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.
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Yall are just missing the point, God is nothing, its just that you/I cannot conceive what "nothing" is because of the constraints of our brains' methods of classifying and labeling "things". we have no idea how to start undersdaning "nothing", still it exists, in that nonexistent sort of way.
If you start to be cool with the fact that we cant grasp all the details of the material and immaterial(?) universe and beyond, then its easier to start making sense of some of the more abstract and intangible aspects that we try and explain/understand
@treetop... you know, I could actually buy that! Interesting idea!
Seems like equivocation to me.
"in that nonexistent sort of way"
If you ignore treetop's humorous first paragraph, it's a statement on conceptualizing the unconceptualized – a mind game for all players.
sorry, I got you mixed up with peace2u...or is it peace2all? Or is that the other way around? Your posts are sometimes similar.
It is important to note that he does not deny the existence of god, just that if there is a god, it was not that concept that put the deterministic principles in place that shape the universe as we see it at this moment. It is basically the argument against intelligent design. And it is a sound argument because he is using a natural law, i.e., the law of gravity as the point of departure for the theory that intelligent design is not necessary to explain how the universe got into its current state.
If you believe in intelligent design, or the basic statement that "god is the creator" this may not sit well with you, but if you can divorce those two concepts from each other (god/creator) which is perfectly logical and still reverent of any faith you may hold (generally speaking) then this isnt really a big deal all.
But the fact remains this is a perfectly logical and solid argument.
I didn't expect it from Mr. Hawking , i belive that has no feet for walking and some other abilities is too painful. but it's not reason for nought of god. Mr Hawking was my hero and now he disappointed me.
This is not an attack by PROFESSOR Hawking because of his illness. That's a ridiculous idea.
You said, " Mr Hawking was my hero and now he disappointed me."
I am shocked! Would you prefer your hero lied to you? Should he tell you the tooth fairy is real, just to keep from disappointment?
Did Batman lie to Robin? No way! He told him straight.
Did Superman lie to Lois? Maybe about the mouth thing, but nothing else!
Buck up little soldier. If Hawking was your hero then trust that he knows best. Cheers!
I don't know, I always had my suspicions about him and Jimmy ... you know ...
The CNN gods like you, David. This article seems to have been posted in response to your suggestion in that other thread.
Does it give you the willies? Or are you secretly one of "them"?
I was most pleased. During my lunch hour, I sacrificed a cat to the moderator gods.
I should sacrifice you to the cat gods!
Just thinkin' 🙂
@ David: Since you seem to be the high priest here, how many small furry mammals do you have to sacrifice to the mod gods to get the word filter fixed?
Oh brother.... it is pointless to argue about religion. Either with believers or non-believers. No one will change their minds.
I changed my mind. Don't give up so easily. Churches are seeing a significant drop in attendance. The truth is spreading.
I changed my mind as well...though several years of catholic school assisted me in this endeavor. Actually thinking for myself and asking "why" while not taking "because god said so" as an answer helped too.
It's only pointless if the only reason for arguing is to change people's minds – and it's not. For some, it is the joy of the argument.
If an atheist discusses their views with a believer they are automatically seen by the believer as evil incarnate and the believer takes it personally. It is impossible to argue logic with a flat-earther or steady-stater.
USN, that's a good start. But don't stop at your catholic teachers lack of answer. But press in to studying the scriptures and come to a conclusion based on the evidence not the lack of someone else's understanding of the evidence.
Jack, Christian believers should believe that all are evil hence the need for a perfect Savior.
Let's turn it around, Mike. Don't keep on believing, keep studying all of the religions prior to yours that were used to create Christianity. Science is the real truth.
You said, "it is pointless to argue about religion. Either with believers or non-believers. No one will change their minds."
You are right about the person you are arguing with. I argue with the fundies, for the benefit of onlookers. If I can save even one person from the Evangelicals, I am fulfilled!
The Jews believe if you save a person, you save an entire world, because you saved this person and his future children, and their children and their children.
