One hot summer afternoon at a church youth campout I asked about a dozen and a half thoughtful teenagers in my congregation to consider a key point from legendary physicist Stephen Hawking's most recent book The Grand Design.
I read the following excerpts from the London Telegraph of Sept. 2 for their analysis:
"Hawking said: 'Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist...'
"In June this year Prof Hawking told a Channel 4 series that he didn't believe that a 'personal' God existed. He told Genius of Britain: 'The question is: is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can't understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second.'"
I asked the teens to analyze those statements. To be fair, I had to read them twice. It was hot and they'd stayed up late the night before sitting around the campfire, visiting and admiring the constellations that are impossible to see from their own backyards in the city. Their mental wheels were turning, but they needed one more reading, emphasizing the key phrases—"Because there is a law such as gravity" and "the universe...was...determined by a law of science."
Suddenly they had it! One of the girls articulated the problem first. Although the great professor understood the amazing complexity of modern scientific thinking, he was presupposing the existence of the natural laws of physics that govern the universe. (Or, instead of universe, shall we say "multiverse" to reflect the current "M-theory" that conjectures we live in one of many existing universes?)
Another of the teens chimed in, voicing the real killer question that defeats modern atheistic thinking: "Where did the laws of physics come from?"
Stephen Hawking and his coauthor and leading Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow reason from the premise that those laws do exist. We expected that because that's where most of modern science starts thinking. Based on the laws of physics, they can envision things like the Big Bang origin of the—or at least our—universe.
So Professor Hawking said, "Because there is such a law as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing." But as Julie Andrews, playing Maria in The Sound of Music, sang with remarkable scientific veracity, "Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could"!
The point is, the laws of physics are not nothing. Even our tired teenagers knew that.
The law gap
This is a great gap in atheistic thinking: the existence of physical law.
So where do laws come from?
Consider the specific evidence of the laws of society. National and local laws do not simply generate themselves, nor can we claim that they have always existed. They originate with people.
Likewise, where did the laws of physics that intricately govern the universe come from? Because these physical laws are so powerful and constant, they must come from a transcendently powerful lawmaker and sustainer (law enforcer). It's ludicrous to simply claim that the laws of physics, mathematics, chemistry and other sciences have just always existed.
What's the conclusion? In spite of and with respect for Professors Hawking's and Mlodinow's credentials and expertise, there is a God. That God is the great Lawmaker and Sustainer who created the laws of physics that govern the universe of His making.
Turtle laws of physics
Stephen Hawking included a wonderful story with an unexpected lesson on the first page of his 1988 best-seller, A Brief History of Time.
"A well-known scientist...once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady...said: 'What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.' The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, 'What is the tortoise standing on?' 'You're very clever, young man, very clever,' said the old lady. 'But it's turtles all the way down!'"
For modern science to claim that the laws of physics have always existed with no Lawmaker is like saying, "It's turtles all the way back."
Yet at the same time Professor Hawking was absolutely correct to choose as the title for his book The Grand Design, because, in fact, there was and is a grand design being worked out here below and you can be a part of it!
To learn more, please read our freshly rewritten free booklet What Is Your Destiny?
Note: Our offices will be closed until Oct. 4 for the Feast of Tabernacles break. The next commentary will be posted that week.