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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. tim

    But, WHAT is "God"? If you don't think of God as some giant humanoid in the clouds, but rather the forces that make up the universe, then God most certainly exists, and made the universe from nothing, in fact god IS the universe. But then you'd have to stop capitalizing "god", lust like we don't capitalize "water" or "fire."

    September 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • 12th Dimension

      As a metaphor, God is the Light (Energy) God is the Dark (Void).

      September 2, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
    • Fast Eddie

      @12th Dimension

      What is this "void" you're talking about?
      I happen to believe that matter is simply energy in a "bound-state", and that energy, the universe, and everything is dimensional energy.
      I can postulate "meta-dimensions" that might lie outside of dimensional "branes", but a "Void"?
      Words...ugh. What a pain in the patookus.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  2. who knows

    God created some people. Gravity created the rest. It's so nice to hear everyone's point of views. Let's not criticize as we don't really know.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  3. David

    How do we know that He isn't a She??... and that everyone of you referring to Her as He is really pissing Her off! LOL

    September 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  4. Quijote

    I'm with Steve: "something not only can, but must, arise from nothing.". Else, why would there be so many bloody religions?

    September 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  5. Where's the BEEF?

    Hawking's a smart guy, but it's honestly pretty obvious to me how infuriating he finds the disicpling of theology. Someone wired so like he is to be abnormally logical and calculating cannot wrap their minds around something that can't be explained. There will always be room for God in relation to how we understand the natural world, and it will always lie on the fringes of what can be explained with science. So, stating the theory that there are multiple universes doesn't explain away anything. It just means that God didn't just create ONE universe. Hawking will never be able to explain the spontanious creation of an infinantly dense singularity out of nothing. No one will. It's all way bigger than us.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  6. TammyB

    I always thought God was nature anyway, so why wouldn't he have used a natural way to create the universe? I guess I don't believe in the biblical definition of God, swooping his hand over everything and creating it out of thin air. I always thought he/she would have done things in a natural way.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
    • Fast Eddie

      TammyB:
      I like how you expressed that. It sounds very...natural and easy-flowing. 🙂

      September 2, 2010 at 9:12 pm |
  7. Bob

    It seems to me that religion and science have come to the same conclusion, that the universe developed spontaneously from nothing. Whether God did it or not could be irrevelent, but only God knows. Maybe our religious philosophies are so engrained in our DNA that even hundreds of years of scientific thought will give us the same conclusions that they started with. The human race may not be smart enough yet to think fully outside of our box despite increasing complexity. I do not believe God was needed to create the Universe any more than he was needed to create a planet or star – yet I still think He exists. Nothing Hawkings has said goes against religion as I view it. He still has not disproven God.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      You cannot prove a negative. Please, where is your evidence of god from?

      September 2, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  8. Stephen

    I don't get the gripe about using 'professor' vs. 'Mr.'. If you are his student, it would be polite to call him "professor", but if you are not his student, calling him "professor" is kind of weird.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • TammyB

      Not really....you might meet a Doctor that's not your doctor, but you call him doctor anyway. A sign of respect. "Professor" took a long time to get that degree or actually probably several degrees. It's just a sign of respect of his education. You could call him "Steve"...but that would be up to him.

      September 2, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
  9. BradSF

    What I find amusing in all these posts is that no-one's bothered to question the validity of the bible. It's a book of stories, meant to guide one's life in times of joy, sorrow, turbulence and tranquility. It was assembled by a council, and pushed by an organization designed to control the population at large (the catholic church). More wars have been fought, more people have been murdered, and more property has been destroyed in the name of (insert your religion here). We attach the idea of God, Allah, etc to explain things we cannot explain. What Hawkings is attempting to do is explain the unexplainable.

    We have no empirical evidence of the bible's, qaran's, or other religious text's claims. All we have is hundreds of years of people following the teachings and claiming it as fact. Fact is something you can prove. Theory is something you beleive to be true, but cannot prove it. So aside from citing religious texts, can anyone PROVE that God/Allah/Shibba/etc exists? Or do we have nothing more than legends and folk stories that have grown larger than reality? I knew a guy who caught a fish this big. Has anyone considered that to be possibility?

    Blind faith is a dangerous thing. It enables others to control and manipulate large groups of people. Look at Europe during medieval times. "God has ordained me to be your ruler. Grovel before me!" Look at Lent. "God has ordered you must sacrifice and eat only fish on friday's," when in reality it was because the local fishermen were losing income due to better farming practices. "The USA is the Great Satan, and full of infidels." Does that include their own people who live here and worship freely (without persecution, I might add) their own religion?

