Professor Stephen Hawking is an emerging champion of New Atheist thinking. In his A brief history of time, he intrigued readers with the comment that the discovery of a Theory of Everything would be to know "the mind of God". It has now become clear that he was using an arresting literary device and, in reality, Hawking denies the existence of God and does not think there is a cosmic mind. In the past, many cosmologists have affirmed Theistic or Deistic beliefs and atheists have been a small minority. But this situation is changing and the New Atheists have welcomed Hawking to their ranks. His track record and iconic status amply counterbalances the influence of cosmologists who believe in God. Dawkins puts it this way:
"Darwin kicked him [God] out of biology, but physics remained more uncertain. Hawking is now administering the coup de grace."
God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway? (source here)
Hawking's latest book, co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow, develops his approach to the Big Questions that people have always asked, claiming that he is presenting the findings of "science". Examples of these questions are: "What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a Creator?" He goes on to write that the laws of physics, not the will of God, explain our universe.
"The title, The Grand Design, will suggest for many people the existence of a Grand Designer - but that is actually what the book is designed to deny. Hawking's grand conclusion is: "spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."" (p.16)
In this short book, Professor John Lennox of Oxford University subjects Hawking's book to critical scrutiny and finds the logic very weak. Lennox does not follow the NOMA approach of Gould (Non-Overlapping Magisteria) that compartmentalises science and keeps it entirely separate from matters of faith. Lennox writes as a philosopher of science as well as a scientist and recognises there are philosophical foundations for both science and faith. He seeks to clarify these as well as to point out flaws in Hawking's approach.
"I do hope [. . .] that I have at least managed to communicate to you that the widespread belief that atheism is the default intellectual position is untenable. More than that, I hope that for many of you this investigation of Hawking's atheistic belief system will serve to confirm your faith in God, as it has mine, and that it will encourage you not to be ashamed of bringing God into the public square by joining in the debate yourself." (p.96)
Hawking does not understand Theism at all. He is always portraying God as a "God of the Gaps". In particular, when he presents the laws of physics as providing a rationale for origins, he follows it up by inferring that there is no God. It is a case of: 'If law is the explanation, then God is pushed out of being an explanation'. Theists understand things entirely differently! God is the Creator and Sustainer of all material things and he is the author of all natural laws, whether or not we understand them. Discovering more about "law" can never undermine belief in God but inevitably serves to increase our sense of awe and wonder. Hawking wants us to choose between physical law and personal agency, but these are false alternatives. Lennox uses the example of explaining the jet engine - if we were called to choose between the laws of physics or the aeronautical engineer Frank Whittle, we would consider this absurd! Lennox goes to some length to show that theories and laws cannot be appealed to as though they are creative agents - even though this concept is advanced repeatedly by scientists who seek to explain origins in this way. Hawking has not explained why there is something rather than nothing. He starts with gravity but does not explain how gravity came to exist.
"[Hawking and others like him] fail to see that their science does not answer the question as to why something exists rather than nothing, for the simple reason that their science cannot answer that question. They also fail to see that by assumption it is their atheist world-view, not science as such, that excludes God." (p.39)
Hawking presents the multiverse as the "scientific" explanation of cosmic fine tuning. Instead of reinforcing the "old idea that this grand design is the work of some grand designer", he declares that the answer of modern science is that "our universe seems to be one of many, each with different laws". This approach replaces a special, designed universe with an almost infinite spectrum of universes, in one of which we live. To claim that this is the answer of "modern science" fails to acknowledge that there are many cosmologists who reject multiverse thinking. It also pretends that a theory that is devoid of experimental validation can be labelled "science".
"What is very interesting in all of this is the impression being given to readers of The Grand Design that God is somehow rendered unnecessary by science. Yet when one examines the arguments one can see that the intellectual cost of doing so is impossibly high, since it involves an attempt to get rid of the Creator by conferring creatorial powers on something that is not in itself capable of doing any creating - an abstract theory." (p.52)
Numerous other issues are helpfully addressed by Lennox, but the last to be considered here is rationality. Science is a rational activity, as is also philosophy and theology. Lennox finds a link between all three disciplines:
"One of the fundamental themes of Christianity is that the universe was built according to a rational, intelligent design. Far from belief in God hindering science, it is the motor that drove it." (p.73)
But atheistic science reduces rationality to the firing of neurones. In the words of Francis Crick: "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." Darwin was similarly perplexed about where his worldview was leading him: "With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy." Mechanistic, reductionist science ultimately destroys rationality. Lennox has this comment:
"The very existence of the capacity for rational thought is surely a pointer: not downwards to chance and necessity, but upwards to an intelligent source of that capacity." (p.75)
The same issues arise with other human traits of free agency, altruism, morality and consciousness. Atheistic science is a 'universal acid' that corrodes them all away. Lennox argues that the worldview of atheism has nothing to offer us when grappling with these issues. He points the way to satisfying answers in Christian Theism. Worldview differences are again central for understanding ourselves and our place in the world.
"The crucial difference between the Christian view and Hawking's view is that Christians do not believe that this universe is a closed system of cause and effect. They believe that it is open to the causal activity of its Creator God." (p.88)
The book certainly deserves to receive the "Award of Merit" in the "2012 Christianity Today Book Awards".
God and Stephen Hawking
John C. Lennox
Lion Hudson plc, Oxford. 2011.
ISBN 978 0 7459 5549 0
|<< <||> >>|
Evolution has become a favorite topic of the news media recently, but for some reason, they never seem to get the story straight. The staff at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture started this Blog to set the record straight and make sure you knew "the rest of the story".
A blogger from New England offers his intelligent reasoning.
We are a group of individuals, coming from diverse backgrounds and not speaking for any organization, who have found common ground around teleological concepts, including intelligent design. We think these concepts have real potential to generate insights about our reality that are being drowned out by political advocacy from both sides. We hope this blog will provide a small voice that helps rectify this situation.
Website dedicated to comparing scenes from the "Inherit the Wind" movie with factual information from actual Scopes Trial. View 37 clips from the movie and decide for yourself if this movie is more fact or fiction.
Don Cicchetti blogs on: Culture, Music, Faith, Intelligent Design, Guitar, Audio
Australian biologist Stephen E. Jones maintains one of the best origins "quote" databases around. He is meticulous about accuracy and working from original sources.
Most guys going through midlife crisis buy a convertible. Austrialian Stephen E. Jones went back to college to get a biology degree and is now a proponent of ID and common ancestry.
Complete zipped downloadable pdf copy of David Stove's devastating, and yet hard-to-find, critique of neo-Darwinism entitled "Darwinian Fairytales"
Intelligent Design The Future is a multiple contributor weblog whose participants include the nation's leading design scientists and theorists: biochemist Michael Behe, mathematician William Dembski, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, philosophers of science Stephen Meyer, and Jay Richards, philosopher of biology Paul Nelson, molecular biologist Jonathan Wells, and science writer Jonathan Witt. Posts will focus primarily on the intellectual issues at stake in the debate over intelligent design, rather than its implications for education or public policy.
A Philosopher's Journey: Political and cultural reflections of John Mark N. Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds is Director of the Torrey Honors Institute at