The Reach

Biyernes, Disyembre 23, 2011

God or Gravity: The Self-Contradicting Grand Design of Stephen Hawking

Jommel Jaucian

This writer is known for being critical about archaic yest oppressive religious views and politically incorrect biases. He was even wrongly tagged as "atheist" during his college days and now he is supportive of the Reproductive Health Bill that is pending in the two chambers of the Philippine Congress and very vocal against the meddling of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in secular politics. However, this writer is a Christian, a practicing (though imperfectly) Catholic, and a member of a Catholic religious community. Therefore, despite some "heretical" ideas, this writer is not religion-less.

Why state the above facts? Because this writer deemed it is fit to warn the readers (if there are indeed readers) that this blog may contain contents that are heavily influenced by his own political and religious biases and background. Therefore, impartiality may be difficult for this writer in writing this blog. However, rest assured that he will try his best to be objective: at least in portions where he needs to be impartial.

This blog talks about the declaration of the world's famous physicist (Serritella, Stephen Hawking that "God does not exist," putting himself in the line of Douglas Adams, James Watson, George Eliot, Richard Dawkins, Nadine Gordimer, Simone de Beauvoir, Victor Stenger, Karl Marx, and many more. This writer has learned about this Hawking declaration when he read a Commentary in Yahoo News ( Said Commentary, posted by Giovanni Serritella, tackles the statement made by Hawking in his book "The Grand Design" that God is a delusion and a "by product of a mind of superstitious and scientifically uneducated people" (Serritella, Serritella argues that the logic of Hawking has loopholes and that the hypothesis that the universe was created by a supernatural deity remains to be the more rational explanation of the universe's creation than the conclusion made by Hawking.

Bang and Expand: All Hail to Gravity?

Hawking's "Grand Design" is just one of the works related with Cosmology that came after the Big Bang Theory, a scientific theory that was first proposed by Georges Lemaitre which states that the universe before was in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly (Wollack, 2009). Both are concerned with the universe, but the former is more focused on the role of gravity in the universe's formation and current expansion.

In Hawking's theory, the universe was formed because of the existence of gravity. "Because there is law like gravity," says Hawking, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing" (quoted by Serritella, Serritella correctly understood what Hawking is saying: gravity preexisted before the birth of the universe 13.7 billion years ago (Komatsu, 2009) and caused the existence of our ever-expanding universe.

However, this could not be possible. Again, according to Serritella, Einstein's Theory of Relativity may be used to debunk Hawking's contention, at least with his gravity thing since the latter is illogical under the former. Quoting Serritella:

"Einstein's theory of relativity says that time is not the same for everyone but is "relative" to how fast one is moving. At variable speeds or in the presence of weak and strong gravity time behaves elastically, it can stretch and shrink and even stop." (Serritella,

The Commentary went on further: "[u]nder extreme gravity like at the moment of the birth of the universe (the big bang), gravity was so intense that time was 'compressed' to a zero point. Not only space but time itself was born at that moment. There was no 'before'" (Serritella,

Therefore, the notion that gravity existed even before time is quite unlikely. And come to think of it, assuming for the sake of argument that indeed it was gravity, then where did gravity come from? Serritella even went on by saying a creator (in Hawking's contention, gravity) is quite unlikely to create something (in this case the universe) without being put in existence first. Where did it (gravity) come from and how did it come to existence?

Brilliant and Celebrated Physicist has Loopholes, too

Stephen Hawking

It is Hawking's contention that the "universe creates itself from nothing." However, as correctly pointed by Serritella, that "nothing" is actually something: gravity. Hawking is then contradicting himself, exposing his "Grand Design" to the possibility of being scientifically rejected. How could a nothing create something when that something was created by another something? Which is which?

