Monday, September 6, 2010

Stephen Hawking and The Grand Design

The blogging world has referred extensively over the last week to Stephen Hawking's new book, The Grand Design, in which he states that the world was created by gravity and had nothing to do with a Creator. He had so far accepted the strong possibility of a Intelligent Designer to explain the Big Bang that he set forth in 'A Brief History of Time' (a book, I struggled through for sometime, but finally gave up!!). Of course, the church is up in arms and the age-old debate has been opened up again. I try not to get involved with this debate any longer, (after spending many long fruitless hours on it with friends) though I will gladly state what I base my belief in God on to whoever will ask. I realise that though I have great respect for Apologetics, it is finally a step of repentance and faith that allows God to truly touch us and as long as we keep searching for answers in logic and science, we are likely to come up empty handed. But I must ask - how is it even remotely possible for a series of chances to occur so that a place like Meghalaya, (whose beauty is so totally evocative of a Creator) to just 'happen'! But this simplistic logic of mine usually falls on deaf ears in the presence of well-read and articulate people who believe that man is the ruler of his (and the world's) destiny. It is actually rather sad... Here are a few links which make interesting points about this debate.

SCIENCE CAN ONLY GO SO FAR: At some point, as this article states, one has to realise that science is after all the servant of man, rather like a pet dog. 'So Science has managed to give us some really cool stuff, but when it comes to knowing something about us for the sake of telling us about who we are, and why we are here, and whether or not we are valuable? It falls a little flat.I see Science like a really amazing dog: he can do a lot of stuff when he’s trained the right way, but if you give him the run of the house, he’ll be teaching you all kinds of stuff that, let’s be honest, you otherwise wouldn’t be caught dead doing. Science is not made to run the place: it’s made to serve, and to be a tool as we do what God intended – which is to rule over the Earth, and have dominion. It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury, much less for a slave to rule over princes.'

WE ARE IN NO POSITION TO JUDGE THE EXISTENCE OF GOD: This video by D.A. Carson addresses the question every person asks at some point or the other - How do I know God exists. And he begins by saying that having been made in the image of God, it is foolish and idiotic for the created to ask if the creator exists. 'A fool says in his heart, there is no God.' The moment we think we are independent knowers and stand in judgement of the existence of God and whether He has provided the right set of evidences that we can base our 'faith' on, we reduce God to no more than a the conclusion of a body of evidences, a scientific inference or a philosophical conclusion. So while there are evidences in science, nature, history and even our own consciences and while the person of Jesus confronts us with His life, death and resurrection, if we think we are so far above God that we can sit in judgement on Him, we are losing the great opportunity we have been given to walk with him and experience the fullness of life that He brings. Rather like Adam and Eve choosing to eat the apple rather than live their lives walking with God in the garden. (HT: TC)


AND ON A LIGHTER NOTE: Sometimes the truth cannot be hidden - it just slips out!! Here is an amusing video of the true opinion of an evolutionary scientist. Please watch it till the end for the punchline!! (HT: TC)

15 comments:

  1. lets define beauty ?
    isnt a tornado beautiful to the eyes ?
    isnt a supernova beautiful ?
    isnt a raging volcano beautiful ?

    i think they are beautiful to a normal human being ! but they signify destruction !

    BEAUTY IS SOMETHING WHICH IS NEW TO UR EYES!

    A DESERT AND A SNOW CAPPED MOUNTAINSIDE IS BEAUTIFUL TO OUR EYES BECAUSE ITS NOT STAPLE TO OUR EYES !

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  2. Great! A comment inviting discussion. Thanks Bali! I see both your points but wouldn't agree completely. Your second assertion first. Beauty is not always something new. Beauty often remains beautiful how many ever times it is viewed. I see my wife every day, but I still think she's beautiful every time I see her. I have witnessed Meghalaya's beauty for nearly 2 years, but it still moves me every day on my walk from my home to the hospital. If you had said beauty was in the eyes of the beholder, I may have agreed - what is beautiful to you may seem ordinary to me and vice versa - it depends on how we look at it, not how many times we look at it.

