I am not a great fan of films; however I have watched some very good ones (and avoided a lot of poorer ones!). Recently the Ladies’ Bible study group followed a course, which involved a DVD – The Theory of Everything. The book which accompanied the course is called The Mystery of Everything. It is described as a Lent course, but we followed it in the autumn instead of the spring. The author is Hilary Brand.
The film describes the life and work of the well-known theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, who suffers from motor-neurone disease and speaks using a computer. The Theory of Everything is based on a book written by Jane Hawking, which I have yet to read. (Background reading is not essential for the course, but I am a bookworm and the whole subject has caught my imagination.)
Since beginning the course I have read two of Stephen Hawking’s books – A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell. I am impressed by the clarity of Hawking’s language in trying to express the mathematical ideas of leading edge theoretical physics to non-scientists. The second book is full of explanatory diagrams and not a little humour. While I have been reading these books, other people caused a website to crash by all trying to access his PhD thesis simultaneously. It had just been published on-line.
The Lent course consists of material for 5 sessions. An initial session is needed to watch the film. There is scope for discussion of the differences between science and religion, of morals, of the question of suffering. There are also Bible passages to read as a Christian discipline – although they would be suitable for non-believers wishing to learn more about Christianity. Each session ends with a set ‘meditation’ with Bible readings and prayer. Is it possible to know the mind of God or to develop a scientific theory which explains everything? This is a question, which the course allows people to debate, preferably in a fairly small group. Of course it is possible to study it alone, but other people have ideas, which are worth hearing.
I am looking forward to reading Jane Hawking’s book in order to learn more about the real-life background to the film.