No news is no news

No news is no news

It6rsquo;s distinctly odd seeing near-hysterical news reports about Stephen Hawking’s religious views, or, rather, lack thereof. It’s not exactly a reverse Road to Damascus experience; this is a physicist, not the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I sometimes wonder if journalists ever stop to think what they’re writing. To look at the headlines, and even to read the articles attached to them, you’d think this was a scandal on a par with the Queen saying she thought the monarchy should be abolished, or Osama bin Laden renouncing terrorism. Hawking hasn’t even changed his mind: he’s just stated it a bit more emphatically than he usually does (and not even for the first time).

The “scandal” rests on the fact that in A Brief History of Time he made an offhand comment about “knowing the mind of God”, but that’s a figure of speech. One commentator I read did concede that he was being metaphorical, but insisted nevertheless that it was “a bit rich” of him to subsequently rubbish the notion of God.

In point of fact, he hasn’t exactly rubbished God. He’s made two points, to wit:

  1. it is possible to explain the origins of the universe without supposing that it was created by an intelligent being; and
  2. Professor Hawking doesn’t believe in God.

The first of these is pretty much established scientific fact, and has been for decades. It’s not that science has decided to disprove the existence of God; rather, that science has (so far at least) not had to have an opinion on the matter of the existence of any deity. God is not part of the remit of science.

The second is Hawking’s personal belief. I would beg to differ (as I believe differently), but it should come as no surprise that Hawking is, essentially, an atheist. When did he ever suggest otherwise, aside from the odd meaningless turn of phrase? And why even make such a fuss about it? Why is this news?