Spontaneously Out of Nothing? Seriously?

“For every house is builded by someone; but he that built all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4).

In Stephen Hawking’s most recent book, The Grand Design, he suggests that the Universe was created spontaneously out of nothing.  The reason for this, he says, is that the Universe began before time existed.  Armed with this “insight” he writes: “[The theory] removes the age-old objection to the universe having a beginning, but also means that the beginning of the universe was governed by the laws of science and doesn’t need to be set in motion by some god.”  He then goes on to try to explain what the non-beginning of the Universe was like and how it happened.  The apparent contradictions in Hawking’s work seem obvious.

Hawking ties the dismissal of the Universe’s having a beginning with the notion that God (or a god) is needed to set it in motion.  He then explains how the Universe, nonetheless, still adheres to the notion of cause and effect, suggesting that the laws of science are the adequate cause of the Universe.  One certainly ought not to confuse the notion of having a beginning with having a cause.  To dismiss the idea that the Universe had a beginning, is not to dismiss the idea that the Universe had a cause, and the Universe must still have a sufficient cause.  Hawking has not refuted the Cosmological Argument, because it is still true that for every effect there must be an adequate cause.

Hawking suggests that the sufficient cause for the existence of the Universe is the laws of science.  “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing . . . .”  But who or what determines the laws?  That is to say, what is their sufficient cause?  Moreover, how can laws determine anything if nothing else exists?  A law is a wonderful thing to have, if it has something to govern.  However, it is meaningless if nothing exists to which to apply it.  For example, one may have a law that requires automobiles to have windshield wipers; without any automobiles, however, the windshield-wiper law is meaningless.  The laws of science (in and of themselves) cannot cause anything to happen if nothing else exists.  One has to wonder why such laws are even around to begin with?  Nevertheless, Hawking says that these laws are responsible for the creation of the Universe, and “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.”

The question in the mind of the theist, however, is this: Does the Universe have an adequate cause, and if so, what is it?  This brings the discussion outside of the realm of “beginnings” and “time” altogether and simply focuses upon the notion of cause and effect.  If the Universe cannot explain its own existence, and if laws, in and of themselves, cannot explain the existence of anything, then what is the adequate cause of everything?  The notion that something comes from absolutely nothing is an absurdity.  The notion that the cause of the Universe is something less than the Universe is also absurd because there cannot be more in the effect than there is in the cause; that is equivalent to affirming that something comes from nothing.

So long as science continues to persist in the notion that the Universe had a cause (and Hawking is not denying that), and that such a cause is something less than the Universe itself, then the explanation fails the test of the law of cause and effect.  It does not explain why that for every effect there must not necessarily be an adequate cause, but such is exactly what Hawking must explain!  In fact, if the Universe contains even one effect that does not have an adequate cause, science cannot reliably continue.  How would a scientist ever know that the effects he was studying truly had an adequate cause, and did not just irrationally come about as Hawking suggests the Universe came into existence?

It is still true that God is the only sufficient explanation for everything that exists.  Hawking’s Universe does not have the explanation for itself inside itself, because his explanation is no explanation.  The idea that something can come from nothing is irrational, patently false, obviously absurd, and must be rejected unless one wants to forfeit rationality altogether.  However, if one forfeits rationality, one has no assurances that any explanation (including Hawking’s) has any meaning whatsoever.  A good yell might be just as sufficient.

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