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Thursday, September 02, 2010


David Charkowsky

These characters are appearing spontaneously upon your screen and have no "personal cause". They were created from the laws of computer software which themselves have no "personal cause".

Drew Underwood

Great post!

Jonathan Aquino

Comment seen on the Yahoo news site: "In the beginning there was nothing. Which exploded."

Russ Olson

In order for something to bring itself into being it must simultaneously exist and not exist. Doesn't that violate the law of non-contradiction?


I'm tempted to just leave your comment alone, but I will at least ask if you even read the post?

David K. Monroe

I predict that this is soon going to be asserted by some in the media and the internet to be "the final word" on this topic....because it came out of the vocoder of Stephen Hawking.

And to think people make fun of Christians for "appealing to authority."

Anyway, thanks Carl, for a great refutation. Wasn't Bertrand Russell supposed to have been some great genius because he argued that God, if He exists, had to have a creator? But now somehow it makes sense to appeal to an uncreated, eternal law of gravity to explain away God.


You either believe in God the Creator or know that He exists. To deny His existence is a choice, a prejudical choice which denies the truth value of philosophy. As you say, Hawkins ( and Dawkins) ask us to accept their choice, a highly subjective, prejudicial, unscientific one, as fact. Oddly, his choice demands more " faith " than to believe in the existence of a Creating, First, Total Being, Who Itself had no beginning and Who is the Cause of every other being.


Nicely done Carl, very nicely done indeed.

Deke Brodie

I do understand how it's much easier to quote a 13th C theologian than investigate the science involved, but the kind of thing Hawking is talking about has been known (through dint of hard work) for some time.

"Something" can arise from "nothing" if the "something" returns to the "nothing" after a very short time—an interval too short in which to be observed. "Empty" space is seething with particle-antiparticle pairs that come into being and then annihilate each other again after a very short interval. Although these particles cannot be observed individually, their existence can be demonstrated.

Normally, a metal plate experiences a storm of fleeting impacts from virtual particles on both of its surfaces; this "vacuum pressure" is equal on both sides of the plate, and so cancels out. If, however, two parallel metal plates are too closely spaced to allow the formation of relatively large virtual particles between them, the vacuum pressure between the plates is less than that on their outer surfaces, and they experience a net force pushing them together. This force is termed the Casimir effect after Dutch physicist Hendrik Casimir (1909–2000), who predicted its existence in 1948, and was experimentally measured in 1997.

The Casimir effect is only one manifestation of the reality of virtual particles. Virtual particles also mediate the exchange of all forces between particles.

Science goes out and measures; religion erects barriers to that knowledge.


I suppose it's Hawking's very cussedness that has kept him alive this long. But still.... Am I the only one who sees a pattern, and that the ridiculous bombshells are coming more and more frequently from him?

For that matter, why is attention paid to him? Because he's smart? Maybe, but this is not his area. I don't hear anyone asking him about the future of the "Big 12" conference, or how NFL labor relations could be mended in time to avert a lockout. No one expects him to know the answers to those questions. So questions about God and the nature of the universe are apparently easier than questions about the business of sports, so they can be tackled by an amateur who happens to be a specialist in black holes? But if questions about God are so easy, why do we need Hawking's opinions?


The problem with invoking the Casimir effect is that the quantum vacuum is most definitely "something", not "nothing". To say that it is "nothing" is to make the same kind of mistake as to say a helium balloon floats because it has "less than nothing" in it. (After all, when people say, "There is nothing in this box," they usually are ignoring the air.)

Also, you should be ashamed of making a statement like, "Religion erects barriers to that knowledge," as though it were possible to treat all religions the same way -- Catholicism, Reform Judaism, Unitarianism, Santeria, Buddhism, Shamanism, whatever.


I haven't read Stephen Hawking's book so I don't know exactly what's been stated and judging by A Short History of Time, I probably wouldn't understand anyway.

However, what I do know is that the publisher does have a book to sell ........

