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. Provocateur

    I posit that I am the only intelligence in the universe, that I am insane, and everything that I perceive (including that which has the outward appearance of an existence separate from myself) is a hallucinatory figment of my imagination.

    Prove me wrong.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • Fast Eddie

      No proof from outside of yourself is likely to work for you, since you say you are the only mind in existence.

      Who do you think you're talking to?

      September 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • Hatterly

      @Fast Eddie

      He / I'm / We're maybe talking to ourselves, our hallucinations, or both. Maybe neither. (But don't feed the trolls. There's too many of us already.)

      September 2, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  2. George

    While I am not religious in the least, I find the complexities found in our world to amazing to have occurred by chance alone. I don't subscribe to the Judeo-Christian god by any means, but look around.....Here's a question to ponder: Does anyone know of a code of information that occurred randomly? Think about coded information, language being one of them, or anyother type of code that provides information for some process. Well DNA is such a code and an amazingly complex one at that. Could a code that complex and detailed have happened JUST by chance? Aren't the odds of that happening just a bit too astronomical to have happened randomly? I find that mind boggling. I have no answers, but that's what leads me to believe (or at least lean toward the possibility) that there is something more than what meets the eye. I'm pretty sure most of the major religions DON'T have it right. I'm just sayin'.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  3. Doc Vestibule

    God split himself into a myriad parts that he might have friends. This may not be true, but it sounds good, and is no sillier than any other theology.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  4. Sandy

    My apologies. I meant Stephen Hawking not Richard Hawkins.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Frogist

      LOL! In all your proselytizing, you couldn't get his name right? You are just proving the point of how much we need science's logic and reliance on research.

      September 3, 2010 at 12:38 am |
    • Kate


      And how much I need sleep, cos I totally misread one word in what you wrote and it came out really weird as a result 😛

      Just hallucinatin'

      September 3, 2010 at 12:44 am |
    • Frogist

      @Kate Ok maybe it's time for bed for you... The last thing I need is an armed and hallucinating marine on my hands!

      September 3, 2010 at 1:59 am |
  5. truthgiver

    Life from non life??? ( hawkings) or Life from "The Life"??? ( Jesus ).... When it comes to the questions of why we are here,where did we come from, and where are we going , i'll stick with option # 2....lol

    September 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  6. Sandy

    I feel so incrediably sorry for poor Richard Hawkins. His body is wrecked and useless, he is confined to a wheelchair and yet he still refuses to believe in the One who can give him hope, joy, peace in the midst of his suffering. In fact, he makes it his mission to make others not believe. I am so glad that I know God exists and made everything, and that even on this violent and sinful earth, and dispite all the suffering that might happen to me and others I love, I can still rejoice for one day I will be with my Glorious creator for all eternity. I honestly wish that one day Richard eyes will be opened!

    Nothing and no one can take that away from me, prais ebe to God!

    September 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • Sandra

      Did you wash the sand out of your hair after you had your head burried? I would hate for the grains to fall in your keyboard and ruin it.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
  7. Crux of the matter

    Let's hope Mr. Hawking's reasoning isn't bordering on magic.
    "Given the existence of gravity"???- is that such a simple statement? So "GRAVITY" is our new god!
    Where did gravity come from? Another question for Mr. Hawkings to write a book about!
    What is there before "gravity?" Nothing, nothing, nothing, etc. and then there was GRAVITY!!!
    Religion avoids useless arguments and gets to the point – "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth!"
    It is Genesis and that is a very good place to start.
    Why don't scientists use their minds to find cures for illnesses instead of useless speculating???
    They might find themselves ahead in the universe instead of constantly looking backward!

    September 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • USN Atheist

      "Religion avoids useless arguments and gets to the point – "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth!"

      I think out of all these posts, you scare me the most. I don't think there is any kool-aid left, you and your statement have drank it all.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • verify

      Crux of the matter,

      "In the beginning God created everything..." That is one *possibility*, but even if true, religionists don't stop there. They endow this "God" with a little human-like personality, with desires, love, anger, revenge, etc., and espouse horrid consequences for those who don't believe their way.

      "Why don't scientists use their minds to find cures for illnesses instead of useless speculating???"

      Why don't religionists use their minds to find cures for illnesses instead of useless speculating on a debatable super-being?

      September 2, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • TammyB

      If it wasn't for science and scientists men would not have gone to the moon, or cured some of the illnesses that have been cured, or been able to explain gravity, much less known it actually existed. There is no big hand coming out of the sky to do these things for us. God gave us brains to use and just not to keep our ears apart.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Crux: Since you are using a computer right now, how about you be thankful for scientific thinkers and all their "useless speculating".

      September 3, 2010 at 12:19 am |
  8. cody

    Jackdaw, how do you figure he has evidence? He has theories. That is no where close to evidence.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      The word "theory" in science means "how", not "guess", as it does in layman's terms. They word "hypothesis" is the word for "guess" in science. Since these are "theories", they are therefore supported by evidence. Theories are observable, measureable, and predictable. He has books full of evidence for the theory he works with. Look into them.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  9. Gary


    September 2, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  10. ttwp

    "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." 1 Cor 1:19

    I guess that's why our supposed intelligent scientists come up with theories with zero evidence.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      As for evidence, Hawking has plenty. Where is yours?

