Stephen Hawk­ing: The Grand De­sign

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

Sun­day, 8.35pm, SBS One Pay-TV equipped view­ers may ex­pe­ri­ence deja vu when tuning in as this pro­gram has been hurtling around the ca­ble uni­verse like Hal­ley’s comet. The bril­liant wheelchair­bound physi­cist first ap­pears to frame the ques­tion, did God cre­ate the uni­verse? Who bet­ter to an­swer that than a man with a bril­liant brain trapped in a near use­less body? Hawk­ing in­tro­duces him­self, us­ing his fa­mous syn­thetic voice. ‘‘ Though I can­not move and I have to speak through a com­puter, in my mind I am free,’’ he says. By the time he gets to the word free, he has be­come soar­ingly ar­tic­u­late as we zoom off into the cos­mos. Then, in the man­ner of th­ese things, we are back in a very bare li­brary. ‘‘ I re­cently pub­lished a book ( The Grand De­sign: New An­swers to the Ul­ti­mate Ques­tions of Life, by Hawk­ing and Leonard Mlodi­now) that asked if God cre­ated the uni­verse,’’ he says. ‘‘ It caused some­thing of a stir.’’ Hawk­ing was taken aback when peo­ple be­came up­set that a sci­en­tist should have any­thing to say on mat­ters of re­li­gion. But, as he points out, why shouldn’t the ex­is­tence of God be looked at as a sci­en­tific prob­lem? What fol­lows is a thor­oughly cred­i­ble ar­gu­ment for the non-ex­is­tence of God. Hawk­ing does say that there prob­a­bly is no af­ter­life, but stops short of one of his most quoted as­ser­tions, that heaven is a fairy story for peo­ple afraid of the dark. The reen­act­ments in this pro­gram, par­tic­u­larly of the Vik­ings try­ing to in­ter­pret phe­nom­ena such as light­ning and a so­lar eclipse, are ex­cep­tion­ally well done. The Vik­ings thought wolf gods caused the so­lar eclipse and that if they ranted and bared their teeth for long enough, their ac­tions would re­sult in the wolf god sur­ren­der­ing the sun again. The im­pli­ca­tion is that with our need to fill the gaps in sci­en­tific knowl­edge with God and re­li­gion, we are the new dumb Vik­ings. Though some of the ar­gu­ments are a bit hard to swal­low, this re­mains en­gross­ing, beau­ti­fully made and thor­oughly provoca­tive.

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