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The world has lost one of our most celebrated minds. Few scientists impacted culture and society like Stephen Hawking. His book, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, was an entry point for many to understanding the nature of the Universe. His body of work, as well as the way he embraced pop culture, TV, and film, made him relatable, as well as an inspiration, to many.
As someone who writes about and analyzes media, and is witnessing a shift in the way society thinks as a result of modern media, I thought it appropriate to take a moment to reflect on what Hawking taught us. Social media and propaganda news sites are spiraling into a tabloid-like cesspool of fake information and ill-informed arguments, and I can’t help but mourn the loss of not only the man, but the analytical legacy that Hawking leaves behind.
In the wake of this loss, I asked an array of authors, futurists, educators, and thinkers, to share their thoughts on why scientific and critical-thinking skills matter, as well as on what Hawking taught us about imagining and learning about the Universe.
“Physicist Steven Hawking helped us understand the story of our universe. But it was his life’s story that will continue inspiring us to do impossible things.”
— Nikola Danaylov, futurist and bestselling author of Conversations with the Future
“In a time when more and more people are ruled by emotion, assumption, and wishful thinking, we benefit from the voice of logical, dispassionate minds. Stephen Hawking, with his astounding intellect, unrelenting quest, and stark personal conditions, provided one of the clearest voices of contemporary history. He expanded our horizons, anchored us in reality, and reminded us to laugh. We are fortunate to have lived during his lifetime.”
— Tori Eldridge, author of Empowered Living: A Guide for Physical and Emotional Protection
“Stephen Hawking taught us that imagination and critical thinking are inseparable — that to more fully understand what is real requires us to imagine what has never before been dreamed.”
— Howard V. Hendrix, science fiction writer and educator
“In an era where anything can be spun and manipulated to align with wildly disparate agendas, looking to science for the final word has become ever more important. Stephen Hawking inspired so many to look deep inside ourselves while dancing on the fringes of the Universe, and to evolve a few gentle, brilliant steps forward where the impossible became tangible and catchable in the palms of our hands.”
— John Palisano, Vice President, Horror Writers Association
“It’s commonly accepted that Stephen Hawking was an atheist. Much like Einstein, though, Hawking’s writings contain many references to God. It is true that he may have been using God as a metaphor for something else, but I think the explanation is far more magnificent. Anyone who contemplates the time before the Big Bang is confronted by a place outside the Universe where the laws of physics do not apply. It can only be the stomping ground of God.”
— Mark J. Rose, Ph.D., author of The Matt Miller in the Colonies Series
“As the Lifeboat Foundation 2008 Guardian Award Winner, Stephen Hawking showed that by using critical-thinking skills, we can learn about global catastrophic risks and use this knowledge to save the human race from extinction.”
— Eric Klien, President of the Lifeboat Foundation
“The Baha’i Teachings state, ‘Religion must conform to science and reason; otherwise, it is superstition.’ As well, they state, ‘That which is in conformity with science is also in conformity with religion’.
Whatever the intelligence of man cannot understand, religion ought not to accept. Religion and science walk hand in hand, and any religion contrary to science is not the truth. Stephen Hawking was constantly searching for scientific truth. My take away is this: we need to look to the physical past to understand the present and the future.”
— Jim Barnes, My Star 95 and member of Baha’i faith
“By all accounts, Stephen Hawking should have died decades ago, and yet he persisted to teach us how to open our eyes and think critically about the universe. Not only that, but he thought critically of his own work, famously coming out in objection to his own findings when new evidence presented itself. If there is one thing that will endure about Hawking, it is that the dogged and often ruthless pursuit of truth is a noble and necessary part of any functional society.”
— Russell Nohelty, Publisher, Wannabe Press
“We live now in a storm-tossed, wind-whipped sea of information, where truth and lies mix more intimately and rapidly than ever before, where media floats like fragmented debris. A foundation in reason burns its beacon through the clouds, offering guidance through the grayness so that we might uncover and agree on what is true, and work together toward the shores of our economic, environmental and social salvation.
Even in just exceeding all life expectancy, Stephen Hawking inspired us toward the seeming impossible. He brought the seeker’s gusto of science fiction to his work in science, and put it on proud display, showing us the reality in the dreams of a Stark Trek or a Martian Chronicles, compelling us to unlock God itself in the fundamental language of the Universe.”
— Mike Robinson, Author, Dreamshores, The Enigma of Twilight Falls Trilogy
“Science is not a ‘thing’ you learn, or a belief — it is a commonsense way of examining reality, and how it really works. We need science to know how to make things work, and work better. Science is not anti-religion; If you believe in God, how could God’s handiwork be wrong?
Hawking said, ‘It would not be much of a Universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ This is the most important thing about science — it offers ways to help people, and prove that those ways work, that is independent of bias and wishful-thinking.”
— John D. Gwinner, CTO4you.com
What thoughts do you have on Stephen Hawking and the way he shaped our perception of the Universe? Please share your opinions in the comments section, and join the conversation.