When Stephen Hawking writes a book, people pay attention. His latest volume, The Grand Design, coauthored by Leonard Mlodinow, has made a media splash because Hawking, who used “god language” in his earlier works, has come to the conclusion that there is no need for any sort of god to explain the origin of the universe.
As far as I can tell, there is nothing new or groundbreaking in this book. Instead, it is a very readable explanation of how the laws of physics—especially quantum mechanics and general relativity, which is the theory of gravitation—can explain how we got here with no need for divine intervention.
Basically, from the reviews I have read (I confess I have not read the book), Hawking argues that our universe, with its hundreds of billions of galaxies, is just one of a huge multitude of universes that have been spawned within the larger multiverse, which we cannot see. Each of these baby universes has its own laws of physics; ours just happens to be one that has laws that work well for forming heavier atoms, stars, planets, and life.
Let’s say the basic outline of the author’s story is all true, that there is a larger multiverse that contains or creates baby universes. Think of the Wood between the Worlds in The Magician’s Nephew in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. Let’s even say that this multiverse really did create the universe we live in. This still doesn’t solve the basic questions that Hawking and Mlodinow are seeking to answer: Why is there something rather than nothing? Is God Necessary?
This goes back to the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Every effect has a cause. What caused the universe? If the answer is, “the multiverse” or “the laws of physics,” then all the authors have accomplished is to put the question back one step. What caused the multiverse to exist? Has it existed forever? If so, why and how? Did it cause itself to exist? The same questions need to be asked of the laws of physics, or perhaps of the deeper, underlying laws of the multiverse. What is the origin of these laws? To go back to the Chronicles of Narnia: Where did the “Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time” come from?
To propose that “God” is the answer to these questions is certainly at least as rational as to propose that the multiverse has existed forever or that it created itself. I would say that the “God option” is in reality the most rational answer, as the first option—the multiverse has existed forever—doesn’t answer the “Why is there something rather than nothing?” question, and the idea of a self-creating multiverse is inherently illogical.
The Washington Post review of The Grand Design is here.
Grace and Peace