Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Big Bang, God and Stephen Hawking

Books & Culture has a very interesting essay about cosmology and Stephen Hawking, perhaps the best-known interpreter of it to a popular audience. Hawking argues that the universe had no beginning, thus eliminating any need for God. Karl Giberson:
Hawking's theological naïveté is almost funny. He appears not to know that the heart of the Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation is that the world derives its being from God, not that God "started" the world, like some kid building a model airplane. Everyone from Augustine and Aquinas to Barth and Pannenberg has addressed this important distinction. The suggestion that a physical theory ruling out a well defined "beginning" to the universe removes God from creation is the sort of simplistic misunderstanding that might be tolerated in philosophy students' first term papers, but certainly not their second.
The article is long, appreciative of Hawking's accomplishments, and with descriptions of his writings and the current state of scientific thinking about the origins of the universe. But by claiming to disprove God, Hawking has gone much further than physics can take him:
.... All this would indeed be humorous if it were not in a book that has sold ten million copies. Hawking has done a great disservice to those purchasers of his book who have actually read it. He has misled them about the religious implications of science and the apparent motivations of scientists; he has made bogus claims about theology; he has juxtaposed science and theology as if they compete to explain the same things. Hawking's enthusiasm about doing away with God does not reflect the views of the scientific community, where there is widespread belief in God, and widespread disinterest in using science against religion.

Hawking is a major public intellectual, a leading scientist with a flair for popular exposition and a platform from which to explain science to an educated populace. He and his scientific allies—Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, Peter Atkins, the late Stephen Jay Gould, Steven Weinberg, Stephen Pinker and so on—shape public perceptions of science through their popular presentations, in books, articles, and public appearances. Their collective message—drilled home in many different ways—is that science is hostile to religion, scientists don't believe in God, and science competes with religion to explain natural phenomena.

None of these statements is true. [the essay]
The Guy in the Wheelchair - Books & Culture

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.