London Group 05-2017 – Stephen Hawking nearly talks about God –

This month we welcomed Keith Ward who spoke at many SMN conferences but nor yet to the London Group.  PROF KEITH WARD is a philosopher and a priest in the Church of England. He is the author of over 25 books and numerous articles and has in the past taught philosophy, religious studies and theology. Amongst many other posts, he was the Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. His talk this evening had the intriguing title, Stephen Hawking nearly talks about God and it addressed the content of Hawking’s book The Grand Design (Bantam, 2011) in which Hawking asks questions such as when and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? Is the apparent ‘grand design’ of our universe evidence for a benevolent creator who set things in motion? Two aspects of Hawking’s explanation caught Keith’s attention: 1) space-time, the reality of our universe, does not come from nothing, but comes from a quantum vacuum. In other words, it depends on something beyond it. 2) Quantum vacuum is not empty, but is full of ‘stuff’’, understood as energy. This means that the reality beyond space-time has qualities, it has non-material laws. Laws of nature require wisdom, intelligence. So, what he is saying, is that the universe depends on something eternal, beyond time, with laws that are necessary. In other words, the material world is dependent on non-material reality. Later in his book, describing the two slit experiment, Hawking points out that the observation by consciousness of the experiment, will determine a particular outcome, i.e. particle behaviour, which is different from the wave behaviour when the experiment is not observed. This shows that consciousness has an effect on the outcome of this experiment. This conclusion leads him to state that we create history by our observations, rather than history creating us. The philosophical approach that is best aligned to this conclusion is Idealism. Until the collapse of the wave, which is the term used to describe the outcome of the experiment, the status is one of probabilities. Bringing into his argument the concept of Mind, Keith pointed out that Mind is intentional. Consequently, asks Keith, in the quantum world of probabilities, might the universe be a creation of God’s observation? Might God have created the universe by actualising probabilities through intentional observation? He started the talk by saying that he would talk not about what Hawking thinks but about what he writes. Keith knows Hawking is an atheist, but in his writing, there are clear indications that God, or Mind terminology could find a place in it!

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