An Atheist Philosopher Charges Stephen Hawking with "Probably the Worst Atheistic Argument”
During his life, Stephen Hawking was a brilliant physicist. He also became known for sharing his thoughts on God and the origin of the universe. In one particular T.V. episode, Hawking stated that since there was no time before the Big Bang, there was no time for God to exist or to cause anything.
You can't get to a time before the Big Bang because there was no "before the Big Bang." We have finally found something that doesn't have a cause because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me, this means there is no possibility of a Creator because there is no time for a Creator to have existed. Since time itself began at the moment of the Big Bang it was an event that could not have been caused or created by anyone or anything.
In making this objection, Hawking fails to consider the possibility that God could exist timelessly. He also seems unaware of the work of Dr. William Lane Craig, whose philosophical work focuses on this issue. Craig points out that it is entirely possible for God to cause the universe (i.e. including time and space) in such a way that the cause and the effect are simultaneous with each other. Therefore no “extra time” is needed for a cause to act in. Hence Hawking’s objection is, quite simply, overcome.
Quentin Smith (Emeritus Professor at Western Michigan University) is a respected atheist philosopher and also a specialist in the philosophy of religion and philosophy of science. He once described a closely related version of this argument (made by Hawking) as “probably the worst atheistic argument in the history of Western thought.” Given this track record, any atheist would be well advised to take Hawking’s opinion on these matters with a grain of salt.
Hawking should be admired for perseverance through his motor neuron disease and for his fantastic work in physics. He was a brilliant scientist but in the words of Albert Einstein, “the man of science is a poor philosopher.”
“Did God Create the Universe?,” Curiosity (Darlow Smithson Productions, Discovery Channel, August 7, 2011).
Timestamp: 46:33 - 47:38
William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, 1st ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 322.