Fragments Of Reality
Atheism and the ashes of Stephen Hawking
Published : Friday, 13 July, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 598
On 15 June 2018 ashes of Stephen Hawking were buried in the Westminster Abbey between the graves of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton. His grave stone was inscribed: "Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking" - an English translation of the Latin words on the nearby grave of Newton, the 17th-century scientist who discovered the laws of gravity. The stone was also inscribed with one of Hawking's equations, known as Hawking-Bekenstein equation describing the entropy of a black hole.
More than 1,000 people attended a service of thanksgiving in the Westminster Abbey for the physicist, who died on 14 March 2018 at the age 76 after decades of living with motor neuron disease. Among many of the distinguish guests, Astronomer royal Sir Martin Rees, Nobel laureate in Physics Professor Kip Thorne, Astronaut Tim Peake, actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Hawking's first wife Jane and his daughter Lucy were present.
Kip Thorne paid tribute to Hawking by mentioning that "He absolutely refused to let his physical disability get in the way of doing great science or get in the way of having great fun". Martin Rees told the memorial service, "His name will live in the annals of science� nobody else since Einstein has done more to deepen our understanding of space and time."
Some object to the burial of Hawking in the Westminster Abbey and also object to what the Dean of Westminster, Reverend Dr John Hall, said: "It is entirely fitting that the remains of Professor Stephen Hawking are to be buried in the Abbey, near those of distinguished fellow scientists such as "Sir Isaac Newton was buried in the Abbey in 1727. Charles Darwin was buried beside Isaac Newton in 1882." He added: "We believe it to be vital that science and religion work together to seek to answer the great questions of the mystery of life and of the universe."
Dean of Westminster also mentioned that 'we come to celebrate the life and achievements of Stephen Hawking in this holy place where God has been worshipped for over a thousand years and where kings and queens and the great men and women of our national history and international influence are memorialised. We shall bury his mortal remains with those of his fellow scientists�.we shall with love commend his immortal soul to almighty God.'
After the service, Hawking's words, set to music by Greek composer Vangelis, were being beamed into space from a European Space Agency satellite dish in Spain. Hawking's daughter, Lucy, said the music would be aimed at "the nearest black hole, 1A 0620-00," more than 3,000 light years from Earth.
Couple of years ago the Sunday Times reported that Hawking was 'an atheist who said that belief in the afterlife was nothing more than a fairy story for people afraid of death. So, church is not the best place for Hawkings' ashes. But the way of his burial raise the question-does atheism in a societal level dead?
In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris wrote, "In fact, 'atheism' is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a 'non-astrologer' or a 'non-alchemist'. Harris added that, "Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs."
Certainly Hawking did not advocate for any religion and disclaimed any belief in life after death but the word 'God' or 'god' has been mentioned many times in his book. At the end of his book A Brief History of Time, Hawking wrote that if scientists succeed in formulating a "theory of everything" - a description of the universe that would neatly and elegantly explain all its dimensions and interacting forces, at both the infinitely small level of subatomic particles and the immensely large scale of the galaxies - "we would know the mind of God."
We know what he meant by this from an interview with El Mundo in 2014, where he mentioned that when we know less of science it was natural to believe that God created the universe but when we know more then as Hawking put it "We would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn't." Hawking added that "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail�.there is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers."
We have further literature that suggests that Hawking dealt 'God' issue respectfully. In an interview in 2007 with Reuters Hawking said, "I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science". He added that "The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws."
It is a fact that a fine tuning is necessary for the universe to exist at all. As an example, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by millionth of a fraction, then no stars could have been formed at all. Stephen Hawking has described it as follows: "If one considers the possible constants and laws that could have emerged, the odds against a universe that has produced life like ours are immense," and "I think there are clearly religious implications whenever you start to discuss the origins of the universe."
We may recall what Albert Einstein wrote is that "Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the law of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort."
So, religion as a subject matter is not going at all from the discussion. In his book 'Seven Types of Atheism, John Gray argued that science cannot replace a religious view of the world, since there is no such thing as the 'scientific world view'. Gray added that 'a method of inquiry rather than a settled body of theories, science yields different views of the world as knowledge advances.' As an example, before Darwin science painted a world of fixed species but Darwinian Theory show that the species change over time.
Above all, whatever happened in individual level when a person was alive might not be applicable in a societal level. 900-year-old abbey is the resting place of a pantheon of British historical figures, including kings and queens, political leaders, writers and scientist including Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens and Issac Newton. So this is really an honour for Hawking which he deserve.
The writer lives and works in UK