Qur'an 5:32 has that too
[...] anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people. And anyone who spares a life, it shall be as if he spared the lives of all the people [...]
(Translations may vary and I cut either end off, before anyone wants to accuse me of deliberately misquoting or something weird)
At any rate, it looks like your latent fundieness is coming out again David – that's two religions you're following at once 🙂
Just crackin' up
"Christian believers should believe that all are evil hence the need for a perfect Savior."
That's the best argument for not believing in christianity I've ever heard.
The guy that got dropped at the Discovery Channel building yesterday? He believed that all humans should die, full stop. Not quite sure why, but sounds similar to the "everyone is evil" idea.
Then again, his preference for the earth probably ended when he suffered mineral poisoning, so ...
"keep studying all of the religions prior to yours" agreed we should study all religions and we will find partial truth in most mono-theism religions and we will find why Christianity is different and in those differences lies truth "
that were used to create Christianity." Do you mean Judaism which pointed to Christ? It's quite hard to create Christianity without a Christ.
"Science is the real truth." that made me spit out my coffee, are you referring to the same science that started with-
the earth was flat
going over 60mph your head might explode
the atom is the smallest particle ever (my parents remember having to cross that one out of the science text books)
There is global warming
There is not global warming
Eggs are good for you
Eggs are bad for you
That science. Science is helpful in discovering things but to call a thing that is ever changing truth is absurd.
@Kate, sorry that was an inside conversation. Dave believes that athiest make better citizens, Lee was an athiest.
Ok Evil may have been a confusing word since I doubt we all hold the same definition of what evil is in there mind to clear up the statement
All except Christ has sinned Romans 3:23 and sin is worthy of death Deuteronomy 21:22 . That is why we need a Christ to take on our sinfulness and death and we take on His Righteousness. So before you ask we should put to death the person that sins, including the child that is disobedient to parents because it all counts as treason and rebellion, which every country today does handle with the death penalty, odd isn't it. But because Christ died for us we have been freed from the law and sin. Romans
stephen hawkins sees a wooden chair and says – "it exists because of wood, there is no need of a carpenter..."
Yes. That's exactly what Hawking is saying. *clap*
That's a completely unreasonable jump in logic.
Hawking, Stephen Hawking.
finding a watch on the beach
airplane built by a tornado in a junkyard
So who made gravity? Hawkins will never understand the mind of God – God is much smarter. God exceeds science.
No one knows who made gravity or whether gravity was even "made" at all. But it's a huge mistake to leap from "no one knows why gravity is" to "the God of the religion I was raised in must have made gravity". Most religious people think this way, without even being aware that they are doing it. When you're raised in a religion, that religion becomes the default explanation for everything that hasn't been explained.
Just because science hasn't discovered what caused gravity doesn't mean you get to say your God created gravity. There has to be something to justify that leap.
The fact that your parents told you "God made everything" provides no justification at all. Presumably your parents heard "God made everything" from their parents, who heard it from their parents, and so on back until one of your ancestors who lived thousands of years ago heard "God made everything" from a prophet. Do you really trust an ancient prophecy from a time when people thought that a supernatural being or beings caused everything they didn't understand?
Saying, "God causes gravity", today is no better than a primitive ancient tribesman saying, "God causes lightning".
All Hawkins is saying is that, given the existence of matter and gravity, the formation of galaxies, stars, planets, and moons is inevitable. You don't need any greater cause, such as a God, for the universe.
Oh, and there is no "border between physics and metaphysics", because physics is is the study of reality while metaphysics is armchair-theorizing about reality. Physics is superior to metaphysics because it actually attempts to verify the truth of its theories.
I think what ODIRony was trying to say is that there are certain things can't be studied by scientists because they can't be detected by any means, by which he means God. This is the usual "God of the gaps" defense used by religious apologists. ODIrony should realize that a consequence of this belief is that he has to put all his trust in prophecy and personal religious visions as the only proof of God's existence ("revealed" religion).
