Every few months, Stephen Hawking will emit some comment that, on the lips of any other person, would be dismissed as the sort of thing one of Art Bell’s daffier guests might say. Most recently, he has been talking about his fears that AI could end the human race.
If I were to seriously start talking about my fears Colossus: The Forbin Project or Terminator coming true, people would back away from the computer slowly and then run. But because it’s Stephen Hawking, media just keep going back to him for Words of Wisdom.
Yet his words of wisdom are often crazy or silly. His pronouncement “Abandon earth or face extinction” is simply silly. There is nowhere to go. Planets capable of supporting human life (and that means, in the end, supporting the entire ecosystem that sustains human life) are not even known to exist. If they do exist, they are so far away we will never reach them. We are *never* getting off this rock. So we *obviously* need to focus our energy on tending the planet we’ve been given, not on Star Trek fantasies as public policy.Likewise, Hawking makes daffy theological pronouncements that people take seriously, such as his notion that “gravity”, not God, makes creation ex nihilo possible. Mike Flynn talks about what happens when professional physicist morph into bad amateur philosophers and theologians. But the press eats it up because they have told themselves “We must not listen to the words of priests merely because they dress up in fancy robes. We must think for ourselves!”–and then immediate treat with utter credulity the half-baked pronouncements of High Priests called “scientists” merely because they have on a Liturgical Lab Coat.
We are constantly told that history has progressed from the Age of Faith to the Age of Science and Reason. In fact, the High Middle Ages were the Great Age of Reason. Ours is the Age of Mouth-Breathing Credulity.