Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stephen Hawking and the Existence of God

I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV.  I am a pastor; theologian in residence (if you will) at Centenary United Methodist Church.  Not being a scientist keeps me out of trouble, sometimes.  At other times, the fact that I won't pretend to be a scientist may get me into some trouble.

Stephen Hawking, on the other hand, is a scientist and has played one on TV, as well.  I have to admit, I thought it was quite cool when Stephen Hawking played himself in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, Descent, Part I.  In that episode, Commander Data played a game of poker (thanks to the holodeck) with Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Stephen Hawking.  While the other two were (of course!) played by actors, Stephen Hawking was really Stephen Hawking.

You know, while I do think it is cool that Hawking takes time to step out of the scientist role in order to "play a scientist on TV," he would likely do well to refrain from attempting to play a serious theologian.  Certainly, everyone is welcome to their own theological beliefs and opinions.  They are welcome to promote them as they wish.  However, in attempting to "do theology" in a way that is supposed to be received on the same level as his scientific writings, Hawking finds himself well over his head.  -  He does not seem to realize this, but ask a theologian, or even one who, like myself, is a reader of theologians, and it becomes clear.

This isn't an attempt to slam Hawking.  I like him, especially since he was on Star Trek!  Rather, this post was prompted by an article I read from Mail Online by Professor John Lennex.  I really only wanted to point readers of my blog to his article.  I find it refreshing in that it exposes the false dichotomy that many atheistic scientist, on the one hand, and many fundamentalist Christians, on the other hand, like to promote.  I find that promotion of war between science and religion to be completely out of place for Christians.

As I said, I like Hawking . . . and I like Star Trek!  I would like to see the two together again.  But for now, I would commend to you Professor Lennex's article, "As a scientist I'm certain Stephen Hawking is wrong.  You can't explain the universe without God."  You can find the article by clicking here.

Another interesting article found at the same source provides ++Rowen Williams' (Archbishop of Canterbury) dismissive response, as well as comments from other religious leaders.  It can be found, here.

Live long and prosper!

5 comments:

Chuck said...

The simple fact is that Professor Hawking should return to the black hole that god made for him since he advances no argument beyond those offered many years ago by the fakers Laplace and Lagrange. For the uninformed mathematical physicists, those who don't know up from down (and these are the vast majority), "god" is the nickname among mathematicians for one Kurt Gödel .
(See discussion on "Is it possible that black holes do not exist? " on Physics Forums
http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=421491 for relevant citations.)
In any case all rational scientific discourse has been effectively banned since the illegal shutdown of the first international scientific association and journal in 1837 by the Duke of Clarence, Ernest Augustus. See Percy Byssh Shelley's Mask of Anarchy for a pertinent depiction of the Duke of Clarence, the face behind Castlereagh. A simple google search for "("magnetic union" OR "Magnetischer Verein") AND ("Göttingen Seven" OR "Göttinger Sieben") gauss weber" shows that there has been no serious discussion of that action on the subsequent development of scientific practice.
We must assume therefore that the concurrent and congruent Augustin-Louis Cauchy scientific method of theft, assassination, plagiarize at leisure remains hegemonic. Chuck Stevens 571-252-0451 stevens_c@yahoo.com

Inspector Clouseau said...

Nice work. I came across your blog while “blog surfing” using the “Next Blog” button in the Nav Bar at the top of my blogspot blog. I occasionally just check out other blogs to see what others are doing.

You have at least addressed the Hawking issue. I posted an article on his revised position the day that his book promotion activity commenced.

I am an engineer by training, and consequently, I am familiar with those who seek physical, quantifiable, and observable direct proof for their conclusions, essentially using the scientific method.

For those individuals and others "still seeking proof of the existence of God," something more theoretically needs to be provided to them conceptually and intellectually other than the statement, "He is wrong."

Otherwise, it comes off as if those who know God are looking down on those who don't, chuckling, and thinking to themselves, "It's too bad that you can't figure this out for yourself," or, "It's too bad that God hasn't chosen to seek you out, reveal himself to you, speak to you, or touch you."

