Stephen Hawking had a truly great mind, a mind that could formulate and conceptualise theories so complicated and advanced that most of us can’t even begin to understand the terms he used. A brilliant theoretical physicist and cosmologist, for most of his adult life he was the world’s most revered and honoured expert in his field, and this was made all the more remarkable because from early adulthood he coped with a debilitating disease that left him immobile and silent. But this great scientific mind was passionate and not just scientifically calculating, he also somehow painted pictures of the ethereal, created images for our lesser minds of things that have no images – time, space, nothingness. His was a truly wonderful mind, a great character, an indomitable personality. You’re waiting for the ‘but’? There is no but.
One of the signs of a truly great mind is its willingness to learn, revise, admit fallibility, to shed ego and care only about truth. Stephen sought to draw closer to the truth with every thought he had.
The Times today: As a young scientist, shortly after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, Hawking argued that the Big Bang began with a point beyond the reach of mathematics, where the equations Einstein had coined to describe reality broke down. This was replaced by the no-boundary proposal, his first big breakthrough after he was appointed to the Lucasian chair of mathematics at Cambridge.
“The idea of the ‘no boundary’ is gone again,” Professor Hertog said. “At some point 13.8 billion years in the past we had a boundary, where our familiar notion of time ceases to be meaningful and we are left with a kind of timeless state. [Beyond it] there is nothing. No space. No time. Absolutely nothing.”
In our scientific age we search endlessly (now there’s a concept!) for answers, and science holds to the belief that there are answers for everything, a reason for everything, a process of everything, a proof somewhere for everything. I have a tiny mind by comparison with Stephen Hawking’s, and I struggle to put unprovable but apparently rational theories into words, so I will use his words instead: One of his theories, often quoted, was “Because there is such a law as gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing.”
I’m a simple soul. I like grammar that makes sense. I simply ask how can anything create itself? It has to be there already in order to do the creating. Chickens and eggs.
And who or what created the law of gravitation if it pre-existed the Universe? Can there be gravity in ‘nothing’ ?
I don’t have to disprove anything Stephen said or believed. He was a theory man. Theories are called theories because they cannot be proved. When a theory is proved it becomes a fact. Stephen’s higher reasoning was theoretical, and on the way he used some lesser facts as stepping stones to reach his unprovable theories. I salute him and honour his intelligence and bravery. But I know he wasn’t right.
I can prove he wasn’t right. The problem is, I can’t prove it to you and for you. You have to prove it for yourself. I can prove that God exists because I know Him, I serve Him, love Him, meet with Him daily. Stephen too was born to find the truth, to search for the reason for his existence and this he did with rigour and integrity. I have found the reason for my existence, I exist because God’s limitless love and creativity desired me. I exist to glorify Him, to be united with Him in love. A perfect circle. Whole. To know God is the reason for my creation.
And I hope that Stephen now knows Him too because – here’s a little tiny thought from my little tiny mind – maybe the word that Stephen spelled as s.c.i.e.n.c.e. can also be spelled as G.o.d and maybe the altar we both worship at isn’t so different after all. Both seekers after the truth.