Stephen Hawking is famous. Partly for his science and partly for his disability that gives him the even greater sense of intelligence and dispassion as we hear his thoughts via an electronic voice.
His perseverance in overcoming severe physical limitations to become that most rare of things – a famous scientist – is admirable indeed.

Last week the Times published a few days of material on the (supposed) battle between Science and God. In particular, they gave space to Stephen Hawking’s latest cosmological proposal “M-Theory”. This idea (M stands for Multiverses) has, according to Hawking removed the need for God, has proved that God isn’t there.

This is nothing new. Richard Dawkins suggested that evolutionary theory had done the same. He is not alone in the last 250 years of European thinking.
On the other hand, many Christians have sought to look at the same world and same universe to ‘prove’ that God does exist. Ray Comfort (an evangelist that I usually quite like) got himself into some trouble for claiming that the banana was evidence for God being the creator as it is so suited to human consumption. It was pointed out to Ray that the lovely yellow banana that we know today is the product of a couple of thousand years of selective breeding by humans – the ‘natural’ banana being almost inedible.

So where do we go for the answers. Well, in this instance I suggest an editorial from the Financial Times. It points out (as do so many others) that data about how the univesre works is often neutral in answering the question of God’s existence. Both believers and atheists look at the same stuff and can interpret it in both ways. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider such things – but we need to tread carefully when making definite assertions (like Stephen Hawking) that the data ‘proves’ things one way or the other.
Here is the article from the FT:

No friend of God
Published: September 3 2010
Sometimes you don’t appreciate your allies till they’re gone. Apparently the world’s religions had a friend in Stephen Hawking, the Cambridge cosmologist, until this week when he proclaimed in a highly publicised book that God could not after all have created the universe. His previous view was slightly more supportive: God might have been involved.
Such is the cult of the celebrity scientist – and the skill of Prof Hawking’s publicists – that his conversion from agnostic to atheist was the main front page story in The Times for two days running. While Richard Dawkins exulted that physics had joined biology in kicking God out of science, Britain’s religious leaders combined to attack Prof Hawking.
The furore shows how invoking the name of God, in a positive or negative sense, can attract attention. Prof Hawking himself has done it before, and so have other famous physicists, with phrases like “finding the God particle” and “seeing the face of God”.
In reality, Prof Hawking’s latest thinking should not affect anyone’s views about the likelihood of divine creation. He has espoused a speculative framework called M-theory, which shows how multiple universes – each with different laws of physics – could arise out of nothing. But this cannot exclude the idea that God (whatever that means) set the conditions for existence of the “multiverse”.
Cosmology is on the threshold of a golden age, in which new data from space observatories and atom smashers will feed a ferment of theories. We shall learn a lot more about the origins and structure of our universe – and possibly other universes too – but none of it can tell us anything about God.
Our human minds have not evolved in a way that will allow us ever to understand scientifically the ultimate secrets of existence. The field will therefore remain clear for those who want to invoke a deity to explain what science cannot.

One Comment, RSS

  • Peter

    says on:
    September 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    It is very easy to be highly offended by such outrageous arrogance from a leading scientist, but maybe it is the arrogance of the church that has lead some scientists to exclude God from their philosophy of life.

    None of us know God in his fullness, but we all have a glimpse of his enormity, truth and beauty. Yet in any study or discipline, we as people can get unhealthily comfortable with our way of looking at things, and then start to shoot down any understanding that would challenge our version of reality. Christians are not immune to this trait.

    Some christians continue to challenge observations of say genetics because they believe somehow an honest study of reality could undermine their faith. However, if God is the one true God, then any study in truth will only reveal more of him. We don’t have to be in fear of discovering something but we must always be ready to accept that our understanding of him is flawed and so be excited by new insights and truths.

    It was wrong for our brothers to excommunicate and persecute scientists who discovered amazing new insights into God’s creation, and some of our brothers and sisters continue with the same level of arrogance. This only justifies the arrogant response of some scientists who have not yet experienced God in their lives.

    I was challenged by Mr Nicky Gumble this week in his alpha talk when he said that no-one is ever converted as a result of an argument. I think if we continue to share God’s love, the arrogance of the scientists will be seen as such, and God will be glorified.

    Thanks for your Blog. It is brilliant to have you leading our Church.


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