Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Henry F. Schaefer: Stephen Hawking, the Big Bang and God

This lecture was delivered to an audience of students and faculty at Western Kentucky University in 2009.

Here’s part of a biography of Henry F. Schaefer III:

Henry F. Schaefer III was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1944. He attended public schools in Syracuse (New York), Menlo Park (California), and Grand Rapids (Michigan), graduating from East Grand Rapids High School in 1962. He received his B.S. degree in chemical physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1966) and Ph.D. degree in chemical physics from Stanford University (1969). For 18 years (1969-1987) he served as a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. During the 1979-1980 academic year he was also Wilfred T. Doherty Professor of Chemistry and inaugural Director of the Institute for Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Texas, Austin.

Since 1987 Dr. Schaefer has been Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Computational Chemistry at the University of Georgia. In 2004 he became Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at the University of California at Berkeley. His other academic appointments include Professeur d’Echange at the University of Paris (1977), Gastprofessur at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochshule (ETH), Zurich (1994, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006), and David P. Craig Visiting Professor at the Australian National University (1999). He is the author of more than 1150 scientific publications, the majority appearing in the Journal of Chemical Physics or the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

In February 2004, a total of 300 scientists from 35 countries gathered in Gyeongju, Korea for a six-day conference. The conference was titled “Theory and Applications of Computational Chemistry: A Celebration of 1000 Papers of Professor Henry F. Schaefer III”.

And here are some versions of the MP3:

And here’s a written version of the lecture.

Excerpt:

Stephen Hawking’s bestseller A Brief History of Time is the most popular book about cosmology ever written. The questions cosmology addresses are scientifically and theologically profound. Hawking’s book covers both of these implications.

Cosmology is the study of the universe as a whole–it’s structure, origin and development. I won’t answer all the questions Hawking raises concerning cosmology, but I will try to make comments on many of them. I caution here that you should not confuse cosmology with cosmetology, the art of beautifying the hair, skin, and nails!

Here are some of the questions cosmology seeks to answer (As elsewhere in this lecture, I borrow heavily from astrophysicist Hugh Ross’ excellent books The Fingerprint of God and The Creator and the Cosmos.):

  1. Is the universe finite or infinite in extent and content?
  2. Is it eternal or does it have a beginning?
  3. Was it created? If not, how did it get here? If so, how was this creation accomplished and what can we learn about the agent and events of creation?
  4. Who or what governs the laws and constants of physics? Are such laws the product of chance or have they been designed? How do they relate to the support and development of life?
  5. Is there any knowable existence beyond the known dimensions of the universe?
  6. Is the universe running down irreversibly or will it bounce back?

It’s nice to see that lots of the most famous scientists may not be as antagonistic to theism – and even Christianity! – as we have been led to believe by our know-nothing unionized public school teachers. Yes, real scientists are aware of the implications of the Big Bang and the fine-tuning, and yes, real scientists do adjust their worldviews to account for what science is telling them.

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