Science and Religion Today notes Hawkings's recent remarks to senior mediababe Diane Sawyer on ABC World News (motto: watched in seniors communities throughout America's heartland):
There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.
Ah, lots of nuance in that characterization! We'll note that (a) religion is too broad a category to characterize simply, as it comprises mutually exclusive faith systems; (b) various "religions" have varying degrees of reliance on authority; (c) the religion to which we adhere--and the only one we think worth defending--has a rather multifaceted basis and a complex relationship to bald "authority"; (d) the scientific community has its own embarrassing reliance on authority, reflected in our willingness to listen to a physicist's ideas about religion; (e) both the Christian (there, we said it out loud) and scientific communities self correct through the use of observation and reason over time.
But there's more! Hawking continues:
What could define God [is thinking of God] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God. They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible.
We urge that if from this remark certain words are changed or omitted, the conclusion, "seems most impossible," becomes "seems most intriguing/coherent/awe-inducing." The changes are:
- "made": change to "understood" or "conceptualized"; there's no reason to assert that all "religion" (again, too broad a category) is entirely of human creation, even if one wants to do the same for glorious "science," and with similar discounting of the validity of conclusions.
- "human-like": change to "personal," so as to eliminate all the problematic aspects of humanity and open the possibility that human personhood is a reflection of the divine and not vice versa (in passing we ask Dr. Hawking whether he is fully content that his self-awareness as a person is sufficiently explained as the consequence of natural selection).
- "accidental": change to "distinctly self-aware," stressing the observable outcome and not assuming the nature of origin, which is the very thing being debated.