Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is Stephen Hawking smarter than a 6th grader?

Two perspectives on Stephen Hawking's latest musings on alien life are worth reading. First, Gary DeMar at American Vision explores the logical inconsistency of the scientific community accepting the possibility, even likelihood, of advanced intelligent life beyond the cosmos while rejecting the existence of God.
Stephen Hawking’s brain is trapped in a body that can do little more than sit, and even with this he needs assistance. At 68, he has not slowed down even though he is almost completely paralyzed due to “a neuro-muscular dystrophy,” a degenerative neurological disease that is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease). His condition has worsened over the years. Even so, the theoretical physicist has not stopped working and thinking. He is a prolific author. His best seller A Brief History of Time stayed on the British Sunday Times bestseller list for 237 weeks.

His latest theoretical venture is the claim that the cosmos is alive with life. He will attempt to make his case in a new documentary series for the Discovery Channel beginning Sunday, May 9th.

I find this all very interesting. With no real empirical data, Hawking and other scientists are adamant that alien life, some of it far superior than our own, exists among the innumerable galaxies, but they are not willing to believe that God exists. Lord (Martin) Rees, the Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, warned that aliens might prove to be beyond human understanding. “I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive,” Rees said. “Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.” It’s OK for scientists to postulate that unseen aliens may be beyond our understanding, but don’t ever let a scientist suggest that that a God who is beyond our understanding might exist. That wouldn’t be scientific! Long before Lord Rees postulated such a theory, the Bible describes God as far superior to us in a way that mocks know-it-all scientists:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9).

To believe what Lord Rees believes is science, but to suggest that there is a God who is beyond our understanding and has made Himself known to us is superstition.

We’re told that Hawking’s “logic” leads him to believe in a cosmos filled with aliens that sprung from nothing, but he and his less than superior scientists (given that alien life forms are probably more superior than us as they maintain) cannot logically formulate the belief that a Superior Being put life on this planet. They’re willing to believe that nothing gave rise to something, but they cannot conceive that God gave rise to everything.
Second, Terrell Clemons at Salvo recounts the delightful time he had watching an episode of Hawking's Discovery Channel documentary series with his young daughter and how it reminded him of the injustice done to our schoolchildren by the scientific education establishment.
The point I’d like to make is she’s a 6th grader, and she’s capable of thinking with a free mind, taking in competing theories about something, and, to a certain extent, analyzing them. This is how critical thinking skills are developed. But as this Crosshairs, also from Salvo 11, points out, wherever the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) gets its way, teachers are prohibited from informing students about competing scientific theories concerning the origin of life, including the one offered, though not by name, as a valid theory by no less a science luminary than Stephen Hawking. (The NCSE also opposes students being informed of different views concerning global warming, but that’s another issue for another post.)

Stephen Hawking is an amazing and inspiring man, and we enjoyed watching his show. I’d like to focus on that ideal of a free mind and note two things. First, the NCSE, by intentionally ignoring ID (and vehemently opposing it when active ignorance is no longer an option), limits free inquiry and hinders, rather than advances, science. They do our children a disservice.

Second, while Hawking does believe that alien life likely exists, including life of superior intelligence, he leaves no leeway for the possibility that that intelligence might be a supernatural being. In so doing, I suggest he limits himself and his scientifically brilliant mind more than he realizes. To limit experimental science to only those things which can be seen, heard, and touched is reasonable. To limit your mind and imagination after the same manner hinders free inquiry.

Even a 6th grader can understand that.
So, is Stephen Hawking smarter than a 6th grader, or are there some mysteries of the universe more comprehensible to a little child uninhibited by political correctness than to a scholar imprisoned by conventional scientific wisdom?