Thursday, June 08, 2006

An Observation on "A Briefer History of Time"

I listened to A Briefer History of Time by Steven Hawking during my morning exercise time. This audio book was very accessible though it dealt with some very technical issues in physics. There is two phases of understanding something. The first phase is where the student or researcher does the analysis which compiles, assembles, organizes, and arranges details of information. You need to be an information pack rat and ultimately needs someone who can store and arrange all the data when you are in the first phase. The second phase is when you simplify the whole matter for the common person. This is when you make it understandable and accessible. The Briefer History of Time is a work which is the fruit of this second phase.

The book is about science, but many fundamental questions of science are ultimately philosophical and religious issues. Dealing with the beginning and end of the cosmos is at the same time an issue for prophets and physicists. The nature of the universe, in one sense, is what a physicist records in his theories and scientific models. In another sense it is what the preacher describes in his sermon. The preacher or physicist who avoid talking about the nature of the universe is relegated to being a man giving a nice talk or respectively a lab technician. The issues are similar. The questions often overlap. The methodology for solving the issues are very different. I would think that for no other reason than many of his parishioners are seeking cosmological answers from physicists, every preacher of the gospel should listen to the message of Hawking.

One of the basic premises often repeated by Hawking is the idea that there are scientific laws. The idea of scientific law says that the universe acts consistently and that law can be understood. Hawking toys with the idea that God must have made all his choices regarding those scientific laws at the beginning of the universe before the big bang. He asks the question of how many choices did God actually choose from? If certain properties of matter were altered slightly, matter would all collapse on itself. Hawking's idea that either God made his decisions for the universe and is now letting it run its course or he had no choices but for the universe to exist he had to make it a certain way. In one sense he sees God far from his creation in terms of either involvement or even further from His creation in terms of creative design. In my Christian understanding of God, he is present and active in His creation.

'For in him we live and move and have our being.' Acts 17:28a (NIV)

'He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 (NIV)

Science has its place, but the idea that scientific laws implies that God lacks involvement in His creation is not necessary.

While I see this as a shortcoming in his thinking, I found most of what Hawking had to say was informative, educational and enlightening. I heartily recommend his book, but keep your self alert and think for yourself.

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