This blogger remembers the anecdote of his Asian History teacher in High School. In his anecdote, two scientists who are best of friends are arguing: one is a believer while the other is an atheist. The latter said that the universe is a product of cosmic collisions and God never took a hand over it for being nonexistent. One day, the scientist who believes in the Creation built a very impressive model of the Solar System. The atheist scientists, after seeing the model, was impressed and asked who did it. The believer scientist answered "no one" and that model of the Solar System is just a product of collisions of matter. The atheist scientist would not believe, but the believer scientist insisted on his answer. When the atheist scientist was becoming furious, the believer one admitted that he was the one who created the model, and the same is true with the creation of the universe: someone or something already existing during the early development of the universe must have had the hand of forming the universe that might be responsible for the "cosmic collisions."

Who is responsible, then, for this beautiful sight?

Hawking sustains that the creation of the universe is something that is not out of the plan of God, but because of the law of science. But then, any law of science does not create a phenomenon, but merely explains. As argued by Serritella, laws of physics in particular "cannot create anything or cause anything to happen. Rather than ultimate creators of the universe, they are just descriptions on how things behave." And the law on gravity cannot just magically create the cosmos even before the existence of the thing it governs.

Hawking is still a piece of genius

Undeniably, Hawking deserves in the hall of famous physicists for his contributions in the academe and the sciences. He is the genius that he is and his tag as one of the world's famous physicist. However, his Grand Design, for me, with regret, is totally not his best. His self contradictions and loop-holed conclusions are not plausible enough to be believed and followed. This goes to show that Hawking, brilliant as he is, and other brilliant people like him, are also susceptible to illogical inferences and self-contradictions.

I have my own belief as to the creation of the world, but what is involved in this blog is the conclusion of Hawking that God did not have a hand on the creation of the universe. Whatever my belief is, one thing is certain, though: for me, the creator or the cause of the creation of the universe must have had been existing during that time.


Komatsu, E. et al. 2009. "Five-year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe Observations: Cosmological Interpretation" in Astrophysical journal supplement. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.

Serritella, G. 22 December 2011. "Commentary: Is It Rational to Believe in God" in Jakarta Post/Asia News Network (through Yahoo News: Retrieved 24 December 2011.

Wollack, E. 10 December 2010. "Cosmology: The Study of the Universe" in Universe 101. NASA:

Huwebes, Disyembre 22, 2011

Let tolerance prevail: on the right of the people to reproductive health, with all due respect to the Catholic Church

I attended the October 31 mass at the San Francisco Church. I, together with my company, was a little bit late due to the rains that hampered on us. I was so glad that time because it was my first attendance in a Sunday mass since last month. Despite the rains and the inconvenience, I was still able to attend the mass.

However, the celebrant priest’s sermon struck me. He was talking about the Pastoral Letters issued by the Archbishop of Caceres against the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. One of them is entitled “Let the Stones Shout: On the Right of the Church to Proclaim the Truth and her Duty to lead the Faithful to True Freedom in and for the Truth.” To be honest, it did struck me not because it attacked the RH Bill (it is somewhat expected from the Catholic Hierarchy), but because of the new things that were mentioned. Unfortunately, I find them rather contradictory.

The ‘unfaithful’ Catholics
In one of the sermon’s parts, the priest celebrant (or rather, the Pastoral Letters) lambasted those Catholics who support the RH Bill. Funny enough, I am one of those Catholics who support the RH Bill (and also Divorce). I know it may be an avenue for an excommunication case against me, but I really do not care.

The meat of that sermon’s part was those Catholics who support the RH Bill are like hypocrites. It is because they pronounce to the world that they are Catholics yet their beliefs in socio-political issues run counter to that of the Holy Catholic Church. The sermon raised this question: ‘how could you be a Catholic when you do not even follow the Catholic doctrines and teachings?’ With all due respect to the Catholic hierarchy, I beg to disagree. I believe that a Catholic can still live up his support for the RH Bill in good conscience. Supporting the RH Bill does not mean the supporters will practice sex with condoms and contraception. It does not mean that we will also abort our babies and live a promiscuous life (the notion on abortion will be discussed later).