      September 2, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • ttwp

      @ The Jackdaw: Sorry but many of his theories (multiverses, etc.) are just that theories. Many of these theories lack empirical testability, and without hard physical evidence are unfalsifiable and outside the methodology of scientific investigation to confirm or disprove.

      Once again, God has frustrated the intelligence of the intelligent.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      @ttwp – there are other hypotheses, yes. See below.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • ttwp

      @ The Jackdaw: Are you saying that all theories are 100% accurate. There are some serious philosophical and logical problems with some of the underlying assumptions that one has to make in order to conclude that a theory is true. They are numerous and complex, and some study in the philosophy of science will bring some of this in perspective. Basically, all of science amounts to a heuristic–a system that aids in the solution of various kinds of problems, but which is itself unverifiable and unprovable as valid. Scientists will, of course, ask questions based on what they can observe, and they will make conclusions based on their heuristic methods of observation. But absolute truth will ultimately elude them.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • TammyB

      God is just a theory...what's the difference? You cannot prove or disprove him. You just have faith he's there, but you cannot prove him scientifically, mathematically, or physically. You are arguing that Stephen Hawking is doing exactly the same thing with multi-verses & his other theories he hasn't proved yet, as countless millions do about God.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
    • ttwp

      @ TammyB: He can be proved on a personal and spiritual level. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
    • TammyB

      @ ttwp...What would be those "things" that come from the Spirit of God? How would one know it was coming from the Spirit of God (would one "feel" it or "hear" it)? How is this any different than a theory that is backed up by mathematics, or physics? You said that God can be proved personally and spiritually, however, spirituality is an abstract, much like a speculation. How would you be able to prove God's existence personally?

      September 2, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • ttwp

      @TammyB: I encourage you to seek God humbly. When people seek with a skeptical heart they will always be, "...ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding..."

      September 2, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
  11. Farooq

    Mr. Hawkins current physical and mental condition proves that his so called mental brilliance is of no use to get him out of that wheel chair. If he cannot even master the limitations and mystries of his own body how can he give an opinion about GOD, GRAVITY and GALAXIES. GOD reminds the human beings of their origion in his holy books that you were created from a drop of filthy liquid and there could have been millions more like you from the same filthy liquid. Now you can assess your real value in front of ALMIGHTY GOD. I hope this reminds Mr. Hawkins and others their real worth and brings some humility and sense in their lives.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      The man is not a medical doctor, he's a physicist. Also, his illness was supposed to have killed him years ago, but his determination has kept him alive. Thank you for sharing your ignorance though, much appreciated.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • USN Atheist

      "I hope this reminds Mr. Hawkins and others their real worth and brings some humility and sense in their lives."

      "humility" = not living up to your full potential??? Sorry, gotta pass on that moronic definition you seem to be suggesting.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • Frogist

      How do you know he hasn't mastered the limitations and mysteries of his own body? Seems like you have no basis for making that judgement. From what I have read about him, he has faced his disease with bravery and triumphed in making the most of his capabilities. He has done this to such an extent that he keeps exploring the realms of science, and publishing theories that take him hours to communicate to his aid. Despite his deteriorating health, he remains one of the world's foremost authorities on physical science.
      What have you done lately?

      September 3, 2010 at 12:13 am |
  12. GW

    It sure seems odd that in an earlier book he admitted that he didn't personally believe in God and then said but nothing other than God could have created the universe. Either his opinions keep evolving or he just needs to make a quick buck.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
    • JimBean

      Wierd that someone practicing science would evolve his viewpoint as he doggidly persues the truth of things around him.
      Doubley strange he would expand his understanding through research and reflection.

      Your probably right he must be motivated by money, bad strategy though if you wanna make some serious bank say "ive proven god could exists" seems like every scientist is saying that you dont need god to explain stuff these days ... perhaps he's a compulsive conformist?? Ahhh the riddle of Hawking.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  13. cody

    Honestly people, religion, God aside, if I came up to you and said here is nothing, now make me something, you would think I was nuts. So how is Hawking a shear genious for mentioning that something came from nothing?

    September 2, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
    • JimBean

      Because Cody, he knows that the phrase "something cant come from nothing" is little more than a word game.
      The reality of that commonly accepted idea is that the way people look at the world around them is not as it is.
      The reason he knows this is because he's learned and QUITE brilliant in the field of physics.
      He understands "entanglement" (look it up), string theory and a myriad of other things that someone who says
      "how can something come from nothing?" doesnt..

      Simply put, he knows things you dont, thats why they pay him to think and why they write articles about his thoughts
      while we are only commenting on them...

      September 2, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
    • Frogist

      @cody: If you are confused about physics theory, how about you read a couple books on physics and you might get a better idea. They are actually very interesting and not very hard to read. Mr Hawking has couple you can start with. Although I'm sure there are others on this board who can give you a good answer as well.

      Also the phrase is "sheer genius".

