Friday, September 10, 2010

Why is There Something?

I love the idea, widely being talked about as a result of Stephen Hawking's latest publication and conversation, that the universe bears witness to its own self-creation. The complex physics and maths necessary to grasp this so-called M-theory (no-one is quite sure what the M stands for) are only understood by a very few theoretical physicists in the world. As far as I (O level physics 1971 - fail) grasp it, the existence of a vast number of other universes is implied by the maths.

I do find it fascinating that the never-ending, never-starting universe is both more complex and more simple than we could ever imagine. And I am appalled at the inadequate understanding of the creator and sustainer of the universe that this theory should be alleged to disprove such.

Back in the 1960s, theologians got to grips with the increasing reduction of the size of God caused by childish Christian philosophy and scientific progress. If God is only what remains when you have explained everything you can, then it is not surprising that that God gets smaller and smaller as progress is made. Such a God is like something which slipped down the back of the sofa never to be seen again. In fact the 'God of the gaps' is no understanding of God at all.

Every children's Christian action-song seems to have some way to suggest that God is pretty big. The observation that you don't need an understanding of God to explain how the universe works doesn't mean there is no God. It is a logic-failure of massive proportions. Christians are often criticised, rightly, for saying 'because God could have done something he did do something, therefore the Bible is history, Adam and Eve were real and we can carry on looking for Noah's Ark.' Or some such. M-theory says, 'God needn't have been involved in this process, so wasn't.' God is big, right?

I agree that the creationist bubble gets well and truly pricked by this latest round of thinking. And by creationist I mean all young and young(ish) earth theories. All Christians are creationist to some extent because we believe there is a God who is involved in and somehow loves creation and creativity.

Psalm 14 says 'the fool has said in his heart 'there is no God.'' However clever he might be, whatever unbelievable progress he has made almost single-handedly to fathoming the mysteries of the universe(s), the judgement of Scripture is that Stephen Hawking is a fool.

Once upon a time Hawking said, '...if we do discover a complete theory ... Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we would know the mind of God.'

This was the final paragraph of A Brief History of Time. Looks like he has changed his mind. Well if he can do that once...

Us Christians do talk disappointing clap-trap about our faith. Maybe we ought to go back to the foot of the mountain and leave God in awe and mystery for a few hundred years. Until the fuss has died down.


Daniel said...

There's a dodgy use of the future tense in Prof. Hawking's latest utterings. He says that when M-theory is complete it will show... This might well be true but should be classified with other statements that are based on opinion (in this case clearly very expert opinion) and not rooted in well tested scientific understanding. There's a huge temptation to insert a tiny little God-of-the-gaps at this point and then be embarrassed when M-theory does explain how gravity etc... but that is to miss the point. When theoreticians have a complete consistent theory which makes predictions that are demonstrably not wrong then they can try to explain why this shows there is no God (which would be a category error) not before.

Caroline Too said...

two thoughts
1) God is God of creation, a creation that is ongoing, wonderfully (fearfully?) emerging... we as his image are part of that emerging creation (sadly we are a fallen, spoilt and spoiling part)

2) I am infuriated by Hawking's ignorance of alternative methods of inquiry/research that lift very different issues of interest and learning...

the options for learning are infinite... a bit like our God?

Anonymous said...

Witten, the inventor of M-theory, originally had M to mean membrane. He then went off that idea but the M stuck. He now says that M can mean what you'd like it to mean.

I plump for Marmalade.