With all due respect to the Archdiocese of Caceres, it is more of being realistic than being idealistic. Quoting the Pacem in Terris (1963) and the Octogesima Adveniens (1971) by the position paper made by some of the Faculty members of the Ateneo de Manila University: “Catholic social theology since Vatican II has evolved, on the one hand, from the emphasis on order, social cohesiveness, the acceptance of some inequality, and obedience to authority to the recognition, on the other, of the centrality of the human person, and the concomitant need for human freedom, equality, and participation.” It is supposedly a renewal of the Church after collectively studying and praying to discern the “signs of the times,” and for me the signs of the times show right in front of our faces the evils of the status quo. It is an unfortunate reality that “10 women die every 24 hours from almost entirely preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth” as shown on the data of the Population Commission or POPCOM (2000), with our maternal mortality rate in a consistent ceiling and staggering high with 162 deaths for every 100,00 childbirths (National Statistics Survey, 2006).

Those facts mentioned above are just a sample of the “signs of the times.” The Pastoral Letters aim to bother those
Catholics who support the RH Bill with their conscience. However, as a human being, we cannot bear it into our conscience rather that women and children die left and right due to poor education, lack of maternal health, and failing reproductive health care when we can do something about it. It is a gut issue that cannot be just ignored just because the solution is contrary to some of the “teachings” of the Universal Church. How can we be pro poor when the dignity of their forsaken lives is not being tended to?

Score ‘one’ and ‘two’ for anti-RH

Let us be open-minded about this issue: the Pastoral Letters do have some good points. The Archbishop made some reminders for our families to raise children in a way that they will not be promiscuous when they grow up. He also reminded the mass media to avoid broadcasting or printing titillating images that are not appropriate for the viewers or readers. The message was very direct to the mass media, especially those who are proponents of the RH Bill and then serve as avenues for promiscuity of today’s youth. However, such score in favor of the anti-RH is only good for the cuticle of a leaf and does not make closure on the issue. Let us not forget also that the Church is also responsible not only for the morality of its flock but also to their well being.

Also, the Archbishop was right in saying that the opinion of the Church matters with regard to the socio-political issues in our country. Being one of the stakeholders of our society, it has a right to express their opinions, especially if it involves morality. However, such right has limitations: the Church cannot make threats against individuals – politicians and laymen alike – just to prevent the passage of the RH Bill (as well as the Divorce Bill). I was so furious when the Catholic Hierarchy threatened to stage civil disobedience just because there is already a good possibility that the RH Bill will be passed. Let me remind those in the Hierarchy that we are living in a secular nation and there is this separation of Church and State. They cannot prevent a healthy debate over the issue and then take hostage and jeopardize the interest of the State and society.

The RH Bill as anti-life?

The Pastoral Letters also suggest that those who are against the RH Bill are pro-life and those who are in favor are anti-life. Maybe it is because of the argument that the RH Bill promotes abortion. Again, with all due respect to the Church, it is just a myth. Nothing in the RH Bill says that abortion will be legalized. I may be a proponent of the Bill, but I am still against abortion. It is actually punishable by the Revised Penal Code, and I believe that it is considered killing.
To set the facts straight, there is no abortion in the Bill. It does not allow killing anyone so it is very unlikely to be anti-life. For your information, the RH Bill’s coverage only covers the following: 1.) Information and access to both natural and modern family planning; 2.) Maternal, infant, and child health and nutrition; 3.) Promotion of breast feeding; 4.) Prevention of abortion and management of post-abortion complications; 5.) Adolescent and youth health; 6.) Prevention and management of reproductive tract infections, STDs, and AIDS/HIV; 7.) Elimination of violence against women; 8.) Counseling and on sexuality and sexual reproductive health; 9.) Treatment of breast and reproductive tract cancers; 10.) Male involvement and participation in RH; 11.) Prevention and treatment of infertility; and 12.) RH education of the youth.

Now readers, can you find something there that is anti-life? Nothing, right? In fact, it is pro-life since it aims to prevent abortion. Also, it aims to tend post-abortion complications. I believe there is a need for the latter, since one of the evils of the status quo is the degradation of the dignity and life of those who succumb to abortion. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization based in New York, in its report entitled “Forsaken Lives: Abortion Ban in the Philippines Spawns Human Rights Abuses,” the experiences of Filipino women who had no choice but undergo abortion because reproductive health services are denied them are very alarming. It says “criminalization of abortion has not prevented abortion in the Philippines, but it has made it extremely unsafe, leading directly to the preventable deaths of thousands of women each year.” Furthermore, “The Philippine government has created a dire human rights crisis in the country. xxx Hundreds of thousands of women in the country resort to unsafe abortion to protect their health, their families and their livelihood. Yet, the government sits idly by refusing to tackle the issue or reform the policies that exacerbate it.”

