The outrage mob, always sniffing for ideological impurities, has struck again. When Stephen Hawking died on March 14, actor Gal Gadot—you know, the Wonder Woman phenom who is also an Israeli—issued this tweet:
Rest in peace Dr. Hawking. Now you're free of any physical constraints.. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever ✨ pic.twitter.com/EQzSxqNTuN
— Gal Gadot (@GalGadot) March 14, 2018
Now most of you are on the Left, but look at that tweet and see what you could find objectionable if you’re a Pecksniff. You’ll spot it instantly, I bet. Yep, it was the idea that after death Hawking will be “free of any physical constraints.” Now I don’t know if that means he’ll have an afterlife where he’s not in a wheelchair (implying Gadot is religious, though most liberal Jews don’t believe in an afterlife), or that he’s simply gone and therefore not thereby constrained.
But if you’re a Pecksniff, you can also be huffy and say, “Well, this is ableism, pure and simple. It implies that Hawking was ‘constrained’ mentally as well as physically, and that he could have accomplished more had he not been afflicted with ALS (or polio).” That is arguable, because perhaps being confined to his chair enabled his mind to roam more freely. But that’s not what Gadot meant, I bet, for she pays tribute to his “brilliance and wisdom”. She was, I suspect, just paying tribute to him, and saying that he’s free from “constraints”—exactly as many people say, when someone dies, that they’re finally “at peace”, or “beyond suffering”. And that tweet, of course, got 53,469 likes when I put it up.
Yet the termites are ever dining, and so there’s a piece on Mashable called “People aren’t thrilled with Gal Gadot’s tribute to Stephen Hawking“, which presents exactly seven tweets accusing Gadot of ableism, and one supporting her. Apparently seven people is some kind of consensus.
Here are some Pecksniffs:
Yes, the last tweet is accurate: people should chill out about this, and there’s no doubt that, these days, many people are simply “looking to be offended.” I suppose there are psychological reasons for that, but this is above my pay grade.
But what was Hawking’s view? Would he have preferred to have had his ALS (with its putative benefits for his science), or to have never gotten it?
This video, which I found on YouTube, supports the latter, for it shows Hawking supporting the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge“, in which someone challenges another to dump a bucket of ice water on their head. If they don’t do it within a stipulated amount of time, the one who forfeits donates to The ALS Association or other groups fighting motor neuron disease. It’s estimated that the challenge not only brought awareness of this dreaded ailment, but raised over $100 million dollars for research and treatment.
And here’s Stephen Hawking participating in that challenge, urging his kids to drench themselves. They do. And Hawking adds, with his computer voice, “I urge everyone to donate to the MNDA to eliminate this terrible disease.” Yes, it’s terrible, and one has to conclude that Hawking would prefer not to have been afflicted.
That, of course, doesn’t mean that one should treat the disabled as lesser humans, or make fun of them (as Trump did during his campaign); it just means that we should keep working, raising money, and using the best science we can to get rid of those ailments that people don’t want. I suspect that most people with disabilities would just as soon not have them, though some deaf people say they wouldn’t want to hear even if that were possible.
And people should lay off Gal Gadot.
By the way, yesterday I mentioned a piece in the Torygraph intimating that Hawking’s final science paper might have shown a way for us to test the idea of the multiverse, heretofore seen as hard or impossible to test. A new article in Gizmodo by George Dvorsky, however, says that the Torygraph’s interpretation is overblown, and urges considerable caution:
The scientists say it may eventually be possible to see signs of the multiverse in the background radiation of the universe, but that has yet to be proven. If someone down the line can expand on this work, and show us what we should be looking for, then it can be said that Hawking and Loeb were truly onto something. But for now, that’s a big if.
. . . Frank Wilczek, a theoretical physicist at MIT and Nobel laureate, was less charitable about the new work.
“It’s heavy on speculative assumptions, and I don’t see any concrete predictions,” Wilczek told Gizmodo. “Very hard to understand, though, at least for me, and I may be missing something.”