I would never trust prophecy, personal visions, or revelations to be proof of anything. All prophecies and visions come from an ancient time before people knew what mental illness and hallucinations were. I can't believe that in our modern day and age people still put any value on a voice someone heard in his head thousands of years ago. That's a pretty weak foundation to base your entire belief system on. If the original prophecy was wrong, how would you ever find out? If the original prophecy painted a beautiful picture that caused people to want to believe something is true (e.g. "you are the chosen people"), and then that desire for the prophecy to be true caused people to have visions that confirm the prophecy (i.e. hallucinations influenced by wishful thinking), how could visions ever be trusted?
How about trying a safer approach like "question everything" and "only believe that which can be repeatedly shown to be true". If you follow that credo (empiricism), you're guaranteed that any mistakes you make will always eventually be found and corrected. It's a lot safer.
Do you Christian apologists really buy into the idea that God deliberately hides its existence to test people's faith? Would you still buy into this idea if you hadn't been raised a Christian and were hearing about it for the first time today? I think that for a lot of you the answer would be no.
***Applauding vigorously*** Well said!
I agree with your fundamental point; however i raise a question to the statement that god does not exist based on the lack of evidence of its existence. We all know that the "absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence". A great example of this is consciousness. To this day, we are still unable to point to any evidence that there is consciousness in the universe, other than our own. But we cannot prove to anyone that we are conscious nor that they are conscious, conversely. In this sense our own (or at least others) existence is as unscientifically untenable as the potential existence of a god.
I couldn't agree more with James' opinion stated here.
Also, I think you have a somewhat contemptuous view of metaphysics. Metaphysics is merely a branch of philosophy. There is nothing to suggest that metaphysics is untenable as much as philosophy is. Metaphysics is just as ruled by logic and experimentation (thought experimentation not much dissimilar to Einstein's use of thought experiment to develop his theory on gravitation and space-time) and physics is. I think you are lumping in these new age principles and cultish or faith-based concepts into the realm of metaphysics which is just untrue. There is a place in philosophy and logical thought for metaphysics.
James, this is a very common but incorrect conception of metaphysics. In fact metaphysical conclusions are assumed by anyone thinking about physics or conducting physical experiments. Epistemological conclusions are also assumed in these endeavors. It is an analytic truth that physics cannot produce knowledge or understanding that is more secure than the metaphysical and epistemic assumptions that are made in its production – whether or not the physicist is even aware that he has made such assumptions. For all Mr. Hawking knows, he is attempting to understand a dreamworld whose consistency up to this point is entirely illusory. Now, I wouldn't expect him to find this possibility very interesting – because he is a physicist, not a philosopher. But just because it is uninteresting to him does not mean that he escapes its repercussions. The study of the nature of existence (metaphysics) and the study of the nature of knowledge (epistemology) are intertwined, inescapably philosophical endeavors that form the foundation of any physical theory put forward by a subjective creature. Mr. Hawking is a metaphysical naturalist, which, as Wikipedia aptly states, "is the metaphysical position that 'nature is all there is, and all basic truths are truths of nature.'" But he did not *establish* this, and in fact it cannot be established from any study of nature. No one objects to mere methodological naturalism, because it is obvious that if we want to attempt to understand the world as it appears to us we have to make some assumptions and then get our hands dirty. But it is perfectly reasonable to object when someone takes the results of such assumption-laden work and attempts to prove by it that no assumption was never made, or that in any event it can now be known to have been correct. That Mr Hawking is no philosopher should not be a surprise today... he couldn't even quote Kant competently in A Brief History of Time, missing the entire point of Kant's antinomies of pure reason and thus rendering useless his own reasons for discussing them.
The unfortunate thing about some of these anti-God comments, is that when death comes – it will be too late to believe! Of course, now it's certainly easy for you to gloat in arrogance and deny God's existence, but I my prayer for all non-believers that you will come to the knowledge and believe that God is real and He will judge you. Go ahead now and make comments that you bodly believe are true, which denies God, but one day you will remember that others tried to help you!
