Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Stephen Hawking, The Big Bang, and God
By Henry F. Schaefer III
Dr. "Fritz" Schaefer is the Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and the director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize and was recently cited as the third most quoted chemist in the world. "The significance and joy in my science comes in the occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, 'So that's how God did it!' My goal is to understand a little corner of God's plan." --U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 23, 1991.
(This article is a transcript of a lecture Dr. Schaefer presented at the University of colorado in the spring of 1994, sponsored by Christian Leadership and other campus ministries. Over 500 students and professors were present.)
Stephen Hawking's bestseller A Brief History of Time is the most popular book about cosmology ever written. The questions cosmology addresses are scientifically and theologically profound. Hawking's book covers both of these implications.
Cosmology is the study of the universe as a whole--it's structure, origin and development. I won't answer all the questions Hawking raises concerning cosmology, but I will try to make comments on many of them. I caution here that you should not confuse cosmology with cosmetology, the art of beautifying the hair, skin, and nails!
Here are some of the questions cosmology seeks to answer (As elsewhere in this lecture, I borrow heavily from astrophysicist Hugh Ross' excellent books The Fingerprint of God and The Creator and the Cosmos.):
1. Is the universe finite or infinite in extent and content?
2. Is it eternal or does it have a beginning?
3. Was it created? If not, how did it get here? If so, how was this creation accomplished and what can we learn about the agent and events of creation?
4. Who or what governs the laws and constants of physics? Are such laws the product of chance or have they been designed? How do they relate to the support and development of life?
5. Is there any knowable existence beyond the known dimensions of the universe?
6. Is the universe running down irreversibly or will it bounce back?
Let me begin with five traditional arguments for the existence of God. It may seem an unlikely starting point for this topic, but I think you'll see as time goes on that these arguments keep coming up. I'm not going to comment right away on whether these arguments are valid or not, but I will state them because throughout astrophysical literature these arguments are often referred to:
1. The cosmological argument: the effect of the universe's existence must have a suitable cause.
2. The teleological argument: the design of the universe implies a purpose or direction behind it.
3. The rational argument: the operation of the universe, according to order and natural law, implies a mind behind it.
4. The ontological argument: man's ideas of God (his God-consciousness) implies a God who imprinted such a consciousness.
5. The moral argument: man's built-in sense of right and wrong can be accounted for only by an innate awareness of a code of law--an awareness implanted by a higher being.