May 17th, 2011
01:44 PM ET
Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week.
"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail," the physicist said in an interview published Sunday in Britain's Guardian newspaper. "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."
Hawking, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - a terminal and debilitating illness that causes loss of mobility and impairs speech - at age 21 and was not expected to live long after, also talked with The Guardian about his own mortality.
"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years," said Hawking, 69. "I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first."
In a book published last year, Hawking wrote that God did not create the universe, in what he said was an attempt to banish a divine creator from physics.
Hawking says in the book "The Grand Design" that given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing."
"Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he wrote in the introduction of the book, which was published in September.
"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper (fuse) and set the universe going," Hawking wrote.
CNN's Richard Greene contributed to this report.
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I respect Hawking very much but I think his offhand dismissal of the possibility of the afterlife or god is from some kind of bitterness, not his scientific knowledge. If he were truly speaking from a scientific point of view he wouldn't speak publicly about things that there is no way to prove or disprove. Yes the brain may be like a computer, but the fact is we know so little about the brain, and less about the true nature of human consciousness that it is truly impossible to say how we perceive the end of that consciousness in the material world.
I think you are right on it!
I think Pascal's wager is a much better bet - if you believe in God, you have everything to gain if God does exist, and if God doesn't exist you don't really lose anything (because you'll be nothing after death anyway). But if you don't believe in God, you've already gone the route of losing everything without even giving yourself the chance of gaining everything. Seems like an easy choice for rational minds ...
Rhetorical nonsense for minds that favor comfort and magic over any form of "rational".
Greg! No such thing as rationality
There is no "rational" if there is no God. There is nothing to compare to if there is no standard. God IS the standard. If there is no God EVERYTHING is an accident
As children, many of us were taught to believe in Santa Claus. He's "God light" for kids; a benevolent, wise old man who lives in a magical place "up north", at the "top" of the world. He can see what you're doing at all times through magic, and rewards you if you're good – and doesn't if you're bad. Lump of coal – to fuel the fire? Make hell hotter? The metaphors are plentiful. Somewhere along our path to mature adults, we're expected to release belief in Santa, but keep the belief in the other all-seeing invisible man in the sky. Why?? Whatever religion you are is likely the result of where and/or when you were born. if you were born the same instant of the same day but in Iraq, you'd be a Muslim today. If you were born in India, a Hindu is a possibility. If you were born on the same spot on Earth that you actually were, but a few centuries ago, you would be likely worshiping as Native Americans do (did). Well-intentioned loving parents pass this delusion on to their children generation after generation, and somewhere in the maturing process of humanity, it has to go away.
Too soon for some, perhaps even most – but many of us are quite confortable living a mortal, finite life withough answering to or begging an imaginary creator-god. Bravo, Dr. Hawking!
Through maturity I always asked myself: With all these Religions on our planet, who's to say which one is right, or which is the true Religion? My answer "All Religion, and Religious Beliefs/Books were created/written by MAN... So NONE of them are right!
You now are looking to science as your "God". The devil comes in many disguises. It makes you feel nice to relieve yourselves of responsibility to a God. This is how the devil works. He leads you away with "reason". HA HA HA HA
There may have been a Jesus, but he was no more or no less than any other preacher. Preachers need people to behave so we can have a 'civil' society (which we don't anymore anyway) and to donate to keep their 'houses' functioning.
When you die, your body dies. No one 'comes back', no one is resurrected – ever, we're here, we live, we die. We don't go to meet others who have passed. This is it!
Need a higher authority? http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2011/16may_groundtracks/
We're but a tiny grain of sand on a very very large beach.
Hi Reality...thought you must have been on vacation....
You now are looking to science as your "God". The devil comes in many disguises. It makes you feel nice to relieve yourselves of responsibility to a God. This is how the devil works. He leads you away with "reason". Leads you away from the Creator. HA HA HA HA
Isn't it amusing how the secular press like CNN loves to latch on to a bright light of humanity who thinks his understanding of the cosmos and the immortal soul exceeds that of God, The Almighty?
CNN and it's evangelical atheists can put their trust in Hawking disowning God. I'm putting my trust in God disowning no one.
Anyone ever play the "telephone" game!? When I played the game, I was in school. The teacher whispered something in a students ear then had that same student pass the phrase to the next so on and so forth. By the time that phrase reached the last student it was so distorted. That is what has happened to the bible and any other religous books. People will believe anything. The shepheard will eventually lead all the sheeple off a cliff. The world would be a little better then.
