Monday, January 5, 2015

Brian Cox and John Hartnett

As a theologian I am in a curious situation with the juxtaposition of professor Brian Cox and physicist John Hartnett. Both write and teach about the fundamental matters of Universe.

Curious, because Cox describes himself as a student of Carl Sagan. BBC offered him a dream opportunity to use modern media in a kind of second edition of Cosmos which shares Sagan's original brilliance, width and depth of vision and youthful enthusiasm about the wonders of Universe. The underlying scientific discussion is repeatedly defined by Cox as wonder of the Laws of Nature that create such variety and the magic word "chance". In other words, explanation of everything without referring to any kind of divinities or religious beliefs, practical atheism.

Curious, because Hartnett makes an intensive effort to bring the Bible into cosmology providing modern scientific sounding theories that would translate the old biblical sentences into descriptions of physical reality. He is genuinely a man of religion and loves the Bible and wishes to let everyone believe in the Creator demolishing ideas that are against true faith.

So why I feel as a man of religion recommending from all my heart the BBC documentaries and publications by Brian Cox, the practical atheist, and vehemently oppose the approach, hermeneutics and interpretations of John Hartnett warning everybody to stay far from his writings? Curious indeed.

The brilliant popular BBC documentaries with Brian Cox have this unbearable lightness of moving around planet Earth and in space as if it is nothing - now in arid desert high in Chilean mountains, now in deep see probe Alvin in unfathomable depths and atmospheric pressure. In all this he is humble concentrating on the facts and eager to learn from the experts he meets listening to what they have learned from the nature. The presentations are up-to-date and packed with information and yet the story is easy and pleasant to follow.

The brilliant ESA scientist and physicist John Hartnett establishes his authority pointing to scholars who listen to him and telling about his achievements in science. He is out there not asking questions, not doubting like every scientist doubts and questions, but telling how things are because the Bible says so. Not all creationists accept his views but many do as they are unable to evaluate independently his mathematical formulas and expert statements of time-space continuum. He is a true believer, shows that Bible is true, that is enough for another believer to adopt his authority.

These things, personality, approach towards exploration and research, questioning or already knowing the answers from divine sources, are all aspects in this comparison. But they are not decisive.

The decisive matter can be put in a single word: truth.

Curiously, from Brian Cox a Christian or non-Christian can learn in short time a fascinating array of truthful statements about the Creation. They waken curiosity, interest in the scientific exploration of the planetary system, deep space, origins of life and other questions that used to be the monopoly of religion. And a Christian listening to him can complete the picture by praising in his heart the Lord and His Majesty that is missing from professor Cox's presentations.

Curiously, the approach of the Christian John Hartnett does violence to truth, disfigures Bible and Nature alike into some rational shape he can figure out and stops all healthy questioning and curiosity towards God's works.

But that's how it is - love of truth is so precious and more often than not characterizes scientific work by believers and unbelievers alike while being scary and objectionable to many true believers.