Talking Past Each Other

My first two sections of Mythology class met yesterday, and my post on Stephen Hawking was still fresh in my mind. As predictable as clockwork, religious leaders have begun to respond the Hawking’s new book, not yet released. Theodicy in overdrive.

I am not qualified to assess Hawking’s scientific findings. As much as I daydream about having followed my childhood ambition to be a scientist, I find myself in religionist garb teaching university courses among the humanities. What is ironic is that theologians feel that they have to answer Hawking’s conclusions. An article on CNN has the rebuffs of a number of British clerics, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. The main thrust of their comments is that the God Hawking dismisses had already left the theological classroom (the God-of-the-gaps) while the God the major monotheistic religions serve is less of an explanation of the universe and more of a method of determining what it means. So, I guess, this God of meaning may or may not have created the universe, but let God be God and mathematics and physics be damned.

Unless the theologians are better trained than most, the intricacies of M-theory are far too complex to be understood by workaday religious practitioners. The theory is backed by mathematical formulas that are far more frightening than Tiamat, Ahriman, and Azazel bunched up in a cosmic tag-team match against the nice world theologians have created. For my part, I am happy to let the physicists deal with the numbers and symbol systems while I sit by trying to explain what mythology really is to my undergraduate audiences.

Who's looking down today? Uncle Earl?

4 responses to “Talking Past Each Other

  1. I wonder at times what makes it so difficult for humans to accept the fact that we can no sooner quantify God than a blind person can draw an accurate picture of an elephant from touching it’s trunk. Math or no math, I’m sure it’s no different for scientists. What is this urge to assume so much about what we can’t possibly know?


  2. Can you clarify the “irony” in the situation where “theologians feel that they have to answer Hawking’s conclusions”. We all know that is probalby got more to do with the press demanding a reply. That’s probably why them theological types feel the need to provide one. Im surethe journalists (no doubt) were quick to hop on the phone and as a few questions regarding their percived imapcts ont he theologicals world, after all the Times headline statement was theologically provocative.

    Also how are there responses, as you see them part of theodicy? I thought theodicy was about explaining the presence of (natural) evil, what theologians seems to be doing in this situation is not what I would’ve described as “theodicy” ( and please accept myapologies if you were just using the eexpression as a metahpor!).


    • Thanks for your comments. The irony here is in the eye of the beholder. I refer back to the outdated modality of philosophy (including natural philosophy, or science) being the “handmaid of theology.” Seems the tables have turned.

      I was using “theodicy” here in its literal sense, the “justification of God.” That is, I was using it ironically.


  3. 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.


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