Once Again, Real Life Imitates South Park

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Some of you no doubt find South Park to be a bit crude and maybe even offensive.  But I am constantly amazed at how often their satires run so true to real life.  Case in point: Stephen Hawking.  In a recent interview with the Guardian Stephen Hawking had this to say:

The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can’t solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.

This caused Carl Olson to quip that Hawking “does, in fact, believe in and worship a god—the name of which is ‘Science'”.

That brought to mind the twopart episode from season ten where Cartman travels into the future and discovers an Earth where everyone is now an atheist (content warning).  Exclamations of “Science help us!” escape from everyone’s lips in times of trouble.

I’m not going to read too much into the South Park episodes, but they hint at a larger truth.  Even atheists cannot escape religion.  Near our house is something called the Washington Ethical Society.  We used to drive by this place when we went to Mass in the city, and they hold weekly meetings every Sunday.   Yes, it is essentially a Church for atheists.  Frankly, one would think that one of the “benefits” of being an atheist is not having to go to Church on Sunday, but for these atheists they can’t escape the Sunday obligation.  I don’t know if they sing hymns to science but I’m sure their gatherings are something to behold.

At any rate, there’s more from Olson as well as Msgr. Charles Pope on Hawking’s philosophy.  Msgr. Pope is troubled by where Hawking’s philosophy trends (the part in bold is from the article, the rest is Msgr. Pope):

When asked what is the value of knowing why are we here, Hawking replied, “The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can’t solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.” This is so limiting. It is also philosophy, not science to say this. Mr Hawking is entitled to have a philosophy, but when he says the world is “governed by science” and then goes on to philosophize, that looks pretty silly and contradictory. Further, Mr. Hawking, if you ask me, is edging dangerously close to eugenics in what he says here. What exactly assigning a “higher value” to certain societies looks like as a practical matter is uncertain in what he says, but I sense a growing darkness here, not light. Margaret Sanger and Adolph Hitler may well be smiling as he says this. BEWARE!

The first commenter objected to Msgr. Pope’s anaology*, but it happens to be spot on.  Readings Hawking it is tough not to draw another cultural analogy, this time to C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength.  That novel is the third part of Lewis’s space trilogy, and the plot revolves around the British Government’s new scientific institute, the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments (NICE).  The institute does some awful stuff in the name of science and progress, and the novel itself serves as a warning against the utopian promises of over-eager rationalists.

Hawking might be a brilliant physicist, but he should leave theology to the grownups.

* On a tangential note, I find myself getting more agitated by a trend in comments sections.  Why do people feel that they can completely discard the rules of grammar, capitalization and punctuation when they write comments on blogs?  The commenter on Msgr. Pope’s blog – the inaptly named Sophia – decided to take the opportunity to insinuate that atheists were smarter than religious people, all the while failing to capitalize a single word in her screed.  Why should I take anyone seriously when they can’t even obey the simple rules of the English language?  No, we’re not writing dissertations here, but if you can’t even be bothered to hit the shift key before typing the first letter of the first word of your sentences, then I will automatically discount anything you have to say.  I can understand typos as I’m sure there might be one or two above, and I’m not a perfect grammar student.  But can you at least make an effort to write properly on a discussion forum?

/End rant.

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  1. The Zenit News Agency recently had two great articles on atheism that basically together constitute an interview with Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid on a book that he and Kenneth Hensley wrote, entitled, “The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Atheism.” I quote some noteworthy excerpts from the interview here:


    Basically many atheists are atheists not because they disbelieve in God but because they don’t want the moral boundaries that a belief in God entails. Many (not all) would rather wallow in lust like mindless baboons and then abort the consequence of their adultery or fornication, or have the State pay for a cure for AIDS with which their homosexual sodomy has infected them. Few seem to have thought through to conclusion the consequences of an atheist philosophy: if there is no God, then there is no point to life. And those that have thought through to atheism’s logical conclusion seem to never fail to advocate implementation of the theory of Darwinian Natural Selection on a genocidal scale that Steven Hawking apparently now supports. (As an aside, it is interesting to note that Dr. Hawking himself with his Lou Gehring’s disease would be allowed to die, being unfit to survive). Those people of Darwinian Natural Selection we can rightly call Hitlers, Mao Tse Tungs and Josef Stalins.

