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September 2nd, 2010
12:18 PM ET

God didn't create universe, Stephen Hawking argues

God did not create the universe, world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book that aims to banish a divine creator from physics.

Hawking says in his book "The Grand Design" that, given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing," according to an excerpt published Thursday in The Times of London.

"Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he writes in the excerpt.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going," he writes.

His book - as the title suggests - is an attempt to answer "the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything," he writes, quoting Douglas Adams' cult science fiction romp, "The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

He co-wrote the book with science writer Leonard Mlodinow.

His answer is "M-theory," which, he says, posits 11 space-time dimensions, "vibrating strings, ... point particles, two-dimensional membranes, three-dimensional blobs and other objects that are more difficult to picture and occupy even more dimensions of space."

He doesn't explain much of that in the excerpt, which is the introduction to the book.

But he says he understands the feeling of the great English scientist SIr Isaac Newton that God did "create" and "conserve" order in the universe.

It was the discovery of other solar systems outside our own, in 1992, that undercut a key idea of Newton's - that our world was so uniquely designed to be comfortable for human life that some divine creator must have been responsible.

But, Hawking argues, if there are untold numbers of planets in the galaxy, it's less remarkable that there's one with conditions for human life.

And, indeed, he argues, any form of intelligent life that evolves anywhere will automatically find that it lives somewhere suitable for it.

From there he introduces the idea of multiple universes, saying that if there are many universes, one will have laws of physics like ours - and in such a universe, something not only can, but must, arise from nothing.

Therefore, he concludes, there's no need for God to explain it.

But some of Hawking's Cambridge colleagues said the physicist has missed  the point.

"The 'god' that Stephen Hawking is trying to debunk is not the creator  God of the Abrahamic faiths who really is the ultimate explanation for why  there is something rather than nothing," said Denis Alexander.

"Hawking's god is a god-of-the-gaps used to plug present gaps in our  scientific knowledge.

"Science provides us with a wonderful narrative as to how [existence] may  happen, but theology addresses the meaning of the narrative," said Alexander,  director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion.

And Fraser Watts, an Anglican priest and Cambridge expert in the history  of science, said that it's not the existence of the universe that proves the  existence of God.

But, he said, "a creator God provides a reasonable and credible  explanation of why there is a universe, and ... it is somewhat more likely that  there is a God than that there is not. That view is not undermined by what Hawking has said."

Hawking's book will be published on September 7 in the United States and  September 9 in the United Kingdom.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Culture wars • Europe • United Kingdom

soundoff (730 Responses)
  1. Jose John Perayil

    Yes Yes. Science is only legs of a worm where as Theology is the
    wings of Hope, Spirituality is the strength of it , Psychology is the
    credibility of these awareness , Philosophy is the balancing point
    till it overcome the reality of gravity..to the anti gravity of
    Spiritual reality from where Jesus came down to the flesh reality and
    gave His flesh to eat of it ; and gone back to the super spirituality
    of light..more than light...He is having the credibility of Unified theory,theory above
    all the theories... Religion is only a Vision with a mission... Vision
    is Goal set in front of the followers and and mission is the plan of
    action given to the Followers to reach the Goal... Christianity
    has the Highest Goal in the Universe that Matthew 5:48" Be Perfect
    as the Father in Heaven Perfect ." God is the Ultimate Perfection...
    Be the same.. Is it possible or not ? Yes it is possible!! ...Jesus is
    not a fool to teach which is impossible..with God everything is
    possible.." I am The Way and the Truth and the Life no one comes the
    the Father but through me"John 14:6 Who will help you ? The Holy
    spirit is the only helper God the Father is the only Goal of our life
    , God the Son is the only way, God the Holy spirit is the only
    Helper.... Mr. Stephen Hawking..Try to understand Jesus the Son of
    God: In Him the Crater and The Creation in One: Son of man and Son of
    God in one.. Jesus is the Son of Man , Christ is representing Son of
    God; Jesus is a Historical figure where as Christ is mystery ;
    Mystical Figure.... Both part is important for the salvation of
    mankind.. " The History and Mystery of Jesus Christ." Think about it
    you will get lot and lot... email: josejohn.perayil@gmail.com Bangalore,India.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:57 am |
  2. Tato Sugiarto

    PHILOSOPHIA PERENNIS.

    The Old Lady’s TORTOISE (Hinduism) and DRAGON (Taoism) are symbols for WAVE (energy), both are analog with MAGEN DAVID (Judaism). "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is the metaphor, and also similar with allegory of rituals Thawaf circling around the Ka'ba and Sa’i oscillating along “the sinus” Marwah-Shafa (seven times) during the Hajj pilgrimage (Abraham). CROSS (Christian) and SWASTIKA (Buddhism) are symbols for “Balance of Nature.”