The report also features the experiences of a woman named Lisa (not her real name). The story goes like this:
“When Lisa, a married mother of three living in Manila City, sought contraceptives in her local public health facility, she was told that family planning was prohibited in the health centers. At nineteen years old, without access to contraceptives, she became pregnant for the third time and attempted to induce an abortion by drinking brandy and Vino de Quina, a type of rice wine believed to induce post-partum bleeding. After a week of severe bleeding, excruciating pain, and fever, Lisa was taken to Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center.

“Lisa arrived at the hospital hemorrhaging and scared. Doctors and nurses repeatedly verbally abused Lisa, saying, ‘Do you want me to report you to the police? Don’t you know that having an abortion is evil?’ Before performing the D&C to complete her abortion, the nurses required Lisa to sign a form consenting to being turned over to the authorities if the doctors found any evidence of an induced abortion. Lisa was pressured to sign the form without any understanding of its contents, which were written in English, a language she does not speak: ‘I signed the form because I was scared ... I could not refuse. They were stronger than I was because they have the authority; I was only a patient.’

“Lisa faced extreme discrimination, including delays and abuse, in receiving post-abortion care. She recalled, ‘I felt scared. There were many women giving birth in the delivery room that day... When I looked around the room, all of the mothers were finished with their childbirth while I was still there... The blood that flowed from me had already dried out and caked onto my body.’ After Lisa was given an intravenous anesthetic, the doctor and the nurses tied her hands and feet to the operating table. Lisa remembers, ‘[m]y legs were spread apart...What was only lacking was to tie me around my neck.’ The binds heightened Lisa’s anxiety. She stated, ‘I did not want to fall asleep out of fear of what they might do to me.’

“After the procedure Lisa saw a nurse put a notebook-sized sign on her bed bearing the word ‘abortion.’ This sign was on the bed of all of the women who had undergone D&Cs and was clearly visible to passersby and fellow patients, who repeatedly asked Lisa why she had an abortion.”

Using that scenario, the report shows the failure of the government to promote reproductive health and rights. It also shows that despite the prohibitions in the law as well as the strong opposition coming from the Church, abortion still happens. If we follow the Pacem in Terris, we should not be blind from these happenings and instead look for alternatives to prevent this kind of travesty. That makes the RH Bill pro-life: not only it prevents abortion and improves the lives of our mothers and children, but it also tends to the welfare of those who succumb to abortion.

Freedom of choice versus indoctrination
What really struck me is that for the first time, the Catholic Hierarchy has used the terms ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘democracy’ in its argument. I agree with the Pastoral Letters: we are in a democracy and freedom of choice should be followed. However, we should not let our indoctrination get in the way and prevent healthy debates over the RH. It should be the pro-RH that should use such terms because the Catholic Church, with all due respect, seems to have forgotten what freedom of choice means and how democratic dynamics work. I agree, we are in a democracy, that is why we need healthy discourse with regard to RH, and the Church should refrain from making threats like the civil disobedience and excommunication posh. I agree, we are in a democracy, but we are also republican, and republicanism follows the separation of Church and State.

I like the idea of the freedom of choice posh of the Pastoral Letters. It runs counter to the stand of the Church. Yes, we should have the freedom of choice that is why RH is very much needed. If we have RH, those who want to avail it may avail it. Those who are very faithful to the Catholic doctrines may inhibit themselves from availing it. In fact, there is nothing in the RH Bill which says that RH is mandatory to all citizens, despite the broad scope that it has. 

Maybe the good Archbishop mistakenly interchanged ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘indoctrination.’ Religion, in this jurisdiction, is not something which can be imposed to the people. One should have a choice on which to believe, something which should be given to all, Catholics or not.

