Stephen Hawking is not always right (or, should I say, John Lennox is at UC Davis tonight)

533905_478210165579622_1387143925_nJohn Lennox is speaking at UC Davis tonight. And I’m going to see him.

Let me explain why this man is a bona-fide hero to me:

A very popular meme–or I should say a “sub-meme” in the Facebook wars–the wars between the believer and the skeptic, is this idea that “Stephen Hawking is always right.”  The subtext says, “who are you?  You’re not Stephen Hawking.”

UGRsViISomewhere along the line, Hawking, an immensely mentally gifted and talented thinker and scientist–, became synonymous with “infallible” in the pith wars.  He is perhaps second only to Einstein in the collective consciousness of a public that might be asked to name a famous scientist.

Hawking also, until recently, held the Lucasian Professorship seat in Cambridge. Without a doubt a distinguished chair, once held by another name you might know: Sir Isaac Newton.

Hawking became more or less a household name with the publishing of his book, A Brief The_grand_design_book_coverHistory of Time.  And while Hawking attempts to put into lay terms, the sometimes-convoluted language of physics, he explores–and really attempts to trace the origin of the universe.  A noble pursuit it is. Especially when these pursuits are engaged in from the confines of a wheelchair, in the throes of Amiotropic Lateral Sclerosis–Lou Gherig’s Disease–a disease over which has also defied the survival odds by many, many years.

Fait accompli says that the consideration of a Creator would at least be brushed upon, and Hawking does.  In the closing salvos of the book, Hawking states that if we can find the “Theory of everything,” that we would ultimate know the “mind of God.”

The books ends, and the door of possibility–at least in his mind, appeared to be open.

Cut to Hawking’s most recent book, The Grand Design, which, upon reading it is paradoxically named, because Hawking ultimately tosses God out completely as any possibility, and rather submits that that we experience has been brought about by gravity.

So on came the Facebook memes.  I mean, certainly, if Hawking’s impressive I.Q. arrived at some conclusion that God didn’t exist, that must certainly end the debate right there.

Here’s where Lennox enters the picture with me.  First of all Lennox quite handily debates Richard Dawkins, and approproately separates the scientific wheat from the philosophical chaff.  His debates with Dawkins, as well as the late Christopher Hitchens, are not only fun to watch, but heartening–because it obliterates the “smart atheist/dumb Christian” stereotype.

In fact, it shows one thing: Both the believer as well as the atheist can perform wonderful science, and have competing worldviews–because the debates aren’t about science–it’s about philosophy.  It’s about what is extrapolated from the data that causes all the bickering.

Lennox has responded to Hawking’s book with his own, God and Stephen Hawking. In 51lJhrxmOXL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_short, he addresses the following questions from Hawking’s book:

  1. How can we understand the world in which we live in?
  2. How does the universe behave?
  3. What is the nature of reality?
  4. Where did all this come from?
  5. Did the universe need a Creator?
  6. Why is there something, rather than nothing?
  7. Why do we exist?
  8. Why this particular set of laws and not some other?

One will notice, that one of those questions has been put into bold lettering by me.  This is for contrast.  Question number 2 IS–a scientific question, one that has some measurable data to work with, or at any rate, an assumed source from which to start gathering.

Look at the other seven questions.  Not one of them is anything other than a question of philosophy.

Lennox points out that Hawking makes a very grave error in his book, by stating “Philosophy is dead,” given the lie by the fact that nearly all the questions in The Grand Design are themselves philosophical questions, but also because the phrase “philosophy is dead,” murders itself in the attic by being an overt, philosophical statement.

So in short, Lennox, with great respect to Hawking as a fellow scientist, simply addresses the philosophical intrusion on what is supposed to be science, and simply shines a light on the difference.

Tonight’s lecture–and its subject arc, is anybody’s guess.  But I cannot wait. And my guess is, he’s going to tell me he wishes Hitchens were still around–as I do.  I didn’t agree with him, but I loved his writing, speaking,and ability to convey both.


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