    By the way, while I sometimes use various acronyms and abbreviations and make more than my fair share of typographical errors, I agree with your comment on the proper use of Englsih grammar in writing. I suspect (though I may be wrong) that some atheists, in being beholden to no God, find themselves above all rules and thus for them grammar is a thing of no consequence. However, there are a fair number of so-called religious people likewise afflicted with similar hubris.

  2. People whose writing style is best compared to LOLcat captions probably shouldn’t be lecturing others about their superior intellects.

  3. You will find the atheist bookshelf in the “Religion” section of major bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Too funny.

  4. Hawkings’ first wife, the one he had his three kids with, was and is a devout Christian and they apparently were in conflict about religion, and many other things, quite a bit. Never ignore the personal factor when someone’s “scientific” theories just happen to mesh perfectly with what they want to believe or disbelieve.

  5. Like you, I had found South Park crude and provocative in the beginning… but I have to admit, there usually are great Moments of Truth buried in each episode. I’m convinced the crudeness only serves to distract people, while the larger truths are allowed to slip past the censors, straight to the brain. (And, I have to admit, I think it’s intentional.) This rebellious cartoon I once thought a terrible thing, has turned out to be absolutely, sublimely, brilliant. Every conservative, especially should watch it – there are so few pro-right television shows.

  6. My father told me that athiests, having given up God, replace Him with the only other person available: Themselves. This is why athiests are so arrogant, rude, condescending and ultimately boring.

  7. Why should I take anyone seriously when they can’t even obey the simple rules of the English language? It should be Why should I take anyone seriously when HE can’t even obey the simple rules of the English language?

  8. People have swooned over Steven’s “Hawkings” for many years but I suspect he is a savant: brilliant in one area, but blindingly deficient in many others, for instance, interpersonal relationships.

    As a recovering atheist, I constantly strive for wisdom and grace, however, flights of pique will seize me on occasion – and they have since I read Mr. Hawking’s dismissal of heaven as a “fairytale.” It takes a quantum leap of ignorance to engage in such sophomoric reductionism.

    But I digress. Mr. Hawking’s provocative embrace of social darwinism smacks of someone very frail who, but for medical technology, would have already succumbed to Darwin’s initial theory.

  9. I read a while back that a Madison atheist became a Unitarian minister. That reminded me of a joke a Baptist once told me: “The only time the name Jesus Christ is uttered in a Unitarian Church is when the janitor falls down the stairs.”

    Really, I used to live a few blocks from a Unitarian – well, what is it? A church? A temple? – and was always interested in seeing the Unitarians come out of their, er, building Sunday mornings, because I have no idea what sort of services people who do not believe in a personal God hold. What does that atheist minister talk about? “Be real nice, everybody!” I decided – perhaps unfairly – that Unitarians are people who want the sociability of church – they like to dress up a bit on Sunday mornings and hang out in a church-like sort of building and have pancake breakfasts and clothing drives without having to follow those icky Commandments.

  10. Most people cannot get a handle on the modern theories of physics as it involves heavy duty mathematics at or near the graduate level. Thus we are reduced to reading the pablum of popularising physicists such as Hawkings and Steven Weinberg, while enduring their tedious atheism. Their popular books are mostly rubbish as anyone who reads them for enlightenment can attest. The earnest middlebrow would do well to chuck all the ‘Prancing Wu Li Masters’ stuff into the rubbish bin and attend some evening classes instead. What is ironic about the trend of modern science is this: on the one hand we have a physics that uses the most sophisticated and subtle models to describe what are after all tiny artifacts (much smaller than an atom), and whose experimental verification requires the the labours of legions of highly educated physicists, engineers and administrators. And on the other hand we are assured that the human mind that attempts to comprehend all this is nothing but the product of random Darwinian evolution.

  11. Agree, Ivan. I don’t pretend to understand modern physics, but I do know that researchers of subatomic particles (or whatever they’re calling them these days) must “infer” the existence of charm, etc.

    Most of us expect scientists to have open minds so they can be receptive to unexpected findings, so they can grasp nuanced possibilites, so they can interpret complex data. I think what we often get – even from our respected science “lions” is geared for grant writing and personal gain.

    Anyway, I hope someday Mr. Hawking can pompously declare that hell is just a fairytale, because apprently neither wisdom, nor inference is his strong suit.

    Just sayin’.

