Stephen William Hawking is many things. 

Theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, best-selling author, divorced from his second wife and father of three with three grandchildren, British recipient of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, (Retired) Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, Hawking is celebrated as one of the most brilliant men alive, if not the most brilliant man alive, if not the most brilliant man who has ever lived. He was the first to theorize Hawking Radiation emitted by Black Holes in the universe and  has more degrees and awards, and fans, than one can count.

Amazingly, despite having contracted crippling neuro-muscular dystrophy, a form of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease in his 20′s, at 68, he continues to think deeply, write prodigiously, and actively publish his thoughts.

Being a dolt, I shouldn’t comment on Hawking’s many accomplishments but some of his publicized views and opinions of late have to be termed, at the minimum odd, at the extreme, bizarre.

It comes down to the question, Do we continue to take seriously even a deep thinker with an I.Q. said to be in the area of 160 when he begins to contradict himself and to publicize his unsubstantiated and bizarre reflections?  Also, should we take seriously mathematical-scientific geniuses–such as Einstein or Hawking–when they make theological observations?

One recent bizarre Hawking comment concerned aliens.  He wasn’t referring to Mexican illegals but to the extraterrestrial, ET, type. 

As the (London) Sunday Times wrote in April of a Hawking Discovery Channel documentary,  ”Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.  Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.”

As the late Carl Sagan liked to say, “Billions and billions and billions” of places for life to exist outside Earth.  That’s entirely possible and reasonable to postulate and not assume a human-centric universe.

At that point, Hawkings veers into the weird, and not just in the fantastical depiction of ” two-legged herbivores browsing on an alien cliff-face where they are picked off by flying, yellow lizard-like predators.”  Having seen “Avatar,” I can say that’s believable.

However, he also says if those aliens come by to conquer, colonize, steal our resources, or just to visit, that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky. If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans:”

In other words, Earthlings would become victims of alien diseases, be murdered, enslaved, or consigned to reservations. 

Another departure from Hawking’s mathematical-scientific norm was his more recent excursion into the theological realm with a pronouncement that contradicted his earlier beliefs about a Supreme Being, about a God.

Product DetailsAccording to the British publication, The Telegraph, in 1988,  a mere 22 years ago, not even a blip in geologic time, Hawkings, who was accused of being an atheist by his ex-wife, had affirmed at least the possibility of the hand of God in the creation of the universe.  In his most famous work,  A Brief History of Time, he wrote, ”If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason–for then we should know the mind of God.”

Product DetailsIn “The Grand Design,” published this month, Hawking departs radically from that belief: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.  Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.  It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.”

In other words, who needs a God?  We and the universe exist for the same reason Isaac Newton’s apple fell down rather than up; gravity just is.  We and the universe just happened spontaneously, like an uncontrolled and unpredictable volcanic eruption.  If there were indeed a Big Bang that got things rolling, no one lit the fuse, it just happened, creating somethingness from nothingness.

As neither mathematician, scientist, theologian–nor philosopher, I’m aware that challenging a Stephen Hawking is a tad more presumptuous than challenging a Bill Maher or a Keith Olberman but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

First, as to those alien life forms:  I think, given his and Sagan’s billions and billions, Hawking is probably correct in assuming there’s someone or something “out there,” somewhere.  However, why avoid them?  If they travelled god-knows-how-many light years to get to our humble planet, they’re hardly likely to go home without some interaction with the natives and they could take avoidance as an insult, which could really piss them off. 

We should meet and greet the little, green or yellow devils, bid them a fond welcome, as long as they stay nice and not try to conquer us or eat us, and we should know that they’re more likely to succumb to our chicken pox or the common cold as we are to be wiped out by their interplanetary flu.  

I’ve seen “War of the Worlds” as well as “Avatar.”

Second, as to Hawking’s relatively-sudden descent into negating God, his refusal to acknowledge God’s creation of the world, a conviction he seemed to have had when he wrote A Brief History of Time, I think I can understand that radical, philosophical change.

Hawking’s form of neuro  muscular dystrophy has obviously progressed significantly over the past few years.  Equally obvious is that this brave man, this courageous genius, has begun to contemplate his future, his next life.  For whatever reason–anger, despair, resignation, bewilderment over what cards fate dealt him–he has adopted the opposite of  the war-time metaphor that there are no atheists in foxholes.

Stephen Hawking has seen his future and it is a god-less future.

I wish him well.  May God bless him.