God v Gravity

Stephen Hawking must surely have had his voice computer hacked. First he claimed that aliens would be out to get us (should we meet them), now he’s suggesting that gravity disproves God. Or does away with the need for God.

Let me put this to any atheists reading this post plainly. Understanding how the world works does not rule out the presence of God. He may, in fact, be making the world work the way it works. Most Christians believe that. Only silly Christians subscribe to a “god of the gaps” theory. Most of us don’t. Nobody thinks that explaining “how” things work is the same as explaining “why” they work. That’s basically mixing up cause and effect.

Let me use an analogy, and then I’ll share an analogy from Professor John Lennox.

I like to think of this as analogous to listening to a piece of symphonic music. The more knowledgable one becomes about music the more they understand the different roles played by each instrument, and the different level of skill being applied by each musician. The more carefully one listens to the music the more they understand the way the notes fit together, and the more they appreciate the way the piece has been crafted. At no point do we, when listening to the music, decide that the music is simply a result of a bunch of musicians getting together and just playing whatever comes up. While this is possible, and talented musicians might often jam together and produce something of quality, the more we observe the complex relationships occuring within a symphony the more probable it becomes that it has been orchestrated by a composer.

We don’t work out the theory underpinning the music, or notice the talents of the musicians and suddenly assume that because we understand it we shouldn’t bother looking for a composer. So why are we so prepared to do this when we look at the planet? It doesn’t make any sense.

John Lennox says:

“But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions.

What Hawking appears to have done is to confuse law with agency. His call on us to choose between God and physics is a bit like someone demanding that we choose between aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle and the laws of physics to explain the jet engine.

That is a confusion of category. The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up. The jet could not have been created without the laws of physics on their own – but the task of development and creation needed the genius of Whittle as its agent.

Similarly, the laws of physics could never have actually built the universe. Some agency must have been involved.”

Now, many atheists will acknowledge that cause and effect are different, and still accept Richard Dawkins (I can’t believe how many people get Dawkins and Hawking confused as an aside) “blind watchmaker” argument – the notion that apparent complexity would develop over time inevitably and thus an agent is not necessary. That’s a slightly different kettle of fish, and in the end it comes down to a question of probability and how willing one is to apply Occam’s razor.

But if one of the biggest brains in the cosmos (Hawkings, not Dawkins) can fall foul of such obvious category error then that to me is a little troubling.

Hacking Hawkings

I hereby launch a conspiracy theory into the wild.

Respected theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has a degenerative muscle disease that means he communicates with the aid of a machine.

In recent weeks Hawking has made two slightly controversial claims – claims that if not made by a respected theoretical physicist would be laughed off as science fiction. Firstly, he claimed that we shouldn’t seek aliens out because they’re unlikely to be friendly. Secondly, he suggested that time travel is possible under certain parameters.

I think that it is plausible that some science fiction geeks have hacked into Hawking’s computerised voice box forcing him to make such outlandish claims.