The other night, I was browsing Netflix for something interesting to watch after getting my daily fix of the World Cup. I stumbled across a Discovery Channel documentary entitled “Did God Create the Universe?”. Intriguing, I know. I watched the program with great interest and attention, knowing that I would have to recap every detail to my wife who fell asleep 5 minutes into the program. I was fascinated with the process that Stephen Hawkings (one of my favorite theoretical physicists) used to deduce whether or not God did in fact create the Universe. But, in the end, I was neither convinced nor dissuaded. Instead, I was left with the feeling that we will never know the answer to the question.
I enjoyed the exercise that Hawkings used to determine his belief. His premise was that if he could rule out the need for God in the creation of the Universe then the answer to the question would be “No”, otherwise the answer must be “Yes”. I thank Mr. Hawkings for making it simple enough for me to follow along. I felt he did a great job of explaining the Big Bang, rules of the Universe, subatomic particles, space, matter and energy. My dull mind lit up with renewed admiration for early scientists such as Aristarchus, Galileo and Einstein and how their discoveries changed our perception of the Universe and of ourselves.
One example Hawkings used in the very beginning was a tennis match. There are two sets of rules in a tennis match. The first set of rules describes the game (court size, boundaries, fouls, scoring, etc.) and they are governed by a group of people who can change them as necessary or unnecessary. The second set of rules can never be changed. These are, of course, the laws of physics that govern where the ball will go when it is struck. This example, allowed me to follow along with his line of reasoning, since scientific laws must apply in all cases and must generate expected results.
I was really getting into it as he described how early scientists as far back as ancient Greece could figure out how the Universe works and how our understanding continued to increase till this very day. Today, we have a greater understanding of what the Universe is made of, how it was made and where it originated. At this point, I began to see a lot of assumptions made because Hawkings was relying on a lot of theoretical science that has yet to be proven. Things like black holes, anti-matter, and string theory are, as far as I know, still unproven and loosely understood. From the dumbed down scientific writings I read, the laws of physics are constantly being revised and changed, like the first set of rules in a tennis match. Hawkings reasoning began to dissolve once I began to question the foundation of his argument.
I suppose the question if God created the Universe reveals more about our personality than of our beliefs. Will we ever be able to definitively answer such a question? Probably not, but even if we did would it change our belief that there is or isn’t a God? While I enjoy pondering such enormous questions about our existence, I really do not place much importance on them since the answers will not make much of a difference in my life.
Why would such an accomplished and highly respected scientist like Hawkings bother with religion? If a person is confident in their religion do they really need to address a competing religion? Either he has doubts about his own religion (science is a religion), he feels that his religion is threatened, or he wanted to test himself. Either way, I feel that understanding other people’s motives and beliefs provide more meaning than whether or not God created the Universe.