Christian Left Daily 06/15 by The Christian Left | Blog Talk Radio We talked about the President's new immigration initiatives, the quality of the Romney poltical apparatus (or lack thereof), Bruce Bartlett's article on Reagan and the modern GOP and my riff on how Obama's policies would have been seen by the GOP if passed by Romney and how Jesus and Lincoln would be treated if they showed up in Tampa at the Convention. Finally, we talked about whether the Koch revolution in the GOP has any future once the Koch's have gone.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Stephen Hawking and God
Physicist Stephen Hawking's Grand Design aired on The Discovery Channel, which is based locally in Silver Spring, last night after being aired previously on the Science Channel a few months ago. There are three shows in the series. The first looks at the meaning of life and the nature of reality, in which he concludes that each of us makes our own meaning - although he does not really get into the hardcore question of the fact that neuroscience shows consciousness is an illusion and how this impacts the question of whether we have an immortal soul. The second examines the development of physics, from Newton to String Theory and how that relates to reality, including the prospect of the existence of multiple universes. The final episode examines whether science can find God in creation, examining the existence of the laws of nature and leading the the question of whether God has to exist. He posits that because there was no time before the Big Bang, that there could not be a God to cause it, which by extension rules out an afterlife or a soul to go there.
You can guess from the fact that I have not changed the title of my blog that I don't agree with his conclusions.
Scientific reason is not appropriate for philisophical questions. There are basic assumptions about what a God is and is not that he ignores. One of them is that God exists outside of time and space. That alone ruins not his scientific conclusion (that there is not time before the Big Bang) but that this leads to the conclusion that there is not God. Indeed, it validates the notion that God is beyond and outside of time in both directions. That is what eternity means. While his proof certainly counters Thomas Aquinas' first mover argument, it does not foreclose the possibility of reality beyond time.
Hawking's veneration of the laws of nature is actually more to the point on the existence or non-existence of God. It relates to the teleological (or watchmaker) proof of God. The whole question of intelligent design is the same thread, in both biology and the universe. Even that proof shows that a belief in God is not essential - the laws could exist just because they do, just like matter, energy, space and time may just exist on their own.
The laws of nature and our knowledge of them, by the way, are two different things. Our knowledge of them will always be both incomplete and up for grabs. Just because our theories change, or that sometimes the laws seem to be violated in nature, it does not mean there is no underlying reality.
The ultimate question of whether God, and by extension the human soul, exists is personal, not scientific. Essentially, it is and must be a question of belief - a question which each person must answer for themselves. It is this - are beaty, love and truth merely creations of the human brain and products of evolution or do they exist outside of our thinking, as well as time and space. If they are existent in their own rights and are concious of their existence, then that is what we mean by God. If Love is alive and not just a construct, then there is something that exists beyond the Big Bang, the Big Collapse and outside of any subatomic strings.
How do we know? It is more than just an intellectual exercise. It is an experiential question as well as a matter of belief. These are not things that can be proven by science - or even by education. God must be experienced to be known - usually as a result of personal brokenness. You cannot teach brokenness nor force it on people without simply being malevolent. It can be sought through self-mortification, but that is no gaurantee of finding it. Science has no hope of getting there and it need not look a certain way. The transcendant interacts with the individual in as many ways as there are individuals, although the Catholic Church does have Sacraments which seem to provide at least some of their members with the experience of God. Social pressure no longer keeps people going to Church. if there were not something there, particularly in Catholic Eucharist, no one would bother attending. While the Church's are by no means full, there is still quite a crowd at most Masses in the DC area.
Even Hawking, who ended his show with saying he was grateful there was no God, is interacting in his own way with the divine - even if he does not realize it. If one is grateful, it implies someone or something to be grateful to.