“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.”

With those words, British physicist Stephen Hawking set off yet another round of controversy already preceded by similar pronouncements in his 2010 book, The Grand Design. There, he wrote that “the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” a thought reflected in his comments from a few days ago in The Guardian, reiterating his belief in spontaneous creation and human life as being a matter of “chance.”

The reference to heaven as a “fairy story” is what’s gotten the most attention, but Hawking’s computer analogy is what most struck me. Far be it to call anything Hawking believes “simplistic,” but to reduce the sum total of a human being to hardware destined for the dumpster feels a bit shallow. Much as I view cemeteries as metaphorically nothing more than used-car lots where the drivers have long since moved on, that failed PC in Hawking’s example would likewise have been worthless as well had something bigger not pushed the button and turned it on in the first place. (The “soul” being a subject for another time.)

Which brings me to the watchmaker theory and the concept of “intelligent design.” Hawking’s autogenous notion of creation seems antithetical to… well, creation. (Even a paper bag has to come from somewhere.)

Visualize God as the ultimate “artist,” the earth just one canvas among the innumerable in infinity. And perhaps once this particular painting was finished (faith determines whether you believe the supreme artist loved it more than any other), attention proceeded to other endeavors, as is the wont of even the least of creators. It would help to explain some of the seeming randomness of our existence, as what happened in Joplin, Missouri last week.

Just two cents — with thanks to Hawking for providing the discussion.

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