September 14, 2010

"I regard the afterlife as a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark."

59 comments:

TMink said...

For a theoretical phyisicist, he sure lacks an openess to experience and the unseen. There are more things in heaven and earth, Hawking,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Trey

Fred4Pres said...

Okay. There is really no answer to this. If he is right, does it really matter? Nothing to fear but falling asleep. If there is something more, you will find out.

I would think, rather than getting bogged down in images of heavenly hosts playing harps and floating on clouds, he might have a more open mind to what might happen.

Comrade X said...

everything in the universe transforms. that's a scientific law. or it wouldn't be a law. except conciousness.

Fred4Pres said...

We should live our lives as if this is it. Most serious religious people get this already. They think of judgment and having to answer for what you have done. But for a guy like Hitchens or Stephen Hawkins, judgment is self reflection. And I would guess that self judgment is going to be fairly rigorous.

The saddest thing is to die with regrets for what you did not do. For what you did not say.

Scott M said...

There are more things in heaven and earth, Hawking,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


Excellent point. From Hawking's point of view, what if human consciousness exists as standing quantum wavefronts of probability. Releasing something like that from an organic matrix means it's got to go somewhere even it it just migrates over and joins a consensus mentality inside the sun.

If anyone has any idea what I just wrote, please explain it to me so I'll know too :)

elcrain said...

Poor sod. He really doesn't *know.* No one does. So why does he get so exercised about what anyone else believes?

El Pollo Real said...

Hawkings seems content enough. It must bug him though that he cannot really understand his own religion:

"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother."

~Albert Einstein

Drew said...

I have no problem with people who think my beliefs are "fairy stories" . . . live and let live and all that . . . but I've never understood why atheists always feel the need to denigrate or add the little knives, like "for people who are afraid of the dark."

It's as if they can't accept that someone can believe in God or an afterlife for reasons other than fear. That there must be some negative coercion involved. Fear of death. Fear of hell. Fear of punishment. I've met a lot of believers throughout my life, and I've never known a single one whose conversions came because of fear. (It's possible they just refuse to share this fact, I admit.)

I have, on the other hand, met a few atheists or agnostics who admitted fear of death. It would be unbecoming for me to suggest projection on their part.

MadisonMan said...

I regard the afterlife as a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark

I think the exact same thing about the Republican Party Platform, but that doesn't make it the truth.

Belief is such an interesting human concept. I wonder who thought it up originally.

LL said...

I don't have a problem with Hawkings' ideas about afterlife; however, I have a problem with him making fun of other people's beliefs. Seems as if he has some other issues he needs to resolve.

Pogo said...

"I regard the afterlife as..."

Others do not agree with you.
So what?
The discussion is impassable. All possible arguments have been made. Both sides think the other is wrong.

And really, Mr. Hawking, ' a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark.'?
Why do you need to be so insulting of people? Some have considerable intellectual heft, superior even to yours in many respects. Shit, my ex-Governor Jesse Ventura, who had been a professional wrestler, is no intellectual, and he said almost exactly the same thing you did. So that's the best you came up with?

Once there was a man who said 'Get up, pick up your cot, and walk.' And the man was suddenly healed, and he took up his bed and walked. There were witnesses to this. This man was not afraid of the dark. Nor were the people who followed him.

1jpb said...

"So why does he get so exercised about what anyone else believes?"

It's not as if religious folks invest any effort toward influencing the beliefs of others. [And, it's not as if I, who attend an Assemblies of God church, know anything about churches that evangelize.]

traditionalguy said...

The next world would not need Mr Hawkins' talents and he needs to be needed.

garage mahal said...

Stephen Hawking "exercised"?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Perhaps he is trying to rationalize his physical condition without the presence of God. If there is not any God, then there is no reason for his condition.

If you DO believe in a God and in a purpose to life with consequences of actions, it is much harder to come to grips with being so severely crippled. You have to then consider.....why?....why me?....what is my reason for being.

I am fairly agnostic in that, I just don't know and there is no way to know if there is any afterlife until you meet it...or you don't.

However, unlike Hawkings and Lady Gaga....I don't believe we are just meat.

k*thy said...

I've met a lot of believers throughout my life, and I've never known a single one whose conversions came because of fear.

I’ve had quite the opposite experience. Every believer I’ve met freely admits they’ve come to their faith through fear. They’re actually grateful for it.