I suggest you research the Isaiah Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls and it's comparisson to the Book of Isaiah in the typical Bible. Your telephone game might seem a little silly to bring up.
Ok here's my input...and it's not to insult anyone belief as we are free to believe in our hearts and minds as we wish. No one is forcing anyone to believe what they don't want to believe. This is my belief only. It is ok if you don't agree. I don't care. I believe in heaven,,I believe in God thru Faith. I also believe the bible as the true inspired word of God that was YES written by men but were inspired by God to write the words they wrote. Any YES the words were changed here and there over the years but I believe this would not have happened if God did not want it to. So since I believe in the word of God as the bible,,,I believe in Heaven and God thru Faith only because the bible tells me that without faith it is impossible to please God. Steven Hawkins is a very smart man BUT he is not God and he has never died so therefore he can only go by what he has learned while alive as a man in his studies on a physical realm. We are not in the spirit form so therefore none of us are experts in that area until we have died. Enough said.
So you admit that the bible was written by men, good start. Do you also believe the bible is meant to be taken LITERALLY or do you think MAYBE it is meant to be taken figuratively? You know, to make people lead a good life to keep societal peace and whatnot? Also, ever hear of the Kuran? Over a BILLION people believe in that thing and feel the same way about it as you do about the bible. What if they're right and you're wrong? What if you're both wrong? Hey, if religion is your thing and it makes you happy, I'm down for it. I even enjoy debating it when intelligence and respect is involved. But I always hope that people who believe out of "faith" have considered all options before settling on one. There are hundreds of religions, they can't all be right. And the odds that you picked the right one are pretty slim too statistically.
"Over a BILLION people believe in that thing and feel the same way about it as you do about the bible."
Since when did group think make something more truthful than another?
You know why he suposedly is such a "great mind"...Cause he's got nothing else to do than think...think...think. He's got nothing else going on...just like a prisioner...If all I had to do 24/7 was sit in a chair, I'd be thinking of all sorts of false theories too.
Hawking was thinking great things about the physics of the universe way before he was hindered by his condition. In fact, some scientists would say his greatest contributions came a long time ago.
I'm curious Pope, in order for a theory to be proven false, it must be disproven. When was Mr. Hawking's theory disproven? OH, you're simply stating that your OPINION is more valid than his right? My bad. I forgot that YOU'RE RIGHT simply because it's what YOU BELIEVE and it doesn't matter who disagrees. My bad.
The computer parts aren't been used anymore, but the energy that made the computer run is still alive in some way. Energy doesn't die, it changes form.
Tell me something I didn't know, Hawking.
You mean like the fact he couldn't really "tell" you anything?
why dont we just call it the unknown ok? that seems fair to me. Comment if you agree!
Let's face it. Some people are just upset because one of the greatest scientists of our time doesn't believe what they believe.
Doesn't bother me a bit what Hawking thinks on this subject. I see no reason to think his opinion on a theological topic as that important.
I liked Einstein better.
Hawking, If you are so good at proving things, then prove to us thier is no God...You can't prove it can you? It's just your personal opinion....Well your personal opinion holds no water.... die alone
No one needs to prove God doesn't exist just like no one needs to prove the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn't exist.
"Anything that can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence" -Christopher Hitchens
Pope John said: "prove to us there is no god"
That's a typically defensive stance that religion loves to hide behind.
In the first place, a person does not have to disprove that which has never been asserted as fact. Your suppositions are just that, an assumption of belief. That alone does not make it anything other than a personal expression of opinion.
Perhaps your belief system supports this baseless position without a shred of evidence, but mine does not. I would ask for proof of this unsupportable argument of yours, but it seems like every time religion gets cornered by logic, it lashes out with the same rhetoric: "Non-believers don't understand." or "Belief requires no proof, only faith."
Sorry, that doesn't cut it. In the real world, opinions are a dime a dozen. Your belief in your opinion doesn't make it true, and saying that others cannot "disprove" your beliefs is just another way of saying that you cannot prove them. Logic dictates that your "belief" is just another unsubstantiated, baseless opinion. Everyone has opinions, and lots of people voice theirs. What makes yours so special that others have to disprove it?
I don't think that your God would be happy with you telling someone to "die alone".
Hey, Pope John. Prove that there is a God. BTW, it would be nice if people like you could use proper grammer even when taking shots . . . the proper word is "there" not "thier" or even "their."
