Physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has made great contributions to our understanding of science and has been a great example of courage in overcoming a handicap. But, like Carl Sagan, he sometimes violates principles of good science and makes unverifiable claims.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Dr. Hawking has claimed the non-existence of Heaven: “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
He is welcome to his belief, and he knows full well that there is no easy way to prove non-existence scientifically; and so his statement comes under the realm of faith, the same as for those of us who do believe in Heaven. We can’t prove it either, but then we’re not trying to justify it on scientific grounds. It’s faith in what’s unseen, as the Book of Hebrews says.
Let me steer you to something written by a former professor of mine, Thomas Howard. Here are the opening paragraphs in his book Chance or the Dance? A Critique of Modern Secularism:
After that, ’nuff said.
There were some ages in Western history that have occasionally been called Dark. They were dark, it is said, because in them learning declined, and progress paused, and men labored under the pall of belief. A cause-effect relationship is frequently felt to exist between the pause and the belief. Men believed in things like the Last Judgment and fiery torment. They believed that demented people had devils in them, and that disease was a plague from heaven. They believed that they had souls, and that what they did in this life had some bearing on the way in which they would finally experience reality. They believed in portents and charms and talismans. And they believed that God was in heaven and Beelzebub in hell and that the Holy Ghost had impregnated the Virgin Mary and that the earth and sky were full of angelic and demonic conflict. Altogether, life was very weighty, and there was no telling what might lie behind things. The ages were, as I say, dark.
“Then the light came. It was the light that has lighted us men into a new age. Charms, angels, devils, plagues, and parthenogenesis have fled from the glare into the crannies of memory. In their place have come coal mining and E = mc2 and plastic and group dynamics and napalm and urban renewal and rapid transit. Men were freed from the fear of the Last Judgment; it was felt to be more bracing to face Nothing than to face the Tribunal. They were freed from worry about getting their souls into God’s heaven by the discovery that they had no souls and that God had no heaven. They were freed from the terror of devils and plagues by the knowledge that the thing that was making them scream and foam was not an imp but only their own inability to cope, and that the thing that was clawing out their entrails was not divine wrath but only cancer. Altogether, life became much more livable since it was clear that in fact nothing lay behind things. The age was called enlightened.
“The myth sovereign in the old age was that everything means everything. The myth sovereign in the new is that nothing means anything.”