“Is not He (better than your gods) Who created the heavens and the earth, and sends down for you water (rain) from the sky, whereby We cause to grow wonderful gardens full of beauty and delight? It is not in your ability to cause the growth of their trees. Is there any god with Allaah? Nay, but they are a people who ascribe equals (to Him)!”[Quranl 27:60]
Yeah, but we know evaporation causes rain. No god is required.
You have the same problem as the Christians. You have no proof your god is real.
Who created evaporation?
Just baitin' 🙂
Just to rain on your parade a bit – rain is condensed water. Evaporation makes clouds. Your science is a leetle shaky there, bub.
See?? He's a heretic!!
I knew it!!
whos gunna argue with hawking?...
Most people who've commented on this page, it seems.
I was doing OK until he said anything though!
Hope he will have chance to read this comment
“Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one united piece, then We parted them? And We have made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?”[Quran 21:30]
Silly rabbit, God brought together already extant materials to organize whatever was needful; a universe, a sun, an eath, a man, a woman and followed eternal laws, not all known to us, at this time.
And did he teach you to spell with those eternal laws?
Who created the creator?
Duh. A second creator. Clearly.
who created you?
Man created the "creator".
His parents of course. What a daft question.
The pattern always seems to repeat itself. Those with special gifts tend to convince themselves that since they are talented to an extreme then they must deify themselves. Look at Oprah for example, She has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams to the point that she appears to believe becuse of her special talent she wants to invent her own religion and deify herself.
Really? There's gonna be an Oprah religion? Weird.
Hmmm... There's gonna be an Opera Goddess!
Oh well, I guess we could do worse.
See? Told you there were Oprah worshippers out there, but did anyone believe me? nooo!
Awesome! If I join do I get a car?
I think you're mixing it up with Mary Kay
His reason for not believing seems pretty contrived to me, but he has a point about the multiple universe thing. If God did create the universe, then he had to exist somewhere other than our universe before it was created. It's kind of mind-boggling, really.
Problem is we've already looked out to the edge of the universe and guess what? not even a pinhead out there.
What in the world are you talking about?
Yes, but that's believing that heaven would be somewhere "up in the sky" instead of in another dimension. I really didn't think they'd ever find some big dude sitting in his chair at the edge of the universe. That would be scary.
I don't see why he had to make a point to say that in the first place. Saying that the universe created itself instead of God created the universe isn't much of a leap of faith. Science explains how it happened, religion attemps to explain why it happened at all.
His book won't sell in Hell. If there is no God, why do scientists spend so much energy arguing against Him? What difference does it make to scientists if I believe in God?
Derrick, this book is not designed to be an attack on Christianity, or Islam or any other school of thought regarding faith. Hawking is discussing the fundamental laws of the universe, and, in doing so, comes to a personal conclusion that God is unnecessary. That's not ruling out his existence, but suggesting that the universe would have come into being with or without him, as the case may be.
I really don't think scientists spend all their time trying to disprove God, they are just curious about the world around them. If the Bible is correct and all men/women were created in God's image, then you've got to believe that all who seek knowledge are doing so because God created us all to be curious, therefore, all scientists are just doing what they've been created to do so anyway.
@Derrick Burrus The scientists spend so much time trying to put God out because they often run into a wall where they have morons impeding their work simply because they believe what sheep herders wrote 2000 years ago. Stem Cell research is an excellent example. They have cells that will never get the chance to live, but there are the religious morons saying "you can't use those! My magic book of pixie dust and fairy tales says so!"
You said, "If there is no God, why do scientists spend so much energy arguing against Him? What difference does it make to scientists if I believe in God?"
Science doesn't set out to exclude god. It just happens as they make new discoveries.
I'm sure it makes no difference to scientists if you believe in the Easter Bunny. They only offer you evidence that the Bunny is a myth.
You can lead a fundie to truth, but you can't make him think.
@Derrick : I have some questions. Why do the religious see scientific exploration as some kind of attack on them? In the same vein as you say why do scientists care what you believe, what do you care what science is doing? If you don't degrade scientific study by calling it guessing and just some guy's opinion, then science won't degrade your need to have faith as some kind of misguided need for a father figure. The problem that religions have is this over-the-top need to justify their position by adhereing to unrealistic things. If science can prove there's no talking snake, does it make the lesson of obedience to the rules any less important?
