Sean Carroll on Stephen Hawking

Physicist Sean Carroll explains Stephen Hawking's controversial statement that God was not needed to create the unvierse:



I've said it a hundred times before, and I'll say it again: the only thing worse than a god that doesn't exist is a god that might as well not exist. Hawking's ideas aren't new, and cosmology has been to a point for quite some time where a deity was not necessary to explain the origin of the universe. But I'm glad that a big gun like Stephen Hawking is having the cojones to put it out there in the public forum, because that famous question, "Why is there something rather than nothing" has been answered with science, and it's time more believers know it.

I don't expect Hawking's statement, or his book, to instigate a mass wave of deconversions. But if it gets some people thinking critically about their faith, if it gets more people eschewing revelation and sentiment in favor of reason and evidence, then he's accomplished a great deal.

But this is consistent with what science has done to religion at every turn: made it irrelevant to our understanding of the world. Evolution showed how all life arose through natural processes rather than spontaneous, magical creation; we're on the cusp of a complete theory of abiogenesis, showing how life arose from inorganic matter; science has debunked the folly of prayer, and we can explain suffering, disease and disaster without theology; we can explain morality through evolutionary psychology, the origin and utility of religious belief through cognitive psychology, and now, the coup de grace: we can explain the origin of the universe through science alone.

I'm fond of Sam Harris' question: can we name a single phenomenon for which the best explanation used to be scientific, but is now religious? Of course not. Religion is a failed science. It's a failed utility for understanding ourselves and the world around us. Science continually usurps it, and religion will continue its path into obscurity and irrelevance.

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