September 10th, 2010
01:39 PM ET

Hawking's 'The Grand Design' worth the effort

Editor's Note: Larry King Live Supervising Producer Michael Watts was Larry's man on the ground for his Stephen Hawking interview in Cambridge, England. You can see the entire interview tonight on Larry King Live on CNN at 9pm EST. Watts filed this report from England:

I’ve been a producer on “Larry King Live” for almost 12 years, and I'm frequently asked, "what’s your coolest experience?" The stock answer: producing Stephen Hawking.

I journeyed to Cambridge when he was our guest in December 1999, and have been lucky enough to come back for his latest appearance on "Larry King Live." This experience, while just as rewarding, has been a little different.

Hawking's ALS has clearly progressed in the last decade. Even so, I continue to be amazed at how well he manages to communicate. The hand clicker he used in 1999 to command his communication system has been replaced by a sensor that monitors subtle cheek movements. But the software he uses looks very similar. It also says a great deal about Prof. Hawking that among the easiest words for him to pull up and speak is "thanks."

Hawking is almost completely paralyzed. Unfortunately, his endearing smile is no longer possible, but his sense of humor is still very much in tact. Just read a few pages of "The Grand Design" if you doubt that.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Hawking is aided by an incredibly capable and kind group of people. Judith Croasdell and Sam Blackburn were extraordinary. It is through their efforts, and those of our great London staff, we are able to bring you our interview.

But doing an interview with Hawking is more than putting him in front of the camera and cueing Larry. The questions have to be provided well in advance so he can prepare his answers. The answers themselves are sometimes very brief, which is understandable since he can only enter text at about 1 to 2 words a minute. Actually, some might find the brief answers a refreshing change.

Now about that book….

I have no intention of weighing in on the creation controversy, nor would anyone care what I had to say about it anyway. But I do find some things in "The Grand Design" worthy of comment.

First, I continue to be amazed at how Hawking can take such complex principles and questions, like "why do we exist?" and make them understandable. Not easy to understand mind you. I’ve been reading the book for several days and am only half way through it. It’s not that long, 181 pages to be exact, but to grasp the book you have to read, stop, think, think again, then sometimes reread. But I have found it well worth the effort. The theories he puts forth, whether you agree with them or not, are fascinating, and the most fascinating is M-theory.

When we talked to him in 1999, Hawking said he thought we were tantalizingly close to a unified theory, or "ultimate theory of everything" as he calls it in "The Grand Design." He now believes we have one, and it’s M-theory. M-theory is actually not one theory, but a collection of overlapping ones, each complimenting the other. He compares it to layers of maps – you have street maps, topographical maps, even traffic maps. They all enhance the other while working on the same foundation.

The great controversy surrounding "The Grand Design" really boils down to this statement: "According to M-theory, ours is not the only universe. Instead, M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing. Their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law."

As stated earlier, I'm not touching that. But one thing the book spends a lot of time explaining is in science, you don’t have to observe something to know it's true if the preponderance of evidence points to it being so. While reading the book, it struck me, can something similar not be said about religion. Maybe science and religion aren’t so different after all.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Science

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soundoff (129 Responses)

    @ CatholicMom your faith is aboundant, but we all need to learn truth and it's just not in 66 book bible, or 73 book or the 80 book. The bible talks about many different things that makes it credible to a point, if someone wants to hear them them i'll post but even with all it talks about still we will never catch up to science until we have the full word of God. What i'm trying to tell you is to study history, other than your own, that bible we have is not perfect, we can learn from all.

    October 15, 2010 at 10:43 pm |

    @ CATHOLIC MOM you know the pope in 1505ad pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the first picture of Jesus ever being white, yes he told him to paint jesus from black to white, as well as the other bible figures. I remember growing up i looked at white angels, white jesus, white mary, white moses, white egyptians, and the only one i knew was black in the bible was the man who helped jesus carry the cross. Your Pope through the years has been a disgrace to Yeshua. They changed so many things even the color of the savior, but NOW they say it doesn't matter what color he is but it mattered then. We all came from and Modern African black woman, 150,000 years ago, do he agree with this, if he is going to get any credit in the world other than Vadican city then he's going to have to tell the world of their mistakes but they aint,i believe the whole bible would be able to answer all of our questions but it can't cause men including yall the Rcc scripted books out of it. Hawkings is a genius i can't blame him, the pope can't hold water n this subject

    October 15, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
  3. Laura

    I laughed so hard at this:


    At least, man is the only animal doing scientific studies!

