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Is Stephen Hawking Wrong?

Came across this very interesting article today about Stephen Hawking’s latest book. John Lennox responds eloquently. Here are a couple of quotes from the article that I thought were persuasive. He begins by acknowledging Hawking’s stature.

There’s no denying that Stephen Hawking is intellectually bold as well as physically heroic. And in his latest book, the renowned physicist mounts an audacious challenge to the traditional religious belief in the divine creation of the universe.

According to Hawking, the laws of physics, not the will of God, provide the real explanation as to how life on Earth came into being. The Big Bang, he argues, was the inevitable consequence of these laws ‘because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.’

Unfortunately, while Hawking’s argument is being hailed as controversial and ground-breaking, it is hardly new.

For years, other scientists have made similar claims …

He later goes on to develop several arguments against this.

But, as both a scientist and a Christian, I would say that Hawking’s claim is misguided. He asks us to choose between God and the laws of physics, as if they were necessarily in mutual conflict.

But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions.

As for the supposed conflict between science and religion, Lennox has several rejoinders. The first:

The very reason science flourished so vigorously in the 16th and 17th centuries was precisely because of the belief that the laws of nature which were then being discovered and defined reflected the influence of a divine law-giver.

Also:

Some years ago, the scientist Joseph Needham made an epic study of technological development in China. He wanted to find out why China, for all its early gifts of innovation, had fallen so far behind Europe in the advancement of science.
He reluctantly came to the conclusion that European science had been spurred on by the widespread belief in a rational creative force, known as God, which made all scientific laws comprehensible.

There are several other related points about the development of rationality (why trust a brain that is the result of random chance?) and ethics (why do we have such a strongly developed sense of right and wrong?), but I found his take on the Big Bang Theory to be particularly enlightening. (Sorry, young earth creationists, Lennox is not one of you.)

It is fascinating that Hawking, in attacking religion, feels compelled to put so much emphasis on the Big Bang theory. Because, even if the non-believers don’t like it, the Big Bang fits in exactly with the Christian narrative of creation.
That is why, before the Big Bang gained currency, so many scientists were keen to dismiss it, since it seemed to support the Bible story. Some clung to Aristotle’s view of the ‘eternal universe’ without beginning or end; but this theory, and later variants of it, are now deeply discredited.

Lennox then goes on to discuss the evidence from experience in the lives of millions of believers. He finishes off with one last jab at Hawking’s argument that extra-terrestrial life may exist.

Hawking also thinks that the potential existence of other lifeforms in the universe undermines the traditional religious conviction that we are living on a unique, God-created planet. But there is no proof that other lifeforms are out there, and Hawking certainly does not present any.
It always amuses me that atheists often argue for the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence beyond earth. Yet they are only too eager to denounce the possibility that we already have a vast, intelligent being out there: God.
Hawking’s new fusillade cannot shake the foundations of a faith that is based on evidence.

Definitely an interesting read, I highly recommend it.

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