Speaking at Google’s Zeitgeist Conference, the author of A Brief History of Time said recently that the fundamental questions about the nature of the universe could be answered only by scientists.
Hard data was needed to answer the world’s most important questions, such as the data being derived from the Large Hadron Collider and space research.
“Most of us don’t worry about these questions most of the time. But almost all of us must sometimes wonder: Why are we here? Where do we come from? Traditionally, these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead,” he said. “Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.”
Hawking went on to claim that “Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” He said new theories “lead us to a new and very different picture of the universe and our place in it”.
In the 40-minute speech, Hawking said that the new “M Theory” of the universe was the “unified theory Einstein was hoping to find”. He compared the idea to the computer programme Google Earth, saying it was a “map” of theories, but added that a new, bigger Hadron Collider the size of the Milky Way was needed to collect more data to prove it.
Hawking’s perspective is probably rooted in the reality that scientists are themselves philosophers exploring the deeper questions about the nature of the universe.
It was the scientific discoveries of the expanding universe, gravity, a spherical earth and quantum physics that have done more for our philosophical understanding of the world we live in than the ideas offered by philosophers such as Hegel, Kant and Rousseau.
As Hawking says:
“All of my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist.”