Srsly? I think it's because people like to jump on every scientific discovery as it comes to light and say "See? There is no God!" ... except it usually ends up sounding more like Michael York being interrogated by the computer "There is no Sanctuary".
Knee jerk begets knee jerk begets ... well, let's not get biblical with the begets, you beget the idea.
When you feel like something that you're happy with is being assaulted, it tends to result in that sort of reaction.
The flip side doesn't seem to happen as often, which makes me wonder if religion, or faith, is inherently more tied to the emotional side of people's thinking, and science to the more rational side – although I've seen scientists get into a knock down, drag out screaming match over data before.
So the reverse question ends up being, why do non-religious folk always seem so eager to knock down someone's religion? It's a conundrum – maybe as human beings we just like the chance to go "neener neener" too much to let something this tempting pass?
@ Kate: I guess we as humans can't just divest ourselves of emotion. That is part of who and what we are. I agree that the arrogance of thinking "I'm right" is always with us. It's unfortunately also a huge stumbling block when it comes to bridging the gaps on all sides of the debate. However, I don't see an overwhelming attack on religion by scientists. There aren't always scientists weighing in on the news saying there is no god. Even Hawkings doesn't claim that. He only claims that the universe didn't need a god to come into existence. On the other hand, there is a huge movement towards distancing ourselves from science being propagated by the religious right. The climate change debate, evolution v creationism, stem cell research opponents, and even the anti-choice people are all quick to dismiss scientific findings or the need for science in favor of the unproven or, to some extent, the ridiculous. If they only asked that society consider the moral implications, and ask for more research to find out whether their information is valid, they would be more credible. But they revert to an emotional standpoint attacking not their opposition, but science on the whole. Then they proceed to legislate. I'm not saying there aren't those on both sides who are emotionally invested to the point of stubborness. I'm just saying that lately the loudest voices are from the religious.
You said, "If science can prove there's no talking snake, does it make the lesson of obedience to the rules any less important?"
I think you just showed the dilemma perfectly ... scientists don't, as a matter of course, deliberately go out to disprove a God, most religious people don't, as a matter of course, go out to disprove science – you end up with a theory I like to call "The Fundamentalist Paradox™"
It's really quite a simple formula V=D*L over IQ, where D equals discovery, L equals logical proofs, IQ is obvious, and V = volume.
The larger the discovery, multiplied by the logical proofs used to make that discovery, over the IQ of the observer, equals the volume level used in any discussion. Note the importance of the variable IQ in the paradox, as it has an inverse effect – the higher it is, the less volume involved.
This applies regardless of position on the issues of course
He must be the smartest Idiot ever. Not everything can be proven by empirical evidence alone. He has turned into what has twisted him. This is propaganda of the worst kind. and I'm not even religious...
Mark, this statement that the media is raving about is probably one line in the work as a whole. Quite why you've decided to suggest he is trying to use "propaganda" as you call it to support his world view, I do not know. It's a ludicrous notion, frankly.
You also sound like an obstinate child.
What makes him think there chould be gravity before there was anything. Makes no sense.
Who created your creator? I want to know.
No one "created" the Creator. He is self-existent. It is a logical question to ask who or what created the universe, because the universe, at one point, BEGAN to exist. God is the eternal constant. He is self-existent and immutable. He exists transcendent to time (in fact He created time), so it is illogical to ask "who created God?" God is self-existent and has always been self-existent. This is the very Name of God: "I AM that I AM".
@Gary What's illogical is how people assert things simply because they are written somewhere. How do you know this? The answer is you don't. You only pretend that you do. But don't worry, pretending that things are true really makes them true right?
Bob is totally right. You can't prove any of the words you typed. You might believe them, you have faith that what you are typing is true, but you have no proof!
All you have is a bible that contains errors and a feeling in your heart.
@ Gary...I thought that was the very Name of Popeye: I Yam What I Yam...