  12. I wrote the following some time ago. I am no expert in quantum mechanics or relativist physics, but perhaps with my limited and inaccurate understanding the following discussion may help the reader to understand the underlying particles and forces that makeup the universe and how these reflect the makeup of God. How one can be a scientist and NOT see this is incredible. Romans 1:20 states:

    “Ever since the creation of the world, [God’s] invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.”

    The veracity of this statement can be demonstrated by a brief overview of elementary particle physics. Just as God is Father, Son and Holy Ghost – three persons in one – so also do we see a reflection of this Trinity throughout nature.

    The elementary sets of particles which makeup the visible universe likewise occur in sets of three.

    Atoms are made of three underlying particles: protons and neutrons in the nuclei of atoms and electrons in a cloud surrounding such nuclei. In turn the protons and neutrons with the nuclei are composed of three quarks each.

    Protons are made of two up quarks each having a +2/3 charge and one down quark having a -1/3 charge for a total particle charge of +1.

    Neutrons are made of two down quarks each having a -1/3 charge and one up quark having a +2/3 charge for a total particle change of 0.

    In turn the quarks are held confined within the nucleus of an atom by three gluons, each having a different color: red, green or blue.

    The major forces in nature likewise come in three: the electromagnetic force, the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force. All such forces are mediated by bosons.

    The electromagnetic force (responsible for magnetism, electricity, light, chemical reactions, etc.) is mediated by a single boson called the photon.

    However, both the weak and the strong nuclear forces are mediated by three bosons each. The weak nuclear force (responsible for most forms of radioactive decay) is mediated by the W+, W- and Z0 bosons.

    The strong nuclear force (responsible for nuclear fission and nuclear fusion) is mediated by three gluons (red, green and blue).

    Gravity appears as a force but is actually the curvature of space time due to the presence of mass; hence its exclusion.

    There are three types of quarks at a charge of +2/3 and spin of ½ in increasing orders of mass: up, charm and top.

    Likewise there are three types of quarks at a charge of -1/3 and a spin of ½ in increasing orders of mass: down, strange and bottom.

    No quark can exist by itself, and any pair of quarks will immediately decay away into a shower of other particles. To be stable, quarks always have to come in threes.

    In the same manner there are three sets of leptons.

    For those having a charge of -1 and a spin of ½, there are the electron, the muon and the tau.

    For those having a charge of 0 and a spin of ½, there are the electronic neutrino, the muon neutrino and the tau neutrino.

    Thus, again and again and again throughout the physical universe we see the reflection of God’s Triune nature manifested. Now maybe someone will say that I make theological errors, or that my science is infantile and ridiculous, or that I truly do not understand quantum electrodynamics or quantum chromodynamics or string theory or any of the rest. But having been a nuclear engineer all my adult life, I cannot believe that there is no God underneath all the equations that govern these miraculous and wondrous things, and that His face does not shine forth for those who would see Him.

  13. In The Screwtape Letters, one of the first letters includes an admonition by Screwtape to Wormwood NOT to use the “real sciences” — i.e., physics, chemistry, biology, etc. as opposed to psychology or sociology — as a means of keeping his “patient” away from the Christian faith because “they will positively encourage him to think about realities he can’t touch and see… There have been some sad cases among the modern physicists.”

    By “sad cases” I presume Lewis means scientists of his time (early 1940s) who were converted to the Christian faith as a direct result of their studies of the natural world; but I don’t know whom exactly he may have been referring to. Does anyone else?

  14. Hi Nelson, I do not understand modern physics either, but in the words of a greater physicist than Hawking, one A Einstein, ever since the mathematicians took over he couldn’t understand it either.

  15. Perhaps, Ivan, that’s because mathematics is the language by which God created the physical universe: space and time, matter and energy. God spoke, “Let there be light,” and verily there was light. It is God whom we do not understand.

    I have worked in a highly technical and scientific field – nuclear energy – all of my adult life, and the more I learn about the physical universe (quantum electrodynamics and chromodynamics, all the different string theories, etc.), the more confirmation I see of God’s invisible attributes in the visible, physical universe. I think, however, that the men and women who become too smart in mathematics fall in love with their own intellectual abilities that they then in turn elevate above the Creator. I think St. Paul explained all this in Romans chapter 1, beginning with verse 18. The result of such arrogance was entirely predictable 2000 years ago in Roman times and is the same today.


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