The Early Days of a Better Nation

Saturday, September 04, 2010

' ... for then we would know the mind of God'

Stephen Hawking famously concluded A Brief History of Time with these words. Now he has no need of that hypothesis.

My talented brother James responds:

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' ... for then we would know the mind of God'
Stephen Hawking famously concluded A Brief History of Time with these words.

And creationists have been using it ever since to say "See! Even Stephen Hawking believes in God!" Which just shows that they didn't actually read the book.

My favourite comment was from the moderator of the General Assembly of the Kirk

if such laws say there is no God, then why has so much time, effort and money been expended in the search for the Higgs boson - the so-called God particle - in creating the Large Hadron Collider?

Er, OK!

"... you already smote the shit of of him."

I can't begin to describe how much I enjoyed that line.

JamesPadraicR - to be fair, the most prominent US creationists, Answers in Genesis, dismiss physicists' God-talk as irrelevant to creationism and even the existence of God. They recognise that the 'God' of the physicists is usually just a figure of speech. It tends to be the more liberal religionists who go in for lab-coat waving.

I was thinking of letters to the editor I'd seen in my local, conservative newpaper that use to be printed fairly often. In Colorado Springs, that is, home to many evangelical organizations, many creationists among them, though not particularly prominent ones. Mostly the garden variety, without a science background who also harp on the word theory, as in "Evolution is only a theory!" To which my answer would be "No, Darwinism is one theory to explain the fact of Evolution." Admittedly the fad of mentioning Hawking passed a while ago. For a while it seemed to be one of their favorite points to make.

That's a wonderful, wonderful cartoon. I'd love to buy a print to hang on the wall ... ?

- Mat

I think a bit too much has been made of this. Anybody familiar with his writings and who has read the one or two biographies of him that are out there knows Hawking has been a religious skeptic since his early youth. Back when he was a schoolboy, the two people that he admired the most were Einstein and Bertrand Russell. The references to God that appear in his writings like his "A Brief History of Time" are clearly metaphorical ones that physicists are apt to indulge in. They were not meant to be taken very literally. I think that what is happening is that perhaps with the prominence of the New Atheism, Hawking feels less constrained about expressing his real views concerning God and religion.

@Brian R. That is one of the best argumentative misuses of ambiguity (of the word "God") that I have ever seen.

Kant devotes a large section of The Critique of Pure Reason (2nd ed.) to showing that ambiguities arise in traditional proofs for God's existence, rendering them invalid. Kant was right. This mistake is different from those exposed by Kant.

Mat, you can contact James here.

@George Berger. I wouldn't leave out the Scotsman David Hume's Dialgoues Concerning Natural Religion, where Hume skewers the classical arguments for God's existence, especially the argument from design.

Whereas, Kant, despite his rejection of the traditional arguments for God's existence was still a theist, people have never quite been able to figure out exactly where Hume stood on the question of God's existence. You can find Hume scholars who will argue that he was either a deist, a pantheist, an agnostic, or an atheist. Then again, we should keep in mind that Hume was once nearly prosecuted for blasphemy, so it's understandable why he might have been deliberately ambiguous on the subject.

Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno sez:

"Steven Hawking is a brilliant physicist and when it comes to theology I can say he's a brilliant physicist."

That'll learn ya! Hahaha!

Hawking mocks Keynes, too:

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