UPDATE: Apparently you can now participate in the Times discussion of Hawking’s article, with Richard Dawkins and two Times writers, for free. Go here. Remember, it starts at 9:30 EST, which is ten minutes from this posting.
UPDATE 2: Check out the discussion: Dawkins is making mincemeat of the Times religion editor, who’s bobbing, weaving, and ducking the hard questions. It’s a rout!
So much for physics revealing “the mind of God.” Lest anybody still think that Stephen Hawking is religious, even in a deistic sense, check out his new book, The Grand Design (coauthored with American physicist Leonard Miodinow), available in the US September 7. Here’s part of Hawkings’s precis, taken from the Amazon listing:
In The Grand Design we explain why, according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence, or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. We question the conventional concept of reality, posing instead a “model-dependent” theory of reality. We discuss how the laws of our particular universe are extraordinarily finely tuned so as to allow for our existence, and show why quantum theory predicts the multiverse–the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature. And we assess M-Theory, an explanation of the laws governing the multiverse, and the only viable candidate for a complete “theory of everything.” As we promise in our opening chapter, unlike the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life given in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer we provide in The Grand Design is not, simply, “42.”
The front page of today’s Times (of London) highlights the book and Hawking’s godlessness (sadly, you’ll have to subscribe if you want to read this piece and the attendant Times pieces):
From the Times piece:
Far from being a once-in-a-million event that could only be accounted for by extraordinary serendipity or a divine hand, the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, Hawking says. “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist,” he writes.
“It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going,” he finds. . .
. . . Richard Dawkins, a biologist and fierce proponent of atheism, welcomed the book, describing it as Darwinism for the very fabric of Nature, not just the creatures living within it. “That’s exactly what he’s saying,” said Professor Dawkins. “I know nothing of the details of the physics but I had always assumed the same thing.”
However others, such as Professor George Ellis, an emeritus professor at the University of Cape Town and President of the International Society for Science and Religion, were less impressed. “My biggest problem with this is that it’s presenting the public with a choice: science or religion. A lot of people will say, ‘OK, I choose religion, then’ and it is science that will lose out,” he said.
Yes, let’s by all means avoid telling people what science learns about the universe lest that drive them back to the arms of Jebus.
In the obligatory defense-of-faith response, Ruth Gledhill, the Times religion correspondent, says this:
When it comes to religion, Stephen Hawking is the voice of reason. Not for him the polemical style that has propelled Richard Dawkins to the fore of national consciousness in the God debates. His argument is likely in the long term to be more dangerous to religion because it is more measured than The God Delusion.
Hawking also coined the best ever tee-shirt slogan for rationalists. Discussing the conflict between science and religion with Diane Sawyer, he claimed that “Science will win because it works.” Check it out:
Contrast this with Gledhill’s silly assertions to the contrary:
Religious belief systems, in which people attempt to shape God into a mould of their own design, will be threatened by this book. But faith will continue beyond the day that a scientist explains the root of Hawking’s “spontaneous creation”.
At the atheist summer camps supported by Dawkins, children try to show that unicorns do not exist. They learn the difficulty of finding proof for the non-existence of being.
People of faith the world over will read this book and marvel. Then they will pray, not because faith is logical, but because it works.
Works? How is that?
Today (Sept. 2) there will be a live web debate on Hawking’s book, featuring Richard Dawkins, Ruth Gledhill, and Hannah Devlin (author of the Times piece above) at 2:30 p.m. London time, 9:30 a.m. EST. Sadly, you’ll have to pay at least a pound to see it. If you wish, go here and click where it says “The God Debate with Richard Dawkins.” Maybe someone with a quid to spare can report back.
h/t: Richard Dawkins