Faith and Film: James Marsh's "Theory of Everything"

Faith and Film: James Marsh's "Theory of Everything"

in memory of Professor Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) works to prove that the size and shape of a rotating black hole depends on its mass and rate of rotation

Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) works to prove that the size and shape of a rotating black hole depends on its mass and rate of rotation

Faith and Film

James Marsh's "Theory of Everything"

15 April 2018

Penn Newman Center


Stephen Hawking was given just two years to live following the diagnosis of a fatal illness at 21 years of age. He became galvanized, however, by the love of fellow Cambridge student, Jane Wilde. James Marsh's biography charts the life and legacy of one of the most celebrated theoretical physicists of the modern age, and the arts student who loved him.

"However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. While there is life, there is Hope." This film broaches many of the topics that have prompted discussion between scientists and persons of faith. How did the universe come into being? What role did God play in the development of the universe? Stephen Hawking’s life surfed two parallel waves –– to find the link between Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity and that of quantum theory, and to find a balance between his atheism and his wife Jane Wilde's Christianity. "Theory of Everything" is above all a story of love, one replete with all the shortcomings of human nature in the face of suffering, but continually bursting with hope even in the greatest despair.

Watch the trailer:

Meeting Review

We kicked-off the evening with a long talk regarding the nature of Professor Hawking’s discoveries in physics, particularly his Ph.D. thesis regarding the potential relationship between the beginnings of the universe and black holes. Professor Hawking’s dissertation hinged on the theory that the expanding universe originated from a point singularity at the beginning of time, similar to a singularity at the heart of a black hole. Professor March discussed the classes of fact supporting an expanding universe, the evidence hinging on the assumption that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic on large scales. That is, it looks the same everywhere and in every direction at any given time. However, Dr. March pointed out that the size of the observable universe is limited by the speed of light and the age of the universe. We see only as far as about ten to twenty thousand million light years, which is about 100 times larger than the scales on which structure is seen in galaxy distributions. Therefore, we cannot see beyond the “horizon” to definitely determine what happened before the beginning of time itself.

In such a vision –– that is, the universe being born from a single event at the beginning of everything –– Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde points out that there exists a capacity for a Creator. However, when one factors quantum mechanics into the equation, God is “back on the endangered species list”. Our group debated some of the ways in which this was a reductionist, almost mechanical view of faith, and we moved on to discuss methodologies for considering the relationship between science and religion.

Professor Stephen Hawking was a man possessed of a brilliant mind but a somewhat troubled and often antagonistic relationship with faith and God. In his marriage to his first wife, Jane –– a devout Christian who sung in the church choir –– Professor Hawking’s contentions with religion are brought into sharp relief. However, last night our group discussed the ways science and religion might begin to coexist and cooperate, how one’s theological perspective may shape how one uses and interprets science, while the science may influence how one views God and His revelations. An integration allows for religion and science to mutually inform each other, and this opens the possibility of bringing into equal participation science and religion in the interest of constructing a comprehensive moral and mathematical model of the universe. A theory of everything, if you will.

We hope to see you all next Sunday at 7:30 for “Arrival”, where we’ll chat about Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis and linguistic relativity, omniscient perceptions of time and space, and questions regarding what it means to be human.

Theory of Everything food-for-thought worksheet here!

Find more information about the late Stephen Hawking and his research in...

A Brief History of TimeThe Universe in a Nutshell, and The Grand Design w/ Leonard Mlodinow