It seems lately that every time I read the news there’s some new pronouncement by Stephen Hawking that we need to get humanity into space soon if we don’t want the human race to die. He started off saying that it needed to be within 1000 years, and now we’re down to 100. I wouldn’t be surprised if next week he didn’t put out a press release saying that we’ve got 37 days to get humanity into space or we’re all doomed.
Now, before you think I’m going to argue that Stephen Hawking is an idiot, let me first say that I have the utmost respect for the man and for his accomplishments to science. I may not actually have any idea what any of these accomplishments are, but I know black holes are in there somewhere. And lots and lots of math.
The problem I have with Stephen Hawking’s pronouncements is that he simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s a very good astrophysicist and possibly the smartest man alive. However, his field is environmentalism or space travel or asteroids or whatever – his field is astrophysics. It’s true that he’s a smart guy, but he’s no more qualified to make big pronouncements about the end of the world than I am. And, in turn, I’m no more qualified to make big pronouncements about these things than anybody else. I’d be willing to bet that nobody really has what takes to make big pronouncements like this because we simply don’t have enough information about the issue. Humanity may be ending and it may not. To say that we’ve got some particular deadline before the plug is pulled, however, implies a level of precision that we simply don’t have.
A similar thing came up in 2014 when Mr. Hawking stated that there is no God and that His existence simply isn’t possible. I’m not sure what Mr. Hawking’s background is, but I can say that my Master’s Degree in Theology, when combined with my scientific knowledge, makes me a little more qualified to talk about God than Mr. Hawking. So, let’s hear what I, a learned person and arguable expert, has to say about this issue:
There’s no verifiable evidence for or against the existence of God. To say that “He exists” or “He doesn’t exist” is premature. To say anything else is a judgment call based in non-scientific reasoning.
See what I did there? With my fairly good knowledge of both science and modern theology I was able to definitively say that I don’t actually have any reason to believe in God or not. I mean, I do believe in God, but this is not based in science – to say that my belief is in any way scientific is 100% wrong.
I wish Mr. Hawking would have the modesty to realize that perhaps he doesn’t know everything. He may very well be right that humanity will die if we don’t move to Mars next week and he may very well be right that God doesn’t exist. However, he has no evidence to state either of these opinions as facts. For now, he’ll have to admit that its what he thinks and not what he knows. And in science, that matters very much.