Did God Create the Universe?

In his new book, The Grand Design, to be published next week, the astrophysicist Stephen Hawking states that science excluded the possibility of a deity and that it was unnecessary to “invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

Lord Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the U.K., observed in the London Times (September 2) that there was as an “elementary fallacy” of logic in Hawking’s thinking.

The Chief Rabbi wrote: “There is a difference between science and religion. Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation. The Bible simply isn’t interested in how the universe came into being.”

Sacks also said the mutual hostility between religion and science was one of “the curses of our age” and warned it would be equally damaging to both.

“But there is more to wisdom than science. It cannot tell us why we are here or how we should live. Science masquerading as religion is as unseemly as religion masquerading as science.”

In an earlier book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking was apparently more open to the idea of God, suggesting that a scientific understanding of the universe was not incompatible with a creator. “If we discover a complete theory…it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God,” he wrote.

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18 responses to “Did God Create the Universe?

  1. A hasty comment and a query:
    (a) The Chief Rabbi writes, “The Bible simply isn’t interested in how the universe came into being”?? That’s certainly what the first chapter of the first book of the bible seems to be about…
    (2) Is Jonathan related to Oliver?

    • David Schatzky

      I also was surprised that the Chief Rabbi appeared to ignore Genesis.
      However he’s a very sophisticated thinker, and probably sees the Old Testament not as a factual explanation or as accurate history, but more as a metaphor or myth to be interpreted and discussed. One of the most attractive aspects of Judaism is that it’s much more about ethics (how to behave) than about faith. So one can be a very good Jew without believing in God. Very liberating!

    • 1. You are right. YOU should be Chief Rabbi.
      2. Don’t know. Their occupations are.

    • 1. You are right. YOU should be Chief Rabbi.
      2. Don’t know. Their occupations are.

    • a) You are right.

      b) Don’t know. But their occupations certainly are.

  2. David Schatzky

    I think Stephen Hawking may be right: God may not be necessary to explain the origins of the Universe.
    And despite being secular, I also strongly agree with the Rabbi.
    That doesn’t feel like a contradiction.
    Arguing about which came first, God or the Universe is as useful
    as playing X’s and O’s.
    It’s a distraction.
    A game no-one ever wins.
    No-one knows the true origin of the universe.
    The nature and powers of God are unknown, too.
    As is the meaning of life.
    If there is a God or not, if God created the Universe or not, we still have to get along with each other, be stewards of the earth, and try to live as if we have a purpose. That’s enough to keep most of us fully occupied and very challenged…

  3. God and Bible versus Science and Hawking

    I agree with Rabbi Sacks that we are hearing two different conversations in two different rooms on two different topics. The old apples and oranges debate, yawn.

  4. But you must admit it was rather neatly formulated.

  5. In “The Grand Design” Stephen Hawking postulates that the M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics…the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate and later abandoned. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

    In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

    Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (fx raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

    • Thank you for your excellent contribution. I am familiar with the Einstein quote and have used it in my writing.

  6. It’s certainly true that science can’t give us the purpose of life, or ‘policy’answers generally. Even ‘evidence-based policy’ requires choices based on values, not just a knowledge of the evidence. The challenge facing those who say that religion can tell us the purpose is to explain why we should believe its answer. Why is it ‘true’?

    If the answer is that religious truth is not the same as scientific truth, then we can turn anywhere for the former kind, and we are driven to individual judgment as to what suits us best, or what seems most credible (which could be an institutional interpretation). ‘Revelation’ has little to do with it, in any event.

    • Please don’t tell any Jew that Revelation has nothing to do with their religion.

    • A modern Jewish theological work by Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption (1921), highly praised, treats Revelation as a matter of Fact, and proceeds from there.

      His previous work was about Hegel.

  7. Followup to my comment/query above:
    (a) Maybe the Chef Rabbi meant the Bible is more interested in why the universe came into being than how?
    (2) At http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3290320.ece
    there is a review, by Jonathan Sacks, of Oliver Sacks’s splendid book Musicophilia. In the first sentence, Jonathan says Oliver is “no relative, alas”. On the other hand, Oliver Sacks and Abba Eban were first cousins. Google knows all!

  8. Oops… that’s Chief Rabbi, not Chef. Although, the idea of a Chef Rabbi has a certain appeal…