1) Why is there something rather than nothing?
2) Why do we exist?
3) Why this particular set of laws and not some other?
We are promised that, unlike the answer given in Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, his answer will not be “42.” Though I dare say it may as well have been.
By the end of this book, and in all honestly well before the end, it becomes quite clear that the entire purpose for writing it was to disprove the existence of a supernatural creator of the universe. Most of the book is spent discussing background to the new M-theory, and pointing out creation stories from different religions and cultures throughout history. The scientific background was very interesting, and is really like a refresher course going over theories brought forward by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein and more. The last few pages of the last section of the book are really the only place there is a solid presentation of the M-theory, which, from what I can tell, comes down to, “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing….” Which, of course, is not a new theory at all. The new concept here is that there may be no one set of laws that govern the entire universe. Several sets of laws may be needed to explain the universe as a whole, so long as those sets of laws agree where they overlap. This is the M-theory. It is also claimed, that according to M-theory, there are several histories of the universe all occurring at the same time and that our observation of our universe affects the history and not the other way around. Just how this happens, he never really explains.
The 3 questions posed at the beginning are never really answered:
1) “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing.” – Even if I believed in this explanation, this answer would really be better suited for “how” is there something rather than nothing and leaves us open to more questions such as “what causes spontaneous creation?” and “how, again, does something come from nothing?” If gravity if the cause of a universe just “popping” into existence, but there was nothing there but gravity, what exactly was the gravity acting upon? And if the force of gravity existed, was there really nothing? How did gravity exist?
2) The same answer is given for why we exist. Again, this answers more “how” than “why.”
3) After a recap of what the ultimate theory of everything needs to include, we are told, “For these reasons M-theory is the only candidate for a complete theory of the universe…. We must be part of this universe, because there is no other consistent model.” This, after the short one-paragraph recap, sounds like a big scientific because-I-said-so. And I also find it funny that a scientist of any kind would give this as an answer to anything. We’re basically being told, “this is the closest explanation we have, so we’re going with it.” And this is still a theory; Hawking states that it has yet to be proven if the theory is finite, which it must be.
As a lover of both God and science, I become more and more upset over the route science is taking. This atheistic view believes that if something can be proven by science then it disproves God and “religion” as a whole. By Hawking’s own admission, one set of laws may not account for all of creation. It is quite possible to explain our world through science. We can explain how bees pollinate flowers, but could it be that God created bees for just that purpose? That he set that process in motion at creation? Even if we finally get to the point where science can say exactly, without a doubt, what happened at the moment the universe came into existence… could it be that it is just our way of explaining what occurred at the moment God called the world into existence? How is belief in an alternate history, that is currently going on at this moment, any less “absurd” than belief in a supernatural creator?
The only thing that saved this book at all for me was the discussion of scientific history, which filled the book almost completely.
For purposes of scoring this book, I have obviously had to remove scoring on accuracy. I am not a physicist or a mathematician.
1) Is it understandable? = 4
2) Presentation of Information = 3
3) Accuracy = removed from average
4) Quality of Writing = 3.5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2
Average of score 3.1
Overall grade = C
This was book 21 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.