By Dr. Charlie W. Starr
I am a C. S. Lewis fanatic. I’ve read all his works, been to his home in England, and even written a book about one of his stories. For an expert, it can be humbling when an amateur points out something you’ve missed. The book was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first of Lewis’s classic Chronicles of Narnia. The hidden lesson was pointed out by my father-in-law, who saw it the first time he read the book. That lesson still speaks to us today.
Lord, Liar, or Lunatic
Early in Wardrobe, Peter and Susan approach the old professor at whose house they’re staying because they were troubled over their youngest sibling, Lucy, who claimed to have walked through a wardrobe into a magical land called Narnia. They feared Lucy might be going mad.
They expected the professor to assume what they thought they knew: that Narnia wasn’t real and Lucy was either lying or disturbed. But the old professor didn’t assume that at all. He first asked them whether or not Lucy was truthful. They replied that Lucy was very honest. Then they asked about madness. The professor replied that Lucy was clearly not mad. But the children didn’t understand. How could a magical land through a wardrobe be real, especially when they looked at the wardrobe and found nothing? There couldn’t be a doorway there one minute and gone the next. The professor disagreed completely, questioning the logic of their assumption. He concluded, on the contrary, that if Lucy was not lying, and not insane, then she must be telling the truth!
This is a very old argument applied in a new way. Josh McDowell called it the “great trilemma,” but it’s as old as Augustine, and it’s about the divinity of Christ. You cannot say Christ was just a good teacher (something even skeptics acknowledge about him). He claimed to be God. The things he said about himself could only be said by a liar, a lunatic, or a man who was telling the truth. Christ is indeed God. Lewis used the same argument in Wardrobe to attack the assumptions of scientific materialism which claims there is no God, there’s nothing supernatural, and miracles don’t happen. But these are indeed assumptions. They cannot be proven, and honest thinkers will not assume them.
Hawking’s Latest Cause
Unfortunately, the greatest physicist alive today, Stephen Hawking, is sticking to his assumptions. Hawking is today’s Einstein, but in his recent book, The Grand Design (Random House, 2010), he has turned science into fantasy. A discovery in science known as the anthropic principle is raising questions about God.
Science has learned that there are several numbers in physics (such as the gravitational constant) that seem particularly calibrated for life. If any of these numbers were off by just a little, life would be impossible in our universe. The odds of all these numbers being lined up exactly the way they are so that life could result are one in 10229. In other words, our universe looks like it was designed for us.
In his book, Hawking explains that there is no need for us to believe in a God who designed the universe. He explains how the perfect alignment of the numbers for life in our universe can be entirely accidental by arguing that numerous universes exist and come into existence all the time. All these universes are different—their physical properties are random. Ours just happens to be a universe in which the numbers worked out in favor of life.
Hawking’s theory cannot be proven. Science can only see things within our own universe. Hawking’s conclusion is based in the logic of his math. Similarly, the old professor in Wardrobe used logic to argue the same thing: that there are universes outside our own. He does it to prove supernatural possibilities. Hawking does it to disprove any supernature by arguing that it’s all only sideways-nature.
Science makes use of an idea called Occam’s razor. It says that the simplest explanation of a question is usually the best. I remember over a decade ago seeing Occam’s razor used in a movie called Contact to try to prove that God doesn’t exist. Let’s use it here. Which is a simpler way to explain the anthropic principle: a single universe that shows evidence of design because it was created by a Designer, or millions of improvable universes outside our own that explain the mere appearance of design in this universe? Lewis at least acknowledged that he was writing fantasies. All we need now is for Hawking to theorize a magical doorway to enter one of these sideways universes and he’ll have found a way into Narnia.
Dr. Charlie W. Starr teaches English, humanities, and film at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson, Kentucky.