In his well-known talk, “The Big Bang, Stephen Hawking and God,” award-winning chemist and five-time Nobel prize nominee Dr. Henry F. Schaefer III delves headfirst into the subject of cosmology and the many questions it asks.
Among them, is the universe eternal or did it have a beginning? Was the universe created? If it wasn’t, how did it get here? If the universe was created, how was this creation accomplished and what can we learn about the agent and events of creation?
Speaking on this topic Monday at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Dr. Schaefer, who became a Christian at age 28, began to address some of those questions in terms of cause and effect.
“Suppose the universe began to exist — let’s take that as a hypothesis — that could lead to some uncomfortable conclusions, namely that the universe would have a cause,” he said. “And this really is at the heart of the resistance (of many scientists) to the idea of the beginning of the universe. It’s pointing to a cause, namely God.”
Dr. Schaefer, Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia, gave his 50-minute talk to students and faculty during the chapel hour. He also gave a public lecture today on the subject “C.S. Lewis: Science and Scientism” as part of the annual President’s Distinguished Scholar Lecture.
He also has been speaking in classes at PBA, and he will conclude his visit by talking to students on Tuesday at 11 a.m. in chapel on “The World Views of Great Scientists.”
In fact, Dr. Schaefer said, his two morning lectures are related. He mentioned several great scientific minds during his Monday morning lecture, including prominent physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking.
Dr. Schaefer noted that many biographers say that Dr. Jane Wilde, whom Dr. Hawking married a few years after he was diagnosed with ALS at age 21, changed his life. She gave him the determination to live, said Dr. Schaefer, noting that Dr. Hawking, now 71, initially was given only two years to survive.
A Christian, Dr. Wilde has said that her faith gave her the optimism to carry her through, Dr. Schaefer said.
The reason for Dr. Hawking’s success not just as a scientist but as a popularizer of science is that he does address problems of meaning and purpose, Dr. Schaefer said. But “I’d have to say, sadly, he has retreated from that,” he said.
Dr. Hawking’s book “A Brief History of Time” overlaps with Christian belief, Dr. Schaefer said, adding it is “an important book” that should be treated with respect and attention.
Dr. Schaefer also spoke about other scientists, including Dr. Charles Townes of the University of California at Berkley, a Nobel prize-winning physicist and co-inventor of the laser. He noted that Dr. Townes talks about God in his book “Making Waves,” in which he writes, “… I believe there is a need for some religious or metaphysical explanation. I believe in the concept of God and his existence.”