Stephen Hawking -- Afraid of the Dark?
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2013 Sep 26
Atheists will say the most interesting things. Of course they are more than interesting; sometimes they affirm God’s reality without realizing it; at other times they may just open a window for us to see into their own souls.
“Stephen Hawking, owner of one of the world's finest brains, now says he believes it is possible to keep a mind running without a body—though he expects the technology will be too late for him, reports Newser. ‘I think the brain is like a program in the mind, which is like a computer, so it's theoretically possible to copy the brain onto a computer and so provide a form of life after death,’ he said. ‘However, this is way beyond our present capabilities. I think the conventional afterlife is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark.’”. . . Hawking had said on a previous occasion, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.”
A reporter might fail to recognize the distinction between the brain and the mind. But Hawking makes no such failure; they are distinct: “I think the brain is like a program in the mind.” Well, we know the brain is physical – material. But what is the mind? It is not physical – it is immaterial. Atheism is rooted in materialism; all that exists is the material – that which we can observe with our senses. On the atheist’s worldview, we are simply matter in motion. There is no such thing as genuine thought: only brain, neurons, and synapses firing in response to external stimuli. In other words, the brain is hard-wired. It will respond to stimuli, like a computer, the way it’s pre-programmed. It’s a form of materialistic determinism; there are conditions, such that given those conditions, no other response is possible. So, on a materialistic worldview, how do you explain the mind? How do you explain something immaterial? Further than that, how do you explain something immaterial (thought) making something happen in the material (brain causing the hand to pick up a glass for example)? Hawking believes there is a distinction between the brain and the mind but don’t miss the point: he can’t explain that reality on his worldview (despite his fanciful attempts to do so); he has no rational reason to believe in the mind, only brain. He must borrow from a biblical worldview to do so.
Of course the other issue is that Hawking now believes its possible “to copy the brain onto a computer and so provide a form of life after death” in contradistinction to what he had said earlier. The obvious question aside from “how” that could be possible is “what about the mind; can you copy that onto a computer?” Well, no; the mind is immaterial. Hawking certainly knows that yet believes this “form of life after death” is possible. Why? Despite the fact that he says “a conventional afterlife is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark,” he himself is in fact afraid of the dark and it’s coming out as he draws closer to death. The bible says those who don’t know Christ are enslaved to a fear of death (Heb. 2:15). His spiritual pride won’t let him admit to God but he’s sure hoping there can be something more.
There was a call to pray for Christopher Hitchens, another famous atheist, as his death was approaching. Though his death is not necessarily imminent, I’d say it’s time to pray for Stephen Hawking as well.