    Regarding your first point about the beauty of destructive events, I would say, yes, again depending on how you look at it, they could be beautiful. So if your point is, how does that confirm that God exists, I would say, even more so - the awesome power of these events speaks for itself. So, reading your mind, if you ask, how could a supposedly good God allow these things to happen, here is my answer.

    First of all, these areas are all grey and no man could ever presume to read the mind of God. But my understanding of suffering, especially the man-made kind and also the natural kind, is that this world is sin-filled. Not just man, but the world thanks to our forefather, Adam. As it says in Romans 8, 'The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.' So we are in bondage to decay, we and the world we live in. When we are free from that bondage at Christ's return, we will be free from natural (and man-made) disasters. What do you say to that....

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  3. haha :) wat can i say. u left me with no choice. i was born a sinner. nothing i can do about it. second u quoted something from the bible which u think can never be wrong. not much to argue here then :)
    an argument is something where two parties enter into a discussion assuming they can be wrong. thts not the case here.

    bUT i want to ask u this - why was there a need of a new testament ?

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  4. 'I was born a sinner. Nothing I can do about it.' I have to disagree on this assertion. Of course, there is something we can do. Stop sinning!! But that is more difficult than it seems as we have all realised!!

    However, I have to agree with you about the clarity of my belief in the Bible and God. There is no way that anyone will ever be able to convince me that there is no God for the simple reason that I have experienced His love, grace and power in a very personal way in my own life. I was once in the same place as you asking all these questions. I was searching religious books and various philosophies desperately trying to find the truth. I think God answered my desperation and touched me, but I think that I was able to receive that touch because I was open to it. Every day, God is speaking to us in the small things and small experiences of life. It is our openness to His voice that defines our understanding and experience of Him. And I will never be able to convince anyone about the truth of God and His love by my words. It is like trying to describe the emotion of love for a spouse to someone who has never felt it. But once you have experienced it, you will never be the same again.

    I am not sure of your context for the question about the New Testament. The reason for the New Testament is to tell the story of the new covenant God made with man through the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross. Hope this answers your question.

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  5. i get ur point too - god helped u in ur life. thts gud.i never said there is no god. im open to that possibility. if there is a god, there is a reason for this chaos.
    but im equally open to a possibilty tht there is no reason to this chaos.

    all im saying is religion is not a pure thing - it has never been. 2000 yrs since the new testament was written, even more since the old. i cant believe tht there has been no tampering with the "word" by one or more individuals for self gain. the history of the church supports my theory. the earth was flat and the centre of the universe until the 13th century- prfessed by the church . whoever said otherwise
    was killed.

    abt the testament - out of the nine why only 4 gospels are published?
    and why only 2 out of the 4 published ones talk bout the virgin birth ? etc etc. thts the cornerstone of christianity, historically speaking.

    also im not talking of the story of christ, ppl misinterpreted the old testament and started doing weird stuff , tht was all abolished in the new testament isnt it ?

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  6. "the world was created by gravity and had nothing to do with a Creator. He had so far accepted the strong possibility of a Intelligent Designer to explain the Big Bang that he set forth in 'A Brief History of time"


    Stephen hawking does not talk of gravity , its string theory/ m theory. something which not many people know bout. im sure ud remember the uncertainty principle in physics. the position & speed of electrons can never be predicted or calculated accurately. thts where it all started. the parallel universe etc. all this seems like unnecessary jargon to u i guess?


    same way the garden of eden and the snake and the apple (which i think are a very intelligent symbolism rather than factual truth) seem like fairy tales to some.

    ppl jump at the fact tht hawking accepted the strong possibility of a Intelligent Designer, but they overlook other aspects of his thinking.
    pick and choose attitude to make up a stronger case?
    thts not a fair portrayal is it ????

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  7. Wow, that's a huge list of stuff to address - may have to leave out some for time and space!! First of all, your accusation of picking and choosing stuff from Hawking holds no water in the context of this post - the title of the post is his latest book in which he says that gravity created the world - so I am actually drawing attention to something that goes against what I believe!!

    I simplified Hawking's argument for my blog by quoting CNN - which is why I mentioned gravity. You also do me a disservice in stating that string theory and M theory would be unnecessary jargon to me - I have read about them and understand them and am happy that science has brought out something more about this wonderful universe that we did not know before - it still does nothing to make me believe that it was all a wonderful chance that the millions of connections in my brain were wired just right so that I can move my fingers to type this just by thinking about it. There had to be a Creator.

