Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A CRITIQUE OF STEPHEN HAWKING’S VIEW OF THE ROLE OF GOD IN THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE by Professor S.P. Singh

When any discipline of knowledge reaches its zenith, it is quite likely to begin to talk of God. This is true, as the foregoing pages make out not only of Whitehead but also of many other scientists, the latest of them being Stephen Hawking, the celebrated author of the best seller, A Brief History of Time. Like Whitehead, he too comes conceptually in the lineage of Einstein. If Whitehead developed the philosophy of process out of Einstein’s theory of relativity, Stephen Hawking evolved his cosmology out of the same theory of relativity. And just as Whitehead struck on the idea of God speculatively while explaining the reality in terms of process, even so Stephen Hawking happened to refer to the idea of God particularly as a matter of protest against the guarded warning of Pope, while tracing the origin of the universe ultimately to the primeval incident known as the Big Bang. In course of attending a conference on cosmology organised by the Jesuits in the Vatican in 1981, and being given an audience with the Pope along with other participants of the conference, Hawking was warned by the latter not to inquire into the Big Bang, “because that was the moment of creation and therefore the work of God.”(p.122)

Instead of de-spiriting him, this warning, however, worked as a stimulant on the mind of Hawking making him almost exclusively to devote his mind to this problem since. The result was astounding. Hawking not only happened to write his “A Brief History of Time” explaining the consequences of the Big Bang but has recently come to formulate mathematically the state of things immediately prior to the singularity of the Big Bang and start speculation on the role of God, if any, in this perspective.

In his view, as in Einstein’s, time and space are posterior to the singularity of the Big Bang and can by no means be considered as to have been there prior to it, since they are not any frame of reference of things but simply the mutual interrelationships of things in terms of expansion and continuance. Accordingly, “space-time was finite” and at the same time “had no boundary” (p.122). In the total absence of such a boundary, argues Hawking, the universe cannot be supposed to have had any beginning and therefore be amenable to creation by God. What, indeed, has no beginning cannot be supposed to have been created at any moment, according to this logic. Thus the idea of the origin of space-time with just the singularity of the Big Bang annuls totality the possibility of its having been created by any agency no matter be he God himself. As a necessary corollary to it, God becomes totally irrelevant to this scheme of things and hence inadmissible.

But, at the same time, there are certain laws, as those discovered by scientists, which are universally binding on the universe. The universal applicability of these laws, within the limitations of the theory of probability, raises necessarily the question as to the source of those laws. The very uniformity behind the applicability of those laws vindicates the unitary position of the agency behind them, which automatically comes around the idea of God. Hawking, indeed, admits that “these laws may have originally been decreed by God” but at the same time he infers that “He has since left the universe to evolve according to them and does not now intervene in it ”, (p.129) since thanks to science, now it is more and more convincingly being obvious that everything in the universe moves or happens as per certain natural laws, and not by the fiat of anyone whosoever.

Even then, however, the question arises as to the orderliness of the universe at the outset even. If there are definite laws governing the universe in each and every detail at this stage, which is distanced by some ten thousand billion years from the Big Bang, they must have been operational at the primeval end of this span of time notwithstanding al its vastness. At that end, if it was decreed as such, God himself must obviously have been imbued with these natural laws. Though running the universe entirely as per these laws, and not by His own fiat, He cannot be supposed to have created the world or rather to have chosen “the initial configuration of the universe for reasons that we cannot hope to understand ”, (p.129), for if that were the case, it would not have been possible for us to question at least this stage of the evolutionary process regarding the purpose behind its creation besides having understood so much about the laws governing it, argues Hawking.

