Submitted by Terence Blackett
In 1972, Beatle – John Lennon released the most famous song ever recorded by any human being with words that ominously ask us to -“Imagine there’s no Heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky, imagine all the people, living for today…”
4 decades later, on Monday May 16th 2011, (reported in Reuters) ahead of the Google Zeitgeist meeting in London where speakers included British finance minister George Osborne and Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz found imminent physicist Stephen Hawking hogging the limelight ahead of an all-important speech. Before the meeting, Hawking was asked to address the question – “Why are we here?”
Hawking argued that “tiny quantum fluctuations in the very early universe sowed the seeds of human life.” He suggested that – “Heaven is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” He said “I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he told the Guardian newspaper. “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” When asked how we should live he said: “We should seek the greatest value of our action.”
What a thought-provoking statement by Hawking but more so his comment that – “We should seek the greatest value of our action” which presupposes that life is utilitarian in its ethos yet it is somehow peppered with Aristotelian philosophical strands. One wonders at time if Horgan’s words do have a merit of truth where he says that guys like Hawking are a kind of “cosmic comic performance artist who loves goofing on his fellow physicists and the rest of us.” But is he goofing around or is he positing a serious philosophical slant which has its roots in classical literature? Or is Hawking indirectly admitting that there is an epistemological conundrum which for 1000’s of years remains unresolved as to why we are really here on this planet?