logical characteristics and intelligibility of nature and the universe, not whether the universe generates itself spontaneously out of nothing or not. Nobel laureate in physics Richard Feynman once stated: 'The fact that there are rules like the law of gravity is some sort of miracle as it leads to the possibility of prediction; it tells you what you would expect to happen in an experiment you have not yet done.'"
Well, I must admit Giovanni Serritella is quite a good philosopher, but as a scientist, I don't think so. But, that's natural. As the saying goes "You cannot serve two masters at the same time." Serritella had to choose to stand whether on the grounds of subjective "Religion" or on the grounds of objective "Science", and in this case, he choose to stand by his faith. Thus, he has to throw away some knowledge and scientific principles in order to accept a fundamental concept that is not supported by objective proof.