Lest we forget

The Pastoral Letters sound like the Catholic teachings are the absolute truth for all. Let me remind the Holy Church that what is true to one may not be the truth for others. In other words, if you are against the RH Bill then you should be respected, so long as you do the same to those who are advocating for it. Furthermore, we should not forget that the Republic of the Philippines is a secular nation. It recognizes no particular religion, although it respects freedom of religion so much.

Yes, the Church can oppose RH, but let us be open-minded about the matter. In other words, whenever we open our mouths, let us keep into our minds that we do not share our opinions with other people.

Yes, I agree with the Pastoral Letters that in a democracy, majority rules. However, let us not forget that in a democratic society, such principle also comes another principle, which is ‘minority must be protected.’

Let us remind ourselves that issues like pre-marital and extra-marital sex have nothing to do with the issue on RH. Those things happen with or without the RH, and that there are other forums for that.

Yes, I agree with the argument of the good Archbishop that the Church has a right to “proclaim the truth and her duty to lead the Faithful to true freedom in and for the truth.” I respect the Church’s stand, but the Hierarchy should also admit the truth that the RH Bill does not promote abortion. It is in fact pro-life.

Let us also remind ourselves that tolerance is needed in a democratic society. People should respect and tolerate each other even though we have different rainbow-colored opinions. I may be a Catholic, but my advocacy in socio-political issues transcends my religious convictions: it goes even far by thinking the welfare of those who do not believe, because I believe religion should not be imposed on our jurisdiction where the Church and the State are separated from each other. Let us remind ourselves that we are not in the old times when people kill and die for their religions just because they could not stand the co-existence of their groups.

Finally, let us not forget the sufferings of those who are ignorant about their reproductive health and rights, or of those who do not have access to such. Let us not forget that the Catholic Church is not blind from those sufferings.

Dati, si Padre Salvi lang ang nabuhay ulit. Ngayon, kasama nya na si Padre Damaso.

Imagine that we are in the 18th century.

The thirteen English colonies in the New World just gained independence; the French Monarchy is now displaced; James Cook just set foot in the Hawaiian Islands; the New York Stock Exchange is established; Napoleon Bonaparte is now the dictator of France after a bloody coup d’etat. In the Philippines, the Roman Catholic Church is very powerful: there is still no separation of Church and State; the Parish Priest is the ex officio Registrar of Deeds; Filipinos are so afraid to be labeled as ‘pilibustero’ or ‘erehe’ (heretic) because not only his soul will burn in hell, but also his corporal existence will be threatened as well. Also, the Roman Catholic Church in this Spanish colony is trashed by European Catholic priests, amassing large areas of real properties and has a very good influence over the affairs of the Spanish Colonial Government.

Now, imagine that we are in the 19th century.

The world’s first research university, the University of Berlin, is found; Napoleon now meets his Waterloo defeat; the modern city of Singapore has been established by the British East India Company; the Confederates have just been defeated by the Union forces in the American Civil War; the world adopts the First Geneva Convention; then there is the Second Industrial Revolution. In the Philippines, the Roman Catholic Church is still powerful like before, but with threats left and right because of the reformists led by Jose Rizal, the establishment of Masonry in the colony, the entry of modern ideas from Europe, more liberal Governor-Generals, and the growing population of the educated middle class. However, the Friars are still able to maintain power through scheming, blackmail, and deceit.

Now, let’s go back to the 21st century.

The Philippines is now a sovereign State for over fifty years now after being a Spanish colony for three centuries (the Brits occupied us for a brief period of time), after being an American territory for over forty years, and after being occupied by Imperial Japan during the Second World War. Smaller and more high-ended gadgets have been invented. The internet connection has never been this fast. ‘Avatar’ beats ‘Titanic’ as the highest-grossing movie of all time. The Election in the Philippines is now automated, and Noynoy Aquino is elected as the 15th President of the “independent” Philippines. And, of course, one of my favorite shows (Glee) is rocking the airwaves of the United States and of the world. The Roman Catholic Church’s power is now broken down to pieces, especially with the establishment of free religions in the Islands, but still powerful. Politicians fear the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP): the defeat of Claro M. Recto in the 50s (just because he did what the Church wished him not to do) is still fresh in their memories. Other than the CBCP, they also fear (even more) the Archbishops, for they are among the political kingpins in our archipelago (remember the 1986 People Power?). However, the separation of Church and State led to the rise of the dynamic exercise of free will in the country especially in politics, right?


