Whilst watching “Air Disasters” on the Smithsonian Channel this evening (okay, while generally decrying teevee I admit that I’m a sucker for this show), ol’ Robbo saw an ad for the upcoming movie The Theory of Everything, which purports to look at “the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.” The clips shown were from the early days before Hawking was confined to his signature wheelchair and electronic voice-box and seemed to be of the usual infatuation/disillusionment/hate/love cycle variety, with a heavy side of Scientist-Geek thrown in.
“Hmmmm,” I said to myself. “Without looking it up, didn’t Mr. Hawking, within the past few years, chuck the Missus in favor of his nurse? That would rayther put a damper on any ‘message’ about his earlier courtship of Mrs. H, wouldn’t it? Plus, from all that I’ve gleaned, the fellah is something of a first-class shite to deal with.”
Well, I still haven’t looked it up. Maybe (indeed, hopefully) I’m wrong in my recollection. If so, apologies all around.
Nonetheless, I am no fan of Mr. Hawking and have no intention of seeing this flick. Why? Because he has fallen into the trap of believing that because he has (very real) insights into the physical mechanics of the Universe, he is thereby qualified to make theological pronouncements about it (to wit, essentially, asserting that there is no such thing as an originating God), and has made something of a media whore out of himself doing so.
The publicity game aside, let me put it in simple terms: Science, meaning the quantifiable observations of the physical world around us, can at best answer questions associated with the What and the How of our Universe. It cannot answer questions regarding the Why of said Universe, nor can it answer any question regarding either that which is beyond it or the relationship between it and that which is beyond.
One of the many myths about Holy Mother Church is that she hates and condemns Science. This is wrong. (Indeed, the oldest functioning astronomical telescope in the world is, I believe, owned by the Vatican.) What she actually condemns is scientists who use their observations/discoveries of the physical world as a basis for their own amateur theological pronouncements. And if there is one thing ol’ Robbo has come to despise in his religious pilgrimage over the years, it’s amateur theology.
Anyhoo, as much as I might admire Mr. Hawking for overcoming the tremendous physical hurdles thrown in his path and for his contributions to actual science, I am very, very leery of this latest effort to bolster his pop icon status.
UPDATE: Okay, I peeked into Mr. H’s bio. It’s more screwed up than I recalled. Message stands.