Apparently Stephen Hawking not only thinks that spontaneous creation from nothingness is somehow a scientific concept: he also claims that “philosophy is dead” (and as I point out, this is hardly surprising given the core anti-intellectualism lurking behind his amateur philosophizing).
Here’s a reaction from Burke’s Corner:
In his failure to exercise modesty in his pursuit of scientific knowledge, Hawking makes a particularly startling claim – that “philosophy is dead“. From Plato and Aristotle to Maimonides and Aquinas to Kant and Hegel, Hawking dismisses how the human mind across cultures and millenia has reflected on transcendence and humanity’s place in a vast universe. Hawking’s lack of humility before this endeavour is staggering. In her Absence of Mind, Marilynne Robinson rightly states that this approach to science excludes “the whole enterprise of metaphysical thought,” despite metaphysical reflection being a defining characteristic of the human experience.
Mathematician Eric Priest also responds, in The Guardian:
As a scientist, you are continually questioning, rarely coming up with a definitive answer. The limitations of your own knowledge and expertise together with the beauty and mystery of life and the universe often fill you with a sense of profound humility. Thus, unequivocal assertions are not part of a genuine scientific quest.
Furthermore, many of the questions that are most crucial to us as human beings are not addressed adequately at all by science, such as the nature of beauty and love and how to live one’s life – often philosophy or history or theology are better suited to help answer them.
And here’s his pragmatic conclusion:
You cannot prove whether God exists or not. But you can ask whether the existence or nonexistence of God is more consistent with your experience.
And we should really ask people what Hawking and his ilk think of literature and the humanities in general. “I am only interested in the hard sciences and everything else is squishy and impractical and insufficiently number-ish” is not an argument. It simply reflects an orientation toward activities that are as far away from social concerns as possible. It’s what we associate with being a nerd, and in a sense these sorts of pseudo-philosophical Papal Bulls by the popularizers of science are simply the ultimate revenge of the nerds.
Worse, they are a rejection of interiority, a rejection of the idea that reflection is a worthwhile endeavor. Our own thoughts and feelings cannot be “data”; me must concentrate only on empirical objects. It’s an attempt to kill off large areas of inquiry, because those areas of inquiry defy easy answers and point to the limits of scientific inquiry. They curb its domain. And it’s important to some that a) empirical science be capable of being extended to all worthwhile domains of inquiry and b) that there be a promise of complete answers to all questions at some point in the future of scientific inquiry. These instincts — to the absoluteness of certain standpoints and the promise of an end to questioning and, by fiat, a complete picture of the world — are in fact the instincts of fundamentalist religion. That’s why I see this as just another battle between fundamentalists demanding certainty — whose obsession with their counterpart Christian and Islamic fundamentalists is telling — and people (religious or not) who want to suspend judgment for the sake of thinking about things. Abandoning the need for the promise of completeness, to an end to inquiry, would be just as much a truer form of atheism as it is a truer form of faith.
By: Wes Alwan