    When it's said that religion is the opiate of the masses, they hit it right on the nose. When you invoke (insert overbeing)'s name, people will flock to your calling. Not because they have any rational proof that they should, but because they believe it to be in the name of (insert overbeing).

    Now, I'm not saying religion is bad, faith is bad, or anything along those lines. I am only stating that we must have tempered faith. If God truly did create us, did he not create us with free will and a questioning mind? And if there is no God, isn't it in our own best interests to define our existence in terms that can be proven?

    September 2, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • USN Atheist

      too many words too many questions too much making sense make skull hurt

      September 2, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
    • athiest 2

      Amen brother

      September 2, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
    • Fast Eddie

      @BradSF

      I like your last paragraph the best. You could have left out all the other junk.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
    • TammyB

      You haven't been on this blog before, have you? Just scroll down to any of Reality's posts...there will be plenty of disputin' the Bible....

      September 2, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
  10. Listen

    What if God *is* gravity?

    September 2, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • 12th Dimension

      Gravity is a concept confined to the 3rd Dimension of Mass. Alternate realities of existence would have alternate physics to govern them. God is the Light, God is the Void.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • Fast Eddie

      @Listen

      If God were gravity or gravity was God, then a pile of feathers would have less "God" than a pile of dung.
      Your question is a sad example and should be blasted into oblivion by horned toads from the planet Skeezax.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
    • Listen

      Suppose gravity is a constant no matter the dimension.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • Listen

      I mean, what confines gravity to the 3rd dimension?

      September 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Fast Eddie

      @Listen
      Sorry it took so long to respond.
      I shouldn't have spouted off about gravity like that in my post above. Gravity is perhaps better described as curved space-time.
      The lack of a "unified" theory of gravity is one of the massive holes in the field of physics.
      It is somewhat possible that "curved space" is a constant no matter the dimension, unless you postulate dimensions in which curvature is impossible....etc.
      Speculation is a great way to keep yourself busy while waiting in line at the supermarket, but it can also be a massive waste of time unless you have something to shoot for.
      As for your other question, we supposedly have three "physical" dimensions and one of time. Since nobody knows what, if anything, is outside this, mmm, universe, we cannot really say that anything is actually "confined" here.
      I have my own theories about the phenomenon of gravity, but we do not have the technology for me to express them properly, nor am I likely to submit them for publication. Professor Hawking is a great theorist. He is a wonderful physicist and human being, but I do not agree with some of his ideas in cosmology.
      Sorry I'm so long-winded. Please check out some starter books on physics and whatever grabs your fancy. Reading is fundamental....

      September 2, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
  11. John

    There is no reason to question creation by God. God is the chief scientist... he created all things scientific. As the scriptures say at 1Cor. 1:20 " Where is the wise man? Where is the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God , the world through it's wisdom did not get to know God, God saw through the foolishness of what is preached to save the believing." Stephen Hawking is a fine man and very intelligent, however, his and all of humanity's intelligence is foolishness to God. Man is so intelligent that he creates wonderful things with which to destroy himself and others...pretty smart, eh?

    September 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @John

      You said, "There is no reason to question creation by God. God is the chief scientist... he created all things scientific. As the scriptures say at 1Cor. 1:20 " Where is the wise man? Where is the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God , the world through it's wisdom did not get to know God, God saw through the foolishness of what is preached to save the believing." Stephen Hawking is a fine man and very intelligent, however, his and all of humanity's intelligence is foolishness to God. Man is so intelligent that he creates wonderful things with which to destroy himself and others...pretty smart, eh?"

      If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever – Woody Allen

      September 2, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • Fast Eddie

      @David Johnson

      Ugh. I can't believe you quoted Woody Allen. But what can you expect from somebody who sacrifices cats to the moderator gods?

      September 2, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  12. swimpacific

    Maybe God did not create the universe, but He did create Dinosaurs!

    September 2, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  13. Heath

    There is no grand creator, never was. All you religious freaks need to stop getting your panties in a bunch.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • Gary

      Classical philosophy, Scholastic Philosophy, Ontological Argument, Cosmological Argument, Teleological Argument, Argument from Morality, Argument from Beauty, irreducible complexity, accuracy of the Biblical MSS, R.A.T.E, fulfilled prophecy, and about ten thousand other things would suggest otherwise. God DOES exist. Always has. Always will.

