Stephen Hawking: The Grand Design
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.