In Stephen Hawking’s forthcoming book, The Grand Design, Hawking delves into M-theory (based on string theory, and dealing with the structure of the universe) as the mechanism for explaining not only the origins of our universe, but the multiverse, and furthermore attempts to explain that gravity, and not the very finger of God, is responsible for it’s creation – that the cosmos is created over and over again as a natural process, and not as a miracle by an active and pioneering deity producing a singular and unique instance of creation.
And, as you might expect, this has a fair number of people upset, specifically those whose faith rests in a belief system that must include a miracle by an active and pioneering deity producing a singular and unique instance of creation. In other words, there is a lot of equating “God is not needed for Creation” with “God is not needed,” a stance which reflects a lack of understanding, of both quantum theory and what it was that Hawking was actually saying.
First, let me step aside for a moment and state that a belief in God that is not questioned, tested, challenged and drawn under the white-hot light of critical thinking is nothing but superstition, a grand disguise for idol-worship hiding behind the illusion of infallible text and indisputable moral compasses. Acknowledging that religious faith in the existence of God is not a logical matter (it can’t be, by it’s very definition), having that faith must be in order to be counted amongst the sane. Only a fool would hold up any written text and proclaim “this is the truth, because the text itself says so.” Only a bigger fool states that anything, from anywhere, is infallible and consists of the very Word of God. Neither you nor I can provide a single parchment, not one tablet, containing the very script of the Lord; all we have are the writings of Men, and the writings of Men should be judged harshly, fairly and often.
All of that said – and the same should not only apply to religion and philosophy, but to scientific rigor as well – Hawking’s assessment is pointed at Creationism directly. The very idea that God created the universe and all within it as a purposeful, eloquent, miraculous deed comes under direct assault by the scientific assessment. According to the theories he is professing, the universe is created and re-created over and over through natural processes, and is not a one-time-only sort of affair with a beginning and an end. This seems to jive with the universe being a more Newtonian affair in regard to the structure of the cosmos, a system based on causality and entropy rather than a grandiose punishment/reward system for “wayward” souls.
It took many years for me to reach a point where I no longer felt guilty for believing that everyone would eventually come to be one with God, that the concepts of eternal Hell and the threat of everlasting judgement were for holding power and threat over people’s heads, and not the work of an all-powerful Lord who has laid out the very fabric of the universe before us. You and I have bodies are made from the stuff of supernovae and stars long dead, and souls made from the very essence of Creation in whatever form it takes; I have scientific fact to support the one, and reasoned faith to support the other. If this cosmos was brought forth into being by a recurring process, if all eleven (or more!) dimensions of reality were brought into existence this same way, if the whole of trans-dimensional reality is fluxing, ever-changing and eternal, this is not proof that God does not exist.
Rather it may be proof that your religion is false. And here is the rub for most people, including myself: if you are unwilling to change what you believe in the face of what learning and reason tells you may be true, then your religion is nothing but superstition. God does not change (or even exist!) based on what your religion says He is, or your learning, or your research. God is God, and only your understanding of how He works in the cosmos is what changes. Today, Hawking says He is not necessary for the universe’s creation – a few short years ago, he said that he may indeed be. This is the way of science, and all learning, to admit previous assumptions may have been wrong, to forge ahead with new ideas, and to rework old theorems and stances, not one of which will ever change exactly what and who God is.