Hawking also visualises the possibility of a “a divine purpose in the creation” in the arrangement of things in the universe that in spite of its bewildering immensity, vastness and variety, it is moving in such a way as to move towards its own understanding. Our universe is something like ten thousand billion years old. It is also possible that it just one of a number of the universes, which might have been produced under the “chaotic boundary conditions” (p.129). In the midst of all these probabilities besides the actualities of galaxies, starts and planets, it is still more surprising that a certain planet come to develop such an atmosphere where beings, like us, could be evolved and brought to the intellectual level of questioning about the origin and purpose fo the creation of the universe itself. Raising the pertinent question “Why is the universe the way we see it?”, Hawking himself answers it significantly: “If it had been different, we could not be here! ”(p.131). Arguing on these lines, he concludes: “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.” (p.134)

But, at the same time, he is sceptical about the role of God in the universe in view of it being shorn of any boundary. For, in that case it will not be possible to prove that it had any beginning. Proceeding on these lines, he observes: “So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator? ” (p.149)

In brief, Hawking’s dilemma regarding the place of God in the universe, particularly in its creation lies in the principled behaviour of the universe on the one hand and the spatio-temporally unboundedness of the initial condition of its origin on the other. If the uniformity of the scientific laws operative in the universe as also end-oriented progression of it from within the chaotic enormity bear out its having been designed by God, its having been unbounded at the initial stage due to infinite density and infinite curvature of space-time at that point, make any role of God in its creation absolutely irrelevant.

Without caring much for this dilemma, however, Hawking not only expatiated on the Big Bang itself attributing it as the singularity at which space-time was born, but sought to look behind it so as to solve the mystery of the Big Bang via that the secret of creation. Proceeding on these lines, he has ultimately come out with an entirely novel idea in this respect, which now is being taken very seriously by scientists’ world over. As informed by Steve Connor through his article “Hawking Breaks” appearing in London Times recently as also in Time of India subsequently, Hawking has been able envisage mathematically the state of things immediately prior to the Big Bang. As per his article, “Hawking and Turok believe that immediately before the big bang, the universe was a tiny, pea-like object suspended in a timeless void that went through a period of rapid expansion called “inflation”.” “This expansion”, Connor continues, “immediately preceded, by the tiniest instant, the unprecedented explosion.” That this pea-like condensed state of the universe prior to the Big Bang was non-spatio-temporal, is evident form Hawking’s proposition that space and time both have only followed the Big Bang and cannot be taken to have antedated the Big Bang. Proceeding on this basic postulate, Hawking ultimately comes to the conclusion that the universe will go on expanding ad infinitum and will not collapse in any “Big Crunch” as has been asserted by many other cosmologists, the argument of the latter being that by virtue of having its beginning in the form of the Big Bang, the universe should by the nature of things collapse in the Big Crunch in course of time. In support of their contention, these cosmologists refer to the power of gravitation as to be eventually responsible for the Crunch. In that case, as per Hawking’s way of thinking, the universe will have to be supposed to have an end as well as a beginning and hence admittance of it will also involve admittance of a certain creator like God. This admittance, to Hawking’s fear, would lead the whole thinking done strictly even on scientific lines to the same Biblical viewpoint of the creation of the universe by God as was assertively put before Hawking by the Pope in 1981 in the Vatican as a warning for him not to go too much into the details of the Big Bang as that was the sacred moment of God’s creation.

Being totally to his disliking, the Papal warning asserting the Biblical position, Hawking not only got himself engrossed in cosmology to such an extent as to make a colossal departure from his earlier field of study, but seems to have become determined to contradict it at any cost. This is obvious from the position taken by him earlier in his “Brief History of Time”, and confirmed further much more convincingly from the subsequent developments on it made by him. While the History of Time puts so many question-marks on the relevance of God to the problem of the origin of the universe from the Big Bang, leaving a certain lurking hints in favour of His relevance, his latest postulate in this regard annuls completely the possibility of His role in creation. When the universe has no beginning at all and, as a corollary of it, no end also, as Hawking shows in his latest view, God has been left place at all in his cosmology.

This reactionary tendency working in him leads him to formulate a view of the origin of the universe fraught with certain basic flaws, which one wonders why were not obvious to Hawking himself.

