Stephen Hawking’s brain is trapped in a body that can do little more than sit, and even with this he needs assistance. At 68, he has not slowed down even though he is almost completely paralyzed due to “a neuro-muscular dystrophy,” a degenerative neurological disease that is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease). His condition has worsened over the years. Even so, the theoretical physicist has not stopped working and thinking. He is a prolific author. His best seller A Brief History of Time stayed on the British Sunday Times bestseller list for 237 weeks.
His latest theoretical venture is the claim that the cosmos is alive with life. He will attempt to make his case in a new documentary series for the Discovery Channel beginning Sunday, May 9th.1
I find this all very interesting. With no real empirical data, Hawking and other scientists are adamant that alien life, some of it far superior than our own, exists among the innumerable galaxies, but they are not willing to believe that God exists. Lord (Martin) Rees, the Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, warned that aliens might prove to be beyond human understanding. “I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive,” Rees said. “Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.” It’s OK for scientists to postulate that unseen aliens may be beyond our understanding, but don’t ever let a scientist suggest that that a God who is beyond our understanding might exist. That wouldn’t be scientific! Long before Lord Rees postulated such a theory, the Bible describes God as far superior to us in a way that mocks know-it-all scientists:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9).
To believe what Lord Rees believes is science, but to suggest that there is a God who is beyond our understanding and has made Himself known to us is superstition.
We’re told that Hawking’s “logic” leads him to believe in a cosmos filled with aliens that sprung from nothing, but he and his less than superior scientists (given that alien life forms are probably more superior than us as they maintain) cannot logically formulate the belief that a Superior Being put life on this planet. They’re willing to believe that nothing gave rise to something, but they cannot conceive that God gave rise to everything.
Hawking’s logic about alien life forms takes him in another direction, and it worries him. Maybe some of these unknown aliens could pose a threat:
Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity. He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”
It’s the worst parts of the TV series “V.” Philosopher Richard Rorty (1931–2007) provided a good thought-provoking moral experiment for naturalistic/materialistic theoreticians like Hawking and Rees. Rorty challenges atheists to offer a compelling satisfactory naturalistic answer to the following:
Aliens from another planet, with vastly superior intelligence to humans, land on earth in order to consume humans as food. What argument could you make to convince the aliens not to eat us that would not also apply to our consumption of beef?2
Rorty’s morality question was done with flair in episode 89 of The Twilight Zone, based on the story To Serve Man by Damon Knight that first appeared in the January 1953 issue of If magazine. A race of seemingly benevolent aliens known as Kanamits,3 “a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time,” as Rod Serling described them, land on Earth and bring with them advanced technology with the promise of a utopian world. Initially wary of the intentions of such a highly advanced race, over time even the most skeptical humans are convinced of their good will. A book that one of the aliens leaves behind even carries the title To Serve Man. When the Kanamits share their advanced technology and quickly solve all of Earth’s greatest woes by eradicating hunger, disease, and the need for warfare, even more people are convinced that the Kanamits are alien benefactors. Earthlings sign up to visit the Kanamits’ home planet, which must be a paradise.
All is not well, however, when a code-breaker discovers the Kanamits’ true intentions: Their book, To Serve Man, is a cookbook, and all their gifts were designed to make humanity complacent, much like fattening pigs or cows before they are slaughtered. Here’s how host Serling concluded the episode:
“The recollections of one Michael Chambers, with appropriate flashbacks and soliloquy. Or more simply stated, the evolution of man, the cycle of going from dust to dessert, the metamorphosis from being the ruler of a planet to an ingredient in someone’s soup. It’s tonight’s bill of fare from the Twilight Zone.”
Evolutionists are hungry for a close encounter of the third kind as they listen for signals from the distant reaches of space. But what if we make contact and find out that we are low on the alien food chain? Hollywood produces two types of alien encounter characters: Fuzzy and charming and downright vicious. Do the “extraterrestrials belong to the Spielberg school of cute’n’cuddly [E.T.], or the Tim Burton institute for the murderously deranged [Mars Attacks!]?”4 But given the evolutionary dogma, does it really matter, and on what moral grounds could we cosmic Neanderthals object? Hawking can’t say, and that’s what worries him.
- Jonathan Leake, “Don’t talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking,” TimesOnline (April 25, 2010). [↩]
- Quoted by Richard Mankiw at http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2007/06/richard-rorty.html. [↩]
- Richard Kiel plays the head Kanamit. Kiel played the “Jaws” character in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). He reprised his “Jaws” character in the film Inspector Gadget (1999). In 2002, Kiel wrote his autobiography, Making it BIG in the Movies. He is often confused with Ted Cassidy (1932–1979), “Lurch” in The Addams Family, where he gets the short end of the stick in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) when he declares that there are no rules in a knife fight. [↩]
- Anjana Ahuja, “What if the aliens decide they don’t like us?,” The Times (January 27, 2010). [↩]