In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth
As-Salaam alaikum! Peace!
On August 7, 2011, the Discovery Channels — several channels at once — aired the premiere program in a new series entitled, “Curiosity”. In this premiere program, the physicist Stephen Hawking attempts to prove that Allah does not exist.
Of course, the name “Allah” is not used in the program, but I am using it in this essay in order to be precise. The word “God” is often vague — especially since it can be written with or without the initial upper-case “G”.
I am writing this based on my notes. I plan to view the program again, when it becomes available.
Hawking begins with three assumptions — two of them unstated.
The first assumption is that reality is physical. Is a god physical? Is an afterlife physical? This assumption, by itself, settles the question — obviously, if reality is physical, Allah cannot exist since Allah is not physical.
The second assumption is that if scientific methods cannot prove something to be true, it must therefore be untrue. If, for example, a scientist living in 1800 proposes the existence of invisible electromagnetic waves, scientific methods would be unable to prove the existence of such waves and, given this assumption, scientists would be forced to conclude that such waves do not exist. Nowadays, we know that gamma rays, X-rays, ultra-violet rays, infrared rays, and radio waves exist — but scientific methods would have been unable to prove their existence two hundred years ago.
The third assumption — clearly stated — is that people believe in gods in order to explain natural phenomena. For example, people believed in Thor because his existence explained where thunder and lightning come from. Hawking confined his comments to Norse gods (as best I can recall), and perhaps this is true of the Norse gods — but I doubt it. When we study the history of people around the world and their gods, we find many patterns of worship. It would be simplistic, at least, and probably inaccurate, to say that most of these gods serve to explain the origin of natural phenomena. In the Middle East, for example, each city-state had its own god. How did that explain natural phenomena? How did the household gods of the Romans explain natural phenomena? How did the worship of Pharaoh or Caesar as gods explain natural phenomena?
The expression for this form of argumentation is “straw man”. Hawking set up a straw man, and then proceeded for the remainder of the program to knock it down.
At one point in the program, Hawking used an analogy of a man building a hill. The man digs a hole and piles up the dirt to form a hill. I do not recall if this analogy was used to explain the existence of anti-matter or dark energy. Either way, there is a flaw in Hawking’s analogy. The man. What does the man correspond to? This analogy actually implies the existence of a creator.
I enjoyed the way Hawking summed up his argument at the end of the program, demonstrating that in the beginning — when the cosmos came into being — there was no time. Time did not exist. Hawking then concluded, triumphantly, that if time did not exist, Allah (God) could not exist.
I may have laughed out loud. The 112th chapter of the Qur’an clearly states that Allah is samad — actually, as-Samad. Anyone or anything that is samad exists without need of anything outside of itself. By stating that Allah is as-Samad — using the definite article — the Qur’an is stating that Allah is the one and only being without need of anything outside of itself. In short, Allah does not need time — or space, or anything else — in order to exist. Stephen Hawking walked into that one. The argument against his argument was already put forth fourteen centuries ago.
Hawking himself has gods, that he believes in. He believes that they exist independently of everything and have power over everything. He does not call them gods. He calls them “the laws of physics”.