I was disappointed today to read that Stephen Hawking was quoted as saying that, “The universe not created by God” but I am not disappointed for the reasons that you might think.
The foremost reason is that this is a misquote. He is sure to be misquoted like this repeatedly over the next few weeks by right-wing Christian nut-bars while he is being mocked, condemned and in general, dehumanized. What Hawking actually said is that “God is not necessary.” (Funny, I imagine God could say the same thing about him)
Hawking writes in his new book The Grand Design, which coincidentally 🙂 is being released in a few days, that “because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing, Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” (quoted from here)
People are certain to get very upset at this statement but my hope is that when cooler heads prevail this quote will help people reflect more clearly on why they do or do not believe in God as creator.
Hawking is not saying that there is no evidence of God as a designer. What he is saying is that the evidence does not by itself prove conclusively that God created everything. The evidence, in Hawking’s mind, does not demand or force a creator into existence, which I think I agree with. Hawking is saying that the Big Bang does not place God at the ‘scene of the crime.’
I never based my belief in God as creator on the opinions of Stephen Hawking despite his brilliance and scientific acumen. I was never forced to the conclusion that God was creator of heaven and earth on the basis of the evidence. Instead I came to that conclusion on the basis of the creation that I find before me. It is a reasonable and rational faith, and not an analytical conclusion that I hold.
The basis for faith in God as creator is found (for me at least) not in the confines of empirical evidence. God didn’t create it because He had to. It is not the way it is because God could do it no other way. I am persuaded not by the design of creation but by the fancy of it. The folly of it is more compelling than any empirical proof.
The design of the Universe will never fully convince a skeptic, though it is compelling to a believer. There will always be reasons why the evidence can be dismissed or ignored. God is not tracked down like a criminal by the evidence He has left behind. God is not in the dock, charged with being the Creator of the Universe while Christians and Atheists lobby the public with evidence for His conviction or acquittal. God is gloriously out of reach and impossible to fit into the neat categories we have for him.
“God is subtle,” Einstein once said, “but not malicious… nature conceals her mystery by means of her essential grandeur not by her cunning.”
Annie Dillard writes in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,
The creation is not a study, roughed-in sketch; it is supremely, meticulously created, created abundantly, extravagantly, and in fine… Even on the perfectly ordinary and clearly visible level, creation carries on with an intricacy unfathomable and apparently uncalled for. The lone ping into being of the first hydrogen atom ex-nihilo was so unthinkably, violently radical, that surely it ought to have been enough, more than enough. But look what happens. You open the door and all heaven and hell break loose.
Beauty and grace are performed before us whether or not we can believe or sense them. God is not “caught in the act” as Creator.
Isaiah 40: 21 – 22, God speaks through the prophet who writes,
21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
God stretches out the heavens like a tent but He doesn’t live in it. He continues,
25 “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
These verses are deep wells but I am struck by the scope. God creates the ends of the earth. He is the painter who made the canvas, and the paints, and the museum in which the work of art is shown. God creates the space in which space rests. He is outside His own creation. It does not dictate to Him. He dictates to it.
I was at the Ontario Science Centre today and saw another delight of the creator. For a race that was convinced at the beginning of the twentieth century that they were on the verge of putting a bow on the study of science, God has humbled humanity with a puzzle for the 21st century.
I watched a cosmic ray detector. In the video clip below you can see sparks that jump between the super cooled plates in the spark chamber. These are the visible after-effects of cosmic rays that zip through the earth constantly without our even knowing it. When they strike the earth’s atmosphere muons (heavy electrons) are ejected and continue toward the earth. Thin wispy trails are created by beta particles (normal electrons). Tracks that disappear come from muons that decay and form neutrinos. They leave no trails.
It wasn’t until 50 years ago that these particles were even suspected of existing. Technology to be able to observe them and measure their effects is only just begun to be developed.
What do these particles do? Scientists aren’t quite sure. We don’t even know if we have the complete list of them yet. Just when you think you have God painted into a corner you find He is holding the brush.