These flaws relate particularly to the raw deal time and space has received in his cosmological thinking. As a matter of fact, the basic flaw in regard to time and space came in with the theory of relativity itself. It, however, has been brought to the degree of absurdity by the latest cosmological position held by Hawking. To treat space and time wholly as a result of the incidence of the Big Bang was in itself a difficult proposition since the Bang could not have occurred at all in total void bereft of anything to have formed the basic stuff on which it took place and even if complete void, it could by no stretch of imagination be characterised as the state of spacelessness as also timelessness, since both are intimately interrelated. Space cannot be there without time and time cannot be without space. It is quite understandable that since the scientist has taken the vow not to admit anything, which is not necessary in his scheme of things, he may with some apparent justification say he admits of time and space only inasmuch as they are admissible to him as the function of matter. But, at the same time, in the interest of truth and conscience at least, he should straightaway admit that his acceptance of time and space as functional in relationship to matter does not annul the possibility of space and time as such on which these functions are taking place. Out of the total perspective of the sky, the tree and the bird as a whole, as was given in the well-known story of the Mahabharata, it was quite expedient on part of Arjuna at the moment to have seen only the eye of the bird and hit his arrow on it as desired by Drona, his teacher, while the rest of his co-competitors failing in the venture on account of getting their attention partly divided to the perspective also but to deny the perspective as a matter of fact has no justification whatever. Similarly, necessity of utmost concentration on the functional aspect of space-time cannot justify total negation of space-time besides its function.

Hawking lands himself in rather ridiculous position in his latest postulate by taking his stand solely on the functional and yet trying to “inquire too closely into the big bang” he was warned against by the Pope. As a result, certain arbitrariness has crept into his postulation, which was not expected of him as a scientist. In the first place, there is an alarming difference in his calculation of the age of the cosmos as mentioned in his “Brief History of Time” on the one hand and in Steve Connor’s article on the other. In the former, the singularity of the Big Bang is stated to have occurred some ten billion years ago while in the latter he is said to have put at around twelve billion years. While taking into consideration the difference, one does not know whether there has occurred this revision in Hawking himself or Steve Connor misrepresents it. If the latter be true, obviously Hawking has nothing to do with it. If, on the other hand, Hawking himself has undergone this revision since the publication of his masterpiece, it evidently lessens the validity of his proposition to an alarming extent. If such revisions go on taking place again and again, where is the question of the validity of any one of the dates fixed by the scientist at any stage of his calculation? From this trend, is it not likely that the date of the Big Bang goes on receding back ad infinitum until the scientist concerned is obliged to declare it as infinite and beginningless? If, of course, it were to turn eventually beginningless, it would be much more logical to stick to Hawking’s latest view of “Open Inflation” under which “the universe will expand forever and not collapse in a “big crunch” as some other cosmologists have suggested.” In that case Hawking himself or any other scientist dealing with the problem on Hawking’s line will not be required to apply the artificial device of taking a certain function or period of time as the whole of time and accepting it as the basic standpoint of the history of time.

Another flaw in Hawking’s proposition relates to the size of the basic stuff of the universe immediately prior to the incidence of the Big Bang. To quote the actual words of Steve Connor:

“Hawking and Turok believe that immediately before the big bang, the universe was a tiny, pea-like object suspended in a timeless void that went through a period of rapid expansion called “inflation”. This expansion immediately preceded, by the tiniest instant, the unprecedented explosion.”

As per the above statement, it is obvious that the primeval stuff of the universe was something of the size of a pea “suspended in the timeless void.” By definition, it is supposed to be timeless, spaceless and immaterial, since time, space and matter came into being only with the incidence of the Big Bang and hence cannot be supposed to have been there prior to it. Now the problem is how to reconcile the state of complete spacelessness prior to the Big Bang on the one hand and the size of the original stuff of the universe howsoever conceivably small, on the other. Not to speak of the whole of a pea, even a millionth part of it would occupy some space. Indeed, any form, howsoever small, is possible only against the background of space. It is totally impossible without space. So is the case with the time involved prior to the explosion as conceived by Hawking. To think of even the “tiniest instant”, whatever would necessarily require presupposition of time. To try to smart out of time and claim that it all happened in timelessness is an impossibility thousands time more incredible than taking a quick dip in the water, with bare body, of course, and claim not to have got drenched at all. The seeming simultaneity understood in the cutting of thousands of rose petals put one above the other just in a single strike of a sharp razor cannot but really be successive in the passage of the razor through every one of the petals. Thus conceiving of size howsoever small without the admittance of space and of an event howsoever quick without the admittance of time is a proposition lying beyond the human comprehension and hence cannot remain unchallenged, howsoever enshrouded in the cloak of mathematical terminology.