      September 3, 2010 at 12:03 am |
  14. Bruce

    Many folks throw around the word "God" as if we all understand the term in a similar way. To me it is impossible to believe in a *personal* (anthropomorphic) God, but God as defined by Spinoza or Gordon Kaufman ("Serendipitous Creativity") is an intriguing idea and perfectly compatible with science and Prof. Hawkings. When folks feel the need to defend the existence of God, they are usually talking about a personal God, using millenia-old metaphors, willing to ignore inconvenient scientific truths being discovered in recent centuries.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  15. Humanity

    Die religion, die. You have hurt me too much.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  16. The Jackdaw

    It's amazing how logic and open mindedness gets the feathers of the flat-earthers all ruffled up.

    September 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • USN Atheist


      September 2, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  17. Christoph

    Why is there nothing, rather than something?

    September 2, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  18. cody

    Its because of crap like this that our country has become the laughing stock that it is. I mean really, who in their right mind takes sentences like "something not only can, bust must, arise from nothing", and be considered a shear genious? Read his book if you want and tell me how many times he says I beleive, I feel, I think this or that happened. Then get yourself a Bible and read how many times God says "I have Spoken" or "It is Done", or "Let There Be". God speaks of these things in factly manners where scientests can't do anything other than make estimated guesses.

    But if the Bibile is correct, which I beleive it is, we will all one day know who is right. If Hawking thinks it just created itself, then I guess he knows how it all ends to. Oh wait, the Bible has already explained that to. Listen to someone who makes nothing from nothing if you want to. I will trust in God who made and created all things.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
    • David

      God didn't write the bible... besides, who is to say that any of the other 100's of religions are WRONG? Why does God let millions of babies starve to death in Africa? Why do people who are never even exposed to Christianity judged? How am I supposed to know which of the 100's of religions are correct? Did He (She) not "speak" to their prophets?? How can you KNOW anything???????

      September 2, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
    • TammyB

      It's not because of the scientists in this country that we are a laughing stock...it's because of our political policies and stupid politicians we have running our country, and the uptight, rigid religious right who influences said politicians in many cases. We are seen as uptight puritans in Europe and many other places in this world, and it is due to all of the "moral" issues we percieve we have due to the religious right inserting itself in everyone's life and trying to do so in government. Science keeps us from being seen as total morons and people like Stephen Hawking (which I don't have to agree with, but I know he's brilliant) keep us from looking like total losers here!

      September 2, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • Mike

      Why does God let millions of babies starve to death in Africa? Not, sure but people have come closer to God through tradgety. Millions of babies starve but yet you still exist and continue to eat.

      Why do people who are never even exposed to Christianity judged? Romans 1:18-23, Acts 17:29-31, Matthew 24:12-14

      How am I supposed to know which of the 100's of religions are correct? He has told you and shown you through the preservation of His chosen people who He has kept alive in the face of many who try to destroy them. The last being the six day war when it was 1 vs 3 countries

      Did He not "speak" to their prophets?? No.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Cody: So the reason you say god is more credible is because in Hawking's book he says "I think" and in god's book he says "I know." Is this the "logic" what we have been reduced to?

      September 2, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
  19. elvis

    Mr. Hawking may be correct as far as his argument goes. but gravity is a consequence of matter that already exists, (presumably created in the Big Bang...). Matter and energy are related, but where did they come from? They are not eternal, and, unless I have been in error all these years, came into being with the Big Bang about 18 billion years ago, (more or less). At that time, those laws that govern the physical universe began to act on things and here we are, trying to figure it out.

    It still doesn't address or answer the question of where the matter/energy came from, and who/what set the process into motion. Was it God? I'd like to think so, but I am willing to listen to other opinions. Mr. Hawking is a bright man, and I don't discount him lightly. But an opinion without something to back it is just that.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  20. Jay

    God-Gifted Mr. Prof Hawking believes that the Universe could have got created out of nothing without the help of an external stimuli. A self-coded programming out of nothing. Firstly isn't it a law that we adhere to which proclaims its impossible to have something out of nothing. Also if he stirred the hornet's nest of touching the sensitive subject of God he should have elaborated on it by adding his views on God whatever they be. Just saying God was not needed to create universe is far more confusing to the minds of the people since he is clearly talking about two things here, Role of God and creation of universe. Since he is saying God has had no role to play, rendering God irrelevant, hence possibly making Him non-existent however not conclusively. He might still believe in God but say that God didn't play a direct role in the creation of uni. Anyways for scientists God is a concept or a culture or a theme, its no law. They believe in reasons not in illogical assumptions. But the large part of world, heavily believes in one force, energy and creator. Its related to their basic belief system ingrained and reinforced by their family. People would infer from his words that He wants to influence humanity into believing there is No God as per his heavyweight scientific conclusion but that is not what he is trying to imply. Clearly clarification is needed. And as far as the existence of God goes, no mortal can, could or would ever be able to say with an 100% affirmative or a negative. Its all designed like that but it affects people a lot when you make statements about God particularly negative ones. That is the human aspect of it so scientists should be careful n complete in saying whatever they are saying.

    September 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Dark Matter
      black holes
      the god particle
      use the bible to explain these please.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
About this blog

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.