by Glenn Fairman 8/25/16
The Philosophy of Science is a seedbed ripe for rich speculation. But perhaps the most profound questions the renowned scientist Stephan Hawking could wrestle with are not related to a multiplicity of bubble universes, but that fantastic Singularity giving form to it all. Does modern science have within itself the wherewithal to penetrate reality and describe an underlying essence hidden behind matter’s persistent gray stronghold? Or is science content, like a rodent, with nibbling around the periphery of a first cause – half fearing what it may encounter if it plumbs too deeply the rich dominion of being?
Indeed, why the intense human desire to “know:” to find meaning, to love, to connect with the transcendent “other?” Yet, if mind and quark are the by-products of merely sterile molecular bodies in motion, why meaning at all? What prompts the search for origins and astral mechanics when material either exploded into being from nothingness or continues to drone on in cataclysmic cycles with no teleological end or significance? If introspective human lives are accidental absurdities, what relentless existential drive moves us to discern a consistent harmony within the cosmos, a character antithetical to naturalism’s presumption of hostile indifference?
But from the perspective of Scientism, the metaphysical questions are DOA. What cannot be empirically poked or prodded is not only outside the purview of intelligent inquiry, but beneath its sphere of interest. If science is the exhaustive study of causes and mechanics, then why is its program so narrowly focused on the epidermal to the exclusion of a transcendent first cause? Why is an anxious yet aloof science either fearful or unwilling to consider possibilities that might unify and grant coherence to the grand vision? Focused against the backdrop of these questions, this supposed “most intelligent man in the world of science,” and those if his ilk, seem trapped in a hall of mirrors — wrapped in a hermeneutic cocoon of their own construction.
Unable to ascertain the miraculous at face value, Hawking, a stunning miracle in his own right, betrays an ontological illiteracy that is in every sense more debilitating than his ALS. Having barbed-wired his splendid mind within the confines of a narrow ideology, the professor has followed the spirit of the age and has actively participated in cleaving his discipline like Solomon. And like all who adorn men in the prideful cloak of autonomous self-creation, they either consciously or inadvertently place their thumbs on the scale of knowledge, that same thumb which they raise haughtily up into the skies, believing that by the force of their promethean intellects, they can block out the sun.
Does Professor Hawking not understand how his entire handicapped life is supported and maintained by the good will and charity of people whose animating principles are antithetical to his morally barren conjectures about our physical universe? In his present capacity — floundering in a Darwinian world that is silent on the virtues that set charitable human interaction into motion, Hawking would have been tossed onto a dung heap and reviled as an idiot for his inchoate mumblings while he was left to wither and perish — the victim of a worldview that enshrines “survival of the fittest.”[pullquote]Unable to ascertain the miraculous at face value, Hawking, a stunning miracle in his own right, betrays an ontological illiteracy that is in every sense more debilitating than his ALS. [/pullquote]
If science, as understood by Hawking, means the end of philosophy, then it also means the end of ethics: that same ethics that (ideally) battles the destruction of the tender and voiceless for the short-sighted benefit of some misbegotten utilitarian good. Hailing himself as the de facto champion of brute fact over discarded value, Hawking becomes the poster boy of desiccated inquiry that is emblematic of modernity’s mental labyrinth – where deluded raw sensory intelligence, divorced from Right Reason and theistic moral vision and virtue, leads the pursuit of knowledge into a waterless desert of quantitative abstraction. In truth, it is not Scientism’s poverty in apprehending the world that is so objectionable; it is the insistence that its contemptuous methodology has uncovered all that there is to see. In his mind, Hawking has opted for the simplest explanation:
When people ask me if a god created the universe, I tell them that the question itself makes no sense. Time didn’t exist before the big bang, so there is no time for god to make the universe in. It’s like asking directions to the edge of the earth; The Earth is a sphere; it doesn’t have an edge; so looking for it is a futile exercise. We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no god. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate.
These myopic antagonists of an intelligent Designer, who live and pontificate at ease in a world whose entire structure and ethic is bathed in the golden penumbra of Christian monotheistic social reciprocation, have no serious idea what a civilization bereft of enlightened religion really looks like. Yet, even if one is a skeptic or unbeliever, one is still the beneficiary of the common grace that has uplifted and informed the very society that seeks to disown its venerable heritage. And in spite of their concerted efforts to effect the totality of this divorce, the now embattled sun of Christendom still shines on both the good and callous alike — at least for a time.
If he were honest in logically unpacking the implications of his Scientism, Hawking would realize that his Darwinian world, “red in tooth and claw,” would fundamentally degrade humanity into mere flocks ruled by an amoral elite. Moreover, without the game changing Christian influence that imputes dignity apart from materialist considerations, nothing flowing from our beastly imaginations could be withheld from us. And it is these fears: where the unregenerate human mind becomes completely unfettered, that populate nightmares with an endless procession of technologically-inspired horrors.
If the truth be known, human science as we know it could not have flourished as the product of a wholly naturalistic mental construct. Indeed, how could an unordered brain come to the conclusion that a magnificent logic, undergirded by an elegant mathematics, was to be the ruling principle erupting from the frenzy of a feeble cosmos? Having been mysteriously spawned as bastards of such cruel chance or necessity, what compelled man to attempt the derivation of physical laws and coherence from naturalism’s subsumed prima facie chaos? Without an a priori intuitive capacity for material transcendence or even the possibility of discerning the complex motifs of pattern and design, are we not as orphans abandoned in a self-contradictory jungle – where speed, strength, violence, and clever rapacity are the primary “virtues” selected for? Fortunately, for us and for Hawking, naturalism is an untenable theory. It cannot adequately explain the inception and fine-tuning of the universe, and it surely cannot adequately explain the man who values.
Without the higher order moral teachings of the Christ, the character of the world would have been darkened exponentially. Without the incarnation of Divine love and mercy into the world, little near-sighted and hopelessly broken men would gaze mutely at the stars – pondering not the abstractions of time and the multiverse, but the direction from which their next meal would arrive – if at all. How paradoxical that having spent a lifetime hypothesizing an explanation for everything, Hawking tragically settled for a convoluted theory of nothing.
Glenn Fairman returns from the wilderness with a (big) bang and writes from Highland, Ca.
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