To proceed as if this basic issue of proof is not one which needs to be addressed so that the "unenlightened" can appreciate God, does little to advance further understanding on the part of the millions who are not sure.

You are to be commended for at least broaching the subject.

Todd Stepp said...

Thanks for your comments, Chuck!

Still, gotta love Star Trek!

Todd+

Todd Stepp said...

Inspector,

Thank you for your comments, as well.

I have to say, I didn't really get the "He is wrong" idea from the Lennex article in terms of an attempt to prove the existence of God. Perhaps I need to re-read it.

What I got from Lennex was that "He is wrong" in terms of Hawking's conclusion that his physical, quantifiable, and observable direct proofs necessarily require the conclusion that God does not exist; that Hawking's evidence demands that there be no God.

It is not that Lennex says, "Yes there is a God" (though, of course he does believe in God). It is simply that Lennex says, "How is what you have shown inconsistent with God? One can agree with your evidence and come to a completely different conclusion about the existence of God."

In the end, one's belief in or lack of belief in God really is a matter of . . . faith. - One scientist sees all that Hawking sees and praises God as Creator. Another scientist sees all that Hawking sees and concludes there is no God.

I also question the characterization about the person coming off as looking down on others, chuckling to themselves about how dumb the unbelievers are (my words), or thinking it a shame that God hasn't revealed himself to them.

Perhaps some fit that characterization, but I tend to think that most do not want to come off that way at all. They aren't chuckling at anyone. They don't think unbelievers are dumb. They believe that God has revealed himself to all in Christ.

In Hawking's case, some theologians have thought that his previous statements about God are very . . . elementary; that he has jumped into the realm of theology without studying theology. (Like me jumping into the realm of science, making grand scientific claims, that fail to understand even the basics of the scientific method, because I haven't taken the time to do any scientific research.)

- They would say that if Hawking would take his theological inquires as seriously as he does his scientific ones, he would not say what he says. (He may still not believe in God, but his statements would be more . . . sophisticated.)

Again, in Hawking's case, it would be no different than his making sweeping musical or artistic statements based soley on his scientific studies without any sense that he might need to study music and the arts (as an example, asuming that he hasn't studied these areas). And yet (and this is the important part), presenting those statements as though they ought to hold the same weight that his scientific statements hold.

As I have said, I'm not a scientist (though my wife is a science teacher), but this discussion about proofs reminds me of the difference between the way fundamentalist Christians and Wesleyan Christians approach Scripture.

The fundamentalist tends to think in terms of needing to prove Scripture, first. If there are "holes" in Scriptural truth, then one cannot trust God.

On the other hand, the Wesleyan places their trust in God and finds that God has proven Himself true to His Word (in Scripture), therefore they say, "I believe the Scriptures to be true."

It is what St. Anslem and St. Augustine call faith seeking understanding.

What I liked about Lennex's article is that he illustrates that science and religion (reason and faith) need not be at war. They come at things from different perspectives and with different purposes (much like the difference between the way the chemist and the artist would analyze a painting), but they need not be inconsistent.

I think, perhaps, the best way for me to end this comment is the way that I ended my post: Live long and prosper!

Todd+

Todd Stepp said...

Inspector,

Let me back up and say, Lennex does, obviously believe that one needs God in order to provide "all the answers" to the existence of the universe.

I suppose it is legit. to say to him, "prove that you have to have God."

I think, though, the thrust of his article was more about Hawking not being able to answer all of the questions without God, and Hawking's position that God is not needed, etc.

In essence, I think the thrust was: Hawking still doesn't answer all of the questions. I believe God is still needed to fill in the blanks. Hawking certainly has not shown that God does not exist or that God did not create.

It might be argued that one could still yet come up with further answers to fill in the blanks which Lennex insists are filled by God. One could argue that Lennex needs to demonstrate that nothing but God can fill in those blanks. One could argue that Lennex needs to prove that God does exist and has filled in those blanks.

But I don't think that Lennex set out to address any of those arguments. Only to say that Hawking's conlusion that there is no need for God does not follow his evidence.

Still, I could be wrong about the whole thing!

Peace,

Todd+