That’s just in theory, ladies and gentlemen. Notwithstanding the fact that the Manila Regional Trial Court ruled that “religious leaders cannot endorse political candidates running for office” and that “if the head of a religious organization ‘influences or threatens to punish’ members of that group, he or she could be charged with coercion and with a violation of the members' right to vote freely,” still churches left and right still attempt to override free will and self-examination. In the past, the Church prosecuted Ptolemy because he said the Earth is round; then the Church prosecuted Galileo for making a premise that the center of the Solar System is the sun and not the Earth. The Church even called Queen Elizabeth I many names like ‘whore,’ ‘heretic,’ ‘witch,’ ‘bastard,’ etc. The Church also prosecuted Rizal for his reformist ideas. Now, there is a threat to excommunicate President Aquino for his support for the RH Bill (although the CBCP is now licking back its spit). Also, a certain Carlos Celdran is now in jail for protesting the Catholic Church’s meddling in government affairs.

Why is it just a theory? First, churches left and right still influence their members’ voting behavior during elections. Second, politicians give high regard on the opinion of the churches with regard to sensitive issues in our society like abortion, divorce, and reproductive health. This makes them hypocrites because they do not follow their own convictions: only the dictates of the powerful Church. Well, I am not saying that the opposition of the Church is wrong: in fact I am cool with it because the religious people are just doing their job. What I am not alright with is the fact that politicians let the strong opposition of the Church to hostage the interests of the populace by acting as the “representatives of the religious” and not as the “representatives of the people.” The Reproductive Health Bill was killed in the House of Representatives because only a few supported it. Other Representatives did not support it because the Church was very against it, labeling it as anti-life even though abortion was never included in the Bill. Well, elections were fast approaching and they did not want to blow up every chance they had either for reelection or election for some higher position.

Come on guys!!! We are now in the 21st Century!!! Gone are the days that we are living under the “tutelage” of the Church. I am not saying we should stop being religious. What I am saying is that we should give balance between our religious lives and our secular politics. The Church has been in power for the past centuries and still no positive progress: too much corruption is still there, abortions left and right (despite the prohibition against it), high-profile crimes, separations of spouses (sometimes violent), and many others. The foundation of our family system is theoretically strong, but our morality as individuals and as a nation is already a goner. Now, let’s give chance to the liberals (I am not referring to the LP) and modern-thinking (as well as postmodern-thinking) individuals to take control of the situation room. Excommunication as a threat against a change-making leader is so 18th Century: LET’S MOVE ON!!!

I have to admit that I am not seeing myself having a divorce in the future, but I am in favor of divorce. I am in favor of it because prohibiting it is inutile. We already have de facto divorce: people pay psychiatrists and judges left and right just to get themselves annulled from their spouses, despite the absence of a single ground. That, ladies and gentlemen, is another form of CORRUPTION. Some people, if not most of them, still do not follow the morality of the Church, despite the presence of numerous patriarchal and medieval laws in our jurisdiction. Come to think of it, if one’s marriage and morality are really strong, he/she will not avail of divorce or birth control programs even if there is a law allowing such. The Church should stop making pointless vendetta against liberal-thinking politicians. They should also stop the ceaseless campaign opposing the divorce bill and the RH bill. They should go out from the dark ages and open their minds to the immutability of change.

I like the statement of the Faculty community of the Ateneo de Manila University: “we can still be good Christians even if we have the Reproductive Health Bill.” I would like to add that having a divorce in our jurisdiction does not mean that we are evil, and prohibiting divorce as well as the passage of the RH Bill does not make us good Christians. It is up to us how to become good Christians and good citizens of the world.