    "A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME – From the Big Bang to Black Hole" by Stephen W. Hawking is the best scientific interpretation of AL QUR'AN by a non believer. It is also a “genuine bridge stone” for comprehensive study of Theology. Surprise, this paradox is a miracle and blessing in disguise as well. It should be very wise and challenging for Moslem scholars and others to verify my discovery, for then we should know the Mind of GOD.

    I am just “ordinary people,” so would you mind correcting my point of view. Thank you.

    Please, see pictures: http://neosufi-tato.blogspot.com

    August 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • *frank*

      I...I'm not quite following...

      August 27, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  3. KGG

    The problem with your conclusion about God:
    God is not bound to time. So you may have proven he does exist.

    August 11, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  4. Elias

    Mr Hawking why are you so obsessed to talk about thing you really do not know? I am myself a physicist with a phd and with my respect, if you are one, you will only explain things you can demostrate with facst, through experiments, through calculations, a physicist may never play with things beyond the limit of the matter, beyond the material level. I respect you, but I do not really know if you respect all the mankind, and their believe in that, what you can not feel

    July 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Hawking is making things right with the world. He realizes that he has lived longer than most with ALS. He has mentioned a god in the past. But, as many of us who study the intricate details of matter, find less and less use for one. He has also studied creation myths of ancient peoples, and they sound so ridiculous after reading them.

      August 27, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  5. Rob

    No need for God? That's what Lucifer said just before his battle with Saint Michael. I wonder who is influencing Steven Hawking? I see a lot of kids named Michael. Not so many "lucifers" being born. I wonder why that is...

    May 31, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  6. deepraj

    "an equation has got no meaning unless it expresses a feel of god-S. Ramanujan"..so how we can eliminate god just from an equation which says 'god doesnt exists'???

    May 22, 2011 at 4:59 am |
  7. Chuck

    Our attempts to explain the universe without God have reached insane proportions. We now theorize that only 17 percent of the universe is made up of ordinary matter.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter) The other 83 percent is theorized to be dark matter, a form of matter that is not detectable and has no actual mass or charge, but is assumed to exist because it is the only way that the formation of the structures of the universe can be explained (without God). And the role of dark matter in a formative process can only be played out if the second law of thermodynamics is suspended, which dictates that all order decends toward chaos: strucuture and order do not arise unbidden from chaos.
    The assumption is consistently made that when things don't add up in our equations or that it looks like we might be wrong about something, all we have to do is be patient and ask more questions: eventually, the answers will come. We call it the scientific method. When we read bible and do the same thing, it is called faith. What we are really doing is struggling between two different religeons.
    The universe was created by God. Including the physics and mathematics Hawking is trying to use to eliminate Him.

    May 19, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  8. believe it

    What evidence?

    May 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  9. Sam Ayers

    There is little evidence to support Mr. Hawking's hypothesis that there is no Creator. On the other hand, there is much evidence to support the theory that there IS a Creator. Science would lean toward the theory that is best supported by body of evidence. It follows, Mr. Hawking's hypothesis is not driven by science but rather by his personal beliefs. Hmmm... personal beliefs? Yes, I suppose it really does all boil down to what you choose to believe! It follows, regardless of which side you take, if you take a side you do have religious beliefs! Mr. Hawkings has chosen pessimistic beliefs based on lack of absolute proof. Others, including myself, have chosen more optimistic beliefs based on bountiful evidence. Either way, regardless of which side you take, this debate is about religious beliefs. So, Mr. Hawking, considering available evidence, your beliefs are most certainly more religious than the beliefs that you discount!

    May 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Joe robinson

      You are wrong

      May 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  10. FrankLW

    "given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing"
    That is self contradictory. If there was nothing then there was no such thing as gravity and nothing to change its state. Spontaneous creation could simply not have occurred from nothing...

    May 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  11. Troy

    "From there he introduces the idea of multiple universes, saying that if there are many universes, one will have laws of physics like ours – and in such a universe, something not only can, but must, arise from nothing."

    By that logic, if there are many universes, many will have laws of physics not like ours. In one of those universes, an omnipotent God not only can, but must, exist. Being omnipotent, God can travel between universes. Being omnipresent, God will be in all universes simultaneously. So, according to Hawking's multi-universe hypothesis, God can and must exist in our universe.

    Besides, God can still exist even if "there's no need for God to explain [the creation of the Universe]."

    May 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  12. Jared

    Whether God exists or he doesn't IMO he certainly does not step and influence a thing in this universe. What would be the purpose of life if he did?

    May 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  13. BobDobalina`

    I prayed and prayed and prayed for a bike. No one answered so I stole one. Now I have a bike. who needs this god thing?

