Hawking: Translating the ignorant responses

Assertions by Professor Stephen Hawking is his forthcoming book, The Grand Design, that science leaves no role for God in the creation of the Universe triggered the usual predictable and inane responses from religious leaders this week, as reported in The Times on September the 3rd.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was quoted as saying,

“Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe.  It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence. Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.”

Does he really think this is a serious rebuttal that says anything useful or coherent? Reading between the lines here is my translation of what he was really saying,

“Belief in God is not about knowledge.  It is the belief, without evidence, and wild speculation and baseless hope that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence. Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing, even though I have no reason to think that this is even a meaningful or valid question.”

In other words Faith is living in a perpetual state of un-knowing, of ignorance, whereby beliefs are states of mind decoupled from reality and has no meaning.

The statement from the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was even more telling, who said,

“Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation … The Bible simply isn’t interested in how the Universe came into being.”

Well, yes, that is nothing new, but it is great that he admits that religion is about subjective interpretation and not objective truth. Here’s my translation,

“Science is about explanation. Religion is about making things up … The Bible is wrong about how the Universe came into being even when it describes (in Genesis) how the Universe came into being.”

The Muslim version came from Imam Ibrahim Mogra,

“God calls on us to ponder God’s creation, to realise his presence. The fact that we have an extraordinarily complex universe which continues to grow before our eyes is the strongest possible evidence that of the existence of a creator.”

No, he has missed the point, the laws of physics explain how the universe grows without recourse to a God. My translation,

“God calls on us to ponder God’s creation, to realise his presence, though this is based on an assumption for which I have no evidence that there is a God. The fact that we have an extraordinarily complex universe which continues to grow before our eyes is the strongest possible evidence for an extraordinarily complex universe which continues to grow before our eyes.”

Such statements from these religious leaders remind me of two of the three wise monkeys as their beliefs are derived from their perspective on the universe of seeing nothing and hearing nothing. One would only hope they would follow the lead of the third monkey and keep their mouths shut too!

Stephen Hawking’s The Grand Design (hardcover and audio-book) is available to pre-order at a reduced price in our bookshop.

Fossil links humans and monkeys

Full story on the BBC News Site here

Researchers have discovered the skull of a 29 million-year-old animal that could be a common ancestor of Old World monkeys and apes, including humans.

It indicates that apes and Old World monkeys diverged millions of years later than previously thought, say the scientists.

The discovery was made in Saudi Arabia by researchers from the University of Michigan.

They described the primate, Saadanius hijazensis, in the journal Nature.

Dr William Sanders from the University of Michigan, who led the research, said this was “an extraordinary find”.

The skull of this previously unknown species had some features that are shared by Old World monkeys and apes, including humans, today

Saadanius is close to a group that eventually led to us,” said Dr Sanders.

——————————————————————————————————————————————-

lt_zippy2’s opinion:

This is very interesting and potentially exciting news, and one of the things that I love about this story is it’s cautious tone, e.g. “could be a common ancestor” and “we need to get out into the field and get more data before making bigger claims”.

The scientific method at its finest.

Oh and I wonder what the creationist response we be? Let me guess….

“Nuh ha”, or [with fingers in ears] “la la la la la la la”

…but don’t quote me on that!

Science Writer Wins Libel Appeal

Taken from the BBC Website

A science writer has won the right to rely on the defence of fair comment in a libel action, in a landmark ruling at the Court of Appeal.

Simon Singh was accused of libel by the British Chiropractic Association over an article in the Guardian in 2008.

Dr Singh questioned the claims of some chiropractors over the treatment of certain childhood conditions.

The High Court had said the words were fact not opinion – meaning Dr Singh could not use the fair comment defence.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

lt_zippy2 says: Whilst not strictly an Atheism related story, it shows that those that use science to challenge irrational claims (which we at Atheism do all the time, in fact it is partially our reason for existence), should be able to do so. So congratulations to Simon Singh for his victory and hope that his success spurs others to examine and ciriticize irrationality.

Scientists win a Place for Evolution in Primary Schools

From the GuardianUK

Scientists win a Place for Evolution in Primary Schools

The government is ready to put evolution in the primary curriculum for the first time after years of lobbying by senior scientists.

The schools minister, Diana Johnson, has confirmed the plans will be included in a blueprint for a new curriculum to be published in the next few weeks.

It follows a letter signed by scientists and science educators calling on the government to make the change after draft versions of the new curriculum failed to mention evolution explicitly.

Full story can be found here.