Ashley Green

Ironically, this is sort of an unintentional admission that only metaphysics, not empirical science, contains the methods and language of inquiry by which questions like the origin of existence can be seriously investigated. Mr. Hawking and others like him maintain that all previous metaphysical speculation and inquiry is more or less worthless because it cannot be scientifically validated, yet he apparently expects us to take his own metaphysical speculations at face value.



1.)Even if these virtual particles come materialy from nothing (let's say nothing as literally the absence of the following: 4 forces of nature, quantum fields, non condense energy, space, time, 5th-11th dimension [as the M-Theory theorize], photons, etc.) we still cannot deny the existence of the natural law that governs this spontaneous creation of particle-anti-particle pair from nothingness. This universe is not only made of matter (condense energy), quantum fields, energy, forces and the accidents (uncertainty principle); but it is also made up of information (the natural law). And such a law comes before all things it governs come to existence and not the other way around. Where does this probably come from? Such a substance is not tangible to science, science can only look at it but not touch, and if science has limits then, and so it's conclusion.

2.)Another point, if such a theory like M-theory (requiring 11 dimensions to explain elegantly the weakness of gravity, compared to the other 3 forces of nature, by saying that gravity is weak because it diffuses to other extra dimensions, other than this space-time continuoum that we readily experience) let us say is true, then it could also be possible that such non-condense energy can difusion from other extra-dimensions into our space-time continuoum as a condense energy to create such a particle-anti-particle pair. Then that will appear as an spontaneous creation of something from "nothing".


Do not confuse creation with mere motion or change, as Chesterton seems to do at the end of the passage you quote from his work. The argument here does not concern "the fact that potentiality does not explain itself." Motion or change is the actualization of potentiality. Creation is the bringing into being from nothing (ex nihilo) some thing (an essence) that did not previously exist. The argument, therefore, actually concerns the fact that whatever has being that is not also its essence must be brought into being by He Who is His essence.

Note that the existence of the universe would necessitate a Creator or "source," even if it did not have a beginning. Indeed, it is quite logical to argue for a universe without a beginning or end from evidence only from the natural sciences. Only divine revelation provides certainty of a beginning.

Deke Brodie

It's difficult to be precise about what Hawking is saying until we see the book (I happened across this site by Googling for more information about Hawking's book).

What surprised me when I read the original post wasn't that Aquinas or Chesterton were being quoted per se but that Chesterton's vague assertion was somehow seen as the last word on what is now a scientific question (though the man himself can hardly be blamed for not knowing about theoretical physics at a time when only a few saw its shattering implications).

Two points:

1) That "something can come from nothing" is pretty mainstream physics now, even if M-theory itself has still to gain any consensus.

2) Even if e.g. stephen's natural law somehow does stand apart and outside material fact, I don't see how any creator 'smuggled in' this way leads to the god of the bible. What you have is at best a supreme particle physicist.


As I understand it Stephen Hawking was quite a devout anglican before he started suffering from ALS and once he was afflicted with ALS he then started to turn towards atheism.


Gravity is a theory not a law. It still has yet to be proven.

David K. Monroe


Correct me if I'm wrong, but we really cannot prove scientifically that something can come from nothing at this juncture in existence, because something already exists. We cannot actually observe something coming from nothing, either naturally or in scientifically created conditions. The "nothing" required to prove Hawking's hypothesis simply cannot be replicated or observed.

Russ Olson

Professor Hawking needs to dust off his copy of The Sound Of Music and let Julie Andrews' melodious words of wisdom sink in deeply: "Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could."


Eureka, gravity explains the creation of the universe! It was right there in front of our faces for thousands of years but no one until Stephen Hawking figured it out.

I feel so bad for him. I'm sure his condition has inclined his mind against any kind of a loving God. We should pray for him.


