Only once 5

Many people had begun queuing up for free tickets to Hawking’s 8:00 p.m lecture, titled “The Origin of the Universe,” 12 hours earlier. By 6:00 p.m. local time, the line was about a quarter-mile long.

People want to know How All That Is Came To Be. They burn to know – and always have. Needing a theory, and knowing nothing, they invented creator gods.

NBC News reports:

Our universe didn’t need any divine help to burst into being … Stephen Hawking told a packed house … at the California Institute of Technology [April 16, 2013]. …

A second auditorium and a Jumbotron*-equipped lawn, which itself was jammed with an estimated 1,000 viewers, were needed to handle the crowd. At least one person was observed offering $1,000 for a ticket, with no success.

Stephen Hawking [said] that many people still seek a divine solution to counter the theories of curious physicists, and at one point, he quipped, “What was God doing before the divine creation? Was he preparing hell for people who asked such questions?”

… Hawking gave a quick review of [several] scientific cosmological explanations, including Fred Hoyle and Thomas Gold’s steady-state theory. This idea hypothesizes that there is no beginning and no end and that galaxies continue to form from spontaneously created matter.

Hawking said this theory and several other ideas don’t hold up, citing recent observations by space telescopes and other instruments.

This report is very much for the non-scientist. But many of us non-scientists could stand a little more science.**  What observations? How did they demolish the steady-state theory? Hawking must have said how, but either NBC couldn’t follow the explanation or thinks its audience couldn’t.

Go here and here (eg) for the real thing. (Hawking’s A Brief History of Time;  and, intriguingly titled, The Dreams That Stuff Is Made Of, important writings of great scientists collected by Hawking.)

The NBC report of the lecture continues:

After giving a brief historical background on relativistic physics and cosmology, Hawking discussed the idea of a repeating Big Bang. He noted that in the 1980s, he and physicist Roger Penrose proved the universe could not “bounce” when it contracted, as had been theorized.

Therefore, time began at the moment of singularity, and this has likely occurred only once, Hawking said. The age of the universe — now believed to be about 13.8 billion years — fits that model, as the number and maturity of observed galaxies seem to fit in the general scheme.

Hawking noted that in the 1980s, around the time he released a paper discussing the moment the universe was born, Pope John Paul II admonished the scientific establishment against studying the moment of creation, as it was holy.

“I was glad not to be thrown into an inquisition,” Hawking joked.

He closed by outlining “M-theory,” which is based partly on ideas put forward years ago by another famed physicist, Caltech’s Richard Feynman. Hawking sees that theory as the only big idea that really explains what he has observed.

M-theory posits that multiple universes are created out of nothing, Hawking explained, with many possible histories and many possible states of existence. In only a few of these states would life be possible, and in fewer still could something like humanity exist.

(There seems to be a contradiction between “M-theory” and the “moment of singularity” which “likely occurred only once”, in both of which Hawking is said to believe. This is probably a result of poor reporting. And the word “created” must be a mistake.)

Hawking mentioned that he felt fortunate to be living in this state of existence.

And that is a remarkable statement, considering how hard his life has been, afflicted for 50 years by a motor neurone disease which keeps him confined to a wheel-chair and has deprived  him of the ability to speak so that he communicates through a speech-generating machine. It prompts us to add a footnote to this post:

There’s a one and one only chance of coming into existence for each human being. So we think it deplorable that in the US, since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, some 56,000,ooo conceived individuals have been aborted. We are not wholly against abortion, but we think it should be rare, performed early in the period of gestation – preferably before 16 weeks – and only for good reason, such as: the pregnancy is the result of rape; the mother’s life is in danger because of the pregnancy and the baby cannot be saved; the child will undoubtedly be born to incurable suffering. And that “undoubtedly” sets an almost insuperable barrier to judgment, in the light of Stephen Hawking’s case.


*From Wikipedia: A Jumbotron (sometimes called “Jumbovision”) is a large-screen television using technology developed by Sony, typically used in sports stadiums and concert venues to show close up shots of the event.

** A little more science is to be found in a 2010 NBC report, discussing Hawking’s book The Grand Design, here. The reporter seems unimpressed and unconvinced. We suspect him of being a believer in the supernatural.

  • Andrew

    I’m delighted to read a passionate defense of life untainted by bullshit about souls entering zygotes.

    Christian anti-abortion advocates fail to realize that their worldview makes their god the most egregious abortion-monger to ever exist. Miscarriage is the most common outcome for a fertilized egg – isn’t Yahweh the god of nature? Does anything happen which defies his divine plan.

    Oh, I forgot, their god never does anything wrong, he just acts in mysterious ways…

  • mike2000917

    Your last paragraph against abortion was irrational nonsense. Who cares why the baby is aborted? If the mother decides to use this as a birth control method then why shouldn’t she.
    I think everyone should seek consistency in their beliefs. Your statements about abortion don’t square with other stated beliefs.

    • Jillian Becker

      You and Dr Kermit Gosnell like abortion. We do not, and are appalled that you do.
      You need to support your claim of our inconsistency with some examples.

    • liz

      Yes, I agree – everyone SHOULD seek consistency in their beliefs.
      It is consistent, if you believe in the right of every individual to life, to support that right from the moment of conception, which is when life begins.
      It is inconsistent, however, to claim to support the rights and liberties of each individual, and yet then to favor the supposed “reproductive rights of women” over against the rights of the individuals who’s life, having already begun at conception (the “reproductive” part is over by then), are then portrayed as “parasites” on women simply because, in their initial stages of development, they are dependent on the sustenance provided by a mother.

  • liz

    Really interesting. As much as I respect Stephen Hawking’s intelligence, and am aware of my own lack of knowledge in this area, I still dare to disagree with his theory. Not that it really matters one way or the other, but I’ve read enough on theories that disagree with his to have had some doubt cast on it.
    How quaint for the Pope to warn him against delving into the subject because it is “holy”! (Don’t pull open the curtain behind the Wizard’s throne – it’s magical!)
    The toothless dragon pathetically still trying to stave off it’s own demise.
    And I agree 100% with the footnote. The death toll of Roe v. Wade is another example of the tragic consequences of the Left’s “crusading” for issues that were only a cover for their real agenda. Just as with every other cause they have pushed, “the issue wasn’t the issue” – it was a just a tool used by them to further the destruction of the very society that allowed them the freedom to protest in the first place.