Physicist Stephen Hawking introduces his recent series on public television, Genius, with the claim that he will show how ordinary people, just by looking closely, can make sense of ultimate questions. I applaud the effort. Much in the series provides useful information. And I have immense respect for Hawking’s contributions to physics. But I have frequently been disappointed. Often, I have found myself responding “Come On, Stephen. You can do better than that.” The series stops short in a couple of ways. First, it is in fact less about how ordinary people can address ultimate questions than about how contemporary physics answers such questions. His participants are lead by the hand to reach predetermined conclusions—a common failing with science education. And there is a second, more fundamental and consequential shortcoming. […]
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