Which is pretty much how popular media treated him:
Yes, he was brilliant. And who could not be inspired by his rising above such a debilitating physical condition that left him wheelchair-bound for decades? But there are other factors to consider.
Many underestimate the place that science holds in today’s cultural backdrop. In pre-modern Christendom, the ultimate statement of authority was “Thus saith the Lord.” Today, the closest statement with that sort of gravitas is “the science is settled,” despite how often that claim is misused to stifle debate and advance ideologies.
And also, Stephen Hawking didn’t stay in his lane. He was a scientist, but in each of his books and nearly all of his media appearances, he ventured into philosophy, masking metaphysical observations and proclamations in
languageof scientific certainty. John Stonestreet, “Scientism vs. Revelation & the Limits of Knowledge” at Salvo
Yes, he was careful to do science and leave the crackpot cosmology for the long-anticipated dessert. The media loved it because gullible notables loved it.
The comparatively unknown Sabine Hossenfelder is a much more reliable guide to what makes sense and nonsense in theoretical physics. But that’s why she is a comparatively unknown freelance physicist.
Top People need a multiverse. The rewards go to those who can conjure one. Hawking did his best within the boundaries of science and is to be commended for going no further. We have heard and will hear plenty from those who show no such qualms.
Something to watch: Will Stephen Hawking still be compared to Einstein and Newton 25 years from now?
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See also: Stephen Hawking’s final paper, just released, tacked the information paradox