I read Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time in middle school and thought it was great. I also got a chance to see him speak in person when I was in high school. He was one of the populizers of science that got me interested in studying physics that eventually led to receiving my degree in the subject from Harvard.
What was always clear about Hawking was that he was a man of great faith. Not faith in God though — he was a staunch atheist. He put his faith in the human mind’s ability to discover the “Grand Unified Theory of Everything.” Does such a theory exist? Hawking strongly believed so and, like Einstein and many other physicists, he dedicated his life to attempting to discover it.
How do we know such a theory exists? And how do we know it can be discovered at all? These were questions that troubled me as a student of physics. And none of my professors had a compelling answer. The most that they could say is that the universe is so intricate and demonstrates such complexity and sublime order that there must be something that underlies it all. There must be a deeper truth! There must be a reason why this order, this “Grand Design” exists! And the reason is, Hawking surmised, that an all-encompassing theory, perhaps even one all-explanatory equation, a “God equation” as some physicists call it, underpins it all.
The shirk explicit in this mentality is clear, especially for those like Hawking who militantly reject God in lieu of this kind of metaphysical speculation about the world and its history. Rather than recognize that the order of the universe and its comprehensibility to the mind in the first place are due to an all-powerful Creator of both the universe and the human mind, Hawking obstinately turned away from the obvious to insist on a figment of his imagination, the “God equation.”
The first several verses of Surat al Mulk I find very relevant to Hawking and his demise and the demise of those like him who worship their whims, thinking they are enlightened, but deluding none but themselves.
Blessed is He in whose hand is the dominion, and He is over all things powerful.
Who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving.
Who created seven heavens in layers. You do not see in the creation of the Most Merciful any inconsistency.
So return [your] vision [to the sky]; do you see any breaks? Then return [your] vision twice again. [Your] vision will return to you humbled while it is fatigued.
And We have certainly beautified the nearest heaven with stars and have made [from] them what is thrown at the devils and have prepared for them the punishment of the Blaze.
And for those who disbelieved in their Lord is the punishment of Hell, and wretched is the destination.