You all are now looking to science as your "God". The devil comes in many disguises. It makes you feel nice to relieve yourselves of responsibility to a God. This is how the devil works. He leads you away with "reason". HA HA HA HA
Sun&Sky, that was a beautifully written response to an illogical comment by a person who believe that "if you don't believe what I believe, which is an unproven 'faith' based belief with not a tiny shred of proof, then you are wrong!". It is difficult to argue with religions fanatics such as the "Cool" person who seems to be responding to everyone's posts with threats of doom and gloom for not sharing his views.
I follow no religion but consider the fact that I exist to indicate that there is something greater than me (I sometimes refer to this as god but can easily call it another term). I am an intelligent person who treats people with respect and dignity. I respect the laws of the land which I live in and I try to help those around me enjoy life to its fullest. I'm engaged to a wonderful woman who is catholic, yet understands and respects my views. Why am I going to hell when I die (according to the religious zealots)? Because I don't have faith? Because I don't believe in something that they do? Because I don't bow down and worship the almighty unproven and obviously unrealistic god? If good people like me go to hell simply because we don't relay on faith alone, then maybe god should reconsider what he demands from his minions.
to Demonfeed, you need to expand your thinking, and step out of our 4 dimensions of space and time. No one has confined God to our perceivable dimensions. It is sad that such a brilliant man as Stephen can be so blinded as to not see the proofs of God's existence all around him. As a small example, If we believe that the universe is governed by mathematical principles, did these same principles occur purely by chance? Unlikely that order can be created from randomness. Let's pray for Stephen that he will accept the only conclusion possible given the observable universe, before it is too late for him.
the possibility? I am sure he equated them. The PROBABILITY?
now that is something else
Everyone listen up! I am the one you seek.
Yeah. And the world is round. With all due respect and mainly because of his illness, sorry to tell that this man is really old and sick. For being old, he is kind of stupid and for being sick, well, he speaks fool. It is amazing to realize how this brilliant brain, just after 30, 40 or 50 years, just now, discovers that all about religion is a 'fairy tale.' I would add that starting with the Bible (or equivalents), this is the worst fiction ever written. Obviously, religion and its chock-a-bloc stories are made for the ignorant or for those who cowardly prefer to believe in any garbage, with the only reason to assure a place in paradise. BTW I see religion extinguishing, slowly but surely. When that happens, men will start living freely and they will enjoy a little of what this useless life can give. Hawking's reflections on the universe, existence, the nothingness, etc. are correct and if not, they are the closest to the truth, which finally nobody will know about, including those NASA's drones.
wow, Joe. You live a sad, sad life. No hope, no brainwaves, no education, no intelligence, no one to help get you out from under that rock you live under.....
Joe...you really sound like a loser
One word: RollerPig
One word: SpiderPig
Does anybody know what this man is suffering from? First time I heard his name, saw his picture, and God, he seems deeply wasted. Why hasn't anybody in nature been able to help this guy with whatever disease he has?
He suffers from ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease. You can read about it here:
My grandfather died from this. It's a tragic disease in that it steals your body but leaves your mind intact.
From the Article at the top of the page:
"Hawking, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – a terminal and debilitating illness that causes loss of mobility and impairs speech – at age 21 and was not expected to live long after, also talked with The Guardian about his own mortality."
How do people survive with no reading comprehension ability?
All of the people who are defending religion on here Hawking is just saying whats true. Your all reacting like the clergy did when it was prove the world was round and not flat. Through Science we have disproven all gods from all cultures. Vulcan and his Volcanoes, Oden and his Lighting, Apollo and him being the Sun. The only reason the current religion of God is still running around because it's based on (basically) love and forgiveness. Something Science can't disprove. But it's ok, keep your head in the sand.
Albert Einstein did believe there was a God
@Cool, Einstein was also human.
Noreaster, I am a man of science who does not believe in any organized religion. With that said, god has not been disproven. Science has simply shown us that it is extremely unlikely that any religion is correct with a lot of research and information. I personally agree with ALMOST everything Hawking says except for one minor detail. If no god created the universe because it is able to create itsself out of gravity, where did the gravity come from? I agree that heaven and hell are stories designed to make kids behave, but I do think there is some kind of thing out there that is bigger than us. Maybe that is "god". But I don't think any religion is correct personally. I think people need some kind of reassurance that they will never really be gone because it is the only way that they can feel meaning in this life. Religion gives people that closure and I think it blinds them to the more-likely and more-rational reality of no longer existing as unique individuals once we die.
