Stephen Hawking 1942–2018

Famed British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking died today. Interestingly, Albert Einstein was born on the same date in 1879. Furthermore, both men died shortly after their 76th birthdays. These facts wouldn’t be remarkable if their work and writings were not so intimately related.

At a relatively young age, Einstein developed the theory of general relativity, which for a century has been the dominant theory of space, time, and gravity. Not only was Hawking brilliant, he had good timing. When Hawking was in his 20s, most astrophysicists came to embrace the existence of black holes and the big bang cosmology. General relativity is the mathematical model used to understand both. Using general relativity, Hawking contributed more to the understanding of black holes and the naturalistic big bang model than any other person.

Hawking’s 1988 popular-level book A Brief History of Time was a huge success. It was well written, and it received rave reviews. The book sold very well, for it offered the hope to millions that they, at last, could understand black holes and cosmology. Alas, a quote attributed to Einstein is that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” (though there is no evidence Einstein said this). This is complicated stuff, so many people who so enthusiastically began reading the book soon found that parts of it were very difficult. A Brief History of Time has been described as the “least-read best-selling book of all time.” Hawking also authored the more-recent The Grand Design. Many of the views he presented in his books have been critiqued by AiG in articles such as “Stephen Hawking’s Emphasis on Universe Without God.”

 

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