Hawking and the Pope

(Was Great Physicist Daydreaming?)

According to Stephen Hawking his attendance at a 1981 Vatican Conference on cosmology reawakened his interest in the origin and fate of the universe. It was a combination of his own identification with Galileo and the pope's remarks about the big bang:

"He [the pope] told us that it was all right to study the evolution
of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire
into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation
and therefore the work of God. I was glad then
that he did not know the subject of the talk
I had just given at the conference - the possibility
that space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means that it
had no beginning, no moment of Creation. I had no desire to share the fate of
Galileo, with whom I feel a strong sense of identity, partly because of
the coincidence of having been born exactly 300 years after his death!"

This quote from Brief History of Time (p. 116) is cited on a number of anti-Christian websites as evidence that the Church continues to repress sincere seekers of the truth. A couple of observations should be made.

First I assume that Hawking's "strong sense of identity" with Galileo caused him to get a little carried away and that he knew he was in no danger from the pope. Still it was a strange bit of imaginary drama to insert into science book for laymen.

A more serious question is whether the pope even made the statement. I've had a few people throw Hawking's version of it in my face as an example of Catholic obscurantism, but none were able to come up with the original statement. The Holy Father's 1981 Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences evidences nothing like what Hawking claims. This is only of many of the pope's statments regarding Faith and Science. He often speaks about the urgent need for science and faith to benefit from each other, but at no point does he tell scientists there is something they should not inquire into. No "work of God" should be off limits and any one of them (particularly the big bang) points to the Creator.


A review of Brief History of Time

Darwin Under the Microscope By Discovery Senior Fellow Michael J. Behe: "Pope John Paul II's statement last week that evolution is 'more than just a theory' is old news to a Roman Catholic scientist like myself..."

The Galileo Controversy: "And yet, it does move." These alleged words of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) conjure images of science's first "martyr":


Boston Globe's Misleading Article on Catholic Church

Deflating Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Stephen Jay Gould: Gorbachev of Darwinism?

Test Tube Offspring Want to Know Father

Erickson vs. Bartell Drugs

Call No Man Father

What is Original Sin of Sex?

Bicentennial Man (Hidden Assumptions)

Magdalene Sisters and other anti-Catholic Pornography (Warning: Contains graphic descriptions.)

Rathergate: Dan Rather's use of forged documents & CBS anti-Catholicism

National Geographic July 2005 article on Stem Cells: One Culture They Fear Investigating

from Dave "If you care for truth, you will either remove your page, provide the full context, or state that the real truth of the situation can never be known either way" (Was Professor Hawking's audience Pope John Paul only a private conversation?)