The current commotion is all about pre-release comments from Prof Stephen Hawking, author of an upcoming book The Grand Design. What has he said?
Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
We'll have to wait until the book is published to find out the full story, but essentially we're talking about origins, origins of the universe and the Big Bang. The religious problem exists for people whose belief in God is fuelled by things that science can't explain - the gaps. However, before the atheists get too excited, for many believers this just isn't the way they understand God.
God is not squeezed inbetween like intellectual Polyfiller, rather he is the potter who shapes the Universe he created. In a way that means that there shouldn't be any gaps. As Dr David Wilkinson, astrophysicist and theologian, said today
The God Christians believe in is a God who is intimately involved with every moment of the universe's history, not just its beginnings
Hawking concluded his previous book by saying that if we could unify the physics of the Big Bang we should 'know the mind of God', and perhaps this next work will be his answer, but one thing is for sure: God's mind is not deciphered entirely by equations. However revealing they may be, there is a limit to the efficacy of science in this domain. Dr Lee Rayfield, Bishop of Swindon, put it like this
His conclusion does not change the remarkable coherence between the nature of our universe and the understanding Christians have about the nature and character of God.
Still, the storm in a teacup will continue for at least as long as The Times' serialisation goes on. Dawkins will continue to buzz like a high energy particle at straw men and soft targets, but the real loser will be truth. Some people will be turned off science by the comments, others religion. What a shame. As theoretical physicist Prof Chris Isham lamented...
I groaned when I read this. Stephen's always saying this sort of thing - he loves the publicity.
And I'll be buying the book on the back of it. Sucked in!