God or Science?

God & Stephen Hawking

A couple of weeks ago we heard a message on Christianity and Science by John Lennox, Christian apologist and Professor of Mathematics at Oxford. Lennox debated Stephen Hawking, world renounced theoretical physicists at Cambridge, on God or Science a few times, and pointed out several flaws in Hawking’s arguments. He talked too fast for slow thinkers like me to follow, but if you’re interested in apologetics and logic, here are the key points I jotted down.

Hawking is an atheist. He claimed that ‘because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.’ Lennox disagreed, because he believed Hawking committed a confusion of category. He gave an illustration by asking, “Why is the water boiling?” You can explain by saying that it is boiling because the electrical heating element in the kettle transmitted thermal energy to the water, which caused the water molecules to vibrate and rise in temperature. When the temperature reached 100 degrees Celsius, the water turns into steam and boils. That’s the “scientific” explanation describing what happened.

Or you might simply say, “It’s boiling because I want to make a cup of tea.” That’s a purpose statement. I caused the water to boil by turning on the kettle. Which is correct? They both are, there is no need to charge one is right while the other one is wrong. The first uses physical laws to describe the phenomenon. But laws don’t “cause” anything to happen. Someone or something must activate those laws. The second points out the agent, the person who “caused” the thing to happen. Hawking confused understanding some physical laws as negating the need for agency, the intelligence to put the laws into action. The two are not opposed to each other, they are complementary.

Hawking’s second error is non-sequitur (Latin for “it does not follow”) in formal logic i.e. an argument in which its conclusions does not follow from its premises. Because there is a law of gravity, it does not follow that the universe can and will create itself from nothing. The two are not related by necessity.

His third error is a violation of the law of non-contradiction – contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time. For example, “A is B” and “A is not B” are mutually exclusive. “The universe can and will create itself from nothing” is a contradictory statement. The universe must exist in order for it to create anything. This is a statement of the form “A (the universe) is B (exists)”. But for the universe to be created from nothing, it must NOT exist in the first place. This is a “A (the universe) is not B (does not exist)” statement. The universe cannot both “exist” and “does not exist” in the same sense at the same time! This is a very fundamental logical error.

Lennox had encountered many logical errors in his debates with atheists, but not so basic as these at such a high level. I can add a fourth logical fallacy here – argument from authority. When I’m sick, I go to the doctor. When my car is not running properly, I visit the mechanic. Each is an expert in his field. But I won’t see the mechanic when I’m sick, nor bring my car to the doctor. That would be outside their field. Hawking is an authority on theoretical physics. He makes statements about God and creation, topics outside his expertise as no science had gone beyond the Big Bang, yet people take notice because he’s world-famous. But that would be wrong as he’s claiming authority beyond his knowledge.

The Bible said:
Ps 14:1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” (Ps 53:1)
• Rom 1:20-22 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,

Do not be taken in by speculations of famous people. God’s word had stood the test of time and found to be reliable and trustworthy. Choose who you will follow wisely.

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