    May 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  14. Muchsin Faisal

    Described in the holy book Quran about creation of universe, through 6 stages:
    1. energy
    2. a giant proton ball
    3. proto galaxy from explosion of a giant proton ball
    4. proto stars from proto galaxy explosion
    5. proto planets
    6. cooling or the universe such as this now.
    More: http://createoftheuniverse.blogspot.com/

    March 7, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Naty

      . •Genesis 2:1, “Thus the heavens (plural tense) and the earth were fhisnied, and all the host of them.” •Consider this: the heaven and the earth were created the first day but the earth was not made under the stars until the fourth day (Genesis 1:14~19). This means that prophecy spoken of the first, second and third days of Creation were spoken from another dispensation (Ephesians 3:2~5), an “other universe.” •Deuteronomy 10:14, “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD'S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.” Therefore, scientific theory is effectively removed from the argument against the truth of God’s Word and must now say, yes it is possible.Thank You,Ken

      October 8, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  15. Gerald

    I don' think the 11 dimensional string theory means much. It's just more Bo Derek plus one
    at one prime per dimension. So sayeth Sam Donaldson.

    February 7, 2011 at 3:03 am |
  16. ralph

    there is no god, there was no jesus! denyjesus.com

    February 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Gerald

      God existed because he was a human being. Jesus didn't exist; he's just a psychiatric problem.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:56 am |
    • Anon

      Jesus was a real person, born in July.
      He was just a Jewish man who illiterate people followed around, then got high and somehow managed to write some fairy tales about his life (aka the bible)

      May 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  17. Daniel

    On the other hand, if Hawkings is right and the universe DID create itself from nothing, then this is a discussion about nothing and we're all just living out an episode of Seinfeld!

    October 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  18. Daniel

    Stephen Hawking has lost him mind!

    Hawking says in his book, "The Grand Design," that, given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing."

    "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he writes in the introduction.

    "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going."

    OK, Stevie, we have a few questions for you:

    – Where did gravity come from?

    – Just exactly how can the universe "create itself from nothing"?

    – BTW, just FYI, "Spontaneous creation" is NOT a reason, let alone the reason for anything. It is a phrase, a slogan. This is not an explanation. Would you care to elucidate?

    Ex nihilo nihil fit = Nothing comes from nothing. This is a philosophical expression of a thesis first argued by Parmenides.

    October 29, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • Gerald

      I think that when Hawking talks about "gravity", he is talking about the deaths of people. Attraction between
      physical masses is different; it's like some general magnetic force if it's real. If it's not real, it can be turned off
      with the right precription I.D. number. Logically, the real universe came from nothing because mass and three
      dimensional space did not allways exist. These things had to come from nothing.

      February 7, 2011 at 2:51 am |
    • fatmir

      i agree

      March 15, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Mitchel

      I can tell you were upset by Mr. Hawking's article because it came across in your "irritated" tone. That, by they way rules out any arguement you had.. 🙂

      Mr. Hawking is correct in saying "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail," the physicist said in an interview published Sunday in Britain's Guardian newspaper. "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

      Man has no answers... it's next to insane to believe in a man/myth/religion just becuase you have no answers... Quite comical to be honest.

      Keep it real friend... stay close to your family; they are real...they are your support system in life.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Joe F

      With mass, there is no gravity, if nothing exists, it can have no mass, ergo there is no gravity, thus, no reason for existence. My friends, go read what happened in the universe in the first second after the big bang – the first manifestation that something had occurred was the decoupling of light from plasma . . . let there be light. The second visible consequence of creation is space -i.e., the 'vault' of the heavens and the third manifestation is the differentiation of matter – again – the physics of creation and the Bible story of creation line up very nicely. Its not like God is going to explain the unifying string theory to Jewish scribes who believe that eclipses of the sun are portents of evil . . .

      May 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • really?

      By your own argument – where, then, did god come from?

      May 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  19. RightTurnClyde

    Nobody KNOWS if there was a Big Bang - it's just a theory (like Darwin's theory) based on supposition (IF this THEN that sort of thing). Nobody knows if God exists. That too is based on beliefs (alone) So one persons guess is a good as another.

    September 14, 2010 at 10:02 am |
    • Greg MELLOTT

      Faith evidences things not seen. There still may be a process of evidencing, such as science executes; its just a personal process to a larger degree though.

      September 24, 2010 at 6:17 am |
    • frs

      If the Big Bang is 'just a theory', how do you explain the fact that there is so much physical evidence of the event all around us?

      May 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  20. Lisa Cash

    Respectfully, I wonder if that entire Hawkings character isn't a money making hoax.. anywhoooo.. yawn.

    September 12, 2010 at 5:14 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.