I don’t usually blog on religion, but the reports on Stephen Hawking’s new book caught my eye today, and I thought I’d make a comment in response –
Ok – right from the start I’ll tell you that I’m an atheist – I have no belief in God or god. I am however a believer in the scientific application of critical reasoning as a means of understanding the universe that surrounds us. If I had to put a tag on my religion it would probably be “Critical Scientist” .
I am however agnostic in that, as any good scientist should be, I am open to persuasion about the existence of a God or gods.
As such I’ve often made it my business to examine different religious beliefs critically, in order to understand why others believe them, and to affirm my own beliefs.
So when I hear arguments from someone like Stephen Hawking claiming to rule out the possibility of God as creator, I try and put myself in the position of someone who does believe in order to work through the arguments that are likely to be raised in opposition.
The Grand Design, an extract of which appears in the Times today, sets out to contest Sir Isaac Newton’s belief that the universe must have been designed by God as it could not have been created out of chaos.
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” he writes. “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.”
(From The Guardian –Stephen Hawking says universe not created by God | Science | The Guardian )
Well although it pains me to say it, I think most literate Christians would make mincemeat of this.
The Guardian quote starts with the words “Because there is a law of gravity …”
And why is there is there a law of gravity ?
Because there just is. It’s a primary feature of the universe.
If I were a Christian I’d say – because God decided that it should be so.
And there really is no way that that statement can be verified, or disproved. So it’s back to personal belief.
I find it hard to believe that someone with such notable power of thought as Stephen Hawking, should come out with such a facile argument.
Admittedly though I haven’t read the book, or even dipped behind the Times paywall to read the extract.
So I strongly suspect that he actually says something a little different if you take the trouble to read the whole book, and that this is just a tactic from his publishers to get people to buy it.
I don’t think I will be though.
I’d be interested to know what any Christians thought of this.
I saw this post Who goes to a creationist museum on the BBC website today.
I never cease to be amazed by the (mostly American) controversy between Fundamentalist Christians and Darwin “fans”.
It all seems such a complete set of crumby arguments. On the one hand you have the Christians saying that it totally negates their religion, and claiming that there is no evidence to support evolution, whilst adhering to an alternative explanation that is evidenced only by the fact that it’s written in a book (the Book of Genesis to be more precise).
On the other hand the Darwinites proclaim his theory of evolution as categoric proof of God’s non existence, and of the power of science to explain the origins of mankind.
Well my humble opinion is that both positions are way off the mark.
First of all, science rarely proves anything. Darwin’s theories are just that – theories – as he intended them to be – they prove nothing, but suggest a plausible explanation for the origins of different species. Very plausible I would suggest, in fact I’d go so far as saying that I believe his theories to be true.
That doesn’t mean they are true though – but there’s plenty of evidence that suggests this. The most striking example to me, is the way in which doorways built into houses constructed in the Elizabethan period or earlier, are generally only slightly over 5ft (150 cm) tall. Which is a lot smaller than the average person today. Todays doorways tend to be at least 6ft (180cm) tall or more How did we grow another foot in a few hundred years ? I know what I think ! There is plenty more evidence – look it up.
Still doesn’t prove Darwin right though. Nor does it prove the creationists right either. In fact there’s very little evidence to support the creationist position unless you accept that the scriptures are God’s divine message to humanity. In other words a matter of faith. If you have faith it must be true.
I don’t though – and that’s a circular argument that disappears up it’s own backside.
What nobody ever seems to suggest though is that evolution could be the work of God.
Blasphemy ! I hear the Christians scream.
I’m an atheist/agnostic and don’t really have a lot of time for Christianity – or any other religion for that matter, but if Darwin’s theories on evolution are correct, and I believe they may well be, (and also the science of genetics stemming from the work of Gregor Mendel who gets far few mentions than Darwin), then they offer a very neat – even beautiful – explanation for the develeopment of all life on the planet.
To me this is the best argument yet for the existence of a Divine Creator.
If the Christians were saying to me “Evolution is God’s instrument by which he created Mankind, and all Life on Earth, how could such a method of natural selection occur without the intelligent design of the supreme being ?” – I’d have to admit I’d find it hard to counter that argument.
They don’t though they just say it’s not true because the Bible says so. So I have a while to think my way around that one.
If you’re wondering about the title – some years ago I submitted my dissertation for a Masters degree having worked collaboratively with two other colleagues on a research project. Part of my submission included a Summary of the research for distribution in the school where I worked, which I had drafted and which contained the expression “It seems clear that the use of Information Technology will evolve rapidly in school … ” .
One of my colleagues though was an evangelical Christian, and we spent some time arguing about the paper before finally agreeing the wording “… will be incrementally created … ”
He was a good friend though whatever his religion.