Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests

Stephen Hawking v. Genesis 1:1


Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist and sometimes hailed as the world’s smartest man, is reported “very ill” and as having been rushed to the hospital. Newspaper writers are working on obituaries.
An interesting sidelight, that one hopes will not prove poignant too, is the little reported challenge Dr. Hawking makes in his work to a most fundamental tenet in any Biblically based religion — that the universe had a beginning. If it did not have a beginning, that pretty much rules out a Deity along the lines suggested in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
There were heated debates about this in the Middle Ages, going back to a difference in view between Plato and Aristotle. Strangely, no less an institution than the Vatican gave a forum to Hawking on the subject this fall. I reported and reflected on the irony in a Forward column.



The great psychologist William James…observed that most of us arrive at our opinions — whether on religion, politics or science — based not on a judicious weighing of evidence, but rather on the prestige of the ideas in question. That is, the prestige they confer on us. Even Vatican officials aren’t immune from such human tendencies, and the fact is that, the merits of his theories aside, Stephen Hawking is a very prestigious scientist. As I have come to realize from countless frustrating personal interactions, lots of religious folks feel a social need to affirm certain ideas, including scientific ones, outside the realm of their expertise. With their personal prestige at stake, they will not be dissuaded.


As an admirer of the Catholic Church, I’m disappointed to say that, in the Vatican’s strange embrace of Hawking, we can observe that same depressing dynamic at work.

All of which notwithstanding, this blog wishes Dr. Hawking a refuah shleimah, a speedy recovery.
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posted April 20, 2009 at 11:25 pm

This may offend both camps (a Good Thing) — The two are quite compatible (or in government speak, “they are not incompatible”). One is poetry, the other is factual; both are true.

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Charles Cosimano

posted April 21, 2009 at 12:52 am

In the long run the smart money is on the physicists.

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Rebecca Moulds

posted April 21, 2009 at 2:44 pm

It’s very sad that people like Stephen Hawking will fight to the end and never believe in God, which, when one does believe, the questions of the origin of the universe are finally left alone and will be sorted out when we meet God. Mr. Hawking will also meet the God he doesn’t believe in—all his intelligence and intellectual probing will never take the place of pure faith in our Creator.

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