The real news about “The Grand Design,” however, isn’t Mr. Hawking’s supposed jettisoning of God… The real news about “The Grand Design” is how disappointingly tinny and inelegant it is. The spare and earnest voice that Mr. Hawking employed with such appeal in “A Brief History of Time” has been replaced here by one that is alternately condescending, as if he were Mr. Rogers explaining rain clouds to toddlers, and impenetrable.
Terry Eagleton has given us a convenient signifier for the willful (read: profitable) ignorance of basic religious concepts: “Ditchkins” (a conflation of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens). It would be a shame, not to mention linguistically awkward, to have to include Hawking in the mix; but the pre-K manner by which he invokes the term “God” in his latest press releases urges this regrettably necessary conflation. So here’s everyone’s favorite Marxist on why religious believers might not find themselves trembling at Ditchkinsing’s latest pronouncements:
For Thomas Aquinas…. God the Creator is not a hypothesis about how the world originated. It does not compete, say, with the theory that the universe resulted from a random fluctuation in a quantum vacuum…God for Christian theology is not a mega-manufacturer. He is rather what sustains all things in being by his love, and would still be this even if the world had no beginning. Creation is not about getting things off the ground. Rather, God is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever. Not being any sort of entity himself, however, he is not to be reckoned up alongside these things, any more than my envy and my left foot constitute a pair of objects. God and the universe do not make two…
God the Creator is not a celestial engineer… but an artist, and an aesthete to boot, who made the world with no functional end in view but simply for the love and delight of it. Or, as some might say in more theological language, for the hell of it. He made it as gift, superfluity, and gratuitous gesture – out of nothing, rather than out of grim necessity…. The doctrine that the world was made out of nothing is meant to alert us to the mind-blowing contingency of the cosmos. It is this autonomy of the world which makes science possible in the first place. Ditchkins[ing], who holds that there is no need to bring God into scientific investigation, might be interested to learn that the greatest theologian in history [Thomas Aquinas], thoroughly agreed.