BHA Distinguished Supporter Brian Cox and world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking are interviewed together for the Guardian.
On the (non-) need for a creator:
Stephen Hawking: Science can explain the universe without the need for a Creator.
Brian Cox: That’s a wonderfully provocative sentence, actually. A beautiful answer. It’s interesting, because you have previously used the word God in a similar way, in my view, to Einstein. I am thinking of phrases like “knowing the mind of God”, which you used in A Brief History Of Time. In my opinion, Einstein was using the word God as a shorthand to convey the majesty and beauty of the laws of physics, and did not intend this to be taken as a sign that he subscribed to a particular religious doctrine. Is this the sense in which you have used the term before, and are you trying to clear up any misunderstandings caused by your previous use of the word “God”, or have I read too much into your answer?
SH: In A Brief History Of Time I used the word “God” like Einstein did as a shorthand for the laws of physics. However, this is not what most people mean by God, so I have decided not to use the term. The laws of physics can explain the universe without the need for a God.
BC: As for my answer, I think everyone should know a few basic facts about the universe. It began 13.7 billion years ago; our sun and solar system formed just under five billion years ago; there are 200 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, and 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. These are wonderful discoveries, and it’s quite astonishing we’ve been able to find these things out from our vantage point on our tiny Earth.
On what the greatest ethical dilemma in science might be today:
SH: It is over genetic engineering. It should soon be possible dramatically to increase the intelligence and life span of a few individuals. They and their offspring could become a master race. Evolution pays no regard to social justice. It was not fair on the Neanderthals they were replaced by modern humans.
BC: I think one of the great challenges for the scientific community is how to deal with arguments from people with genuinely held views that are demonstrably wrong and potentially damaging. I’m thinking of issues like the vaccination of children or the imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The science is very clear on these issues, and science really is the best guide we have to facing global challenges. The dilemma is how to convince quite vocal minorities that a rational and scientific approach is no threat to their political or religious beliefs – it’s just the best approach. You see the problem immediately, of course, because this sounds rather arrogant and nobody thinks they are irrational! But we have to achieve the right outcomes in certain important areas.
Another dilemma we face at the moment is how to lobby against possible dramatic funding cuts for science in the autumn.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking in conversation for the Guardian,