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by ProfDave, ©2020
(Oct. 7, 2020) — It takes a brilliant mind to evade the obvious.
Knowledge and existence are two different things. We know far more today than we knew a thousand years ago – or ten years ago – but we have not scratched the surface of what is. We keep changing what we think we know, but our ignorance is still vast. We have not created a single molecule of matter or a single erg of energy nor have we changed what is true. We just don’t know what really is yet.
I had a conversation with my high-school grandson about Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time. I felt it needed a PG-17 warning about the great scientist’s presuppositions. In today’s world, freshmen need to be warned that everything they read (and view) from grown-ups comes with presuppositions that they may question and from worldviews they may not share. They need to pay attention.
Any fifth-grader can look up at the night sky and see “the heavens declare the glory of God, the sky shows His handiwork (Psalm 191),” but one brilliant mind did somersaults to avoid that obvious conclusion – among others. The sky compels Hawking’s worship, but he worshiped the creation instead of the Creator (Romans 1:25). In fact, he argued that the creation is the Creator. He wrote a whole chapter on the anthropic principle, admitting that the whole cosmos “appears as if it were” fine-tuned for human life on earth. Obviously it was. “It cannot be.” Why not? Hawking resorted to an infinite number of imaginary universes instead of accepting the obvious. “There is no God” is not the conclusion of his scientific investigation, but his beginning presupposition, his prior commitment – probably arose from his personal resentment of his handicap. There are some hints, later in life, that he was reconsidering.
It takes a brilliant mind to explain away the obvious. Any fifth-grader knows that you can’t get something from nothing, but Hawking labored mightily to show that you can. Matter plus time plus chance equals the cosmos as we know it. Huh? Wait a minute. Look a little closer. “Science” (we need to define that) says that matter and time both began in the Big Bang. So what produced the Bang? Chance?
But what is chance? Is it a thing or a force? Magic? No, chance is just what we call unpredictability. If the coin comes up heads, known natural forces made it heads – not chance. If it comes up tails, known natural forces made it tails – not chance. Random numbers in your computer game are produced by an algorithm written by a human programmer. You just don’t know which way it is going to go ahead of time. Chance can produce nothing because it is nothing. So we are told that ordinary laws of physics were suspended for a nanosecond after the Bang. Huh? Sounds like a giant fudge factor to laymen like me. The magic pulled the rabbit out of the hat – only there was no hat and emphatically no magician. The obvious answer is that there was a Big Banger – an extremely intelligent Banger.
“All that is not sense is nonsense” has been asserted since the 18th century. The modern corollary is to presuppose that science is the only way of knowing. Every fifth-grader knows that science is not the only way of knowing. “Science says” is supposed to end every argument, but does it? What is science? Observational science is what we can observe repeatedly and consistently in our physical world, test and either verify or falsify. What about things that only happen once? That’s what historians do. What about things we cannot see, like the meaning and purpose of life or our origin and destiny? That’s what philosophy and theology, literature and art do. What about human consciousness and relationships? That is our life.
Most of what “science says” is what some scientists speculate and theorize (guess) with varying amounts of connection to actual observable facts – not really science at all. Cosmology, the study of cosmic origins, is speculative science, dealing with things that by their very nature are unrepeatable, based on assumptions and computer simulations, in turn based on assumptions and algorithms. This is philosophy and theology in a lab coat, done rather badly, masquerading as “science.” It is imagination – just add stunning graphics.
And can things impossible today by all known laws of logic and observational science become possible on another day however many billions of years ago? My puzzler is sore! It takes brilliant minds to dream up these things, but are they just evading the obvious?
A Brief History of Time is a brilliant and important book. As an historian I am well aware of the significance of time. We live in time as fish live in the sea. But as you read Hawkins’ history of it, be aware of his presuppositions – and your own.
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.”