Farewell, Stephen Hawking

By David Klinghoffer Published on March 15, 2018

A mighty intellect searching the ends of the cosmos, trapped in a failing and unresponsive body. The poignancy of Stephen Hawking’s condition explains, as much as his contributions to physics, the fact that Hawking was the most iconic scientist on Earth. He died this week at age 76.

Most of us, if put in his position, God forbid, would find it difficult to go on. Maybe impossible. But his spirit was indomitable. For this alone, he was worthy of renown. Hawking, who theorized about black holes with his partner Roger Penrose, adapted, amazingly. Many people would not recognize Penrose in the street. But everyone knew Hawking.

A Best-Selling Author

His most famous book was A Brief History of Time (1988), a phenomenal bestseller. In the acknowledgments, he noted that writing it would not have been possible without specially programmed communication equipment. “With this system,” he cheerfully noted, “I can communicate better now than before I lost my voice.” Thus equipped, he pointed out with satisfaction, “I have sold more books on physics than Madonna has on sex.” Now that is a first class attitude.

Carl Sagan wrote the original introduction to the book. He recalled catching sight of Hawking on a visit to London in 1974, when Sagan stumbled on a special conclave of scientists, the famed Royal Society. He witnessed something awesome:

I realized that I was watching an ancient ceremony: the investiture of new fellows into the Royal Society, one of the most ancient scholarly organizations on the planet. In the front row, a young man in a wheelchair was, very slowly, signing his name in a book that bore on its earliest pages the signature of Isaac Newton… Stephen Hawking was a legend even then.

Like Newton, Hawking was the Lucasian Professor at Cambridge University. No position in science is more exalted. Yet he wrote for the most general reader. Looking again at his Brief History last night, I was struck by his easy and inviting voice. For any scientist to write that way, about the most challenging subjects, is unusual. You have to feel what your readers feel. I wondered if his own physical vulnerability had anything to do with this rare empathy.

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He wanted to know, as we all do, “Where did we come from? And why is the universe the way it is?” He concluded the book with the observation that if and when science achieves a complete unified theory, a quantum theory of gravity, human beings would then “know the mind of God.”

A ‘God-Obsessed Atheist’

What he meant by that was not what most religious believers do. He was an atheist. But as a colleague who attended his lectures at Cambridge recalls, he was a “God-obsessed atheist.” Hawking was known to slip into churches, accompanied by the “entourage” that piloted him and his wheelchair. He wanted to hear the sermon. He left quickly afterward.

In his later years, he stepped outside of his specialty more and more, giving satisfaction to proponents of a number of dubious causes. Those include the New Atheists, various pessimists and misanthropes, enemies of the State of Israel, and others.

In 2010, he co-wrote a book with Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design. They insisted that “the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” a nonsensical claim later echoed by New Atheist cosmologist Lawrence Krauss. Oxford University mathematician John Lennox, an eloquent spokesman for Christian views, replied with a book of his own, God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway? Discovery Institute physicist Bruce Gordon responded as well:

Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons.

Indulging in philosophy, at which his efforts, as neuroscientist Michael Egnor put it, were “notoriously sophomoric, Hawking claimed a few years ago that “philosophy is dead.” It makes your head hurt.

A Victim of His Own Celebrity

Recently, there was the increasing sense that he was being exploited by the media for his brilliant reputation. And, let’s be honest, for his heart-tugging appearance in photographs. He called for “some form of world government” based on an argument from “Darwinian evolution.” He warned of “artificial intelligence, the ravages of climate change and the threat of nuclear terrorism.” He predicted that humanity must be prepared to find a home other than Earth in the coming millennium.

Hawking later whittled down this “sell by” date for getting off the planet to somewhere between 200 and 500 years. Hardly a month went by without breathless coverage of his latest gloomy pronouncement.

In the end, he seemed almost as much a victim of his own celebrity as he was of his motor neuron disease. With his death, all that is over. He cannot be exploited anymore or captured by the lures of trendy, shallow intellectual improvisation. It all burns away. And his actual achievements in science, and as a writer gifted to communicate science to his readers, are the noble remainder.

Farewell, Dr. Hawking.

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  • Alan Copeland

    Want to know the mind of God? Hmm maybe you study the Bible?

  • petej

    Thankfully, not all scientists are atheists. Some recognize that Someone is much smarter than themselves.

  • Paul

    I can’t help but think how he recently learned how wrong he has been.

    • Mo

      @ Paul

      It’s a horrifying thought, isn’t it?

    • Kelly B

      yes – the biggest shock of his life came the moment he left his body. As I say, there are no dead atheists….

  • Jones Howell

    In his “brief time in history,” Hawking failed to find God. GRAVITY created the Universe? Einstein said “Make things as simple as possible; but not simpler.”

  • Albion

    We must pray for the soul of Stephens Hawkins.

    • Mo

      Why? Once a person has died, that’s it. They are either with Christ, or they are not. There is no second chance for salvation after death. I do hope he repented at his last minutes, so that he will be Christ for eternity!

