Current News 

Lennox takes on Hawking: again!

Professor John Lennox is indefatiquable in his rebuttals of the current theories amongst the scientific intelligensia that our world is some kind of cosmic accident or formed itself from rudimentary pond life.
 


by John Lennox
 
Stephen HawkingThere's no denying that Stephen Hawking is intellectually bold as well as physically heroic. And in his latest book, the renowned physicist mounts an audacious challenge to the traditional religious belief in the divine creation of the universe.

According to Hawking, the laws of physics, not the will of God, provide the real explanation as to how life on Earth came into being. The Big Bang, he argues, was the inevitable consequence of these laws 'because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.'

Unfortunately, while Hawking's argument is being hailed as controversial and ground-breaking, it is hardly new.

For years, other scientists have made similar claims, maintaining that the awesome, sophisticated creativity of the world around us can be interpreted solely by reference to physical laws such as gravity.

It is a simplistic approach, yet in our secular age it is one that seems to have resonance with a sceptical public.

But, as both a scientist and a Christian, I would say that Hawking's claim is misguided. He asks us to choose between God and the laws of physics, as if they were necessarily in mutual conflict.

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.

To use a simple analogy, Isaac Newton's laws of motion in themselves never sent a snooker ball racing across the green baize. That can only be done by people using a snooker cue and the actions of their own arms.

Hawking's argument appears to me even more illogical when he says the existence of gravity means the creation of the universe was inevitable. But how did gravity exist in the first place? Who put it there? And what was the creative force behind its birth?

Similarly, when Hawking argues, in support of his theory of spontaneous creation, that it was only necessary for 'the blue touch paper' to be lit to 'set the universe going', the question must be: where did this blue touch paper come from? And who lit it, if not God?

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.

One of the fundamental themes of Christianity is that the universe was built according to a rational , intelligent design. Far from being at odds with science, the Christian faith actually makes perfect scientific sense.

Some years ago, the scientist Joseph Needham made an epic study of technological development in China. He wanted to find out why China, for all its early gifts of innovation, had fallen so far behind Europe in the advancement of science.

He reluctantly came to the conclusion that European science had been spurred on by the widespread belief in a rational creative force, known as God, which made all scientific laws comprehensible.

Despite this, Hawking, like so many other critics of religion, wants us to believe we are nothing but a random collection of molecules, the end product of a mindless process.

This, if true, would undermine the very rationality we need to study science. If the brain were really the result of an unguided process, then there is no reason to believe in its capacity to tell us the truth.

We live in an information age. When we see a few letters of the alphabet spelling our name in the sand, our immediate response is to recognise the work of an intelligent agent. How much more likely, then, is an intelligent creator behind the human DNA, the colossal biological database that contains no fewer than 3.5 billion 'letters'?

It is fascinating that Hawking, in attacking religion, feels compelled to put so much emphasis on the Big Bang theory. Because, even if the non-believers don't like it, the Big Bang fits in exactly with the Christian narrative of creation.

That is why, before the Big Bang gained currency, so many scientists were keen to dismiss it, since it seemed to support the Bible story. Some clung to Aristotle's view of the 'eternal universe' without beginning or end; but this theory, and later variants of it, are now deeply discredited.

But support for the existence of God moves far beyond the realm of science. Within the Christian faith, there is also the powerful evidence that God revealed himself to mankind through Jesus Christ two millennia ago. This is well-documented not just in the scriptures and other testimony but also in a wealth of archaeological findings.

Moreover, the religious experiences of millions of believers cannot lightly be dismissed. I myself and my own family can testify to the uplifting influence faith has had on our lives, something which defies the idea we are nothing more than a random collection of molecules.

Just as strong is the obvious reality that we are moral beings, capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong. There is no scientific route to such ethics.

Physics cannot inspire our concern for others, or the spirit of altruism that has existed in human societies since the dawn of time.

The existence of a common pool of moral values points to the existence of transcendent force beyond mere scientific laws. Indeed, the message of atheism has always been a curiously depressing one, portraying us as selfish creatures bent on nothing more than survival and self-gratification.

Hawking also thinks that the potential existence of other lifeforms in the universe undermines the traditional religious conviction that we are living on a unique, God-created planet. But there is no proof that other lifeforms are out there, and Hawking certainly does not present any.

It always amuses me that atheists often argue for the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence beyond earth. Yet they are only too eager to denounce the possibility that we already have a vast, intelligent being out there: God.

Hawking's new fusillade cannot shake the foundations of a faith that is based on evidence.


Footnotes:
See John Lennox at Eden Court (2008)

God's Undertaker: Has science Buried God? by John Lennox is out now.

Professor John Lennox, 18/11/2010

Feedback:
Brian Ross 20/11/2010 23:48
This is, as is to be expected, an excellent, and succinct, rebuttal of Prof Hawkings' latest published viewpoint.

