Science and Faith

Though Stephen Hawking made wonderful contributions to humankind and is rightfully lauded across the globe, scant attention has been paid to the harm he has done to belief in God, probably influencing many to drift further away from Him.  Some will not call that harm; many might even call it a contribution. However, both Dr. Hawking and those who agree with him are not paying attention to the data of a different branch of the sciences: the human sciences.  If he had, he would have found that the more people worship the more they thrive.

All who talk about God agree that He is not observable and therefore not measurable. By this alone everyone must admit that discussion of God lies outside the realm of science, and of mathematics.

However, social scientists can observe humans worshiping God and can measure the effects of this behavior. Thus, the social sciences, though they do not study God, can study human beings in their relationship with God.  It is here that Stephen Hawking’s contention that God does not exist runs into scientific trouble.

If God does not exist, paying lots of attention to him would be a waste, while not paying attention to Him would be a good.  However, in observing and measuring people’s behavior towards God — not their beliefs but their behavior — more worship is linked to better and better outcomes on all the major tasks of life: education, happiness, enjoyment of life, family relationships, marriage, child-raising, longer life, and greater sexual enjoyment. Less worship leads in the opposite direction.

For the atheist and many scientists these facts cause discomfort if not downright confusion, but if they are true scientists, they will explore the facts with curiosity so that they may better understand.  Scientists do not set out to attack or suppress facts but to understand them. ‘Contrary data’ is the lifeblood of growth in the sciences, human or material, and thus the data on religious behavior are ‘contrary data’, especially in our ‘scientific age’  and thus ought to be of keen interest.

Hawking’s observations about matter led him, and he in turn led many, to a deeper understanding of the beginnings of the universe. Going backwards in time, his phenomenal intellect and imagination made possible the formulation of the physics of the first moments of the universe. This astounding achievement places him in the pantheons of science for all time. However, it is clear he either could not, or willfully would not, step outside the canons of material sciences and admit that his formulation of the beginning of time must have had a preceding cause, and ultimately a first uncaused cause. But his spirit could not go there.  While it is legitimate and true to say that material sciences (including mathematics) cannot go there — they cannot — it is not legitimate to use one’s standing in these sciences, and particularly one’s standing in science on the beginnings of the universe, to go outside the sciences and pontificate about God. That is the great harm Stephen Hawking has done.

In stepping outside of material sciences and mathematics he stepped into philosophy– even as he contended that philosophy was dead– and his philosophical efforts were not reasoning at all but willful insistence.

Thus, in two sciences Dr. Hawking failed: in the human sciences and in philosophy.  The human sciences he avoided and philosophy he bastardized.  Both sciences point towards God.  Hawking could have remained an atheist, even a public atheist, without abusing the physical sciences by bringing them into a field they cannot enter because God is neither observable nor measurable.  Given his stature he has misled many people, both lesser intellects in the academy and millions of ordinary folk around the world. What a pity in a man of such wonderful accomplishments of mind and human spirit, but what irony that he be buried — with many sinners and a few saints — in Westminster Abbey, England’s great homage in stone to God, next to one of his peers, Isaac Newton, whose chair he held, who knew the difference and who believed deeply in God.

With an eye to the young adult, the future of the world,

Pat Fagan

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