Today I’m saddened by the news that the great scientist Stephen Hawking has passed away at the age of 76. Here was a man of great intelligence and courage who, through persistent determination, applied himself and overcame many of life’s obstacles, successfully accomplishing many of his goals and aspirations. And as I look at his life, I can’t help but be amazed at his inner strength and encouraged by his positive attitude.
In 1963, at the age of 21, Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease (also called Lou Gehrig’s disease). Slowly his body deteriorated to the point he had to use a wheel chair and could no longer speak clearly. But his disability didn’t deter him from becoming one of the most prominent scientists in the world.
Determined to be recognized for his achievements and not his disability, and he went on to write 12 books, co-author others, win 19 prestigious awards, receive over a dozen honorary degrees, and there was even a movie made about his life- The Theory of Everything (2014). He was truly a remarkable human being.
I think everyone familiar with Hawking will always remember his signature electronic voice and subtle mannerisms. Yet this brilliant theoretical physicist and cosmologist will be remembered most for his advancements in science: Hawking radiation, Hawking energy, Bekenstein-Hawking formula, Penrose-Hawking theorems, and other discoveries.
I’ve been critical of Hawking for his atheism, belief in aliens and political views, but, nonetheless, he deserves to be honored and respected for many of his accomplishments. Yet I write this with mixed emotions. For all his accomplishments, what did he gain? Is he able to take any of it with him? Obviously not.
This man was a scientist, evolutionist and atheist. He didn’t believe in God and had no problem announcing it. But even as I look back at some of his most memorable quotes, I see a man who was conflicted, as if he knew there was something more to life, but was unwilling to accept it. It seems there were times he knew there was a God, but couldn’t acknowledge him. Consider this quote:
“The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”
I think he realized something profound- that there truly is order to the universe, and that it is indeed divinely inspired. The universe was been designed by God, and that can be clearly seen from his creation. But it seems that Hawking ultimately rejected divine inspiration:
“I believe the simplest explanation is, there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either.”
I find this quote to be bleak and sad. Not because he’s right, but because I believe he’s mistaken. If there is no God or afterlife, then all of his achievements- while they may be helpful to those who are still living- serve no eternal purpose.
All-in-all, this man has some remarkable accomplishments and will be missed, but I can’t help but lament his worldview. I believe there is a God, that he has revealed himself, and we can know who he is and our purpose; we can have true meaning that is eternal.