The other day my daughter noticed there was a pot of water boiling on the stove. Being naturally inquisitive she asked me, “Why is the water boiling?” Sensing an educational moment I preceded to let her know that:
At ordinary low temperatures, water, left open to the air, gently evaporates from its surface. Its vapor exerts a pressure, which at such low temperatures is much less than the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere. The water also tries, through the formation of microscopic bubbles, to evaporate in its interior, but these tiny bubbles of water vapor, at the low pressure it would have at these low temperatures, are immediately suppressed by the much higher pressure of the atmosphere pressing down on the liquid’s surface. But when the water is heated and its temperature reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit, its vapor pressure reaches the pressure of the surrounding air, so the bubbles that form by evaporation in the interior of the liquid are no longer suppressed. They grow to large size, rise to the surface, and there release their vapor to the air. That sometimes explosive evaporation that starts in the interior of the liquid is boiling. The bubbles are water vapor, maybe mixed with a little air that had been dissolved in the water to start with. The tiny bubbles you see when you first start heating the water are mostly just previously dissolved air that is now coming out. That is not boiling.1
She then gazed at me with a quizzical expression that I seem to get often from her. She then proceed to say, “Dad! I meant, ‘Are we having oatmeal or Coco Wheats?'”
You see a scientific explanation can correctly describe the physical reactions that are taking place and yet miss out on the whole picture due to the personal element involved. Yes the water was boiling due to the heat being exchanged from the ignited gas coming into contact with the metal pot, but all of that misses the greater context that all of that was being done for the purpose of preparing breakfast.
In a similar way, Stephen Hawking recently suggested in a Wall Street Journal article that science can completely explain the phenomena of the universe and that “God” is an unnecessary hypothesis. Now, I have the greatest respect for Hawkings’ knowledge of physics. And I have even more respect for the noble task of science. There is a fitting proverb that says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” (Proverbs 25:2). Clearly the goal of science is a noble one, however, it can never provide us the whole picture because it misses the personal element.
Stephen Hawking writes, “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
Spontaneous creation used to refer to a now discredited belief that organic life could arise from non-organic matter (it was disproved by Louis Pasteur and some cheese cloth in the 19th century). However, when one takes God out of the picture one must rely on ever increasing levels of foolishness to explain reality. The reason why love exists is not due to mere physical properties at a sub-atomic level…the reason why love exists is because it has existed from eternity in the trinity and we have been given a trace of that love to experience. Even if we ever achieve fully explaining every physical law that brought the universe into existence we still won’t have explained away God…we’ll just have discovered something He hid a long time ago. There is another fitting proverb, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1) And in this case, clearly Stephen Hawking is a fool.