Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has been going around for the last couple of years telling people that the universe is the result of “spontaneous creation.” In other words, according to him, something came out of nothing.
I couldn’t help being reminded of Hawking’s pronouncements when I came across this passage from Book II of Aristotle’s Physics in this week’s Great Books readings. What do you think?
There are some too who ascribe this heavenly sphere and all the worlds to spontaneity. They say that the vortex arose spontaneously, i.e. the motion that separated and arranged in its present order all that exists. This statement might well cause surprise. For they are asserting that chance is not responsible for the existence or generation of animals and plants, nature or mind or something of the kind being the cause of them (for it is not any chance thing that comes from a given seed but an olive from one kind and a man from another); and yet at the same time they assert that the heavenly sphere and the divinest of visible things arose spontaneously, having no such cause as is assigned to animals and plants. Yet if this is so, it is a fact that deserves to be dwelt upon, and something might well have been said about it. For besides the other absurdities of the statement, it is the more absurd that people should make it when they see nothing coming to be spontaneously in the heavens, but much happening by chance among the things which as they say are not due to chance; whereas we should have expected exactly the opposite.
Have our arguments come all that far in the last 2,300 years?