29 January 2020, The Tablet

How Stephen Hawking's work creates new opportunities for understanding God


How Stephen Hawking's work creates new opportunities for understanding God

Stephen Hawking: ‘outshone the esoteric physics of his day job’
Photo: PA, David Parry

 

Despite Stephen Hawking believing scientific knowledge left no space for God, two scientists, who are also Christians, argue that his work in theoretical physics has created new opportunities for a better understanding of the God of Scripture and tradition

Stephen Hawking had “a truly beautiful mind”, as the actor who played him in The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne, said on the award-winning physicist’s death in 2018. He certainly came up with some beautiful ideas; ones which it is hard to imagine could have come from the mind of anyone else. He had the capacity to think bigger than even the best of his colleagues – time and again he moved the goalposts, and the entire discipline of physics with them.

He applied rules that were only meant to be about the smallest of particles to the entire cosmos, and argued that it could work; he hid the beginning of time behind an impenetrable wall, and then engineered a way through it when everyone else was stuck; he found a way for particles to escape Black Holes even though it had been deemed impossible; he created a paradox that has the potential to break all the physics we know; he introduced the use of imaginary time. These accomplishments are truly mind-expanding.

Since Hawking himself introduces both philosophic and theological questions into his work – he calls them the Big Questions – he invites us into an ongoing discussion. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Where did we come from? In his later years, Hawking joined the club of celebrity atheists. From fellow scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss through comedians who know a bit of science such as Ricky Gervais to novelists such as Dan Brown, its members present science and religion as locked in an age-old conflict in which there can be only one winner.

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