World-renowned physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking died Wednesday after decades of brilliant and sometimes hugely mistaken ideas about the universe, human population and the value of human life.
Hawking was 76; he died at his home in Cambridge, England, after battling motor neuron disease (ALS) for decades, the Daily Mail reports.
Despite his paralysis, he wrote numerous books, appeared in popular media and often gave interviews encouraging scientific exploration.
According to the report:
Professor Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963 when he was 21 and he defied medical experts who said he would be dead within two years.
In the following 55 years he became the world’s most famous scientist since Albert Einstein for his work exploring the mysteries of space, time and black holes despite being wheelchair-bound and only able to communicate using a computer and his famous voice synthesizer.
At the news of his death, British Prime Minister Theresa May praised Hawking for his “courage” and “determination” to succeed, despite his debilitating disease.
“[He was] a brilliant and extraordinary mind – one of the great scientists of his generation … [whose] courage, humor and determination to get the most from life was an inspiration,” May said.
Astronomer Royal Professor Lord Martin Rees, emeritus professor of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, echoed May’s sentiments.
“His name will live in the annals of science; millions have had their cosmic horizons widened by his best-selling books; and even more, around the world, have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against all the odds – a manifestation of amazing will-power and determination,” Rees said.
Though Hawking vastly outlived his life expectancy and made huge achievements to society, he also supported euthanasia and assisted suicide for people with disabilities.
“The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants,” he told People’s Daily Online in 2006. “But I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”
In 2015, however, he supported assisted suicide more wholeheartedly, arguing that the practice can help those who are suffering. He said there should be “safeguards” to protect people from being pressured to kill themselves, but assisted suicide should be allowed for those who truly want it.
Just a few months ago, in his last public message, Hawking also warned that the earth is becoming overpopulated, and humans must prepare to leave within the next 200 year to survive.
The Population Research Institute refuted his claims in a column at LifeNews:
… Hawking has claimed that overpopulation and an ecessive consumption of energy will turn Earth into a “ball of fire” by 2600, according to Metro. …
While it may be important for humanity to find other nearby habitable planets as possible ‘plan Bs’ in the event of a worldwide catastrophe, population growth and energy consumption are certainly not projected to turn Earth into a “ball of fire.”
In fact, world population is projected to slow over the course of the remainder of this century. The annual population growth rate has plummeted since the 1960’s with no signs of reversing any time soon.
Hawking will be remembered as a brilliant mind and an inspirational example of what people with disabilities can achieve. Hopefully, these legacies will outlive his mistaken ideas about the value of human life.