I was surprised by the article on Fox News, “Stephen Hawking says he knows what happened before the dawn of time.” As news stories go, the article did not live up to the headline. It seemed to be based on an article by Stephen Hawking entitled, “The Beginning of Time.” In that article Hawking does not so much define what happened before the beginning of time but rather asserts that there can be no causal connection between anything “before” the beginning and what has happened since the beginning. This is not what Fox News promised in their headline!
Hawking’s article is interesting though, and it is worth responding to in light of the Cosmological Argument.
First I want to point out that he is dead wrong when he says that Genesis predicts the universe was created in 4000 B.C. That is nowhere in the Bible.
That being said…notice that his concern in the article is not with avoiding a beginning. He readily admits that there was a beginning. His concern is that the previous models predicted a singularity of infinite density at the beginning. I won’t bore you with the details, but for various reasons it is impossible that anything could be infinite in density. Hawking’s model solves this problem by getting rid of a point of infinite density.
Hawking goes further, however, and comes to the conclusion that since his model gets rid of a specific beginning point that the question of how the universe came into existence is meaningless because there is no time prior to beginning. Notice that this is not really a difference between his model and the standard model, so this is an odd thing for him to say. At any rate, while it would be meaningless to ask what was before the Big Bang in a chronological sense, it is not meaningless to ask how the universe came into being. Hawking has not really eliminated this question.
Below is a model of the universe with the beginning point. You’ll notice that everything collapses into a single point in space, the infinite density singularity that Hawking is talking about.
The next photo below is the Hartle-Hawking model (the one that gets rid of the singularity). I’ve turned it on its side so that it is easy to compare to the standard model above. Notice that there is no beginning point at T=0, rather it is an edge or a curve. This is not to say that there was no absolute beginning (Hawking repeatedly said throughout his paper that there was). Rather he is saying that the beginning is not a point, but an edge.
So Hawking’s model does not really deal with how the universe came into being at all, but rather is a model describing what the universe looked like in its beginning. It is for this reason that the Hartle-Hawking model does not interact with the Kalam Cosmological Argument. If successful, the Hartle-Hawking model describes what the earliest state of the universe was and perhaps the way that it developed into the present state of the universe, but not how it came into being. We are therefore still left with the problem of how the universe came into being.
In the youtube video below Dr. William Lane Craig talks about the model and its implications on the Cosmological Argument.
We are still left with a beginning to be reckoned with, and everything that begins to exist has a cause. Every cause must transcend its effect. Therefore, the universe has a transcendent cause.