Friday, June 16, 2006

Pope asked Hawking not to study beginning of the Universe

According to physicist Stephen Hawking, the late Pope, John Paul II, asked him not to study the beginning of the Universe:

NorthWest Florida Daily News reports:

Hawking, who didn't say when the meeting was held, quoted the pope as saying, "It's OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not enquire into the beginning itelf because that was the moment of creation and the work of God."

Religion has a long, and still current, tradition of ruling out or forbidding entire areas of inquiry, not on the basis that it is "too dangerous" or harmful to others, but simply because it is one of those Things Man Was Not Meant To Know.

In other words: God wants us to remain ignorant. Don't study that!

There seems to be the sense that studying some things (like, in times gone past, the movement of planets across the sky) is somehow stepping on God's turf. We must not learn about how the Earth formed, because that's Secret God's Business.

But I wonder whether there is also something else going on? Is it possible that, hidden behind all the talk about faith, the religious are frightened that if people are allowed to look at God's Turf, they will discover there is no need for God? There certainly have been Christians who have welcomed intellectual investigation, and indeed the natural world has been called the true Book Of God: if God created the Universe, then his message to us may be revealed by studying everything in the Universe.

But there are also Christians who have been anti-intellectual, who have tried to draw lines across vast areas of the Universe and rule them out of bounds. It is almost as if, having spent their life telling everyone about the wonderful gift inside the box, they can't bear to open the box in case it is empty.

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