I would just like to say that first of all I am a Christian, and a decided intellectual as well. Of course I don't agree with what Hawking says here, nor do I find it to be very scientific at all. It's faith-based speculation: Hawking is simply stating what he believes (his faith assumptions, that is) based upon what he has observed. That's what I do too, my faith assumptions are simply different from Hawkings. But his, in this particular case, are no more well founded than mine.
I have great respect for Stephen Hawking as a scientist–he's incredible, a genius for sure, I find some of his work fascinating to read, especially on quantum singularities. I hold no ill will toward him, though of course I wish he were a Christian, but I don't hate him because he's not–what would be the point in that anyway?
So when it comes to science, I love to listen to Hawking; when it comes to his religious beliefs that are not empirically proven or provable, and his conclusions which are only one possibility among who knows how many, some of which call for God and some of which do not, well, I say he can believe what he wants, but it gives me no reason to believe that with him.
you DO realize that his "beliefs" are most likely based on scientific data that has been proven right?
@Ian You DO realize off course that Hawkings is a theoretical physicist don't you? He can't show anything except on paper!
As a scientist, I have great respect for Stephen Hawking...but also as a scientist, how does he explain where the energy goes when a physical body dies? Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Hence, my scientific argument that we all live in the spirit when the physical body dies. Our earthly lives are just temporary. I'm a Christian, but I've examined other religions and spiritual beliefs throughout my life. Many have the same thread. I hope he "sees the light".
You DO realize that Hawking's statements are opinion and are made without any scientific support? What he states is what he hopes and what he believes to be the future not what he knows.
The issue for Hawking and for evolutionists is there is always another door to enter. He can't say the universe would make itself because of the existence of gravity without investigating whether gravity was created or self-existing. Since he can't prove he really can't say. More atheistic wishful thinking.
And by the way, the chair that he holds? It's named for Newton who believed in the existence of God. Now which genius will you believe?
I have never met a fundamentalist Christian who was an intellectual. Most intellectual who are Christian are into Christianity-lite. They are not into the inane dogma or the ridiculous stories. It's part of being a "get-along" kind of person in this society to profess Christianity, but to swallow the dogma hook, line, and sinker takes a real dolt.
Hey Jim, Stephen Hawking also would probably also say that you're retarded. Your small mind can't comprehend, so you make up fairy tales to cope. I think it's adorable too. awwwwwww.
Albert Einstein believed there was a God
@Jennifer NYC, you obviously weren't paying attention.
We are the molecules that we can weigh, nothing more. When we die, our consciousness stops and we cease to be. I know you have a hard time accepting what's right in front of us, and you have my sympathies. I won't go to war with anyone over their religious beliefs.
@cool; No, Albert Einstein did NOT believe in a "God", despite the famous quote of his that "God does not play dice with the Universe".
Albert Einstein is on record as saying that he did not believe in a personal God. He said:
"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
Einstein also said:
"I am a deeply religious nonbeliever. This is a somewhat new kind of religion. I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive."
Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Did_Einstein_believe_in_God#ixzz1MendsP1H
I agree with you and I am not religious. Faith is not exclusive to religion. In science we use faith many times when working out problems. We just refer to it as a hypothesis. In either context it is th same. The belief in something we do not know based on assumptions of what we do know.
And for the record, religion and the belief in a supreme being or creator is not mutually exclusive either.
Yes, energy is neither created nor destroyed. But that doesn't mean we become "spirits" any more than a plant becomes a spirit when you transfer its energy into you. You no longer exist in your current form. It is very unlikely that the energy and matter that is your thoughts and memories does not stay in some collective block that goes to a magical place where you live as yourself once again but forever. I think it is more likely that heaven does not exist. But I understand that some people need to believe in it in order to get through this life. I am content with simply no longer existing in any form whatsoever when I die and I am a happy person living a decent life. It won't matter to me when I'm gone.
YOU ALL ARE SAD.
G-d is probably looking down right now laughing at all of you thinking "this is the guy they are listening to?"
The demon comes in many forms to mislead us and to guide us, with "science" and "reasoning", away from the walking with The Creator. He may have taken advantage of Steven's state.
Hey Cool, I think your tinfoil cap is coming a little bit loose there bud.