    A CLASSIC again!! Keep up the good work, CM!

    October 15, 2010 at 9:12 pm |
  4. Awakening

    Mayby you all should read this http://www.thewatcherfiles.com/bluebeam.html Project Blue Beam

    What is important to understand in the first step is that those earthquakes will hit at different parts of the world where scientific and archeological teachings have indicated that arcane mysteries have been buried. By those types of earthquakes, it will possible for scientists to re-discover those arcane mysteries which will be used to discredit all fundamental religious doctrines. This is the first preparation for the plan for humanity because what they want to do is destroy the beliefs of all Christians and Muslims on the planet. To do that, they need some false "proof" from the far past that will prove to all nations that their religions have all been misinterpreted and misunderstoodhe first step concerns the breakdown of all archeological
    knowledge. It deals with the setup with artificially created earthquakes at certain precise locations on the planet where, supposedly, new discoveries will finally explain to all people the error of all fundamental religious doctrines. The falsification of this information will be used to make all nations believe that their religious doctrines have been misunderstood for centuries and misinterpreted. Psychological preparations for that first step have already been implemented with the film, "2001: A Space Oddessy;" the StarTrek series, and "Star Wars;" all of which deal with invasions from space and the coming together of all nations to repel the invaders. The last films, "Jurrassic Park," deals with the theories of evolution, and claim God's words are lies.

    Now figure out when we hear that voice from the new world messiah who would be speaking from space to all of the sane people of the earth who might give instructions to zealots and religious fanatics, we would see hysteria and social mayhem on a scale never witnessed before on this planet. No police forces in the world, even as a combined front, could deal with the disorder that will follow!

    October 14, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
  5. John

    I think God is pretty unique, he knows material things cannot be proved by Faith, as Faith is whats needed to access the Spirit of God.
    Why are so many afraid to exercise the Faith that God gave them, so they can PROVE God to themselves? Seems simple enuff to me.
    You can keep your "critical thinking" skills while you try this...they will still be there when you are done. But, you may have some changed thinking aferwards,lol!

    October 13, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  6. MaryB

    You say..
    But here is a hot tip to anyone trying to sway *me* (I won't speak for anyone else) – quoting scripture at me is a complete waste of time! I give your religious books absolutely no credence at all, so referring to them is completely pointless

    So, that is a narrowminded statement....there are books that are credible by scholars as to thier content, so, are you dicrediting these scholars? Do you just refuse to believe them becuase its easier for you to just say "they don't exist, and are not creditable?
    What if someone said Scientisits are'nt credible? Would that not be a stupid statement? So, if you answer is Yes...how can you say less of Scholars?

    October 13, 2010 at 8:48 am |
  7. ViewPoint

    CONTINUED...."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 Inst-i-tute 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."

    October 13, 2010 at 8:42 am |
  8. ViewPoint

    No to fast, not all of Hawkins colleagues agree with him...

    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. (Hawkings)

    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.

    October 13, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  9. HotAirAce

    @Peter F

    I sincerely beleive there are no gods. That being said, I have not absolutely ruled out the same. The possibility of being wrong does not frighten me in the least. You would probably be quite surprised at the amount of religous material I read, watch, listed to, etc. I must admit that I do so mostly to keep an eye on the fundamentalists/extremists (cause I am very worried about the Glenn Becks of the world), but regardless, I do try to keep an open mind.

    But here is a hot tip to anyone trying to sway *me* (I won't speak for anyone else) – quoting scripture at me is a complete waste of time! I give your religious books absolutely no credence at all, so referring to them is completely pointless. Now, if you want to start by establishing the credibility of your books/lengends, be my guest. I sincerely look forward to new and innovative reasons why we should put any faith in them. Until then, THERE ARE NO GODS – NO EVEN JUST ONE!