For those who think faith is "for people who are afraid of the dark" or for those that need a crutch (I think I heard Jesse Ventura say that once), I say, “Well, so what.” People get afraid and people need crutches. There’s no shame in that. And if Hawkins needs facts and numbers and science, I also say, “So what.” If it comforts him, it comforts him.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Pretty arrogant and funny as a result...

"I regard..."

Yeah, Professor, everyone knows you're really smart and all that, but did it ever occur to you that what you "regard" doesn't matter?

After all, in a blink of time, you'll be dust, as will we all. The earth and the universe do not care about us; we do not matter to them.

If there is no God, then humanity does face a rather desperate struggle to matter. If we don't get off this planet, and spread, we run a huge risk of being blotted out.

I suppose Professor Hawking is doing his level best in that regard, so kudos to him.

But really, wouldn't a better answer have been, "Mr. Rose, it's a stupid question, who cares? Ask a better question, such as..." I mean, from his point of view, it is a very stupid question, and he merely rose to the bait.

Then there is the Puddleglum answer (Silver Chair,, C.S. Lewis), which is too long to quote and I can't look it up just now, but it comes from the scene where the baddie is trying to convince the protagonists that there is no world outside the dreary underground place they are being held. And Puddleglum answers, in effect, that the story of Aslan is a far better story than the one she was telling, so even if it's not true, if it's all illusion, he was going to choose the better one over the proffered worse one.

My take on that is: the story of Jesus Christ is far too good a story to be explained away as a "fairy story." Of course it may have been invented, no one can reasonably rule it out. But the story of Jesus and his first followers--which a lot of "smart" people think they know, but they don't know as well as they suppose--is a fact that must be explained. If it isn't true, where did it come from? Why? Who came up with it? Why? How?

Since Professor Hawking chose to give a summary judgment on this story (along with all the others about God and eternity) as "fairy stories," then it would be quite fair to follow up and really dig in.

I suspect but cannot know that he has a rather shallow knowledge of the story of Jesus and his followers, and I suspect but cannot know he has given little thought to it. But the story exists--it either is true or an invention (or some mixture thereof), but either way, it is a very remarkable thing. Why anyone thought it a good idea to believe in a crucified God...

SteveR said...

I don't know, and I know I don't know. I do have faith which comes with a lot of really neat things for me now. If God exists that would be what he'd want.

The fact that he calls it a fairy tale does not speak well of his compassion for his fellow man and when you don't believe in God, I guess that's allright.

traditionalguy said...

How has Hawkins lived this long without the mercy and charity of literally thousands of people? But they wasted their time if there is no God that loves men and encourages men to love others.

Pogo said...

Good points, trad guy and Fr. Fox.

A man in his position really should fear the dark. Clearly he does not, but only by the compassion of others.

Question is, why do they have compassion for those less fortunate? What's the point of it?

And no, I don't buy the evolutionary Just So story that's been used.

Scott M said...

After all, in a blink of time, you'll be dust, as will we all. The earth and the universe do not care about us; we do not matter to them.

As I'm doubtful you've had any, let alone specifically on this topic, discussions with either the earth or the universe, I'm going to have to say you have absolutely no proof at all for this declaration.

You appear to be channeling Dr Manhattan there. Put some pants on.

Chris said...

Lack of an afterlife can be a fairy story for people who are afraid of judgment.

TRO said...

elcrain: "So why does he get so exercised about what anyone else believes?"

Drew: " . . . but I've never understood why atheists always feel the need to denigrate or add the little knives, like "for people who are afraid of the dark."


Well, if he is like most athesists, he has an unexplained sense of guilt deep down in his soul. It makes them lash out at believers for "imposing" their religious morality on them, although none are actually doing so. Then again, to an athiest just saying a prayer for them is imposing.

Thus the "don't judge me" line you hear all the time these days.

Skyler said...

TRO blathered: Well, if he is like most athesists, he has an unexplained sense of guilt deep down in his soul.

What silliness.

You seem to have a strange understanding of atheism. There are all kinds. As an atheist, I insist on being judged. I demand to be judged. I'm not like a christian that abuses scripture interpretation by quoting, "judge not, lest ye be judged." I judge all, and demand the same in return.

bagoh20 said...

God scares different people in different ways.

phx said...

How has Hawkins lived this long without the mercy and charity of literally thousands of people? But they wasted their time if there is no God that loves men and encourages men to love others.

Respectfully, I don't know how anyone can say that. Are you saying you have to be encouraged by a god in order to love others?

elcrain said...

garage mahal: "Stephen Hawking 'exercised?'"

It's called a metaphor. Perhaps you've heard of it? I believe they cover that and other figures of speech in high school English.

