Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chief Rabbi Sacks on Professor Stephen Hawking

Jonathan Sacks writing in the Times (3 sept 2010) draws attention to the brilliance of Hawkings and his mind, but points out that while he is an outstanding scientist he is a poor theologian.

Apparently, within Hawkings thinking there is a fallacy. Hawkings suggests 'that if we found science's holy grail, a theory of everything, we would know the mind of God and then why we and the universe exist', However Sacks argues should that happen we would know how rather than why.

"There is a difference between science and religion. Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation. Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. They are different intellectual enterprises. They even occupy different hemispheres of the brain. Science - linear, atomistic, analytical is typically left brain activity. Religion - integrative, holistic, relational is supremely a work of the right brain."

So Sacks makes the point that "there is more to wisdom than science. It can not tell us why we are here or how we should live. Science masquerading as religion is as unseemly as religion masquerading as science."

Sacks, J. (2010) 'Even great science tells us nothing about God' in The Times 3.9.2010 pp 27

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IanH said...

Sacks',and religious leaders in general, response fail to recognise a few things...

1. They don't understand that the science provides an explanation as to the existence of everything without a need for God. Hawkins' supports M-theory, a form of string theory, which explains gravity at the sub-atomic and supra-atomic level and shows how it can explain things which 'just happen'as part of the weirdness which is Quantum physics. (The Elegant Universe is a top-notch explanation of this)

2. Because scientists can explain that everything did come from nothing they say there is no need to find a "why?". It just does. We just happen to be the planet where life evolved to where it is now. I could ask what would my life be if I was a woman, but I am not. My life is the way it is because that is the way that my life has been lived. The scientist would simply say that gazillions of light years away there is another being writing a blog, the being is called God and he worships someone called Gordon.

3) When religious people accept all of science, as Sacks' appears to, only differing on the Why?, they there appear to accept the scientific explanation up to the Why? point. So what happens to something like Original sin? It becomes an allegory. Great. When was the last time you heard a religious person say that about the scriptures?

And religion can show us how to live can it? I was going to read a book about that but someone burned it.

Here is tweet that I liked from @MrsStephenFry: "LATEST: After Simon Cowell announces there will be no X-Factor next year, Stephen Hawking is forced to admit the existence of God"

Gordon said...

I'm not a scientist but isn't there something called the uncertainty principle in quantum theory?

I remember seeing Robert Winston suggest that fundamentalists of whatever persuasion whether religious or scientific would do well to cultivate this 'principle of uncertainty'.

IanH said...

The 'uncertainty principle' recognises that standard mathematics cannot be used to prove certain theories of physics because the calculations would simply take too long. Therefore they use models on probabilities and accept these as proof. The sun always rises therefore it will rise tomorrow.

When Christians see this they think "Proof for God". But this is merely "God of the Gaps" which God gives a place in the shadows. - 'If it weren't for God then the sun may not rise tomorrow!'.

As we have discussed before, I think apologetics must be rethought, away from the position of science and beginning with "What is humanity?".

Gordon said...

to be fair I'm not sure Sacks is putting forward an apologetic but if what is humanity is a question of interpretation that is exactly what he is asking.