Several people have asked for my thoughts concerning last week’s media brouhaha about Stephen Hawking’s views on God. To be honest I was rather bemused that the story, such as it was, made the headlines at all, let alone the front pages.
I suppose that a lot of people must have misinterpreted the famous passage about knowing “the mind of God” in Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1988) as implying religious belief on the author’s part and were therefore surprised by the apparently contradictory sentiments expressed in extracts from his new book, The Grand Design:
Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
In fact, Hawking’s atheism has been evident for a long time. The trouble is that well meaning Christians (including apologists who ought to know better) have in the past allowed themselves to be misled by the superficially theistic language used by physicists with a book to promote when, of course, said physicists do not actually invest those words and phrases with the same meaning that theists do.
Don Batten wrote a short article about this phenomenon in a 1995 Creation magazine. In light of this most recent storm in a teacup, it’s worth taking a look.