@Deke: Interestingly enough, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in Introduction to Christianity makes the same point when he writes of a "God of the Philosophers" and a "God of Faith" (that is, that such arguments for the divine from reason do not immediately correspond to the existence of the personal God of the Bible). This distinction is also made by Aquinas in his proofs for God's existence. As I understand it, Aquinas argued that human reason can take man so far before he needs divine revelation to complete his ascent to the Truth. So, yes, you are correct: the "proof" would be that only of a "supreme particle physicist." Reason suggests a creator; faith, recognizing the enormous gift that life is, suggests that creator is a Father.



"That "something can come from nothing" is pretty mainstream physics now...."

Goody. Spontaneous generation makes a comeback.



The tiny little man
In the tiny little chair
With a great big mind
Created who knows where

He wrote a little book
Called The Great Design
Which means "to plan" out
In a human being's mind

But if there was no mind
Or human being around
Where came the law of gravity
That keeps us near the ground

Yes, he is of science
Will interpret and apply
"I think therefore...I AM"
And Yahweh winks His eye!

Deke Brodie

At least judge Hawking's remark by more than a headline. I found a lecture of his on Youtube from 2007. He said:

At a conference on cosmology in the Vatican the Pope told the delegates it was okay to study the universe after it began but they should not enquire into the beginning itself because that was the moment of creation and the work of God. I was glad he didn't realise I had presented a paper at the conference suggesting how the universe began...

...our results indicate that the theory of relativity breaks down in the very strong gravitational field of the early universe. One would expect this anyway because general relativity does not take into account the small scale structure of matter, which is governed by quantum theory. In order to understand the origin of the universe we need to combine general relativity with quantum theory...

The question of what happened at the beginning of time is a bit like what happened when people thought the world was flat. As we all know [that problem] was solved when people discovered it was not a flat plate but a curved surface. When one combines general relativity with quantum theory we realised that time can behave like another direction in space under extreme conditions. This means one can get rid of the problem of time having a beginning in the same way we got rid of the edge of the world.

Do bear in mind Hawking gained his reputation by explaining the existence of an uncontestable fact, cosmic background radiation. So his theorising is anything but whimsical, and stands on a lot of fact-based scientific measurement.


Ah, yes, the great chaos from which hands did clap to ignite that first flame of love which burns and expands still onwards.

Thank you Hawkings for proving that God exists along with other universes of heaven and hell ...

Deke Brodie

Spontaneous generation is observed routinely in particle accelerators (perhaps not the sort you meant, though).

Ben Joseph

When I was a young student, I admired with glassy-eyed awe the many so called brilliant professors and students who seemed to have unlimited knowledge and a command of untold facts. But as I got older, I realized that these same so called shining intellectual lights would assert such asinine absurdities and utterly blatant, bald stupidities. Knowledge and Wisdom are related but not the same thing. It took age and experience for me to realize that being "smart" is not necessarily the most important quality. An illiterate can have profound wisdom and a brilliant intellectual can prove to be a fool. Stephen Hawking may be a top-notch mind, but is clearly lacking in Wisdom. Better he begins to learn again "from the mouths of babes and sucklings" and associate with the illiterate to acquire that Wisdom he so embarrassingly lacks which is making him an intellectual clown.

M. Love


With respect, you seem consistently to miss the point. A "nothing" in which the laws of physics prevail, and in which particle/anti-particle pairs can come into existence, is no kind of nothing at all. It is, rather, very much something.

And you also seem to be confused about our objections to Hawking's arguments. Hint: We're not quibbling with his scientific findings. Few orthodox (i.e. non-fundamentalist) Christians would deny the potential existence of these particle/anti-particle pairs, or the potential role of the law of gravity in the formation of the universe; in fact, most of us are happy to defer to the expertise of eminent men like Professor Hawking, when it comes to these matters. So when you assure us that Hawking et al have thought hard about these things and know whereof they speak ... well, you're preaching to the choir, buddy.

But Hawking's metaphysics are laughable. He needs to attempt to explain the existence of the laws of physics no less than the existence of material things (rather than just taking the former for granted), and until he does that, he will remain a figure of fun whenever he attempts to pronounce on creation.

