Friday, March 16, 2018

Did Stephen Hawking know the mind of God?

One of the finest minds had left the world – I am referring to the demise of Stephen Hawking. I used the word ‘mind’ to refer to him – wondering what his ‘mind’ or to put it precisely, his consciousness must be thinking now after having left his body and the world. The more he was talking about a role or no role for God in creation and Universe, the less we saw him think about what would happen to ‘him’ – his mind or self or consciousness, once his physical existence ceases on the earth. As per law of conservation of energy, his consciousness also must continue to exist and can’t vanish when the physical body dies.

He had an explanation for it. He recognised mind or thoughts as a product of the brain and theorised only one life. He once told the Guardian,

“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; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”  

Accepting his computer analogy, the question comes how does the computer work? Computer is only hardware. It needs a programme, a software chip to make it work. If brain is a computer, from where does it get its programmed chip? From where did he get the programme for his brain that enabled him to explain the cosmos that no other person could explain?

Another problem with the computer analogy is that all computers are alike and the way they are programmed is also the same. Are all people the same with respect to their brain power?  There is yet another problem. Without power source the computer can’t work. For the computer the power comes from external source. From where did his computer- brain draw its power is a question that Hawking was not asked, and perhaps he did not think about it. If asked, he could have dismissed it as just an analogy, but the fact remains that no analogy can explain human existence.

Interestingly by his own words and his life he had left a strong message on the existence of God.  Quoting from the TIME article,  

Though Hawking rejected the conventional notion of God or a creator, he fundamentally believed that the universe and life have meaning, according to the New York Times.
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist,” Hawking said of the meaning of life. “Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”

He urged the people to watch the cosmos and try to make sense of what makes it exist. Shouldn’t the same logic be applied to our own existence also? He did touch upon it in the last line in the above quote, but made it a kind of self-improvement suggestion.

Life’s difficulties are different for different people. Everyone wants to succeed but reality may not be the same as one expected. Why is it so? Why does some people succeed and many don’t? Why do some people succeed with less effort or against all odds like how he himself could achieve, despite his ailment.

And there are those who never succeed and those who never even see the light of the day, say, the kids that die in the womb or die after birth. Can we say that the computer was bad or that the programme was bad for them?  Did he ever think of this kind of vast number of discrepancies among the people of all times in the past and the present? This doesn’t exclude the animals too that have brains. What for the animals are living and what have they exhibited? The most basic element of humaneness, namely compassion can be seen in animal mothers. The best survival instinct can be seen in the animal world. But why are they born as animals?

The issue is Hawking failed to see beyond the physical Universe. Even in the case of Universe there is a basic feature that establishes a need for God. Let me explain it with pot-analogy.

Mud goes into making a pot. The pot is the final product but the mud is not exactly the first product. It has come to the state of mud after having come through a series of changes that one can say, right from the primordial state of the Universe. The pot is made from the substances that were once in the cosmic dust. But what for are they made? Unless the pot has a utility, say for storage or for cooking, there is no meaning to its existence. Numerous pots can be made and they would be just piled up in a corner and someday would break up. Is it for that reason, the pot has been made - the pot that traces its existence right from the initial state of the formation of the Universe?

Only when there is a meaning to its existence, say, by way of some utility or expression, can we say that the purpose of the creation of the pot has been fulfilled.

The same with our body – which is nothing but the product of a series of changes and events that cosmic dust underwent for 13 billion years. Like the pot, our body has to have a purpose for existence.

The pot does not know that it exists, we know that we exist. That is where a qualitative difference comes between us, the sentient and the pot, the non-sentient – though both are the products of the Universe.

The pot does not know the utility that it has. We are supposed to know. And Hawking had given an idea about what to know (i.e., cosmos). But that is not the only one to know, as there are a plethora of factors that man should know.

The pot does not know how it was created, whereas we know, thanks to scientists.

The pot does not know why it was created; unfortunately Hawking also does not seem to know why he was there and why he had to endure the kind of physical suffering for nearly half a century.
Hawking once said,  

God is the name people give to the reason we are here,” he said. “But I think that reason is the laws of physics rather than someone with whom one can have a personal relationship. An impersonal God.”

He merely harped on the physical existence of the Universe. By knowing the physical laws of the Universe, one can say that we know the mind of God, said he. Science can explain what and how of the Universe, but why the Universe came into existence and why we are here thinking about it has no answer in science.

No science and no religion of the world except VEDANTA can tell us why we are created, why the Universe was created.

If the pot has a purpose behind its creation, so too man has a purpose in his creation, or shall I say, in his existence. Hawking does recognise the strong anthropic principle for a divine purpose in creation in his book A brief history of time while outlining the minute changes in the values of electrical charge of the electrons and the four-dimensions that make possible for creation to have come so far. He raises objections to these but then they are weak. Perhaps a long history of Biblical teaching on earth centric creation had made him sceptical.

He does concede that the solar system is a pre-requisite for our existence and this is further linked to a chain of cosmic events in the past. But his doubt is why there should be so many galaxies. He wonders,

“But there does not seem to be need for all those other galaxies, nor for the universe to be so uniform and similar in every direction and on the large scale.”

If only he had thought about how human life springs, he would have found a reason for this situation. Human life is seeded by a single sperm, but it needs nearly a million sperms per cc as companion, to be able to fertilize the egg to give rise to life!  

