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Friday, 6 January 2012

Stephen Hawking pronounces!

On Sunday, Prof. Stephen Hawking will (DV) celebrate his 70th birthday anniversary.  Not bad for a man who was informed, in his 20s, that he had only a short time to live!  One in the eye, one might say, for the proponents of euthanasia/assisted suicide!

To celebrate this auspicious occasion, the BBC Radio 4 programme, Today, invited listeners to send in questions that could be put to the Professor.  However, in spite of us being informed, this morning, that the response was "overwhelming", only the selected five questions are on the Today programme website!

The first question, from Roland in Lagos, was perhaps the most telling.  The questioner asked "Was there a "time" when there was "nothing"?"  Prof Hawkings published answer is relatively short.  He states that: "The origin of the universe can be explained by the laws of physics, without any need for miracles or Divine intervention. These laws predict that the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing in a rapidly expanding state.This is called inflation because it is like the way prices in the shops go up at an ever increasing rate.  Time is defined only with the universe, so it makes no sense to talk about time before the universe began, it would be like asking for a point south of the South Pole."

Perhaps the Professor's condition (he suffers from motor-neurone disease - a degenerative condition for which there is, at present, no cure) is deteriorating, but that is hardly the sort of answer that one might have expected!  He claims that "The origin of the universe can be explained by the laws of physics, without any need for miracles or Divine intervention."  But what are the "laws of physics"?  Surely they are merely the result of mankind's observation of natural phenomena.  They can only explain what already is!  With all due respect to the Professor, he is confusing two levels of explanation.  God (the Divine Intervener) is an explanation of the universe - but He is not the same kind of explanation as that provided by physical "laws".

John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the Univ. of Oxford, uses this illustration.  He suggests that we take the jet engine instead of the universe, and seek to explain its existence.  We may do so by referring to the personal involvement of its inventor, Sir Frank Whittle.  Alternatively, we may follow Prof Hawking's logic, dismiss personal agency, and explain the jet engine in terms of its workings - saying that it arose naturally from the physical laws that are thus expressed!

This is, quite obviously, ludicrous!  The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works - but not how it came to exist in the first place.  That required the intelligence, imagination, and creativity of Sir Frank.  It also, of course, required physical material, that cannot be 'created' by mere 'laws'!  The Book of Genesis (Beginnings) puts it so very simply: "In the beginning, God ..." (1:1).

As to 'time', the Professor is correct in saying that, before the creation it did not exist!  That is why it will, at some point in the future, come to an end.  It is finite.  But, in his book "The Universe in a Nutshell", Stephen Hawking postulates two 'time dimensions'.  One of these he illustrates, graphically, as a straight line - with a beginning and an end.  This is the time that we experience from day to day.  The other 'time dimension' he illustrates as a wavy line, at right angles to the straight line, and cutting across it.  He explains that this 'time' is different from our linear time; yet touches it at all points.  When I first read the book, I thought to myself - "He's simply describing eternity!".  So, what was 'before time' was (and is!) eternity!  Just as that which is south of the South Pole is (infinite) space!

I do have a great admiration for Prof Hawking.  However, in spite of the fact that he has made his pronouncements, I continue to believe that Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, Who inhabits eternity, and is infinite in His wisdom, power, and love, will have the last word!

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