    September 13, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • Peter F

      Considering the Bible depicts events which have been affirmed by other ancient sources and given credit by the vast majority of New Testament historians, you at least have to recognize the at least partial validity of the testimonies therein. I'm not saying that there is no debate on the events and teachings of the Bible – just that even secular scholars regard a lot of the New Testament as historically accurate. That being said, it is impossible to discuss the authoritative claims of Scripture without you being willing to accept the possibility of its authenticity. If I can't quote and discuss it, how would you like me to interact with you about my faith – or do you simply not care? If that is the issue, there is no point in any of this.

      September 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
  10. HotAirAce

    So, how many people have read/are reading The Grand Design? I'm about 1/3 done, and think it is pretty good, but I might be biased. :^))

    September 13, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  11. @Jay

    Amen.The thing is too many people from both sides try to disprove the other,Scientist(well some) will say there is no God Ala Hawkings here and then some believers will say that evolution or anything pertaining to science that they don't understand is false.I don't believe that science and God are mutually exclusive.For me personally science helps to explain a lot of things regarding creation,almost like giving me a window into how creative God is.I believe that God uses science to show us how awesome he is.To me science does not disprove Gods existence it actually reaffirms it on a human logic level, for me.You may disagree,that's fine,but this is just how I see it.

    September 13, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  12. NM

    please check out http://www.islamicsolutions.com/what-does-god-want-from-us/

    September 12, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
  13. Jay

    If God created something unmovable He meant it to be so. Man is too caught up in his own desires and lusts to ever create such a moral guideline as the word of God. There are far too many things science does not explain. It amazes me how some are so determined not to believe in the Lord but will consider time travel? Time travel? Really? Science is not absolute truth. Science said my grandfather would live 2 weeks. He lived 2 month. Science said my mother-in-law would never recover from a 3 organ shut down and would have her pulled from life support. Our family refused, put our faith in the Lord and she survived at 70 years old and went on to live 5 more years. No science cannot explain many things, for example: the soul, the spirit, the conscious, the moral compass in each of us and miracles. Did I mention the miracles? They are the best of all and I would know b/c I myself and others I know have experienced them. People are so fallible. Why would anyone put complete faith in a man or his unbelief?

    September 12, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
  14. Yousif

    Prof. Hawking's new book "the Grand Design" is just theoretical physics. God is an infinit being and therefore unlimited. God described himself as the only one, never bear children nor been born, he has no beginning & no end and there is no one equal to him. Meanwhile he created us with limited knowledge and therefore everthing will seem limited in our mind. Beginning and end. These facts are enough to recognize his unlimited powers and creation such as the universe. That makes our limited minds can not explain the infinity of God and his creations. I feel disappointed when someone with such academic knowledge such as Prof. Hawkings seems to stray away from such plain facts and instead question the existence of God with all his infinity. Ironically; ignorance is not being an illiterate but being a literate who fials to apply his knowledge logically & approperiately. I urge Prof. Hawking and any other scientist to study the Koran thoroughly before jumping to such mystifying conclusions which are misleading and confusing to people.

    September 12, 2010 at 4:55 am |
    • Jason

      This one begs the ultimate question for a believer in Infinite power. Can God create something so massive that he himself can not move it? If so then he's not infinite as there can exist something he can't control, and if not then he's not infinite because he can't create something he wills to create. How's that for facts?

      September 12, 2010 at 6:49 am |
    • Reality

      Obviously, Yousif has been "koranacized" so let us use some common sense and rational thinking to get him on the right path:

      Think about the logic (or lack thereof).

      “I believe the Bible (or Koran) is inspired.” “Why?” “Because it says so.” Would your
      anyone let that logic pass if it came from the followers of any other book
      or person? “I believe x is inspired because x says so.” Fill in the blanks:

      x=Pat Robertson
      x=the ayatolloah Sistani
      x=David Koresh
      x=the Koran”

      more “logic”?
      “I believe there is One God Jehovah (or Allah) because He is revealed in the infallible
      Bible (or Koran). I believe the Bible (or Koran) is infallible because it is the Word of the One God Jehovah (or Allah).”

      September 12, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • Jay

      Well said.

      September 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      I assume your "Well said." is in response to Reality. If so, welcome to the unbeliever side! If not, please clarify.

      September 12, 2010 at 7:37 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.