    Christians view science with greatest respect and accept proven theories just like anyone else. However, as we can see so clearly, there will always be gaps in our understanding. And the more we understand, the more gaps will emerge. Newton's explanation of the physical world was accepted for centuries till Einstein came along and filled in the gaps in Newtonian physics. Only to find a whole new set of gaps opening up!!

    It's like marriage - if I know a lady for 5 years and want to decide about proposing to her, I will want to know what it will be like to be married to her for 50 years. But I can't know that - so I decide to explore and understand her more for another 5 years. But at the end of those 5 years, I will know some more, but will still not know what it will be like to be married and obviously will never know till we are actually married. And if I go on waiting, she will marry someone else, or we will both die. By waiting for understanding that can never come, we gain nothing. It has to be a matter of taking the step of faith.

    Now, many atheists claim that they want to have hard evidence and refuse to have faith. But they are just fooling themselves. Because they too lie by faith. But their faith is placed in the idea that there is no God. They have no hard evidence to prove it, they have not died and gone to the other side and seen what is over there, even the basic atheistic principle of evolution has as many or more flaws than any other theory of life!! And interestingly, most atheistic arguments involve asking questions that seek to disprove someone else's faith rather than trying to prove their own!!

    So the atheist is also living a faith-based life. Only, he is placing his faith in the theory that there is no God. If there was conclusive proof to prove this theory, everyone would agree and we would all be atheists. But obviously that is not the case. (continued in next comment)

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  8. Based on the evidence that we have, I decided to place my faith in God and I have been rewarded by an ever-deepening understanding of Him and His love for me. And for me that is the final proof that He does exist - the fact that there is an often intangible, but very real communication inside me that guides my activities and thoughts.

    Why not believe the many thousands who claim to have experienced God rather than wait for evidence that may never come. If you went to a new place and all the people told you about a person who lived in that place, you would believe he existed even if you didn't meet him. So here you have thousands and millions of people telling you about what is a very real experience for them. Are they all hallucinating? Are they all brainwashed? Or are they all speaking about Someone whom they know, but you have not yet met. Only when we are open to this possibility and diligently searching for His reality does He make Himself known (unless you are one of the special few to whom He appears in a vision or dream!). But ignoring Him or putting off our search for Him could be a very dangerous move....

    All of us have to place our faith in something - if we decide to place our faith in atheism, fine. Then we can just leave it there and go on with our lives. But atheists can't do that - they are always gnawed with the desire to argue their 'faith' with someone - probably because there is still that small voice inside telling them they are wrong!! And if we do decide to place our faith in God, then we have to go all out - there can be no holding back, because that is the greatest thing in all our life.

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  9. ok - my attempts seem futile. i shall give up on certain aspects of this argument.

    just tell me this - according to the bible - how many yrs has it been since "man" came to be ? genesis im sure gives us a rough estimate of the time period.

    Also i never said im an atheist, thats a stamp that im not ready to accept on me. cos im saying exactly the same thing that you are. i cant believe in something im not sure of.

    there may be a god - there may not be a god - u may be right - so can the other thousand religions of this world who talk of different gods.

    i m just saying i am not sure - and i dont know !

    I just got news that an old friend of mine - childhood buddy - next door neighbor - played cricket with him all my teen yrs - passed away !
    the most happy person ive ever met. didnt hurt anyone - gem of a guy. no addictions no vices - nothing.

    suddenly has a bloody vomit n finished... strong as an ox he was. nothing can explain why. why him ? why anybody fr that matter?

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  10. I am very sorry to hear about your friend. I wish there were easy answers to your questions, but there aren't. All I can say is that without taking the first step of faith we cannot experience the love of God. And only those who have experienced it can actually speak about it. It is difficult to explain how a jackfruit tastes and looks to someone who has never seen one. And to taste, we need to take the first step of faith. Will love to continue this discussion on email if you wish to do so.

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  11. Every time I look at myself, or somebody else...the way my toes wriggle, the way I run up the stairs, when I feel my pulse, think of how my rib cage protects my vital organs...how can it not have been by design? As science explains mysteries, I marvel even more at the works of His hands.