Pastafarian said...

Yikes.

elcrain said: "So why does he get so exercised about what anyone else believes?"

That's some biting satire right there, whether it's intentional or not. Yes, he's really worked up into a lather. I half-expected him to stand up out of his chair and scream "Mein Fuhrer!!"

He states that he thinks that the universe behaves according to physical laws, which would be torn asunder by the existence of an all-knowing and infinitely powerful being. This, and the lack of evidence for the existence of this omnipotence, force him to conclude that it's an invention.

As I've stated here before, I do believe that religion is a natural part of the human condition, and that Hawking and many others (myself included) lack a set of traits that allows us to enjoy this...adaptation, this set of behaviors that, no doubt, helps most cope with our own mortality, our sense of injustice, and yes, our fear of the unknown.

He just worded it a little harshly -- "afraid of the dark" implies a childish phobia. Normal adult humans are afraid of death, there's nothing childish or ignorant about it.

Religion serves a purpose; but it costs us one hell of a lot. How many brilliant people have spent their lives in seminaries pondering how many angels could dance on the head of a pin (144,000, if I recall correctly), instead of curing cancer or proving Fermat's last theorem or developing faster semiconductors?

How much capital, monetary and human, has been wasted in "my God is better than your God" pissing contests?

Maybe Hawking's sick of this shit. Give the dude a break, he can't even hold his own dick.

Lynne said...

I think there's more to the belief in an afterlife than just fear of the dark. There's also fear of separation, for example:

When secular critics scoff at the concept of heaven, they usually imagine an Eternal Playground stocked with Goodies for the Faithful. Yet for centuries the idea of an afterlife has offered something else as well: reunion. The agony of separation is temporary; the faithful will meet again in eternity.

The hope of this reunion is meant to smooth the ragged edge of loss. Life without the deceased is unimaginable to the bereaved and eternity is inexplicable to mortals. Placing a loved one in eternity knits the familiar and the inconceivable together in a comforting way.


even the creator of Sherlock Holmes believed in an afterlife.

SteveR said...

Clearly many people view God in human terms, which makes viewing the concept of God, for non believers, an easy proposition.

The existence of all these natural laws that people like Hawking rely on, is only incompatible with a god who is indecisive or willing to bend the rules as circumstances dictate.

He's not sitting on a chair with angels playing harps.

William said...

At a certain level of pain and despair, nada looks like heaven. Nothingness: all embracing, never ending, never changing, forever and ever, amen. I can think of worse after lives. Quadriplegics are entitled to their nihilism.

Paddy O said...

"Quadriplegics are entitled to their nihilism."

But hope is always better. Nihilism only brings despair to others. Hope brings out the possibilities that even the present contains.

And I'm not sure everyone would agree that quadriplegics are entitled to nihilism. Some, in fact, would argue strenuously against that.

Paddy O said...

"Once there was a man who said..."

So true, Pogo.

The Crack Emcee said...

"I believe in God" or "There is a God", or any reference to "God's love" or the afterlife, should be taken with the same level of seriousness as the words "Fluffy likes you".

Scott M said...

"I believe in God" or "There is a God", or any reference to "God's love" or the afterlife, should be taken with the same level of seriousness as the words "Fluffy likes you".

Not if you have any love and/or respect for the person issuing those words. Of course, that sort of thing usually applies only to people not governed by bitterness.

traditionalguy said...

From the minute a human soul enters a sperm and egg duo, until the womb expels the perfectly formed human getting past the knives of the Abortionists, until that helpless infant walks, talks and joins its family of protectors he is no better off than Hawking. We are totally at the mercy of the love of our surrounding family, and will be again by 80 years of age. You cannot tell me that there is no God of love. My real life proves otherwise. And Fluffy the rabbit has never taken care of anyone.

TMink said...

I was not aware that Fluffy died for my sins and then rose from the grave.

I have been WAY underestimating Fluffy.

Evidently.

Trey

Doug Wright said...

It's getting to be very apparent, we'll never know the answer to Hawking unasked question! I want to believe there is an afterlife because it comforts me and allows me to know I'll be with my oldest son again soon. However, perhaps Hawking can explain how this strange universe came into being and how its laws were first propagated.

Somehow I doubt that even he can answer those two questions.

Cheers.

Big Mike said...

Something I can never understand is what's it to you if Steve Hawking -- or Big Mike, for that matter -- don't believe in an afterlife?

Scott M said...

Something I can never understand is what's it to you if Steve Hawking -- or Big Mike, for that matter -- don't believe in an afterlife?