Since all that is must have had a 'begining' - a Genesis, if you will! - then we are left with only two possible solutions. Either the known (a very important adjective!) universe evolved, by chance, from an eternally existent piece of matter; or it was created by an eternally existent, intelligent, Being to Whom, in the English language, we ascribe the nomenclature 'God'. I cannot conceive of any third way! I reject the notion of 'theistic eveolution' on the basis that evolution does not require any concept of God; and God, by definition, does not require any process of evolution!

Sometimes, when I am debating such points, I am asked for the evidence that I use to support my own position. I respond by pointing out that it is exactly the same evidence as that used by the evolutionist! The difference is in the interpretation of the evidence!

It is good to have such eminent scientists as Prof Lennox (and, praise God, he is by no means a solitary voice!) willing to stand up and be counted. May he know the experience of the servant in the prophetic utterances of Isaiah: "For the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame;" (Isa 50:7; RSV).
WB (Guest) 21/11/2010 19:55
I agree with Prof. Lennox that the brilliant Prof. Hawking has overstretched himself a bit in dismissing the possibility of a God; however it seems to me that the claim of Christianity that Jesus Christ was the son of God has long since been demolished as likely fantasy. The scriptures are not history, rather they result from much group infighting and wishful interpretation. In the centuries that followed the life of Christ there were several distinct versions of Christianity and that is seemingly still the case! It does not look a solid and trustworthy set of events to me.

The scriptures are a matter of faith and many clerics pick and mix; some do not even believe the basis of Christianity. As for archaeological findings they do indeed encourage some to believe in Christianity but none of the findings are significant indicators of divinity rather they indicate the existance of some of the characters in the bible story.

Prof Lennox holds great store by the religious experiences of millions of believers but any such uplift of feeling can be described as wishful thinking. I imagine that over the centuries billions of prayers have remained unanswered - think of the the Black Death,,the Holocaust and even the crime of rape [so popular with elements of victorious armies] ..... and on it goes. As for an example of Godly inperfection Aberfan takes some beating.


Donald Boyd 22/11/2010 19:54
And so the argument continues to go round in circles...

It looks as if WB has overstretched himself in claiming "The scriptures are not history."

A few of my thoughts on "Who should we believe?" at
http://www.donaldboyd.org/2010/10/18/who-should-we-believe/


Martin Lisemore 22/11/2010 20:35
Donald, you're completely right in what you say ... but it's not a complete answer.

Twentieth century Christians did not stand up for Jesus, and be heard; they, which includes me to some extent, liked the easy going, church going way of life. Closeted up in four walls we were safe from the outside world. Whilst this was happening, the nation rotted, from the top down, and from inside.

Churches across the nation failed to support an new generation of Wesley's or Spurgeons. The ministry of the True Word all but died to be replaced by something I don't recognise from the Scripture.

We allowed a pure faith once delivered to be diluted with Eastern religions; encouraged yoga classes in C of E cathedrals, permitted Muslims srvices in our cathedrals, allowed our government to appoint bishops who were not Christian at all, but environmentalists, pseudo buddhists etc., unbelievers at best. We didn't make a vast outcry when John Lennon declared the Beatles to be more popular than Jesus. Did we? If we did, I didn't see or hear it.

We didn't oppose the mass immigration of the Muslim to our nation, who now rules by proxy - refer Sharia Law etc., and Muslim children being taught how to chop off men's hands!

We didn't write enough letters to M.P.'s didn't write to the press in sufficient numbers. We didn't pillory our local representatives to tow the line.

We didn't take to the streets in numbers, raise press interest and bring the authorities into a Biblical line.

No, we sat back and let it happen. we were part of the 'new generation,' 'let it all hang out man,' and now ..

Now, we're paying the price, and will give account to our Lord Jesus Christ for what we failed to do. Give account for why we didn't value Him above all others.

Dawkins and Hawking and Schmawking are not the first to bring out this rubbish. What about John Allegro?

Let's not bemoan the state of our nation, whether it be Scots or English. It's the fault of Christians and their ministers.

Yes, I'm hurting ... but please refer a post I made today in Should Christian be Involved in Politics, which is in support of what you are doing in politics.

Circles? No it's not circles, Donald, right now they have the floor which belongs to US!
WB (Guest) 23/11/2010 15:52
Steady on - you are discrediting a bit chunk of God's creation.
Martin Lisemore 23/11/2010 16:05
Thank you WB, I'll take that as a much needed lighter note. But none the less, whether we believe the Bible is the Word of God or not, the fact is, what we sow is what we reap.

We haven't sown in tears, so we don't reap in joy. Ours is a bitter harvest.

NOTICE: - The 'Response' facility on some articles may be restricted to CT site members. In these circumstances comments/questions from non-site members should be sent to the Editor by e-mail: editor<atsign>christianstogether.net

Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Current News > Lennox takes on Hawking: again!