Monday, May 16, 2011

The Fairy Tale of Heaven

Stephen Hawking was interviewed recently by the Guardian. He said that he views the concept of heaven, or an afterlife in general, as a fairy tale.
"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," he added.
He has other interesting comments as well, but this particular one appears to be getting the most attention. I agree with Hawking that heaven and the afterlife are fairy tales, but I disagree with the way he put it in that interview. First off, I don't like definitive statements about things which are unknown. No one, including Hawking, knows for sure what happens after death. Although I agree with his opinion, I'd like to see some sort of qualifier to his assertion. Then there is his remark about "people afraid of the dark."

Fear of the unknown -- and death is a great unknown -- seems to be part of the make-up of most human beings. Hawking has a different perspective because of his physical condition. As he says,
"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death,
Just because he has overcome his own natural fears, doesn't justify dismissing others who haven't as some sort of children scared of the dark. There are also other reasons why people believe in an afterlife which are, in my opinion, stronger than mere fear of death. In particular there is the desire to be reunited with loved ones who have died before you. I have long thought that this hope, based on love not fear, is the single greatest reason why most people are not atheist materialists.



  2. I wholeheartedly agree with your post. Sometimes I think Hawking may be too caught up in his own supposed intellectual greatness that he has lost touch with the human condition. It often has the hallmarks of arrogance.