As someone said upthread, Hawking is certainly entitled to his nihilism. However, it's not his belief that irks. It's his dressing down of those that don't share his view as childish. I don't dress him down for not knowing what happened just before the big bang, after all.

A.W. said...

the fact is that the existance of God is unfalsifiable. it is also hard to prove. as such, no one will ever disprove God's existance ever, and people are unlikely to prove He exists in my lifetime. so i find this kind of discussion pointless and boring.

mtrobertsattorney said...

The cruel joke played on atheists like Hawking is this: If he is right, he is forever deprived of knowing that he was right. But if he is wrong, he will have all of eternity to contemplate his colossal intellectual blunder.

It is just the opposite for the believer. If he is wrong, he will never know of his mistake.

Skeptical said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TRO said...

"You seem to have a strange understanding of atheism. There are all kinds. As an atheist, I insist on being judged. I demand to be judged. I'm not like a christian that abuses scripture interpretation by quoting, "judge not, lest ye be judged." I judge all, and demand the same in return."

Note that I used said "most athiests" when I was "blathering." Most means not all so I assume you fall in that category, despite your quite palpable defensiveness.

I'm don't really have an opinion on the whole "demand to be judged" thing you got going, but I do know that philosophy is not the rule for, again, most athiests. They get riled-up by religion for far less than being judged. And by religion I mean Christianity since they don't say much about any of the others.

Paul Snively said...

What's particularly amusing about this is that Dr. Hawking most certainly knows Frank Tipler and is familiar with his Omega Point theory. Perhaps Dr. Hawking doesn't see the Omega Point theory as "fear of the dark," or perhaps he thinks the theory is bad physics (and I'd love to hear his opinion on that), but it's worth remembering that there is at least one theory positing an afterlife that qualifies as a falsifiable scientific theory.

Revenant said...

there is at least one theory positing an afterlife that qualifies as a falsifiable scientific theory.

Even if that was an accurate description of Tipler's work, the fact that something is a falsifiable scientific theory does not mean that it should be taken seriously, let alone believed in.

For example, "the World Trade Center was deliberately destroyed by a coalition of Jews and neoconservatives, and the evidence pointing to radical Islam as a cause has just been manufactured by a compliant media" is a falsifiable scientific theory. Pardon me if I continue rolling my eyes at anyone who believes it. :)

Revenant said...

How has Hawkins lived this long without the mercy and charity of literally thousands of people? But they wasted their time if there is no God that loves men and encourages men to love others.

If belief in God is the only thing that can cause you to act decently, please continue believing in him.

Revenant said...

Note that I used said "most athiests" when I was "blathering."

So you were only "mostly" talking out of your ass, then?

TRO said...

"So you were only "mostly" talking out of your ass, then?"

Well, based on this comment my ass would definitely be more erudite than what's coming out of your mouth

Revenant said...

Well, based on this comment my ass would definitely be more erudite than what's coming out of your mouth

Yes, your expressions of ignorant bigotry were quite nicely worded.

Jane said...

Fr Martin Fox and I both thought of the Puddleglum story when we read this.

Poor Mr. Hawking might enjoy it, too. Perhaps he needs a few fairy stories in his life.

I know it's not at all a scientific thing to say, but we were observing a pencil in water today in our science class, and how it looks bent. We were talking about the sun's rays and the atmosphere. I thought of St. Paul in the "love" passage in 1 Corinthians 13, who said how we "see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known".

The apostles, who had been with who they thought was the God of the universe, seemed much more motivated by love than by fear.

Revenant said...

The apostles, who had been with who they thought was the God of the universe, seemed much more motivated by love than by fear

With the possible exception of Peter. :)

Paul Snively said...

Revenant: Even if that was an accurate description of Tipler's work...

Which it is.

Revenant: ...the fact that something is a falsifiable scientific theory does not mean that it should be taken seriously.

That's exactly what "X is a falsifiable theory" means.

Revenant: For example, "the World Trade Center was deliberately destroyed by a coalition of Jews and neoconservatives, and the evidence pointing to radical Islam as a cause has just been manufactured by a compliant media" is a falsifiable scientific theory.

Sure, so it's worth taking seriously long enough to falsify it. Thankfully, that takes about five minutes. No one's been able to do the same with the Omega Point Theory in 15 years.

jamboree said...

From the deaths I've been near, dying is rarely like falling asleep. It's nasty - like being murdered by an unseen force. I have a friend whose aunt died sitting up in bed eating a piece of her favorite pie and her family sitting hear her didn't even notice until she was gone , but that's the only time I've heard of a death actually being peaceful.

