Curiosity, Hawking, and Hope

Last Sunday night Sweetie and I watched the first show of a new series on Discovery called Curiosity. The first episode was a biggie: Did God Create the Universe?

Stephen Hawking unfolds his personal, compelling vision of the biggest question of all: Who or what created the universe in which we live? The groundbreaking series Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking combined cutting-edge CG with Hawking’s witty, distinctive and incisive worldview. Now, we take the journey a step further, as physics and cosmology become tools to answer questions that philosophers have struggled with for thousands of years.

The episode was amazing, with Hawking taking us back in time to when there was no time.  Fascinating stuff. In the end, Hawking concludes that because time did not exist before the beginning of the universe, there would be no time in which a god could have started it all in motion. Further, the show ends on Hawking’s assertion that there likely isn’t an afterlife, so folks, enjoy your brief stay on this amazing little speck in the universe while you can.

Afterward, David Gregory led a panel (video snippet) featuring Sean Carroll, Paul Davies and John Haught (along with video appearances by other scientists – including Michio Kaku, who I think has seriously jumped the shark) to discuss Hawking’s “controversial” (Gregory’s word) claim. 

For the most part, I found the panel interesting, with the bright spot of the panel being Sean Carroll. You can read his live blogging of Sunday night’s show here. As I suspected, the panel was heavily edited, and I would really like to see the full unedited version. Still, Sean wasn’t edited to look like a jerk, which is almost always the default position when a full-stop atheist is featured on these sorts of panels. Thank goodness for small favors.

Davies was there to provide the “middle ground” between Carroll and Haught, and while he came off okay, his quasi-warning to scientists to not appear “arrogant” made me grimace. Looking at his Wikipedia page, I see that Davies was the religious scientist on the panel, so given the tone of Gregory’s questions and the seeming 2-1 (believer to non) ratio of the panel, not to mention that the video appearances of scientists who appear to believe in some sort of divine creation, I’m happy Sean Carroll was there at all and came off so well!

I was quite frustrated with the theologian (Haught) who basically insisted that while science could inform his theology it had no ability (right?) to investigate the claims his religion makes (an intervening, creating god).  In answer to Carroll’s direct question, “Would the universe operate just as it does if there were no god?’ Haught flippantly declared, “There would be no universe without god.”  Well, then. I guess that’s settled. Haught has spoken! 

What was exceedingly frustrating was while he absolutely accepted the science of the Big Bang and cosmology, he just could not give up on the god idea. Further, the theologian (albeit a “liberal” one), was of the belief (as nearly every religionist is), that without god humans have no hope and no basis for living a moral life. 

I have to assume by “hope” he means the belief that someone will intervene and kiss all our boo-boos. So yes, it’s true, I have no hope. I have no hope that some sky-dude is going to rescue us all. None at all.

And, frankly, I don’t need to hope pretend that there is. For that kind of thinking isn’t hope, it’s delusion.

I have hope, if by that word one means a looking forward with anticipation for something better. But I don’t mean hope for an afterlife, I mean I have hope here and now. I have hope for humanity and for tomorrow – if I didn’t, I’d slit my wrists. Every day above ground is good day. Another day to get it right, ya know?

It’s up to us. Here. Now. And the sooner we grok that there is no outside force that is going to save us from ourselves, the better.