Thursday, May 19, 2016

Science & Church: The Theory of Everything (2014)

There's not much church in this docudrama of the life of Stephen Hawking, and one assumes that's would be fine with him. When Stephen (played by Eddie Redmayne for an Oscar win) met Jane, who is to be his first wife, he told her, "I'm a cosmologist. That's religion for intelligent people." (You know, as opposed to idiots like Augustine, Aquinas, and Newton who held to orthodox Christianity.)

Jane replied, "I'm C.of E. [Church of England]"

"I suppose someone has to be," Stephen responded.

He told Jane that he can't allow his calculations to be muddled by belief in a supernatural creator, although physicists like William Henry Bragg seemed to be able to do maths well enough to get a Nobel Prize in spite of preaching in the Anglican Church on the weekends. Ernan McMullin managed to find room in his life for the "religion" of cosmology as a Roman Catholic priest. Charles Hard Townes was another Nobel Prize winner for physics who found room on his shelf for the Templeton Prize for religious achievement.

Anyway, back to the meager appearances of the church in this film. When Stephen asked Jane on a croquet date on Sunday morning, she replied, "I'm busy Sunday morning."

"Oh, yes, Him," Stephen replied. We then see Stephen waiting for her to leave church on Sunday.

If you have any acquaintance with the life of Hawking (and why would you watch this film without it?) you know he has battled Lou Gehrig's Disease for the majority of his adult life. In spite of his ailment, Stephen and Jane had three children. In the film, we see photos of the family after their third child's christening at an Anglican Church. Apparently, all three of his children were christened. One would assume this was by Jane's choice.

Not surprisingly, the film portrayed Jane facing many challenges in life due to her husband's illness, academic pursuits, and initial meager income. She went to her mother for advice on finding more in life. When her mother told her she should join the church choir, Jane responded, "That's the most English thing I have ever heard."

But she joined the choir. We see her enter a lovely Anglican church with beautiful stained glass but wooden chairs in place of pews. The choir director, Jonathan Jones, accepted Jane as a music student and soon became a family friend, discussing science and religion with Stephen, who assured him that physics will bring about the death of God (which reminded me of something Mark Twain said about great exaggeration).

Eventually, Stephen took a lover and forsok Jane, so Jane returned to her church and, eventually, the arms of Jonathan. I can't help but wonder if the church's clergy was at all concerned about the behavior of its musical staff.

The little we see of the church in the film doesn't seem to merit the disparaging remarks Hawking made, so we're giving it Two Steeples.  

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