By now you’ve heard that Stephen Hawking has caused an absolute pandemic of the vapors by boldly declaring there is no Heaven. Lots of people have been saying this for some time, but for some reason this has really got people talking.
The responses I’ve seen have run the gamut from predictable to utterly bewildering. There’s the usual “blah blah hubristic science”, the seemingly-reasonable “blah blah can’t prove a negative”, and the bizarre (to me) “it’s ironic for someone whose very life depends on advanced technology to be an atheist.”
I don’t know what to make of that last one, and it’s got nothing to do with religion. It’s as mysterious to me as if the person said, “it’s ironic for someone whose very life depends on advanced technology to be homosexual.” What does the one have to do with the other?
As for the hubristic science business, I’ve long been tired of that. Since the universe is so big and complex and mysterious, it is just plain uppity for us mere humans to suggest we have answers about it. But nobody has a problem with me saying leprechauns don’t exist or that Spain is in Europe despite the universe still being big and complex and mysterious. The complexity of the universe doesn’t prevent anyone from saying that tomorrow will be Friday or that sponge is not a good material with which to build a house, but it’s only when you talk about God that we have to suddenly invoke the magnitude of the cosmos as an argument-stopper.
Which brings us to “you can’t prove a negative”, which is horseshit. You most certainly can. Can I prove there’s no coffee left in this mug? Sure. Can I prove that two plus two does not equal seven? Easy. Can I prove that there are no giant man-eating locusts in Chicago? Yes I can.
What I can’t prove is that there are no invisible giant man-eating locusts in Chicago that are undetectable by any scientific equipment and also make their unfortunate victims’ death look like complete accidents explainable by other methods. In other words, I (and Stephen Hawking) can’t prove something for which the target is constantly moved out of range and which has, as part of its defining traits, “is unprovable”.
Can I prove there’s no hippopotamus in my bathtub right now? Not without getting up and looking, and by the time I get there, maybe it will be gone. Maybe, with the universe as complex as it is, hippopotami have suddenly achieved the ability to teleport. How can I say this is not so? Maybe I can’t, in the grand scheme of things but, in a coping strategy honed over millions of evolutionary years, I can reason that the chance of this being the case is so infinitesimally tiny that there really isn’t any point in worrying about it. If the chance isn’t nil, it may as well be.
Of course we’re also getting the usual chorus of how rude and disrespectful Hawking is for not agreeing that people who believe in Heaven are equally right and all religious belief is totally valid. Because when Hawking solves an equation he has to include a disclaimer that this solution is only his admittedly fallible opinion and any other proposed solution is just as likely so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
“You won’t make any converts that way,” say people who won’t be converted anyway. What they’re ignoring is that Hawking isn’t looking to make any converts, he’s just making a statement. Same with me: if I say there isn’t a God, it’s not to bring you around to my way of thinking, it’s because I genuinely believe there isn’t a God. What you do with that is your own business, I guess, and I’m not going to pretend I believe otherwise just to accommodate you and make you feel better. (It’s not like I’m going to interrupt a conversation about something else to go, “Oh hey, your religion is actually superstitious nonsense”, but if you ask me about it, I’ll answer.)
If you’re still upset about Hawking, though, not to worry. Kirk Cameron is on the case.