Celebrated cosmologist, Sir Roger Penrose, is challenged to believe in the God that Stephen Hawking denied

Fri 04 Oct 2019
By Premier Journalist

Sir Roger Penrose, a leading cosmologist who worked with Stephen Hawking to develop the theory that predicted the beginning of space and time in the Big Bang, has been challenged to consider God as the best explanation of the universe by William Lane Craig, a renowned Christian philosopher during an episode of the debate show The Big Conversation. 

Produced by Premier Christian Radio’s faith discussion show Unbelievable? this is the second episode in the current season of The Big Conversation, which airs on Friday 4th October. The episode, titled “The Universe: How did it get here and why are we part of it?” sees Penrose and Craig discuss the complexity, order and origins of the universe, and whether the fact it produced us points beyond itself to a creator.


Penrose who has described himself as an atheist, says he doesn’t believe in any religious doctrines but says the nature of reality is more complex than many of his secular colleagues admit. He describes ‘three great mysteries’ in the realms of mathematics, consciousness and the physical world, that science has not yet explained. “Mystery number one is the fact that this world of physics is so extraordinarily precisely guided by mathematical equations. The precision is extraordinary… Mystery number two is how conscious experience can arise when these circumstances seem to be right. It’s not just a matter of complicated computations; there’s something much more subtle going on… Mystery number three is our ability to use our conscious understanding to comprehend mathematics and these very extraordinary selfconsistent but deep ideas, which are very far from my experiences.”

During the programme, the cosmologist engages in a lengthy debate with Craig on whether God could be the unifying answer to his ‘three great mysteries’. Whereas his former colleague Stephen Hawking had firmly rejected the God hypothesis by the end of his life, Penrose admits that he isn’t necessarily denying that God exists: “I'm not saying I deny it. I just don't see why this explains very much. To say that this god-like entity, whatever it is, is something with a consciousness of its own… Now I'm not saying it's wrong, and it might be that there is such a thing”.


Craig is famous for developing the Kalam Cosmological argument, arguing that the Big Bang provides evidence for a creator who set the Universe in motion, and has debated the existence of God against some of the world’s best-known atheists. He responds to Penrose by highlighting that it would be a small step for him to believe that God exists, given his current viewpoint. “I'm not trying to drive anyone to a conclusion. I'm offering a metaphysical solution to what you admit are profound mysteries in your own worldview, where we have these three disparate realms of reality that don't seem to connect very well… You've already got the realm of mind… it's a small step to postulate an omniscient mind.”
He adds, “We know that minds can design things. The view that there is an omniscient mind who has designed the physical world on the mathematical blueprint that it had in mind, is a very ancient perspective that goes back to Middle Platonism. People like Philo of Alexandria, who said that the intelligible cosmos exists first in the mind of the Logos, the divine intellect, and then is instantiated in the physical world by the Logos, who creates the world on this blueprint. That seems to me to be a good solution.”
The debate goes on to explore a number of different themes such as Penrose’s Conformal Cyclic Cosmology and asks the question, is the universe fine-tuned for life? All of which makes for a thought-provoking episode that delves deeper into the ongoing dialogue between science and faith.
Craig, shares why he believes that science does in fact point to God. “As a Christian it's important for me to have a synoptic worldview. A worldview that includes a Christian perspective on all of the different facets of human learning, whether it be the sciences, literature, art, psychology, history, philosophy and the metaphysical question. When I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the Kalam cosmological argument, one of the things I began to explore was whether there might not be some sort of scientific confirmation for the claim of the Kalam cosmological argument that the universe began to exist. I was startled to see the degree of which contemporary astrophysics did support this premise, in no small part because of professor Penrose’s work on the singularity theorems, so that is an important part of my worldview as a Christian.”
The Big Conversation is a unique video series from Premier Christian Radio's popular faith debate show Unbelievable? Hosted by Justin Brierley, The Big Conversation explores science, faith, philosophy and what it means to be human. Other episodes feature high-profile thinkers across the Christian and atheist community such as Bret Weinstein, Jordan B Peterson, Susan Blackmore, Derren Brown and Bart Ehrman. For videos, commentary and the programme schedule visit: www.thebigconversation.show

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