To seek to nullify the role of God in the emergence of the world through such artificial devices may be of some use in retaining the tempo of scientific inquiry to some extent, but for the overall understanding of man it is as pernicious as the attempt of the ostrich to put its head inside the sand and suppose that it is no more visible to the hunter approaching it in its hot pursuit. The epistemological hurdle present before the human understanding today can be crossed neither by going back to the irrationality of the blind faith nor by taking a part or function of the reality and declaring it under the cover of scientific jargon as the whole of the reality. If the former is anti-intellectual, the latter is only an expedient of intellectuality. Remaining careful against both these limitations, what is necessary is to derive as much basic stuff from beliefs as possible and analyse it with open-mindedness to the last grain so as to reach conclusions of abiding interest and use.

For the cultivation of such free and frank thinking on basic intellectual problems of the world we may look fruitfully into the traditions preceding formation of orthodoxies of the medieval ages. Looked form this viewpoint, the Veda emerges out as the most abundant source of ideas relating to ultimate problems of human understanding by virtue of having been brought down to us in its unbroken continuity and original freshness as envisioned by the seers and sages striving at their best in their quest without any craving for name, fame and publicity. It would be pertinent to bring in certain ideas form that source and see if they can be of any help to us in solving the problems referred to above or at least shedding some useful light on them.

In this regard, one would like to refer to the Indian cosmology as accepted by most of the philosophical systems almost in common on the Indian horizon and as emerging from the Veda. It is a matter of common knowledge that in this cosmology five basic elements have been accepted. They form below upward are: prthivi, apas, tejas, vayu and akasa. Prithivi is matter solidified, apas is the same in the liquid form prior to solidification, tejas is the same in the fiery and gaseous form preceding the state of liquidity, vayu is the form of the same prior to the fiery and gaseous while akasa is the receptacle as well as source of the last one and via that that of all of them, that is, the prithivi, the apas, the tejas and the vayu. In this context one only needs to draw attention to the fact that the modern scientific cosmology hammering so incessantly on the Big Bang has confined itself until now only to tejas and that also as available to him particularly in one of its possible manifestations. Beyond tejas, there lies vayu, which by its placing in the order of basic stuffs of creation must naturally be subtler and more pervasive than tejas. As such, it must conceivably be nothing less than pure energy, which is another name of space, must, therefore, be much subtler than tejas and vayu both. It is not just the void serving as the receptacle of vayu, etc., as may well be mistaken on the analogy of the pre-Einsteinian idea of space, but is the positive source of vayu, etc., in all their dynamism, heat, liquidity and solidity. Thus akasa, according to the Vedic tradition, is unlike both the pre-Einsteinian and post-Einstenian space. If it is not sheer void on the one hand, it is also not just distancing of configurations of matter produced by the Big Bang on the other. It is the void containing well within it the entire stuff of creation in potential as well as actual form along with the dynamism required for actualising the potential not just once accidentally but on a continuous basis, for to think of any spatio-temporal and numerical limitation in this unlimited source of potentialities is an act of projection of the limitations of the limited on the unlimited. It is indeed the field of operation as well as source of the stuff the cosmos is made of. The same akasa or space itself is inclusive of time also as inherent in it in its continuity. Unlike the pre-Einsteinian Western thought, the central stream of the Vedic thought does not consider time as independent of space. It is implicit in the akasa or space itself in the form of its continuity, since space without continuity is an impossibility. The Vedic akasa indeed is the space-time combined and thus the source of the dynamics of the world represented by vayu and resulting eventually in the emergence of tejas, apas, and prthivi in close succession.

But, though so comprehensive and primeval, akasa in itself is by no means the Ultimate. As per the Upanisad, it is sheer bearer of name and form (Chhandogya Upanishad, VIII.14.1). While form is spatial, name has the factor of time implicit in. Brahman or God, however, as the Upanisad states in its cryptic way, is one who lies in-between the two, i.e., name and form or time and space. He is the principle of integration between such diverse factors as time and space. It is He who brings in continuity in the spatial extension on the one hand and spatial extension in the continuity on the other. To make His role understandable from another angle, if God were not there, space would have not continued in time and the latter would not have expanded in space. Thus He is the most fundamental entity from which space expands and time continues. Such an entity would obviously be non-spatio-temporal and therefore transcended to space and time both and yet forming the exclusive source of the operation of them. Since the entire universal process is the result of the conjunction of space and time or rather functional diversification of one and the same integral principle into space and time, the primeval agent responsible for this act is to be understood as the veritable source of it.

