April 26, 2008

Hawking's Universe

The Inevitable Collapse of Hawking’s Boundless Universe!

Did the universe have a beginning? Not according to Stephen Hawking. His latest speculation about the universe involves the possibility that space-time is finite, but has no boundary. For our beloved universe, this means it had no moment of Creation, no beginning, and no big bang singularity. Now what?

In The Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition, Hawking states,

“The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without a boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started – it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place then, for a creator?” (p. 181)

The paragraph above reveals an over-extension of scientific explanation. Hawking wants to move beyond the point at which known scientific laws break down (big bang singularity) and no further scientific explanation is possible. In doing so, he creates a model of the universe dependent on a questionable underlying metaphysical view.

Hawking’s metaphysical assumption is that matter and energy, or, the totality of things in existence, carries within itself the reason or sufficient cause for its own existence. However, since we cannot reasonably assert this of any particular known thing in the universe, what possible scientific or philosophical justification can there be for making that claim in regard to the totality of things, i.e. the universe? A non-answer says the universe is just that way.

Whether one thinks of the universe as finite, infinite or boundless, there remains for everything in that universe, a metaphysical dependence on transcendent being. Yet, Hawking’s universe has no need for a creator. St. Thomas Aquinas’ five ways of proving the existence of God disprove Hawking’s self-contained universe. In essence, since Hawking’s model of the universe lacks ontological support, i.e. it has no reason or cause for its existence, its collapse into non-being is just a matter of time.

It should be clear the idea of a completely self-contained universe is not a scientific idea. The model encroaches on first philosophy, metaphysics, when it does not allow for the existence of a Supreme Being. And in matters of philosophy, the scientist is not necessarily any wiser than anyone else is.

In addition, those who accept the Revelation of a creation ex nihilo of the heavens and the earth can easily see Hawking's fundamental theoretical error.

Also, lacking Revelation, it is eminently reasonable to believe the universe did not have a beginning, i.e. that it always existed. However, it is not demonstrable that an eternally existing universe is ontologically self-sufficient. A universe without a beginning must necessarily be an eternally created universe. (An "eternal creation" is too complex for explanation in this post.)

Later, I may discuss whether a model of the universe in which space-time is finite, yet boundless, is intelligible. I have specific concerns about Hawking’s application of imaginary time and certain other ideas. Nonetheless, if you have not read his book, do so. The Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition is superlative. Hawking is sure to bring you up to speed (relatively so), on stuff you need to know.

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