|FAITH Magazine January-February 2009|
Science and Religion News
POPE ANSWERS HAWKING (AND ANTONY FLEW)
The front cover of one of the Catholic papers at the start of November had a most striking image, that of the meeting of two of the most famous men in the world: the Pope, Benedict XVI, and Professor Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist from Cambridge. Their meeting took place in the context of the plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, of which Prof. Hawking is a member. The Pope went and greeted Stephen Hawking personally, prior to addressing the assembly on the 31st October in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican. His address initiated the Academy's session on 'Scientific Insight into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life.'
Over the years Hawking himself has offered a particular spin upon what the late Pope, John Paul II, had said in his hearing. In 1981, before the same Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II had touched on the question of the universe's origin. In his A Brief History of Time, Hawking gave his version of what the Pope had said:
Much more recently Hawking has reiterated this version of events, when in June 2006 he gave a lecture in Hong Kong which gained wide publicity. The late Pope had decreed no such ban, but had in fact said: "Any scientific hypothesis on the origin of the world,
such as the hypothesis of a primitive atom from which derived the whole of the physical universe, leaves open the problem concerning the universe's beginning. Science cannot of itself solve this question ..." (3rd October 1981).
In his address, the Pope made the following observations:
"To 'evolve' literally means 'to unroll a scroll,' that is, to read a book. The imagery of nature as a book has its roots in Christianity and has been held dear by many scientists. Galileo saw nature as a book whose author is God in the same way that Scripture has God as its author. It is a book whose history, whose evolution, whose 'writing' and meaning, we 'read' according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein. This image also helps us to understand that the world, far from originating out of chaos, resembles an ordered book; it is a cosmos."
The Pope went on to articulate something in harmony with the 'Unity Law' idea promoted by Faith movement
Among other advantages, this line concerning God as the mind immediately sustaining and organising each and every aspect of cosmic matter is also important for challenging the Deism of the prominent ex-agnostic Professor Antony Flew.