By Promod Puri
In his mind, physically-challenged Stephen Hawking explored the cosmos, and he got a much clearer picture of how the universe came into existence. In the quest, he could not find the god commonly believed to be up there and responsible for this creation.
However, as a physicist, he found his god in his dedicated daily karmas (works) in the astronomical objects called “black holes,” and in the Quantum theory explaining the universe at the subatomic depths.
Hawking’s understanding of the nature of black holes and quantum mechanisms can be helpful in knowing how the universe was born. University of Queensland professor Tamara Davis explains in The Conversation:
“Hawking famously described the quest for a theory of everything in analogy to God:
“If we do discover a theory of everything… it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we would truly know the mind of God.”
“As a devout atheist, he made it clear that he didn’t mean we would understand a deity, but rather that we would be able to explain, using physics, the birth of the universe itself, and all the processes within it, thus demonstrating there is no need for a god.
“In his own words:
“God may exist, but science can explain the universe without the need for a creator.”
“We know that nothing, not even light, can escape a black hole’s gravitational pull. Nevertheless, Hawking discovered that black holes should glow. But if light can’t escape from black holes, how can they glow?
“The event horizon of a black hole is the point of no return. Once you are on the event horizon, you can never escape, and no light you emit will ever be seen outside. The reason black holes can glow is that no light actually emerges from inside the event horizon. The light gets created just outside of it, thanks to the black hole’s interaction with the quantum vacuum.
“This leads to another question because another important rule of physics is the conservation of energy; you can’t create something from nothing. So, in order to glow, the black hole has to pay the price, and it pays with the only currency it has – its mass.
“As the black hole emits light it gets lighter, and the lighter the black hole, the more dramatically it shines, which accelerates its demise until it evaporates into nothing in an intense flash of radiation.
“As spectacular as that may be, it may seem a trifle esoteric: why should we care how black holes behave? Well, the theories Hawking was developing also have implications for the question of how the universe began. Hawking proposed a mechanism, through quantum physics, by which a universe could be born. In other words, he proposed an answer to how the big bang banged.”
In this explanation where Hawking deals with the nature of black holes and quantum physics by combining the two, he has put the religiosity of god in a different perspective in relationship with the birth of the universe.
Besides the fact his god was in his thoughts and works, which were more meaningful and rational than the ritualistic faiths, Hawking’s progressive investigations open new thinking on the science of God altogether. And it is here he went beyond the empirical confines in the realm of metaphysics where religion dwells.
Stephen Hawking might be an “atheist”, but thru his exploration of the origin of the universe, he did establish some relationship between science and religion, a fact which is yet to get its realization by the scientific community.