Book Review: The Grand Design

The Grand Design, by brilliant modern scientist Stephen Hawking, begins with an overview of the history of science. As Hawking approaches the modern day, he begins to philosophize about the concept of natural law, what science has discovered so far and what this all means about the meaning of life, the existence of God and the reality of an afterlife. He then attempts, using his extensive knowledge of science, to destroy  any remaining faith or belief in God, religion, the supernatural or the metaphysical. For Hawking, only a belief in science is legitimate and intellectually possible. This should come as no surprise, though, as all of us have strong core beliefs which we attempt to teach others, sometimes even force on others. Hawking is no different.

But here’s where we must all be careful- we should not believe Hawking just because he’s smart or just because his arguments seem so good or because he’s famous, or because others listen to him or because he seems to know what he’s talking about, or any of the other hundreds of reasons why we buy into any idea without thinking for ourselves. There are holes in Hawking’s arguments if you’re looking for them and that is where the fun begins! Once you know that Hawking isn’t necessarily right about every single conclusion that he makes, you can start arguing with him and bringing other authors and ideas into the discussion. Ask yourself, “What does my core book say about this? What do other scientists say? Are there are legitimate ways of resolving the conflict Hawking has presented? Is there another way to answer this question besides the way Hawking has answered it?”

When you do this, when you make an honest attempt to discuss the ideas you read rather than flatly rejecting them or swallowing them whole, something happens to you–you grow mentally. Your thinking expands and your ability to see beyond what you’re being taught is enhanced. Use Hawking and other controversial books to develop your thinking and reasoning skills–and to increase your knowledge and faith!

Principle Hawking and I agree upon: There are principles that govern our universe.

Principle Hawking doesn’t agree with: We have free will to act for ourselves and we are not acted upon by mathematics and fate.

Themes: reality; science; miracles; universe; history; The Theory of Everything

Read with: Men Without Chests; Mere Christianity; The Higher Learning in America; “The Nature of Natural Law”

Watch: Stephen Hawking’s Ted Talk; Stephen Hawking Talks about God; Stephen Hawking “There is no God”

Discussion Questions:
1- What are miracles? Is there another way to define them besides Hawking’s definition?
2- What is free will? Do we have free will? Does Hawking believe we do? Is Hawking right? 3- What do other scientists say about free will?
4- What does Hawking mean by ‘choosing our universe’?
5- What is ‘model-dependent realism’? Is this a good model for explaining things? What does Hawking believe? What do you believe?
6- Where can you argue with Hawking and where do you get stuck? What further information would you need to have a more thorough discussion with him?
7- What is the most important thing Hawking taught you in this book?

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