Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Hawking and God - A Necessary Challenge

It should be no surprise that as a former physicist, I am always interested in the ways that science and religion intersect and interact. So it was with great interest that Hawking's newest book The Grand Design, written with fellow physicist Leonard Mlodinow. From my preliminary understanding, the argument from M-Theory (a kin of string theory) allows that gravity and energy can spontaneously pop out of nothing, thereby taking God (according to Hawking) out of the equation.

A nice review can be read at the New York Times, "Many Kinds of Universes, and None Require God" by Dwight Garner. Garner writes:

At its core “The Grand Design” is an examination of a relatively new candidate for the “ultimate theory of everything,” something called M-theory, itself an extension of string theory, which tries to reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics. “M-theory is not a theory in the usual sense,” the authors write. “It is a whole family of different theories.” According to M-theory, “ours is not the only universe,” the authors say. “Instead M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing.” The image that comes to mind here, others have written about M-theory, is of a God blowing soap bubbles.

But Mr. Hawking and Mr. Mlodinow assert that “their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law. They are a prediction of science.” Many of these universes would be quite different from ours, they add, and “quite unsuitable for the existence of any form of life,” or at least any form of life remotely like ours.

So this comment and argument is certainly provocative. If energy and gravity can in fact cancel each other out, this will be a powerful argument for those who don't require God in the first place. But this would be how God puts it together. After all if God can be detected and thus proven, then faith is unnecessary. If faith is unnecessary then creation ceases to be "promise-driven, future-oriented" as R.R. Reno wrote in the introduction of commentary on Genesis, which I talked about here.

I look forward to reading this book. If for no other reason than challenges to the faith, help us sharpen our witness and proclamation.

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