For years, scientists like Stephen Hawking have made claims, maintaining that

Read another response by Stephen Maitzen
Read another response about Science, Religion
For years, scientists like Stephen Hawking have made claims, maintaining that the awesome, sophisticated creativity of the world around us can be interpreted solely by reference to physical laws such as gravity. But could Hawking's claim is be misguided? He asks us to choose between God and the laws of physics, as if they were necessarily in mutual conflict. But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions. What Hawking appears to have done is to make a category mistake and to confuse law with agency. His call on us to choose between God and physics is a bit like someone demanding that we choose between aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle and the laws of physics to explain the jet engine. The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up. The jet could not have been created without the laws of physics on their own but the task of development and creation needed the genius of Whittle as its agent. Isn't the sophistication of the mechanistic laws, and science rejoices in finding such laws evidence for the sheer wonder of the creative genius of God in creating the universe?

There's a lot going on in your question, and I doubt that my response will cover all of it. But I'll say, first, that it begs the question against Hawking to demand that he explain "the awesome, sophisticated creativity of the world" if by "creativity" you mean something beyond the everyday creativity acknowledged by both sides of the debate (such as the creativity of human agents). Hawking doesn't accept the assumption that (for example) the laws of physics are the result of someone's creativity.

Second, Hawking would likely question your inference from the premise "All created things, such as the jet engine, require creators" to the conclusion "The laws of physics require a creator." The premise is true, but it doesn't imply the conclusion.

Third, it's not clear from your description of Hawking's view that he alleges a conflict between theism and the laws of physics. Rather, if I understand your description, Hawking claims that theism isn't necessary to explain what we observe. Now, if Hawking adds a premise to the effect that any hypothesis is false if it isn't necessary to explain what we observe, then he can generate a conflict. But such a premise is way too strong to be plausible.

Fourth, you appeal to the "sophistication" of the laws of physics as evidence of God's genius in creating them. But physicists prefer the simpler (and in that sense less sophisticated) of two hypotheses that predict the data equally well. You might reply that it's therefore the simplicity of the laws that suggests God's creative genius, but it can't be both the simplicity of the laws and their sophistication (non-simplicity) that does.

Related Terms