Near the end of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," as wayward travelers who had been abducted from Earth over the years by various contacts with extraterrestrials, one of the NASA scientists marvels at how the returning humans had not aged. "Einstein was right," he murmurs. His boss leans over and suggests, "Einstein was probably one of them," indicating the big-headed spiny-fingered aliens.
That's what went through my mind when I read this past week that Stephen Hawking asserts that the afterlife is "a fairy story." I wasn't surprised by this, since the renowned physicist and author has been letting us in on the secrets of the universe for some time now. Still, his quote: "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven of afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark," struck a nerve for a lot of people.
Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try. Just a bunch of broken-down computers on a scrap heap somewhere. According to Stephen, science can explain the universe without ever having to bring up God. There is no past or present, just a quantum phenomenon in which we we lucky enough to be caught.
At the same time, it is medical science that has kept Professor Hawking alive long past the time that most people who suffer from ALS, as he does. It's no miracle that he has outlived many others with the same disease. Just science. The fact that he can travel the world and give lectures without being able to walk or speak is a byproduct of the quantum event we call "technology." If he had been born in some other alternative history, he might not have had the opportunity to pursue his life's work. Instead, some galactic force deposited his neurons here, where he's been able to spend the last forty-nine years trying to discover from whence we came. Imagine that.