      Things exist, therefore Something self-existent MUST exist. Period. End of story.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
  14. 12th Dimension

    @ Fast Eddie : I could not agree with you more. What is GOD? GOD IS THE UNIVERSE. What is the Universe? It is the movement of light in every dimension in every probability of existence in our reality (and others we are not physically able to experience), this we do not understand, cannot see nor transcend. When seeking to extrapolate the meaning of the reason for your being, a concept so infinitely infinite, more humility is required. Atheist and A/Gnostic alike.

    @Abdul Qadeer : I was raised strict Sunni Muslim, and have fortunately in my adult life had the chance to draw away that iron curtain of man made subversion and dumb-ed down culture. Hell is on Earth, Allah does not spare pain and suffering, we do by amoebic example. Just Read anything but the Qu'ran, the Bible or The Torah.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  15. Hawkins Chair Maker

    Hawkins electric chair is run on his own farts and high hopes. So much for science ... what will they say when Jesus appears in the clouds?

    September 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      They will never have to say anything. It will not happen.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
    • USN Atheist

      "... what will they say when Jesus appears in the clouds?"

      Most likely the same thing you will say when he doesn't.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
    • TammyB

      ... what will they say when Jesus appears in the clouds?

      Probably the same thing I would say which would be one filthy expletive...

      September 2, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Hawkins Chair Maker

      You asked, "what will they say when Jesus appears in the clouds?"

      The biblical authors thought the earth was flat. I guess he will work his way around the earth? A Spherical earth kinda spoils the suprise visit though. I guess people will say, "Where's Jesus?"

      September 2, 2010 at 8:44 pm |
    • Frogist

      Jesus would say you're a troll and a nasty one at that.

      September 2, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
    • Kate

      @Hawkins Chair Maker

      Most probably "Lemme see your green card"

      Just sayin'

      September 2, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
    • Dan Mount

      God is just a word used to explain the unexplainable. I am a very spiritual person and a Buddhist so to speak, but why does the west have to always think that some "God" created everything. It seems rather arrogant to assume some divine being created everything. Who or what created the divine being? The Human mind cannot fathom such a concept so we created a "God" in our image that is omnipotent . If god is Love, than we can all throw out our Bibles. Not much of the Bible really teaches us to love one another. It is the biggest cause for the mess we are in. People quoting the end of the world from the Bible. What utter nonsense!

      September 3, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  16. David

    Nobody can prove or disprove God's existence... It's funny to hear people pretend to KNOW anything about it. lol. Buddhists are the only ones that are honest enough with themselves to acknowledge THEY DON'T KNOW IF HE EXISTS, and they leave it at that.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
    • Christoph

      The only ones other than all agnostics. Also, Buddhists (as if there were one definition of what a Buddhist is or one definition of Buddhism) do not claim that they do or do not know if god exists. Many sects have different views on this point, but ultimately Buddhism has nothing to do with god. The primary focus of Buddhism (in general) is the identification and elimination of human suffering in this and many lives.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  17. P

    I need to write an opposite book so i can make money.

    Hahahahaaha

    September 2, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  18. K

    It's refreshing to see a scientist use scientific information instead of being a sheep and saying divine intervention is everything. As we progress and gain more information about our galaxy who knows what all we'll discover. There's no reason to live in the dark, use your mind, research all around you and we can all grow as humanity benefits from scientific discoveries. As far as the moron who thinks it's nice to pick on a handicapped person – whether or not you believe in science has no bearing on if a medical condition will suddenly correct itself based on the person's religious belief. There are plenty of other people in the world who pray to their god and are handicapped, so I guess you lump them all into the same category as Mr Hawking since they obviously have problems that they can't control?

    September 2, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
  19. Chris

    It would be nice, for once, for people on both sides of the debate (there is God, there is no God) to admit that neither camp can really have complete understanding. Then there wouldn't be these illogical arguments made by people–yes, on both sides–trying to justify their own beliefs.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
    • Talia Shulman Gold

      Very well put, Chris. Unfortunately, no human being is immune to the arrogance of certainty. The only thing science has proven beyond a doubt is how little we know about the mysteries of the Universe.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
    • Fast Eddie

      @Chris

      There are more than two sides to this debate. I can say this because I am not on one of those two sides. I am an Agnostic Evidentialist, among other things, and I question those two sides and accuse them of being intellectually bankrupt.
      (this is where I stick my tongue out at you) 😛

      September 2, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  20. Infidelite

    Amusing, the religious nutcases who jump into the debate with no knowledge of Hawking or physics, armed to the hilt with catchy biblical or quran phrases as if they are self-validating. Oooh, I must run for cover, thunderclouds are forming outside my window!

    September 2, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
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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.