Every question he has raised on origin and fate of the universe has an answer in Vedanta and in the form of different deities of Hinduism.

The Universe was hot in the beginning and it continues to be of same temperature as known from the microwave background radiation.

The reason is that the Universe thrives in the womb of God – the Hiranyagarbha

The womb analogy has been given by sages for, it is said, whatever is there in macrocosm, has its replica in microcosm too. The mother and her womb growing a life inside it, is a replica of the cosmic womb of Creation.

By this womb analogy, a basic question of role of God is solved. God is not like a potter who creates a pot from mud - in which case the potter is different from the mud and the pot. But the cosmic womb is part of God and not different or away from God.

The womb analogy shows that whatever is there is part of himself - and it receives the vital food from his own body! He as a mother supplies all that is needed for its growth.

As mother, he is perfectly aware of what is happening inside the womb, its growth and the supply to be given for its growth.

The fact is without him there is no womb and there is no growth of Universe.

Hiranyagarbha Shaligram.

Now looking at the way the womb gives room for life to grow, in the beginning there was singularity, to use the term of cosmic science. From that the foetus grows into a mass of cells. At that state the cells were together, were close enough - but as they continue to grow they move part from each other to form different organelles. That is comparable to how quantum mechanics and general relativity seem to be incompatible with each other, but are supposed to be unified at one time (in the beginning).

As the mass within the womb grows into specific shape having distinct functions, the atmospherics inside the womb does not change – an explanation for the uniformity in background microwave radiation.

A full grown foetus must be born as a child and expelled out.

The beauty of Hiranyagarbha is that it is not the physical form, but a full grown consciousness – call it a soul (but it is atman in Vedanta) – will exit the womb when it is ready, meaning, when it is aware of why it was trapped inside the womb and had prepared itself to exit.

So this womb is an eternal womb in existence. It exists because its mother – the God exists.

God does not ‘create’ it out of something. It is part of him that keeps growing and germinating life. This is one dimension of creation - that is personified in the form of Narayana in reclining posture. Etymologically Narayana means who exists in everything and in whom everything exists. The womb of Narayana perfectly fits with this etymology.

Every being, both sentient and non-sentient is part of this womb and inside this womb. Someone who is part of the whole cannot grasp the whole while being part of it. He has to come out of it to see how it looks. For this happen one must know that ‘one’ is different from the part, that is, the body. What we call as one self, or consciousness is not the same as the body or any part of the body, even the brain – as Hawking thought! It is different from that and has come to occupy that body. It comes out at death and gets into another body as birth until it realises what it is actually.

Therefore the first realisation needs to be identifying oneself as different from one’s body. Sadly, Hawking could not go beyond an identification of himself with his brain. But after death, he would have realised – not an afterlife – but life as an eternal force!


Shanthi Narayanan said...

A very informative and interesting write up. I particularly liked your last line - "not an afterlife but life as an eternal force". Wow ! Your analogies are wonderful. It was insightful to read about your explanation of why multiple galaxies exist.

rk said...

Thanks Madam Ji for a wonderful article. SH views are based on Abrahamic religious theology and his Christian upbringing. He was an atheist but he still carried the residual burden of his Christian theology and upbringing. For him,God is someone sitting in heaven and decided to created the universe one day ( God of Christianity is formless but sits on heaven, what sort of chair He will need??) Christianity does not have an answer as to why God created the universe. Problem is, there is separation of God and His creation there. We have no such issues here, Ishwara's ( I don't like the word God when we talk about our Sasthras) Nimita karana/Upadhana karanas are one and same, the maker and the material is one and the same.This concept probably never occurred to SH. Pity.
I am half way through the first volume of Mundaka upanishad ( by Pujya sri Swamy Dhayanada Saraswathi Ji and His commentary) and this is exactly what I was reading last night! Coincidence! Thanks again for a great article.

jayasree said...

Dear Mr rk, Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

rk said...

This is interesting, I read it elsewhere!!!
Despite Hawking’s atheism, the Cambridge service will be held in one of the city’s churches and the Westminster Abbey service will be a religious one with prayers and hymns. The family is yet to confirm whether the late scientist will be buried or cremated.

jayasree said...

Thought that Westerners respect the belief system of others and continue to do so even after their death. Or is it true that Hawking was really atheistic and irreligious? Or was it just a posturing triggered by the science he knew? Anyway the happenings look strange.

rk said...

My two cents. Hawking surely would have written a will regarding how his body should be treated following his death and as an atheist, he would have DEFINITELY insisted on a non Christian religious burial. If he did not, he probably was a crypto Christian. I remember the story about Dr Fred Hollow, the great Australian eye surgeon and a philanthropist and an atheist. “ Never ever let these Christian clergy bast...s come anywhere near my body “ or something in that line, he apparently had said!

rk said...

As I thought, Hawking was a crypto Christian

jayasree said...

Thanks for the link Mr rk. As you said, this ceremony raises questions on his public stance on belief in God. But what blew me out was the reading of Plato's Apology 40 at the ceremony on the idea that search for knowledge persists even after death!!

quote from the link :- 'Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, a personal friend, read from Plato's Apology 40, The Death of Socrates, which talks of the search for knowledge persisting after death.'

Hawking must be squirming at his coffin on hearing this as he never believed in life after death. Without that how could the search for knowledge continue after death?
Even his personal friend seem to not respect his beliefs!