      • Albion

        “Grace and mercy abound between the saddle and the ground”.
        God is outside time and space; He will apply your prayers for the intention of a person, even if you pray for him a century from now.

  • swordfish

    The fact that the praise for Hawking here is clearly delivered through clenched teeth is quite amusing.

    “Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions” – Discovery Institute physicist Bruce Gordon.

    How does he know that?

    • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

      At least admit such theories lack scientific evidence. That’s the lowest standard that materialistic atheists should hold themselves to.
      But they never seem to.

      • swordfish

        I’m not sure which theories you’re claiming aren’t supported by evidence? The idea which Bruce Duncan is objecting to sounds more like a speculation or hypothesis to me, rather than a formal scientific theory. (But I could be wrong.)

        • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

          Clearly, when scientists make up theories and then declare them to the world as facts, they are impugning their credibility. My complaint here is that, they ought NEVER to PUBLICALLY posit theories. This is unscientific on its face. If there is no conclusive evidence, their theories are no better than my own. It is no different than a witch doctor to declare your own utterances as if they are dogma. Scientists do not have the right to bypass the scientific method.

          You seem to want it both ways. Your honored “Scientists” can assert all manner of absurdities, but if anyone controverts their nonsense, THEY need to prove the negative. Very cynical and unscientific.

          • swordfish

            If you don’t mind me saying so, your picture of science is mixed up. Science doesn’t declare theories to be facts, it comes up with theories to explain facts. For instance, the big bang theory explains observations like the red shift of distant galaxies and the microwave background radiation. Note that the big bang theory is still classed as a theory, NOT a fact.

            “they ought NEVER to PUBLICALLY posit theories”

            This is ridiculous – what’s wrong with publishing ideas? Without scientific speculation, there’d be no Star Trek for a start off 🙂

          • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

            Star Trek is fiction, so I guess we’re on the same page. Thanks for admitting that today’s pseudo- science is entirely fictitious.
            You illustrated my point so well that there’s nothing more to say.

          • swordfish

            The only thing which is illustrated by your replies is your inability to reason. Yes, Star Trek is fiction – how does that prove that “today’s science is pseudo-science”?

          • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

            YOU drew that parallel, sport.

          • swordfish

            You’ve still failed to provide any evidence to support your claim that “today’s science is pseudo-science”.

          • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

            I think you did that for me.

          • swordfish

            The fact that science fiction sometimes uses speculative ideas put forward by scientists doesn’t mean that “today’s science is pseudo-science” as you claimed. The fact that you can’t see that indicates an inability to reason on your part. If you want to continue this argument, perhaps try and suggest some examples of the science you assert to be “pseudo-science”?

          • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

            I think my point has been made. I have nothing else.

          • swordfish

            If you have nothing else, then you have nothing full stop.

          • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

            I think I expressed myself with sufficient clarity. But you don’t like getting exposed as a liar and you desperately want the last word .

          • swordfish

            I’ll leave it to others to judge who is the ‘liar’ here.

          • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

            Indeed, are you accusing me of lying? What have I lied about?

  • Rick

    High praise for an atheist, on a Christian web site. Color me confused! Did I not get the memo? Are we to now exalt those who have/would deny our Lord?

    Stephen Hawking was indeed a brilliant man, from a worldly stand point. From a Christian stand point it can be summed up with one verse. “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:22

    In God’s eyes it matters not what you know, but Who you know.

    • Kelly B

      You typed my thoughts exactly – I kept waiting to read the part about “what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul” but it never came. Perhaps this one slipped by the editors…

      • Rick

        Although this article is the most egregious, I’ve read too many like this, on the Stream, to think that it simply “slipped by”.

        I’m considering sending James Robison a personal, confidential letter asking him to investigate the “leaven” being added to his website.

        • Kelly B

          Yes I was wondering how brother Robison – a wonderful godly and orthodox teacher – could let what amounts to a loving eulogy to an atheist who has undoubtedly led hundreds AWAY from the Savior appear on this site. I suspect that he’s delegated oversight to the wrong person.

  • ernie pforr

    hell and destruction are never full

  • pearl87 ✓ᴰᵉᵖˡᵒʳᵃᵇˡᵉ

    I am glad he’s gone to his grave, may he rest In peace.I have always suspected that unethical people used his outsized reputation and helpless body to promote their own ideas. Perhaps he wasn’t who we were told he was and he is now enjoying the beatific vision. In any case, he is at least beyond exploitation and suffering.

  • Morenowthanever

    This had to of been the biggest “whoops” ever.

  • I firmly believe If Mr. Hawking could speak to us now, his message would be :

    27‘Then I beg you, father, he said, ‘send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them so they will not also end up in this place of torment.’…Luke 16:27

    • Kelly B

      AMEN! After which he will spend eternity gnashing his teeth in regret over having wasted his life in the fruitless pursuit of human wisdom, which is foolishness to God.

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