TEXAS VIEW: Hawking leaves behind the question of a lifetime

By Amarillo Globe-News

Legendary British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who recently died at 76, left behind a legacy that will inspire generations.

He also left behind a question that will, hopefully, serve as the most important of his lifetime — and of all time.

Hawking overcame a debilitating disease, the same disease of legendary baseball player Lou Gehrig, to become arguably the most influential scientist in recent memory.

Hawking’s theories and opinions on the origin of the universe have become widely accepted through the years.

However, the question of how we got here — and why we are here — remains.

Hawking had this to say about mankind in a 2011 Guardian interview, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Despite the fact we sometimes have a hard time just logging onto our office computers, permit us to counter Hawking’s assessment as humans only being computers, and when our computer logs off, we are done for eternity.

If the human brain is only a form of a computer, if humans have no soul, how does one explain how the human brain processes emotions and feelings?

Computers, as we know them, do not have the ability to love or to hate. Computers do not have the ability to laugh, to cry — to feel anger or joy. Computers do not have a conscience, which determines whether they consider things good or bad. (Granted, some humans behave as if they have no conscience, but this is a topic for a different editorial.)

Computers do not feel guilt. They do not feel shame. They do not feel embarrassment. They do not feel fear.

Computers do not feel pain — and there are many types of pain.

Computers cannot look at their children, and see the awesomeness that is the ability to create another human being.

Computers do not ponder why they are here, and what is their purpose.

To some, these human characteristics may seem weaknesses. To others, they are what makes life worth living.

It is for these reasons that we have to disagree with Hawking. These uniquely human attributes exist for a reason — to provide us with the knowledge that there is more to humanity than being simply another computer — another machine without a mind of its own.

What lies beyond this Earth? Well, that depends on what you believe, on what you feel inside — not on what a computer, designed by man, tells you.