Stephen Hawking at the beginning of his latest runaway bestseller The Grand Design begins by asking the big questions:-
How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Does the universe need a creator?
These traditionally have been questions for philosophy, he writes, but in the next breath he totally dismisses that philosophy. Philosophy is dead, he claims! "It has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly in physics. As a result scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge." But as John Lennox points out in his wonderful little book God and Stephen Hawking, recently mentioned elsewhere on this blog, "Hawking …has not even kept up with philosophy sufficiently to realize that he himself is engaging in it throughout his book." As Lennox points out, Hawking has thus made a philosophical statement himself. Here is a metaphysical statement about science; it is, as Lennox points out, "a classic example of logical incoherence."
I wonder if Hawking has read Lennox yet and will reply to him?
But here we go again; book after book after book making claims as to whether or not God exists. We simply don't have time on our side to argue the point, fascinating as this is intellectually. The New Atheists are getting more strident in their claims as they feel their position increasingly threatened. And for what purpose? Religions are here to stay whether we like it or not. We should be using our energy to work out how we can get religions to work together for peaceful causes, not arguing to abolish them, as if that were at all possible.
We have just lost a great philosopher of religion; again see my earlier blog this week. The Reverend Professor John Hick, who died in February, did much to formulate a pluralistic approach to religions, provocative indeed, but nonetheless a powerful antidote to the religious fundamentalists of all persuasion.
In a recent dialogue between the Archbishop of Canterbury and Richard Dawkins in Oxford, when Williams raised the question of consciousness, Dawkins said yes, here is a deeply mysterious problem for science to solve in future - neuro and computer science will solve this, he claims, given time. Meanwhile if we are honest we must remain agnostic, he says, and not jump to a God for the answer.
In response to this I refer to Nobel Laureate Sir Peter Medawar, cited by Lennox in his own book mentioned above, the quote taken from Medawar's 1979 book "Advice to a Young Scientist":
"There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare - particularly when no declaration of any kind is called for - that science knows, or soon will know, the answers to all questions worth asking…" Has Richard Dawkins read Medawar? It seems not.
This hour- long debate between Williams and Dawkins is well worth listening to. In it Dawkins admits to being agnostic rather than atheist. A 'U Turn' perhaps Mr Dawkins? He also admits "Well I'm not a philosopher and that will be obvious…" That's simply not good enough Mr Dawkins in a debate where philosophy is so important and where conventional science as we know it today does not really look as if it is going to provide all the answers.
My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.
"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden