Hawking: Heaven is a ‘Fairy Story’ (Intermediate News Lesson)

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Science ESL News Lesson Plan : Warm-up

1) How are people different from computers?
2) What are some things you would like to accomplish before death?
3) Are you afraid of the dark?

Hawking: Heaven is a ‘Fairy Story’ (May 17th, 2011)

At 69 years old, Stephen Hawking is one of Britain’s most eminent scientists. In a recent lecture, Hawking compared the human brain to a computer. When computer components break down, they stop working. Using this analogy, Hawking argues that there is no heaven or afterlife for human beings, just as there isn’t for broken-down computers. Heaven is “is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” he claims.
According to Hawking’s new book, Grand Design, the Big Bang created the world, not a divine creator. In the book, Hawking dismisses the idea of God and emphasizes the need for human beings to fulfill their potential on Earth.
Like Albert Einstein, Hawking is working to develop a “theory of everything” that can describe every particle and force in the universe. Some physicists believe that M-Theory, the topic of Hawking recent lecture, may be the best hope science has of developing such a theory.
Hawking’s philosophy of life is remarkable considering his situation. At the age of 21, Hawking was diagnosed with a disease that eventually paralyzed him. The disease is supposed to kill Hawking within a few years of symptoms arising. Instead of praying for a better life in the afterlife, Hawking buried himself in science. He has spent the last 29 years in a wheelchair, aware that death could be right around the corner. While he says that he is not afraid of death, he is in no hurry to die. “I have so much I want to do first”, he states. [253 words]
[Original: http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/05/16/stephen-hawking-heaven-is-a-fairy-story/?hpt=C2 , http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/may/15/stephen-hawking-interview-there-is-no-heaven]

Science ESL News Lesson Plan : Comprehension Questions

  1. According to Hawking, how are human beings like computers?
  2. What do some physicists believe M-Theory can do?
  3. Why does the author think Hawking’s philosophy is remarkable considering his situation?
  4. What does the expression “bury yourself in science” mean? (last paragraph)
  5. True or False: Hawking has always believed he would live long.
1 – Humans stop working like computers do. Nothing happens after that.
2 – They believe it can describe every particle and force in the universe.
3 – Hawking is remarkable because he has not turned to religion, despite suffering from a serious disease.
4 – To bury yourself in something means to surround yourself, to immerse yourself, to cover yourself, in something. It means that Hawking focused on his scientific research very much.
5 – False. He has been told he could die in a few years of symptoms showing.

Science ESL News Lesson Plan : Vocabulary Matching

Match the words with their meaning as used in the news lesson.
potential (noun)
  • eminent – distinguished, well known
  • component – part
  • analogy – comparison of two similar things
  • divine – godly
  • dismiss – reject, deny
  • emphasize – stress, highlight
  • potential – capability, promise
  • paralyze – disable, cripple
  • symptom – sign

Science ESL News Lesson Plan : Connect the below idea(s) to make a sentence.

government / uprising
eminent / Einstein
computer / component
analogy / brain / computer
divine / message
lifeguard / emphasize / safety
paralyze / accident
humans / potential
symptom / influenza
Possible Answers:
  • Albert Einstein was an eminent scientist.
  • Computers have many components, such as sound cards, disk drives, and memory cards.
  • Some scientists draw an analogy between the brain and a computer..
  • I have never received a divine message, unfortunately.
  • The lifeguard emphasized the importance of safety on the beach.
  • Christopher Reeves was paralyzed after a horse-riding accident.
  • Hawking believes humans should achieve their potential.
  • A fever is a symptom of influenza.

Science ESL News Lesson Plan: Debate

Student A:You are a scientist. You believe in the Big Bang Theory. Spend a minute thinking of reasons why science is the best explanation for life on earth. Your partner will start the conversation.
Student B:You don’t believe science can explain this wonderful universe. The world was clearly designed by someone. Spend a minute thinking of reasons to support your argument. Start the debate by asking your partner what he/she thinks of the Big Bang Theory.

Science ESL News Lesson Plan : Discussion Questions

(Write your answers in the Comments section below if you wish).

  1. Do you agree with Hawking’s philosophy?
  2. What are some limitations of science?
  3. Is a scientific explanation of life depressing for you?
  4. Have you ever witnessed a miracle or something supernatural?
  5. Do you believe in the idea of a soul, separate from the physical body?
  6. Would your view on life change if you were severely handicapped?
  7. Hawking talks about humans fulfilling their potential on Earth. How do you think a person can fulfill his or her potential?
  8. Free Will: If human beings are like computers, then are we really free to make decisions?

News lesson plan copyright Matthew Barton of Englishcurrent.com

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One comment on “Hawking: Heaven is a ‘Fairy Story’ (Intermediate News Lesson)

  1. emily (Posted on 11-5-2013 at 20:15) Reply

    study hard and you will get things right fighting does not solve anything I am new at this

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