The Theory of Everything… Really?
I’ve done a couple movie reviews lately (Noah and Exodus), but this article is not really intended to be a review as much as it is simply drawing attention the bigger picture regarding a key element in this movie.
The Theory of Everything was released in theaters in November 2014 and portrays the life of Stephen Hawking (1942-present), who is considered to be one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists. He also suffers from ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease), which currently confines him to a wheel chair, communicating solely by using one cheek muscle and the aid of a computer. After his diagnosis, he was not expected to live very long, but has miraculously survived for decades.
Independent of his current atheistic worldview, we can certainly sympathize with the physical hardships he has faced throughout his life and we are impressed by his advanced intellect. (However, we also need to keep in mind that there is a difference between intelligence and wisdom. The Bible tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10) One additional side note… Many people seem to get Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins confused. In fact, many will say “Stephen Dawking” or “Richard Hawkings” or some similar morphing of the two names, in which case I am never quite sure which person they are referring to. Richard Dawkins, whom this article is not about, is considered to be one of the world’s most prominent atheists and harsh critic of Christianity. He is also a very outspoken evolutionary biologist and wrote, among other books, The God Delusion. Just thought I would throw that out there at no extra charge, in case it helps clarify anything on your end.
Warning: Non-Technical Technical Section
I am not going to launch into an in-depth treatise on theoretical physics or quantum mechanics, but I do need to mention a few things briefly along these lines, because it relates to the movie and the larger point I am making here, so don’t drop out at this point…hang on, I’ll keep it very simple and very short.
Scientists have long sought after a grand unifying theory (in physics) that could explain everything. Specifically, one that could give an explanation for the four major known forces: strong force, weak force, electromagnetic force and gravitational force. Modern scientists have relied on Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to explain the workings of things on a large-scale and high-mass… things such as stars, planets and galaxies. On the other hand, they use the postulates of Quantum Field Theory to understand things on the other end of the scale…e.g. atoms and molecules. However, these two models (General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory) are mutually incompatible. Therefore, the search continues to find a set of equations that can describe actions at all levels at the same time… or, the “Theory of Everything”.
There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?
I will only be making two points in the remainder of this brief article: one that would be perceived primarily as “scientific” and the other as being more “philosophical”.
In his book, The Grand Design, (Bantam Books, 2010), Hawking makes the following claim:
"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."
Some people will be intimidated by this statement, thinking that because it came from a brilliant physicist, you can’t argue with it. Others, many of which have no training in any kind of science, will see right through its illogic. He is saying that the universe will create itself from nothing, however, it’s because gravity exists. But gravity is not “nothing”! Also, it is logically absurd that something can create itself, for the self-apparent reason that something would have to first exist in order to be able to do anything, but if it already exists, then it doesn’t need to be created! Much more could be added to this, but I think this will suffice for the intention of this brief commentary.
Secondly, even if we do find something that could explain how all physical things currently operate and relate, it does not explain their ultimate origin, but moreover, it doesn’t account for things that are intrinsically separate from the physical world. Let me give you just one example…
Warning: Partial Movie Spoiler
Some people who are familiar with Stephen Hawking already know this about him, and it is portrayed in the movie (although it’s certainly not the focal point)… Stephen left his wife (after about 30 years of marriage) for another woman. There was a lot of heartache on the part of Jane, his wife (and Stephen as well). But why should there have been any trauma? Apparently the particles in Stephen’s brain simply started moving in such a way that he no longer wanted to be with Jane, but these new particle interactions caused him to more strongly desire to be with one of his nursing assistants. There shouldn’t be any emotional reaction to this occurrence, because as he himself believes, life is nothing more than physics!
To most rational people, however, you cannot explain or account for things such as love, emotion, desire, compassion, empathy, loyalty, volition, will, etc. from the mere interaction of particles. These elements are best accounted for by a transcendent Being who created us in His image and endowed us with these qualities and abilities that are themselves outside of the physical properties of matter and energy. So the point I am making is that ultimately, as much as some would like it to be, the ever allusive “theory of everything” will never truly physically explain “everything”, even if they can better account for many or most of the physical properties of our universe. There are just some questions that cannot be answered by science, and that is very upsetting to some, and eternally comforting to others!
As with all of our other articles, much more could be said about this, but if you have any questions related to this month’s article or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us!