Stephen Hawking, Atheism and the horizons of science ! (Part -1)

img_1117On  March 14, Stephen Hawking departed from our world. Regarded as one of the brightest cosmologist and theoretical physicist, he was known the world over for his brilliant theories of the big bang and the black holes. He caught the fascination of almost every science student in the world by his immensely popular science books which brought the romantic fantasies of time travel to almost a touching distance for the readers and inspired a whole generation of sci-fi movies. I truly admired his grit and determination, the strength of his beautiful mind, to continue with his life and passions despite the severely limiting physical illness which restricted sensations and movements to just a part of his face !

I first read his book “A Brief history of Time” around 1993, the year I finished schooling.I had borrowed it from my class-mate and as luck would have it both of us got busy in our entrance exams and subsequent undergraduate studies, the book stayed with me. I remember it was like a treasure, a prized possession that my friend had shared with me to read. I picked it up, to go thru the forgotten treasure once again after almost twenty five years, before returning it to it’s rightful owner.

 I believe the simplest explanation is,there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads to the profound realization that probably there is no heaven and no afterlife either.We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that I am extremely grateful ” 

 “  a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time and nothing for a Creator to do.”

This quote was in fact posted to me by yet another school friend who professes himself to be an atheist. The last line is actually  the concluding line of the introduction of  ‘A Brief history of Time’ written by the famous cosmologist Carl Sagan.

By definition an atheist is one who does not believe in God. Stephen Hawking  and Carl Sagan have certainly –disapproved the idea of God as a Creator, as a controller of fate, as a Decider of the afterlife but they or for that matter anyone does not deny the existence of a far complex and powerful life force which is at presently beyond our comprehension. In fact Hawking says —

The ‘profound realization’ of the ‘grand design of the universe’ points to a ‘Life force’ that is far beyond our current understanding, and it is this realization that brings upon us the ‘extreme gratefulness’.  

It is this life force which has been called the ‘Param Brahma’ !! The all powerful,omnipresent, timeless,formless,eternal consciousness – that which is beyond all descriptions and conceptualizations. 

Even the most eminent scientist of our times has lamented ‘Most of the questions which have troubled us since ages remain as it is —

someday these answers may seem as obvious to us as the earth orbiting the sun –or perhaps as ridiculous as a tower of tortoises. Only time(whatever that may be) will tell.”‘ 

The suggestion that our universe started with a Big Bang means that just before the bang, there was a time when the universe was “infinitesimally small and infinitely dense” . Even before some one of us question  how, where, when ,prior to and so on , the explanation — 

Under such conditions all the laws of science, and therefore all the ability to predict the future, would break down. If there were events earlier than this time, then they would not affect what happens at the present time. There existence can be ignored because it would have no observational consequences. One may say time had a beginning at the big bang, in the sense that earlier times simply would not be defined. … expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out the job !! “

Do these lines point towards the limits of science ?? Do they define the horizons of the present day theoretical physics. 

Our overwhelming desire to find a method in the universe is what drives science.We desperately try to search an order, a principle, a regularity to all what we observe around us. We try to assign a theory to it and then predict the cause and effect of things around us. This meticulous pursuit is what takes science and us forward. But there are many areas where the principles of our science still don’t stand true  and when our principles break down we tend to refer the universe and its life forms  as chaotic !!

This perhaps led the great man to comment –

One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect.

 Perfection simply doesn’t exist.. without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist‘ 

Is it actually imperfection or is it our inability to comprehend the mysteries of the universe, it’s beginning, its existence and its future that leads one to such a conclusion ? 

By Perfection does one imply predictability, and that too for one and all, not just Hawking. 

But why should perfection be so simple ? Why should perfection imply predictability for then diversity itself would be against perfection ? Why should perfection be limited by size, shape, speed , dimension and all such variables, in the form they are apparent to us ? 

If we picture our selves, our fellow beings, our planet the mountain and the seas, our sun and the solar system, and then if we can ( even if we can’t) our galaxy and and the universe beyond –literally hanging in the middle of eternity -with, birth and death, day and night occurring with ‘godly’ precision for eons   – what else can be perfection ?  

It is  perfect!  

More on theoretical physics in part 2 

— Saurabh Agrawal