Book reviews

Review of Stephen Hawking’s “Brief Answers to the Big Questions”

Shortly before he died in 2018, esteemed scientist Stephen Hawking had finished writing a book, which was published just after his death. Its title: “Brief Answers to the Big Questions”. It is basically an attempt by an atheistic, materialistic scientist to make sense of a world (as he sees it) without God. Having read the book, I concluded that there are some large holes in his reasoning and so I resolved to write a review. It turned out to be fairly long, so I have divided it into six parts: 

  1. What happened to scientific determinism?
  2. In the beginning, Chance – or God?
  3. Human beings are parasites – or the image of God?
  4. Despite all that, let’s save the world – ok, but why?
  5. Let’s colonise space – for what reason?
  6. Prevent AI from outsmarting us – but will it?

I wrote about each of these parts in separate entries. The page numbers mentioned are from the John Murray paperback edition from 2020. As far as I know, the text on each page is identical to that in the original hardback edition of 2018.

Review of Daniel A. Connor’s “The Relation Between Religion and Culture”


The subtitle of the book named above is “A Synthesis of the Writings of Christopher Dawson”.

This is the introduction to my notes on this book, and therefore on the thoughts and ideas of Christopher Dawson.

I’m particularly interested in the connections that exist between of the idea of progress and Christianity.

Christopher Dawson (12 October 1889 – 25 May 1970 [I’ve just realised that I’m posting this on his 132nd birthday – I honestly did not plan this!] ) is a now largely forgotten scholar, who was once called “the greatest English-speaking Catholic historian of the twentieth century”. Here’s one of his quotes:

“As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.”

That is, IMHO, the 20th century described in a nutshell. And the first two decades of the 21st too. And the third, so far.  

The tragedy of our time is that the notion of “ends justifying means” is thoroughly anti-Christian, yet the Christian churches have been incapable, in the past century or two, of standing up against it, let alone turning its rising tide. If they even tried. One big exception in the 20th century was Pope John Paul II, whose very presence in the Vatican, let alone his words, inspired the Catholics in his mother country Poland to rise up, peacefully, against their communist oppressors. This was the beginning of the end of the most atheistic empire there has ever been. And it died with hardly a gunshot fired, hardly a loss of life (except a few in Rumania and the Baltic states).  

Anyway, back to Christopher Dawson. He wrote a large number of books, some of which I have recently read. To make my life a bit easier, I also read a book which claims to be “A Synthesis of the Writings of Christopher Dawson”, the title being “The Relation Between Religion and Culture” (TRBRAC), by Daniel A. Connor, first published in 1952. The next few posts are my notes and thoughts on the parts of that book I found interesting. (In brackets the page numbers of each quote from TRBRAC, unless another book mentioned. I precede my own thoughts with the acronym “PwG”.)

Content of the review (so far):

  1. On the beginnings of “Europe”
  2. On religion and medieval science
  3. On the Renaissance
  4. On Lutheranism and Calvinism
  5. On the Enlightenment as a “Religion of Progress”
  6. On the industrial revolution
  7. On natural science
  8. On the return to Christian unity and the predicament Christianity is in now
  9. On Christianity and International Order
  10. From the conclusion of “The Relation Between Religion and Culture”