Stephen Hawking makes perhaps one of the dumbest forays by a scientist into philosophy that I have ever seen:
That is not the answer of modern science. As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
Well that settles it. Something spontaneously arose out of nothing. No need for an explanation of that. Move on people, nothing mysterious here, stop asking questions. The blue touch paper lit itself, and there is something called "nothingness" which contains that blue torch paper as well as laws governing it. Perhaps this is all, in some Deepak Chopra sense, true. But it is not "the answer of modern science." It is purely speculative, and whether we want to use the word "God" to describe the mystery of spontaneous generation or leave it at a nothing containing the seed of spontaneous generation seems to be a semantic distinction, with the latter in no way naturalizing or demystifying the former.
Of course, when Stephen Hawking makes such a pronouncement, it widely covered by the media as if a scientific Moses has descended from the mount with a single, definitive commandment: nothing. The face of the tablet is pristine, smooth. The worshipers are usually not familiar enough with the (actually irrelevant) cosmology that seems to support this claim, not to mention the (actually relevant) philosophy that would help them evaluate it. But they can take it as a matter of faith, if that's the faith to which they happen to belong. And so the matter reeks of anti-intellectualism (as an attempt to foreclose on deeper, less sophomoric philosophical inquiry about the subject), and is fundamentally bad science, worse philosophy, and entirely anti-rational, even as it marches under the opposite banner.
By: Wes Alwan