September 14, 2010
Western culture has an undeniable fascination with scientists, and with good reason. Patiently using the scientific method, they have brought us many good things, from the telephone to the airplane to antibiotics. And I don't think it's a coincidence that many of the world's first scientists were Christians who were seeking to discover not whether God created, but how he created the universe. Because science is based on the premise that God created an orderly universe. And the scientific method was a Christian contribution to our civilization. But later some scientists, in their pursuit to find the Holy Grail, began to question the God hypothesis. Many today (at least the most outspoken among them) have become determined atheists, insisting that science makes the God hypothesis unnecessary.
Well for a while, Stephen Hawking, the brilliant scientist at Cambridge, was more in line with the traditional view. In his famous book, A Brief History of Time, he said, "If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we should know the mind of God." Unfortunately, in his new book, The Grand Design and in a companion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Hawking now says God is unnecessary after all.
Hawking and his coauthor, American physicist Leonard Mlodinow, are seeking a so-called "theory of everything" to explain life and the universe. They first address the undeniable reality that the cosmos seems incredibly fine-tuned for life. This reality, called the Anthropic Principle, has led many thinking scientists to make room in their equations for a Creator.
But not Hawking. In The Grand Design, he takes refuge in the unproven, un-testable, and completely theoretical hypothesis that we live in one of a multitude—perhaps an infinite number—of universes, each created spontaneously, run by unplanned physical processes that in a few cases could make life possible. But is this flight of fancy called the multiverse any more scientific than the simpler and more satisfying declaration, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"?
Of course not! It's based on an unscientific, unproven presupposition. But opting for atheism, Hawking still gives human beings—who are apparently alone in the multiverse—at least a fig leaf of dignity. He writes, "Although we are puny and insignificant on the scale of the cosmos, this makes us in a sense lords of creation."
Lords of creation? Those are stirring, but meaningless words. Actually, a godless multiverse would make us the puny inhabitants of a dead creation—a creation, mind you, without a Creator!
Whether or not there's anything to Hawking's theory—and Christians, who believe in heaven and hell, should be the very first people to acknowledge the possibility of dimensions that we cannot see—the fact remains that the great physicist has left the world of science with a breathtaking leap of faith.
Which, after all, is easier to believe—an infinite, soulless, universe-making machine, or a loving and powerful Creator who has set in motion the awesome, just-right creation we are still only beginning to explore?
Which answer you choose is, of course, ultimately a matter not of science, but of faith.
Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.