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Stephen Hawking Lets Loose

May 18, 2011 Leave a comment

This week, Stephen Hawking (a.k.a. “that smart wheelchair guy”) made the following statement in an interview with The Guardian: “[Heaven] is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” The timing couldn’t be better—the Rapture is scheduled to take place in four days’ time.

So, of course, some people find this shocking and controversial. I suppose people with high profiles are expected to toe the line. After all, it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be suspected of having independent thought than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

But I don’t find Hawking’s comments surprising (or offensive) at all. Indeed, I can relate to them all too well.

I’m also a wheelchair guy (though “smart” may be pushing it). Like Hawking, I’m involved in science and technology in academia—my field is computer science, however. And, like Hawking, I seem to be living on borrowed time, with some doctors in the past predicting my demise would occur about 22 years ago.

If you’re a scientist with a death sentence always hanging over your head, you quickly find that there’s no solace to be found in easy answers and pleasant fictions. Not only is there no evidence for an afterlife, the dualism of a mind (or soul) independent from a body makes no sense in a modern scientific context. Unlike the White Queen, I can’t believe six impossible things before breakfast. Read more…

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