The problem that has arisen in Hawking’s way of thinking, of course, is due to taking God as only the agent of creation. In this type of thinking God is supposed to be an agent working on a pre-existing stuff so as to mould it in the form of the world or rather to set rolling the universal process. Obviously here complete dichotomy has been taken for granted between the creator and the original stuff of creation. Working under such pre-supposition, when the scientist somehow sees the possibility of explaining the universal process well within itself, he tends to cancel God as totally irrelevant to the world both as its creator and sustainer. This difficulty, however, does not arise at all in the Vedic and Upanisadic way of thinking, since here no such dichotomy has been allowed to creep in between the creator and the stuff of creation. Here the creator himself serves also as the stuff of creation. When God expands Himself into the space on the one hand and continues to sustain the expansion in the form of time on the other and when space and time as diverse dimensions of one and the same principle conjointly manifest themselves in the form of the universe or the universal process, where is the scope for dichotomy between the creator and the stuff of creation? Under this frame of thinking, the question of the irrelevance of God does not arise at all howsoever advanced we may become in our scientific investigation and explanation. On the contrary, instead of becoming irrelevant, God would gain more in relevance, the more penetrating we get in our understanding of the real nature of the world, for, in that case, we would reach nearer to God through penetration into the mystery of His creation.

As the Taittiriya Upanisad puts it, God is the source of delight in all its degrees possible in the world. The more on realises one’s identity with God through the understanding of His exclusive role in the emergence of continuance of the world, the more comfortable and delighted he feels. Otherwise, as a matter of fact, the entire spatio-temporal immensity is there with all its frightening otherness, incomprehensiveness, inexplicability and unhomeliness. The more one concentrates on it as such, the more frightening it looks. The only way out of this fear is to penetrate through this spatio-temporal spectacle and understand God as the source of all this, including the person concerned, not just as its creator from outside but as the exclusive agency manifesting it all out of Himself (Taittiriya Upanisad, II.7).

Mere intellectual grasp of all this, however, though highly useful as the groundwork, is not sufficient to remove all fears of otherness and generate the quantum of delight promised by the Upanisad. Since intellection is only a part of our total inner being, it cannot take other parts of the being along with it so as to be in a position to enjoy the felicity of delight available to it.

The Upanisad, indeed, classifies pursuers of the idea of God into three types. At the bottom is one who does not admit God at all in the universal framework and therefore refers to him, if at all, just to annul the possibility of His any role in the creation or emergence of the universe. For such, the Upanisad observes, the end result is the ultimate negation of themselves. Under the second category, the Upanisad includes those who take cognisance of God, no doubt, but only on the intellectual level and do not permit the rest of their being to get percolated by experience about Him. The Upanisad regards these also as not very much different from the first type since they too have not been able to comprehend God on any sure basis of identity. Under the last and the highest category, the Upanisad takes cognisance of those who unreservedly live in the truth of their identity with God having understood Him as such as well as by acting accordingly. The quantum of delight flowing constantly to such persons of God-realisation, the Upanisad quantifies as at least hundred times more than the same available to the sole sovereign ruler of the earth, if ever born, and at that if he were full of youthfulness, steady in mind, brimming with optimism, determination and prowess as also having his whole empire full of plenty (Taittiriya Upanisad, II.7-8).

2 comments:

John said...

Hi, Im from Melbourne Australia.
Please check out these related references on Science, Consciousness and the Big Bang.

1. www.dabase.org/spacetim.htm
2. www.dabase.org/dht6.htm
3. www.dabase.org/tfrbkgil.htm
4. www.kneeoflistening.com/i7-translation.html
5. www.aboutadidam.org/readings/transcending_the_camera/index.html

MukeshVeda said...

Thanks for you comment. I read the article space time. Thanks.

Mukesh