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  12. I read the article and the following discussion with great interest. As can be imagined, I've participated in similar discussions several times in the past, having a group of friends who follow various belief systems. I will not go into what I believe, because this whole thing really isn't about me. What I do want to talk about here is something I've learned over the course of such discussions. Here it is:

    First of all, trying to convince people of differing religious beliefs (or the lack thereof) of the merits of one's own set of beliefs is not only futile, but also wrong. Futile, because one is seldom going to be able to convince another person in this regard. And wrong, because if another person is happy with his/her beliefs (whatever they may be), and is not harming anyone else, then it's nothing but arrogance to try changing that person's point of view to one's own, for the very simple reason that there are hundreds of belief systems in this world, and they ALL think that theirs is the only one that is right. There are good and bad people among every religion, and of course, among atheists and agnostics too. Same goes with people who help mankind versus those who harm it, and so on and so forth.

    If people from each religion, as well as atheists and agnostics just respect others and not try to change them to their own beliefs, then the world would be a much better place.

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  13. Thanks for this perspective Urja. I have often wrestled with this connundrum myself - is it worthwhile or right to discuss these issues with people who believe differently from me. Initially, during my days in college, I was of a similar view as yours - respect every belief and don't waste your time and energy discussing what you believe. But recently I have begun to think a little differently about the second part.

    I have great respect for all belief systems and hope in the discussion I have not come across as disrespectful or demeaning in any way. If so, I apologise. And after all, a belief system by definition involves some area where there is no hard proof and faith is involved. That means I am on the same level as everyone else with differing view points and hence must never be dogmatic about my position.

    But having said that, I have now come to realise that it is actually good to discuss these important things with people of different ideas. For three reasons. First, they help to clarify and sort out my own issues of faith and belief. Only when one is presented a differing view point can one search and find reasons and answers to why I believe what I do. My own faith has been strengthened by these discussions, I feel.

    My second reason to be ready to enter into discussions of this kind is to encourage people to think about these important things of life. In todays world, most of us are too happy to go on living life without thinking of these existential issues at all and I think our world is poorer for it. Now at no point must I force my own thinking onto anyone else. It is for him or her to decide about these things. So when I discuss issues I am not selling my point of view. I am only encouraging people to allow the bigger picture to become a part of life's thought and action and always trying to remember that what I believe is for me and I must always give enough space and freedom for the other person's ideas and views.

    The third reason I share these things is to encourage people to begin a search. I began a search many years ago and am still on it. A lot of my thoughts are still infantile and poorly formed. But this search has brought a lot of meaning to my life and given me a reason to live happily even when circumstances are not very conducive to peace of mind. The path of my search is my own and I can make no inarguable claim to it being the right one. But I do believe that whatever path a search takes, it should bring peace, love, joy and hope. In today's world we have very little of any of these things. I believe a search for the realities of life has the capability to bring in all of these things in good measure. And that is why I encourage discussion and even disagreement - I hope it will only make me and others think a little more and search a little more.

    So I think that your last statement that the world would be a better place if all of us respect each other and leave each other alone, is only partly true. Rather, a respectful discussion that clarifies our own views and encourages each of us to make the search for reality an ongoing process till our dying day is what will make the world a better place.

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  14. I agree with all the points you've mentioned. And when I mentioned arrogance, I wasn't referring to anything that either you or 'anonymous' had said. In fact, I think both of you were discussing these things in a way that these things should be discussed, if they are. I used that word because I've often encountered arrogance from people pushing their beliefs, and have come to shun it. Sometimes even when people just talk about their beliefs (without being overtly arrogant), they do it in a very smug and condescending manner (I've often faced this at CMC, and elsewhere among people of different beliefs too), and I think that too creates a lot of animosity (too strong a work; couldn't come up with something more suited to what I'm trying to say).

    Having said that, I think you're doing a commendable job on what you're trying to convey, without sounding arrogant, smug or condescending. The points you've mentioned in your reply are definitely worth thinking about, and that's given me something to ponder about as well.

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  15. Sorry about the typos. Was in a great rush while commenting - never a good thing.

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