Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stop copying my homework, Hawking

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.

-- Stephen Hawking

This seems a remarkably straightforward and ordinary statement, but it’s whipped an awful lot of people into a frenzy, for some reason.  Benign-seeming middle class people aren’t supposed to say gods don’t exist, which I assume is also why so many people get so frenzied about the supremely genteel Richard Dawkins while worshipping the fuzzy-headed thinking of people like Robert Winston.  I say the same sort of thing as Hawking every day and hardly anyone cares.  About gods not existing, that is.  I probably don’t say much else that Hawking says, most days.

Most of the complaints seem to be that Hawking isn’t qualified to say whether heaven is real or not, whereas they – the people complaining – obviously believe they are. 

As far as I can tell, Hawking is the more qualified party on this matter. He knows what evidence is, when and why it’s needed and he’s used it to come to a qualified conclusion: that there’s no good reason to believe in a heaven.  He’s sharpened his teeth for decades in an environment where evidence – and only evidence – matters and where you can’t get away with unqualified – by which I mean made up – claims. 

His detractors have just decided they know – and are therefore somehow qualified to know, in a way that Hawking is somehow not – that they’re right and he’s wrong.  And that his certainty is a bad thing but their certainty is good.

Damn you Hawking, you’re as bad as Dawkins.  You can persecute thousands of Christians at once, whereas I have to do it one at a time.

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