A scientist with difference

Stephens Hawking was the man who added a metaphysical dimension tothe study of the cosmos

Prof. Hamid Naseem Rafiabadi
Srinagar, Publish Date: Mar 18 2018 11:45PM | Updated Date: Mar 18 2018 11:45PM
A scientist with difference

I was about to sit on my seat in the Delhi bound Air India Flight on 15th March 2018, that  I saw a co passenger having Stephen Hawking's Book: A Brief History of Time in his hand. I could not resist to inform him that Stephens Hawking is no more and he died yesterday, 14th March 2018. He was surprised by this news and said instantly that he was a big fan of Hawking and why did not media report about his death. I told him that same was the case with me, as I had read several of Hawking's books and had quoted him extensively in my various writings on time and cosmos, science and religion. 

Hawking was the man who added a metaphysical dimension to Physics and astronomy and study of the cosmos. Many Muslim debaters got support to their views by his views on  Big Bang and Black Holes, and his statement that he wanted to read the mind of God and his often quoted sentence attributed to Einstein: God does not play dice? Since modern science has long been divested anything related to Religion or God, therefore, how could we expect that Hawking could advocate a religious view about the universe. Nevertheless, he has still visited Vatican and has mentioned religious notions about Science at times. Though he has ended up as an atheist or an agnostic.

 

Stephen Hawking thinks that there was nothing around before the Big Bang. Speaking during a TV talk show "Star Talk", aired on 4th March 2018 on National Geographic Channel, Hawking propounded his theory on what happened before the universe came into existence. Hawking's theory rests upon the assumption that the universe has no boundaries, the Xinhua reported late on Sunday, 4th March 2018.  "The boundary condition of the universe ... is that it has no boundary," he told TV host Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The Big Bang is the rapid expansion of matter from a state of extremely high density and temperature which according to current cosmological theories marked the origin of the universe. The theory holds that the universe in retrospective can shrink to the size of an extremely small "subatomic ball" known as the singularity.  Hawking said that the laws of physics and time cease to function inside that tiny particle of heat and energy. In other words, the ordinary real time as we know now shrinks infinitely as the universe becomes ever smaller but never reaches a definable starting point.

During the show, Hawking argued that before the Big Bang, real ordinary time was replaced by imaginary time and was in a bent form. 

"It was always reaching closer to nothing but didn't become nothing," he said. Further, Hawking drew an analogy between the distorted time with Ancient Greek philosopher Euclid's theory of space-time, a closed surface without end. Taking the example of Earth, he said: "One can regard imaginary and real-time beginning at the South Pole ... There is nothing south of the South Pole, so there was nothing around before the Big Bang." 

"There was never a Big Bang that produced something from nothing. It just seemed that way from mankind's perspective," Hawking had said, hinting that a lot of what we believe is derived from a human-centric perspective, which might limit the scope of human knowledge of the world. In other words, God centric perspective can give the holistic meaning to everything related to life and the universe.

Sir Arthur Eddington likened sciences to casting a net into the sea. A three centimetre net ineffective in catching creatures in the sea smaller than three centimetres. 

Stephens Hawking says while analysing the same reality: “Theoretical physics may be like mapping the Earth. One can accurately represent a small region of the Earth’s surface, as a map on a sheet of paper. But if one tries to map a larger region, one gets distortions because of the curvature of the Earth. It is not possible to represent every point on the Earth’s surface on a single map”.

Instead one uses a collection of maps, which agree in the regions, where they overlap. At another place Hawking says:

“As I said, even if we find a complete unified theory, either in a single formulation, or as a series of overlapping theories, we will have solved only half the problem. The unified theory will tell us how the universe evolves in time, given the initial state. But the theory does not in itself specify the boundary conditions at the edge of space and time that determine the initial State. This question is fundamental to cosmology.”

According to Hawking up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of “new theories that describe what the universe is to ask the question why. On the other hand, the people whose business it is to ask why, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advance of scientific theories. In the eighteenth century, philosophers considered the whole of human knowledge, including science, to be their field and discussed questions such as: did the universe have a beginning? However, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, science became too technical and mathematical for the philosophers or anyone else except a few specialists”

Not only scientists but even “Philosophers”, according to Hawking reduced “the scope of their inquiries so much that Wittgenstein, the most famous philosopher of this century, said:

“The sole remaining task for philosophy is the analysis of language.” “What a comedown from the great tradition of philosophy from Aristotle to Kant”, laments Hawking.

 

Hawking seems to be searching answer to this mystery when he writes for example:

“However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God”.

In the end I would conclude that modern science accepts the Design but not the Designer, creation but not the Creator and Muslim scientists  were not able to convince people like Hawking and Steven Weinberg about this dimension of philosophy of science in Islam. Therefore, instead of issuing fatawa about Hawking and others about their atheism, we need to understand our own backwardness in terms of intellectual debates and scientific acumen!

 

Author is Head Dept. of Religious Studies, Central University of Kashmir