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The divine and the human in Stephen Hawking's universe

The divine and the human in Stephen Hawking's universe

Author: Carlos A. Marmelada
Published in: Aceprensa, service no. 6/09
date of on-line publication: 21 January 2009

review to the book Francisco J. Soler Gil. Lo divino y lo humano en el universo de Stephen Hawking. Ediciones Cristiandad: Madrid, 2008. 314 pp.

Just twenty years ago, the book History of Time by physicist Stephen Hawking became a bestseller. How could a book about the origin of the universe have such a huge impact on the public? The famous science populariser (and physicist) Carl Sagan gives a clue in the foreword: "the word God fills this book". In fact, Hawking himself has stated in an interview with the BBC: "It is difficult to discuss the origin of the universe without mentioning the concept of God. My work on the origin of the universe is on the borderline between science and religion, but I try to stay on the scientific side of the border. It is entirely possible that God acts in ways that cannot be described by physical laws. But, in that case, one has to resort to personal beliefs.

This is the context for the book by Soler Gil, PhD in Philosophy by the University of Bremen, specialist in the discussion on cosmology, science and religion, and author of Dios o la subject (2008), among other works. In the latter, Soler addresses the metaphysical consequences of Hawking's cosmology.

Although the Oxford physicist has said on several occasions that in his cosmological model there is no place for a creator, Soler maintains that this statement (more philosophical than scientific) does not follow from his thesis ; it is, in his opinion, an ideological addition resulting from his materialistic prejudices and that, in no case, it is derived from the equations that define his cosmological model . Moreover, Soler defends the opposite thesis . According to Soler, Hawking's model expressed in History of Time is fully compatible with theism. Hence the goal of this book is, despite all the philosophical deficits in Hawking's analyses, "an attempt to continue the dialogue with Hawking, to try to establish some of the implications of his cosmology in the field of the Philosophy of nature".

Among the infinite number of possible issues to be dealt with, Soler restricts the dialogue to two topics: "the consequences of Hawking's model for natural theology, and the relationship between the concept of 'time' underlying this model and the human experience of temporality". To this end, the author divides essay into three parts. In the first, the shortest part, he analyses the basic ideas of Hurtel and Hawking's model . The second part defines what the challenge of this model really consists of for natural theology, the response given by some specialists in this field over the last two decades. Soler concludes that this model does not mean the end of natural theology, "but it could be employee to present some of the cosmological ways of accessing the existence of God with even more clarity than that derived from using the standard cosmological model ". The last part devotes its four chapters to reflecting on the concept of time.

Soler thus provides us with a book of great value for all those interested in reflecting on the borderline issues between cosmology, metaphysics and religion. The only drawback is that the language is sometimes an obstacle for non-specialists.