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Daily View: Stephen Hawking's Universe theory

Clare Spencer | 10:01 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

Stephen Hawking

Commentators discuss physicist Stephen Hawking's argument in his new book that science can explain the Universe's origin without invoking God, instead arguing that the existence of gravity means the Universe can create itself from nothing.


Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks says in the Times [subscription required] that Stephen Hawking's idea is both unoriginal and that he doesn't understand that religion and science answer different questions:

"What would we do for entertainment without scientists telling us, with breathless excitement, that 'God did not create the Universe', as if they were the first to discover this astonishing proposition? Stephen Hawking is the latest, but certainly not the first. When Napoleon asked Laplace, two hundred years ago, where was God in his scientific system, the mathematician replied, Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse. 'I do not need God to explain the Universe.' We never did. That is what scientists do not understand.

"There is a difference between science and religion. Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation. Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. They are different intellectual enterprises."

In the New Scientist Roger Highfield dismisses the newness of the theory:

"Media furore over Stephen Hawking's new book, The Grand Design, has made it the biggest science news story of the day. But it's not like Hawking has suddenly given up a religious belief - let alone proved that God doesn't exist...
"As Hawking's long-suffering assistant dealt with a deluge of enquiries from journalists from around the world, she told me how the furore says more about the silly season than any change of mind. It also says much about how God is used to sell science to the public."

The Guardian imagines the relationship between Stephen Hawking and God:

"One accepts that if God were to choose one day to explain the universe to Hawking, the professor would be one of the few people on the planet with any serious chance of understanding the conversation. But spontaneous creation is, for most folk, just a contradiction in terms. God may or may not find all this amusing. The thing is - how to put this gently to Professor Hawking? - that God does not necessarily follow the ins and outs of our many arguments about His existence."
In the Catholic Herald Quentin de la Bedoyere argues that there is still a gap in Stephen Hawking's explanation of the creation of the Universe:

"Most particularly it would not touch the question of how something existing comes out from nothing. That is a question which science cannot answer, and will never answer, because nothingness is not within its domain. Hawking apparently does not address this question - which is the true and ultimate Theory of Everything."

In the Daily Mail John Lennox describes himself as a scientist and a Christian who teaches maths as Oxford university. He argues that Stephen Hawking is wrong to think they can't live alongside each other:

"Much of the rationale behind Hawking's argument lies in the idea that there is a deep-seated conflict between science and religion. But this is not a discord I recognise. "For me, as a Christian believer, the beauty of the scientific laws only reinforces my faith in an intelligent, divine creative force at work. The more I understand science, the more I believe in God because of my wonder at the breadth, sophistication and integrity of his creation.
"The very reason science flourished so vigorously in the 16th and 17th centuries was precisely because of the belief that the laws of nature which were then being discovered and defined reflected the influence of a divine law-giver."

In the Telegraph Graham Farmello is sceptical about the reasons behind scientists getting involved in the question of God:

"The science-religion relationship, in so far as there is one, continues to be a crowd-pleaser. It seems to be a fundamental law of PR that the God-science debate is a sure-fire source of publicity. Always welcome when one has a book to sell."

Links in full

Roger Highfield | New Scientist | Hawking hasn't changed his mind about God
Jonathan Sacks | Times | Even great science tells us nothing about God
Guardian | In praise of... God
Quentin de la Bedoyere | Catholic Herald | Stephen Hawking still can't explain how something came from nothing
John Lennox | Daily Mail | As a scientist I'm certain Stephen Hawking is wrong. You can't explain the universe without God
Graham Farmello | Telegraph | Has Stephen Hawking ended the God debate?

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