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Stephen Hawking's God

In his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time", physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that when physicists find the theory he and his colleagues are looking for - a so-called "theory of everything" - then they will have seen into "the mind of God". Hawking is by no means the only scientist who has associated God with the laws of physics. Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, for example, has made a link between God and a subatomic particle known as the Higgs boson. Lederman has suggested that when physicists find this particle in their accelerators it will be like looking into the face of God. But what kind of God are these physicists talking about?

Theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg suggests that in fact this is not much of a God at all. Weinberg notes that traditionally the word "God" has meant "an interested personality". But that is not what Hawking and Lederman mean. Their "god", he says, is really just "an abstract principle of order and harmony", a set of mathematical equations. Weinberg questions then why they use the word "god" at all. He makes the rather profound point that "if language is to be of any use to us, then we ought to try and preserve the meaning of words, and 'god' historically has not meant the laws of nature." The question of just what is "God" has taxed theologians for thousands of years; what Weinberg reminds us is to be wary of glib definitions.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Margaret Wertheim

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Stephen Hawking's God

Topic Index
The Birth of Modern Cosmology
Separation of Science and Religion
Vatican Conferences
Genes and Sin
The Big Bang
God and Time
A Theory of Everything
A Cosmic Designer?
Genetic Screening
The Future
Ongoing Dialog
Ecumenical Dialog

Related Topics:
Physics and Cosmology
The Relation of Science & Religion
Purpose and Design
Science and Religion in Conflict?
Books on Science and Religion - General
Sir Isaac Newton
Charles Darwin
Dolly the Cloned Sheep
Egg Manipulation
DNA Double-Helix
Castel Gandolfo
Pontifical Academy
Kitt Peak Telescope
Galaxies and Nebulae