As regular readers of this blog know, Stephen Barr is no friend of ID. But here he gets it right on Hawking’s recent foray into theology. A sample:
Physics scenarios and theories are merely mathematical stories. They may be fictional or describe some reality. And just as the words of a book by themselves can’t tell you whether it’s fact or fiction—let alone have the power to make the world they describe real—so with the equations of a physics scenario. As Hawking once understood, equations may turn out to be an accurate description of some reality, but cannot not confer reality on the things they describe.
What Hawking called in his previous book the “usual approach of science” is in fact the only genuinely scientific approach. From the time Hawking wrote that earlier book until now, nothing has changed in this regard: theories of physics are still “just sets of rules and equations.”
There are two answers to the question: “Why does anything exist rather than nothing at all?” The atheist answers, “There is no explanation.” The theist replies, God. An intelligent case can be made for either answer. But to say that the laws of physics alone answer it is the purest nonsense—as Hawking himself once realized.