The general consensus was that Stephen Hawking leaned left far more often than right, the latter rarely. But for Hawking, his political positions were less politics than reason and fact-based support for his positions. In one area, animal testing for example, Hawking may have been seen as not with the leftist program. But he was, again, pragmatic and looked at the facts and what he saw as hypocrisy. Hawking supported using animals in medical research and called the movement against it “ridiculous.”
“I think the fuss over the use of animals in medical research is ridiculous. Why is it worse to use animal experiments to save lives than to eat them, which the majority of the population are happy to do?” the Cambridge professor asked rhetorically. “I suspect that extremists turn to animal rights from a lack of the more worthwhile causes of the past, like nuclear disarmament.”
And with that, we’ll start with his views on nukes.
1. Hawking Promoted Worldwide Nuclear Disarmament
Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor Max Tegmark, a colleague of Hawking’s wrote for the Huffington Post about divestiture in nuclear weapons as a way forward. He wrote he was alarmed when he realized his investment portfolio included “money for this nuclear boondoggle by investing in the very companies that are lobbying for and building new nukes: some of the money in my bank account gets loaned to them and my S&P 500 mutual fund invests in them,” he wrote. And then shared what he was told by Hawking:
“If you want to slow the nuclear arms race, then put your money where your mouth is and don’t bank on the bomb!”
When Hawking told the world we had between 1000 and 10,000 years left on the planet, he pointed first to nuclear terrorism as among the most urgent threats for the world.
2. Hawking Believed Pres. Donald Trump was a “Demagogue”
In May of 2016, Hawking told CNN affiliate ITV’s ‘Good Morning Britain’ that Trump is a “demagogue, who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator.”
When Trump boasted his I.Q. was “one of the highest,” people pointed to Hawking’s answer to the New York Times question about his I.Q.: “I have no idea. People who boast about their I.Q. are losers,” Hawking said in 2004.
Wired’s João Medeiros interviewed Hawking just a few months ago. One of the questions was if Hawking could speak to Trump, what would he say. “I would ask him why he thinks his travel ban is a good idea. This brands as Daesh (ISIS) terrorists all citizens of six mainly Muslim countries, but doesn’t include America’s allies such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which allegedly help finance Daesh. This blanket ban is inefficient and prevents America from recruiting skilled people from these countries. I would also ask him to renounce his denial of climate change. But again, I fear neither will happen as Trump continues to appease his electorate.”
3. Hawking Was Critical of the US War in Iraq & of the War in Syria
In a stunning piece Hawking wrote for The Guardian in 2014 he described what was happening in Syria as “an abomination.”
“The war in Syria may not represent the end of humanity, but every injustice committed is a chip in the facade of what holds us together. The universal principle of justice may not be rooted in physics but it is no less fundamental to our existence. For without it, before long, human beings will surely cease to exist.”
On the US-led invasion of Iraq, Hawking called it a “war crime.”
“The war was based on two lies,” Hawking said. Hawking said the first lie was that the wrold was in danger because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which is known now to have been untrue.
“…and the second was that Iraq was somehow to blame for September 11th. It has been a tragedy for all the families that have lost members. As many as 100,000 people have died, half of them women and children. If that is not a war crime, what is?”
4. Hawking’s Fears About Climate Change in Part Fueled His Warning That Humans Don’t Have Long to Live on Planet Earth
On the environment, Hawking warned the planet that Pres. Donald Trump’s action or inaction on climate sounded the death nail for the world.
“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a “temperature of 250C, and raining sulphuric acid. ‘Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent if we act now. By denying the evidence for climate change, and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Donald Trump will cause avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children.’
In Hawking’s Wired interview he said the anti-science movement was a particular concern for climate change but said that in general, people just don’t get it.
“People distrust science because they don’t understand how it works. It seems as if we are now living in a time in which science and scientists are in danger of being held in low, and decreasing, esteem. This could have serious consequences. I am not sure why this should be as our society is increasingly governed by science and technology, yet fewer young people seem to want to take up science as a career. One answer might be to announce a new and ambitious space programme to excite them, and stimulate interest in other areas such as astrophysics and cosmology.”
Hawking told ‘Good Morning Britain’ a year ago that although he’d like to visit the US to “talk to other scientists, but I fear that I may not be welcome.”
And Hawking said Trump “should replace Scott Pruitt at the Environment Protection Agency. Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent. It affects America badly, so tackling it should win votes for his second term. God forbid.”
5. Hawking Supported Universal Health Care
Inexplicably, Hawking lived with motor-neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) for far, far longer than is the usual life span prognosis. The Scientific American explored this in 2012. Usually, people are diagnosed in middle age and generally survive for just five years give or take after the diagnosis. Hawking was first diagnosed with the colloquial name for ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, when he was just 21 and a student at Oxford University. Hawking was supposed to be dead by his 25th birthday. That he lived to 76 is nothing short of staggeringly anomalous. Hawking might not have used the word miraculous, but others might.
Hawking lived in England where the National Health Service, despite its flaws, allowed he and others access to health care he believed was a human right.
Hawking was “interested in the politics of health care. He has defended public, universal health care in both Britain and the United States.”
In an interview with the New York Times in 2011, Hawking said, “I have received excellent medical attention in Britain, and I felt it was important to set the record straight. I believe in universal health care. And I am not afraid to say so.”