Mohammad Shafiq Khan

The whole science on the basis of which Hawking thinks he is knowledgeable has been proved wrong by putting forward the theory of everything which stands send to different science journals for publication. The stands sent to CNN, Washington Post and other media. Whosoever wants the theory I would send him the same if he approaches me on my e-mail [email protected].

Mohammad Shafiq Khan


Cosmic Microwave Background (CMBI) is really an interesting discovery. It shows how our early universe would look like, not an optical image though.

Anyway, i think Pope John Paul II warned those in the conference to be very careful in inquiring about how the universe was created, because he understood that God may be offended in the process, if not done carefully. And i think that led him to say "not". But let us say that it will be done carefully, then Science may still approach towards the truth, and meet "eye to eye" with the mirrored religious truth, but never touch.

Science was formerly called Natural Philosophy, it departed from Philosophy, by excluding anything that cannot be proven experimentally, and declare any of those as non-scientific and so beyond its concerns and will not inquire with that. Definitely Science was a special form of Philosophy, and a subset of the latter. As it evolved, it has claimed to be able to answer everything. And i think if given enough time and more brilliant minds like Hawkings, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynmann, etc., perhaps Science may be able to answer all questions that can be proven experimentally. But how about those that can never be proven or unproven experimentally? These are the areas that Science considered to be untouchables. In fact Science limits its theories to those that are testable only. Otherwise such a theory is not scientific. That's the limitation of Science; and it cannot prove that only testable theories are correct; it's simply a criteria and a definition. Science is not even capable of answering the question wether these untouchable exist or not. One needs to step out from Science towards the realm of Philosophy atleast to be able to deal with such question.

These brilliant theoretical phsyicists and experimentalist, have done a great job; they have discovered, proved and explained a lot of phsyical phenomenon and facts; but that's all that they can prove. That's all their world, but it's is just an assumption, a PHILOSOPHY, that what is real is the physical world alone that you can experimentally prove.

But logic, in the philosophical realm, can tell us that it doesn't mean that you cannot prove that it exist then it doesn't exist at all. You need to prove first that it cannot exist.

Even if the whole universe is 100% physical, meaning Science can operate at any point. Then that's all it can do; it can't go beyond that; it cannot exist outside that universe; it will breakdown outside that universe. And therefore it can never prove experimentally that there is nothing anymore outside its universe.

If Hawking says that God is redundant in the creation of particle-anti-particle pair, then it can only be understood that fancy visualization seeing God condensing energy into particle-anti-particle pair by His hands is redundant. That human imagination is what is redundant. I think, other than that Hawking can't make any conclusion about God through his great findings in Theoritical Physics.

If Neils Bohr told Einstein "Stop telling God what to do with his dice", when they argued about the interpretation of the quantum theory, then similarly, i think, we can say, let's stop telling God how to do with his Creation.

The most important message from the book of Genesis is that it tells us who created everything, but not the technical details on how everything was created. The Holy Catholic Church even welcomes the idea of the cosmic inflation theory (much refined than the big bang, and it mainstream now in cosmology).

John Becknell

Ugh, I read Stephen Hawkings little comical comment too and had to slap my forehead. Just like Dinesh D'Souza said, "They'll invent an infinite amount of invisible universes, just to deny the existence of one invisible God"...or really say something stupid, like this.

Mark Brumley

Deke wrote:

At least judge Hawking's remark by more than a headline. I found a lecture of his on Youtube from 2007. He said:

At a conference on cosmology in the Vatican the Pope told the delegates it was okay to study the universe after it began but they should not enquire into the beginning itself because that was the moment of creation and the work of God. I was glad he didn't realise I had presented a paper at the conference suggesting how the universe began...

