After refuting the claim by Hawking and Mlodinow (The Grand Design) that natural laws are consistent with creation appearing from nothing, J.P. Moreland explains why the influence of Hawking and Mlodinow’s claims are troubling:
In previous times when average people knew more philosophy, these claims would simply be laughable because they are philosophical assertions being made by scientists who have little or no philosophical training. Thus, however brilliant they are in their own field, Hawking and Mlodinow are laypersons when it comes to the relevant issue at hand.
But we live in a scientistic culture. When a scientist speaks, he is taken to be an authority irrespective of what the topic is. And that attitude reflects poorly on the educational level of the public.
Thus, the deeper issue for me in all this is not whether or not the universe could come into existence from nothing without a cause. It is, rather, the scientism that lies at the heart of Western culture. I have long believed that philosophical naturalism, with its unjustified scientism, has helped to create an intellectually unsophisticated culture, and this is one reason why I think this way.
(“Scientism” is a term roughly for the belief that only scientific truths can be rationally assessed and believed, or at at least that they are the most rational and objective.)