Stephen Hawking and the Limits of our Knowledge: Scientism vs. Revelation
by John Stonestreet & G. Shane Morris
The brilliant Stephen Hawking has died. We have much to learn from him, including what he never intended to teach us.
Typically speaking, theoretical physicists do not become cultural icons, much less pop-culture icons. But Stephen Hawking, who passed away Wednesday, was both.
His book A Brief History of Time became a surprise global hit, selling more than 10 million copies. He made regular appearances on television, including hit shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and (in animated form) “The Simpsons.” The film about his life, “The Theory of Everything,” did more than $100-million at the box office and produced five Academy Award nominations and one win.
Certainly, Stephen Hawking was a brilliant scientist who made significant contributions to his field. But many other scientists who’ve accomplished just as much remain unknown outside the scientific community. So what explains Hawking’s celebrity status?
Yes, he was brilliant. And who could not be inspired by his rising above such a debilitating physical condition that left him wheelchair-bound for decades? But there are other factors to consider.
Many underestimate the place that science holds in today’s cultural backdrop. In pre-modern Christendom, the ultimate statement of authority was “thus saith the Lord.” Today, the closest statement with that sort of gravitas is “the science is settled,” despite how often that claim is misused to stifle debate and advance ideologies.
And also, Stephen Hawking didn’t stay in his lane. He was a scientist, but in each of his books and nearly all of his media appearances, he ventured into philosophy, masking metaphysical observations and proclamations in language of scientific certainty…
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