It's funny....when I was young and searching on this level, I remember Hawking's previous words having a big impact on me. (A Smart Guy, An Expert). I puzzled over their ambiguity; it had great emotional import, etc.

Now after having had the time to look into it and come to my own conclusions, I could give a fuck what he says. There is no emotional resonance whatsoever. His words may as well come from some anonymous guy on the web, and definitely have less importance than my own thoughts and experiences on the matter.

Revenant said...

Which it is.

Not really. Parts are falsifiable, others aren't. Even more amusing is that if his theory about the information processing capacity of the universe holds water, the logical implication is that we're simulations. We can't have an afterlife because we aren't alive in the first place. :)

That's exactly what "X is a falsifiable theory" means.

Er, no. "X is a falsifiable theory" means "it is possible, at least in theory, to demonstrate that X is false". There are an infinite number of theories which are both (a) falsifiable and (b) deeply stupid. For example, "Pluto is made of chocolate" or "Venus is inhabited by dinosaurs".

el polacko said...

my goodness.. 'believers' are certainly a very touchy bunch, aren't they? hate to break it to them, but a lot of folks think that their beliefs are pretty silly. funny how they suddenly start screaming about respect and how they 'know the truth' when confronted with anyone who doesn't buy into their group fantasies..they don't show a lot of respect for people who think differently, do they?

Original Mike said...

But they wasted their time if there is no God that loves men and encourages men to love others.

You really believe this? How sad for you.

Fr Martin Fox said...

I said:

After all, in a blink of time, you'll be dust, as will we all. The earth and the universe do not care about us; we do not matter to them.

Scott M rejoined, cleverly--too cleverly for me alas:

As I'm doubtful you've had any, let alone specifically on this topic, discussions with either the earth or the universe, I'm going to have to say you have absolutely no proof at all for this declaration.

You appear to be channeling Dr Manhattan there. Put some pants on.


I'm not clever enough for the Dr. Manhattan and pants reference, but I chose to be amused rather than irked by it--generally a better option all around...

But as to conversations with the earth and the universe: all too true; I have not had such conversations. It is also true that I cannot rule out the possibility of someone succeeding in this venture, but that seems to miss the point.

I am wrecklessly assuming that there is no personality or consciousness to either the earth or the universe such that they can be said to "care" about any of us. I didn't know that needed to be demonstrated. What might be the basis for entertaining such a hypothesis of the universe, or earth, "caring" about anything?

Fr Martin Fox said...

Pastafarian (and others ask) why it matters what someone believes about God...

Well, if God and eternity are real, then it raises the question of salvation vs. damnation. It seems rather obvious that being happy for eternity is more important than being happy for a finite time (here); and of course, maximizing happiness in both is best.

Some may be confident that our choices here will not matter in eternity, and I welcome having them explain the basis of their confidence. But it is not at all unreasonable to think otherwise.

Someone else asked, in effect, why should I care what Professor Hawking believes? Well, I don't want him to go to hell.

I don't like it when other Christians say we Catholics are going to hell, I like it even less that they tell me that; but however unpleasant, is better than the alternative--they think I'm going to hell, and they prefer not to warn me. Now that is pretty ugly.

Pastafarian further says:

Religion serves a purpose; but it costs us one hell of a lot. How many brilliant people have spent their lives in seminaries pondering how many angels could dance on the head of a pin (144,000, if I recall correctly), instead of curing cancer or proving Fermat's last theorem or developing faster semiconductors?

Oh come now, you can do better than that. Which theologians were you referring to? And what is the basis for assuming that if there were fewer theologians, or none, that we would have made further progress on the sorts of things that Pastafarian considers useful?

(And I'd really like a citation on there actually being any theologian who spent much time on the "angels on the head of a pin" question. It's fine as turn of phrase, but if you're going to claim someone actually did that, prove it please. I call "urban legend"--because your answer, without very much thought on my part, is clearly wrong.)

How much capital, monetary and human, has been wasted in "my God is better than your God" pissing contests?

No idea. Your comment reminds me of the complaint about "religious wars" and how their existence somehow disproves the truth of one -- or all -- religions. Aside from that being a non sequitur, the other answer is, great, we don't fight so many religious wars any more; do you prefer the wars we fight for other reasons--and why?

It seems to me you spend on things that matter. If God exists and our choices here might determine our happiness for eternity, then that would seem to justify a fair amount of expense--of money, time or even pondering.