Stephen Hawking came out with a (to put it politely) senseless statement during the recent World Science Festival, "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."
I am not offended because I am into religion but because I am into philosophy of science. Among philosophers who are in the discourse over science, most agree that 'science' is still very much a term needed to be further articulated. Hawking wrongly assumes that 'science' is already clearly defined and everyone knows what it is. Obviously, this remark is made out of (again, to put it politely) innocence.
In a recent Beginners Guides on Philosophy of Science, Geoffrey Gorham lamented that "there may be no single criterion for demarcating science from non-science or capturing the proper scientific attitude." Then Gorham went on to described the various nuances of 'science' in each given field, "The concept of "science" may in this way be similar to a concept like "game": there are many typical features of games--scorekeeping, rules, winners, and losers, etc.--but none of these are possessed by all and only games. [...] we will expect a science to involve empirically testable, mathematically precise, logically coherent explanations of natural systems, different sciences will exemplify these virtues in varying degrees." (p.40)
Hawking is not only wrong on the definition of science but also wrong on the definition of 'religion'. All contemporary scientists invoke authority in their published papers as a way to ensure the readers that there are already major works done to support the claims made in the papers. Contemporary theologians invoke authority for the similar reason. Clearly Hawking did not read contemporary theologians. If he did, obviously he failed to see this similarity. If he saw, certainly he had something else in his mind and was unable to convey with precision what was that when he made that remark, hence deluding the public over the issue.
Thus, Hawking, as a celebrated scientist (for whatever reason), did not give a fair definition of 'science' in his statement, and so provided a disservice to the field he has spent his entire life in. In any way, he fell short to deal justly and adequately over the issue relating science and religion. He should just stick to commenting on theoretical physic and not on another subject which is clearly out of his league.