The 4 Scientific Lessons Stephen Hawking Never Learned
“His work, his life, and his scientific contributions made him an inspiration to millions across the world, including to me. But the combination of his achievements and his affliction with ALS — combined with his meteoric fame — often made him immune to justified criticism. As a result, he spent decades making false, outdated, or misleading claims to the general population that permanently harmed the public understanding of science. He claimed to have solutions to problems that fell apart on a cursory glance; he proclaimed doomsday for humanity repeatedly with no evidence to back such claims up; he ignored the good work done by others in his own field. Despite his incredible successes in a number of arenas, there are some major scientific lessons he never learned. Here’s your chance to learn them now.”
Hawking’s contribution to physics, from the existence and meaning of singularities to properties of a black hole’s event horizon, entropy, temperature, and the radiation they generate were remarkable in the 1960s and 1970s. His popularizations of science were groundbreaking, too, exposing a general audience to a wide variety of wild and speculative ideas, igniting an interest in theoretical astrophysics in the minds of millions around the world. But as brilliant as Hawking was, there were a number of lessons about science and humanity that he never learned for himself, from the Big Bang and black holes to lessons about communicating speculative or unproven information as though they were facts. We have a tendency, when we turn people into heroes, to lionize their achievements and ignore their failings, but to do so cheats humanity out of recognizing all the facets of a complicated character.