One problem, Deke, is that no one can seem to find where the Pope said this. Did Hawking make it up? More likely, he did not understand what the Pope said and recounts what he thought the Pope said. Hawking's discussion of creation from nothing, imaginary time, and God suggests he doesn't adequately understand the basic issues as philosophers and theologians pose them. He may be correct when he discusses ideas about imaginary time and "nothing" from the restrictive perspective of physicists, but philosophers discuss time and "nothing" from a more general, fundamental, metaphysical position. They want to know, for instance, why there are conditions such that we can speak of "virtual particles" and the like. They will point out that such conditions may be consistent with a physicist's specialized, quantitized definition of "nothing", but metaphysically speaking, such conditions are not "nothing".

Professor Hawking still hasn't explained why there is something rather than nothing, even if his hypothesizing about imaginary time and the finite history of the cosmos turns out to be in some sense correct. That he does not seem to realize the limitations of his statements is deeply disappointing.


What a wonderful discussion for me, a physicist by training and career, a lifelong amateur in theology and religion, and a seeker of truth like probably all of you!! When I heard Dr. Hawking's media paraphrase, I hoped it was a mistake and Deke and the explanation of some others boost it above that silly level.

Yes, "spontaneous creation" in terms of virtual particles is very real but only related. When, years ago it was hypothesized that invoking the uncertainty principle something as dynamic as the entire universe could come to be - in fact, must come to be - from a profound void, my reaction was - what a wonderful God to make "IT" this way. In fact, how else would He have done it? Certainly not in a complex way or any non-consistent way. Sad that Dr. Hawking fails to go beyond the God of the Philosophers. Who knows what problems he has dealt with in his life (obviously not just small ones) to make him fall so very short.

I love physics and how it can overlap with philosophy and theology. Sadly, men like Hawking see only a part. Granted it is fun and interesting science for the science playground that so many of us like to play in. I thank God that He created this magnificent system for us. He is a good Father and likes to see his kids play. But geez, how old do you have to be to realize there is so much more to it than such mechanics? Remember, God is love. Aren't you listening? And not touchie feelie love. How many saints do you have to know about to understand? How many miracles and signs do we have to have staring us in the face? Come on Dr. Hawking!!

BTW, I couldn't get my hands around what St. Thomas or even G.K. said but that is my failing. Thanks for the concise statement of M. Love - it was so very much to the point.


Great post. I'm with the young child, my response to Hawking is HUH????

Mark Fenwick

I ask simply: If the world was created out of nothing, who does Professor Hawking think created the nothing to begin with?

S Henning

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:22, 25

S Henning

I also have to add that, Keith, even though I don't know you, I simply love your answer! It was the cherry on top of a great discussion. I daresay Deke was hoping to intimidate the rest of us with all his sophisticated rhetoric and you matched him point for point beautifully. I look forward to meeting you when as the old country hymn goes: "When we all get together, what a day of rejoicing that will be!"

This was definitely one of the best post discussions yet. Who says Christians are anti-intellectual?


To S Henning... Thank you for the compliment on my comment. It is such a shame to see such otherwise brilliant men like Dr. Hawking missing the boat by so much. And maybe I have known too many brilliant physicists to be in awe of them.

Paraphrasing that well known Catholic author and playwright... "There are more things in heaven and earth, Dr. Hawking, than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

Virginia L. Connor

I took Astronomy in college and had to watch "Cosmos". As long as Carl Sagan kept to science I didn't mind, but when he started bashing religion, I tuned out and kept to my Christian beliefs. Guess where he's at now? Stephen Hawking should thank God he's still alive all these years! I've known of people with ALS, etc. who didn't live as long and they thanked God every chance they got! And I've worked with special kids who had more gratitude than Hawking!

Ann Applegarth

And, when contemplating nothingness, mustn't we also consider Kris Kristofferson's astute observation that "nuthin ain't worth nuthin' -- but it's free"? Or the wisdom of Gershwin/Heyward: "I got plenty o' nuthin' -- an' nuthin's plenty for me." But then these guys probably didn't study "spontaneous creation."

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