I’ve been thinking a lot about Christianity’s engagement with Western culture recently.There are many points of engagement, but one particular one in public conscience is Christianity’s engagement with science. I read Stephen Hawking’s book, Grand Designs when it came out. The publicist certainly earned his money. What an incredible furore. The debate seems to be stuck.
The book, co-authored with US physicist Leonard Mlodinow, states “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.’ He also says, “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” Therefore, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” All that Hawking seems to be saying is as Simon Pierre marquis de Laplace; “Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là” (I have no need for such a hypothesis).
The Headlines are even more astounding, “God did not create the universe”, blares the BBC website. But the question is, “can human science disprove the existence of God. What Stephen Hawking is saying, that according to the science, God does not need to be there. He does not deny the existence of God-Hawking has already dismissed the idea of a personal god.
In popular consciousness, science and religion are at war. At the level of scholarship this is clearly not the case. Popular science and I am afraid this is where professor Hawking has descended to is claiming to be the source of ALL true knowledge.
Earlier in the 20th Century, Logical Positivism claimed that, only verifiable statements can be affirmed as true. A.J. Ayer, the British philosopher, adjusted a popularized logical positivism. Externally this statement seems to be a strong argument, until we point out that the statement that “only verifiable statements can be taken to be true” is not a verifiable statement. Ayer sawed off the very branch he was seated on.
What sorts of questions can scientists, using the scientific method, gathering evidence, collating data, validly be asked to answer? All Hawking has said in this book, for example is that within the parameters of his theory, there is no need for God to be there; which is fine and coherent within the worldview professor Hawking operates. This does not however, disprove the existence of God.
As John Lennox said, “Nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists.”