What they’re saying about Hawking, God and creation
Debate is raging over Stephen Hawking’s claim that the creation of the Universe did not need God
THE ONLY thing more inevitable than an eminent physicist telling us that God didn’t necessarily create the Universe was that the name of the man who said it would be top of Google Trends by the end of the day.
Stephen Hawking has caused a religious uproar of the kind that can only normally be provoked by outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins by telling the Times that "it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going".
Hawking gave the interview to promote his new book, The Grand Design, which sets out to show that the birth of the Universe was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics and did not need a creator to act as midwife.
Hawking doesn't actually say that God doesn't exist – a question he is wise enough never to have tackled directly – but his views on 'creation' have inevitably been championed by atheists and attacked by the faithful over the past 24 hours. Here are a selection of their comments.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING:John Lennox, professor of maths, Oxford University: "The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up. The jet could not have been created without the laws of physics on their own - but the task of development and creation needed the genius of [Sir Frank] Whittle as its agent. Similarly, the laws of physics could never have actually built the universe. Some agency must have been involved."
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury: "Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence. Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing."
Roger Highfield, the New Scientist: "Media furore over Stephen Hawking's new book, The Grand Design, has made it the biggest science news story of the day. But it's not like Hawking has suddenly given up a religious belief – let alone proved that God doesn't exist."
Graham Farmello, Daily Telegraph: "The science-religion relationship, in so far as there is one, continues to be a crowd-pleaser. It seems to be a fundamental law of PR that the God-science debate is a sure-fire source of publicity. Always welcome when one has a book to sell."
Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks: "Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation... The Bible simply isn't interested in how the Universe came into being."
Professor Paul Davies, cosmologist, University of Arizona: "The idea that before the Big Bang there was some big supernatural beast ready to light the touch paper? Nobody believed that anyway."
Ibrahim Mogra, committee chairman at the Muslim Council of Britain: "If we look at the Universe and all that has been created, it indicates that somebody has been here to bring it into existence. That somebody is the almighty conqueror."
Richard Dawkins, writer of the God Delusion: "Darwinism kicked God out of biology but physics remained more uncertain. Hawking is now administering the coup de grace."
Stephen Hawking, in 2001: "If you believe in science, like I do, you believe that there are certain laws that are always obeyed. If you like, you can say the laws are the work of God, but that is more a definition of God than a proof of his existence." ·
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