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Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says
Stephen Hawking at the World Science Festival in New York in 2010.
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.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Britain • Death • Heaven

soundoff (4,469 Responses)
  1. Horatio Zemgeflar

    "Given the existence of gravity," you can get something from nothing? How did the gravity get there in the first place? The argument begs the question. I'll admit that I haven't yet read the book the article quotes; perhaps this dilemma is addressed therein. I suppose you might say that just because we don't understand how something as basic as gravity came to be, that doesn't prove that someone or something put it there. And that's a valid point.

    Yet much like we can't hope to understand what the condition of being dead feels like, the reverse must also be true: to go from the complete and utter absence of anything at all–be it matter, life, or the laws that govern it–to there suddenly being the force of gravity acting on all things, and there subsequently being a rapidly expanding universe filled with matter and energy, is a conceptual stretch that I'm having a hard time suspending my disbelief to accept as an alternate creation explanation. Indeed, it has just as many holes and suppositions as any other account, religiously themed or otherwise.

    June 10, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Robert Olson

      well sence you sound brain washed and can't understand order of operations...i think you should just stick to religion...BUT THIS STORY IS NOT ONE...it a science one..lol you guys are make somethings from nothing... PLZ DON"T GET ALL SCARED

      * IF YOU WORKED AT A LIBERY AND FILED THIS UNDER RELIGION YOU WOULD BE FIRED*

      1. He is using science to determine what seems most logical.. NOT FAITH
      2. HE IS SYAING ... If you have a god issue...take it up with science LOL ...
      3. If you do you'll know that if you lose your senses (eyes, taste, hearing, memory) just like a badly injured person. you'll no
      longer be the same thing in the after life (state of being).
      4. Just explore while you still can, because you don't know what is around the next turn of events besides order of
      operations.

      June 10, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • fda

      Hail to the Monkeys!!!! Im joking... haha... believe what you want but dont say we didnt tell you that those who reject God will be rejected by god.

      June 10, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  2. Robert Olson

    LOL OK everyone think about this..

    what is the first dimension?
    1. first it comes first (LOL) before the second or any rules.
    2. Then sense it has no laws governing it it faces every way equally forever (creating space)-(3d realm)).
    3. This is why space is a vacuum too

    Do we live in the first dimension or the 3rd?
    1. we do live in the first dimension. (what we consider the 3rd is a mirror reflection of the core laws of nature.)
    2. This will explain why the big bang happen to be one massive mass.
    3. Everything was equal, and there was a mirror reflection of a 3rd creating the second. (gravity)
    4. Gravity brought ration/light (northern lights through out the universe) to bring everything together (like the sun)
    5. once that happen super nova time guys..lol

    ARe Black holes real?
    1. No..Because you can't bend the first dimension LOL if faces every way equally forever. (SPACE VACUUM)
    2. Black Hole (LOL) dips nots...is mass trying to come together. but because it all can't fit in...in a strait line. like the toilet
    it has to go around in (lol)
    3. once it get into the fulcrum it turns into gamma rays and light (simple form of matter)
    4. if you study the northern lights you'll now what happens to all that stuff in the middle of a gravity pull...

    June 10, 2011 at 4:33 am |
  3. SPQR

    The more science learns the more they find out how wrong they were in the past.

    June 10, 2011 at 1:49 am |
  4. Ryan

    Why are these religious folk afraid of asking questions? So afraid of a God that they are too afraid to question his existence that they take a intellectual dump. Or else they are so optimistic about everything that they are so deluded.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Ryan

      And please don't cite some 2000 year old book that wasn't written down until 70 years after Jesus's death, and trimmed and retranslated down many languages to what it is today. First of all many of those passages refer to the context of the time, and can be easily misinterpreted by people that don't know the history of the time. Second, many of the passages contradict previous statements and are ambiguous or cryptic.

      June 10, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  5. Daril Atkins

    Dear Steven Hawking,

    Please tell us how this spontaneous creation of the universe came about. And please tell us the size of the universe. I can hear your silence loudly. With all the genius that has been attributed to you, please admit that all this is beyond your comprehension just as it is for ordinary folk.

    As humans we tend to measure everything by our own limits. Steven Hawking has his limits just like ordinary folk.

    June 8, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Befairandjust

      Daril, my sentiments exactly!

      June 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Adam

      It is quite amazing that these same scientists who say that the univese created itself will teach the thermodynamic law that the enthalpy of a system increases or that everything if left alone tends towards chaos. Obviously then by their own teaching it is not being "left alone" so who is putting order into this system? It must be God!

      June 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Brett

      " thermodynamic law that the enthalpy of a system increases or that everything if left alone tends towards chaos."

      1.) It is entropy not enthalpy. I doubt if you don't even know the word you have much basis for commenting on it.

      2.) You are misusing the idea of entropy which probably stems back to not even knowing the word.

      2.) Quantum mechanics has completely changed our understanding of what you are trying to say. The annihilation and generation of particles causes an equilibrium, but since it happens in pairs objects appear and dissapear it never throws off the equilibrium.

      June 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  6. Mentor397

    It's amazing he knows it all now. Still, if there is no God and we are only here and thinking by accident and the universe is destined to die, then nothing we do will ultimately matter. Why worry about things we must do before we die?

    June 8, 2011 at 4:05 am |
  7. Halleluljah

    Maby he will stand and give us a bow! This man is very knowledgable for only being less than an hour old in God's eyes. Through his vast experience and know how maby he can prove the bible wrong in some more meaningful form. Ya thought so. May God have mercy with you due to your ignorance, and there lack of experience. May you have peace.

    June 8, 2011 at 3:38 am |
    • antichristianleague

      Ignorance, eh? The only ignorance I see here is your delusional attachment to non existent sky deities. Deal with it lady (or man), there is no god. Life is random, like it or not.

      June 8, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  8. Mike

    "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

    But where do all the calculators go?!

    Mandatory Red Dwarf reference.

    June 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  9. 13andero

    Hawkins has is no more of an authority on God than I am. I personally believe God exists, that's just my opinion. God is, by definition, impossible to verify by science, so a scientist saying he doesn't exist is of no more value than me saying he does. We all have our opinions. I just hope Hawkins uses his great mind to try to come up with a way to help society rather than just make unverifiable claims.

    June 6, 2011 at 5:09 am |
    • antichristianleague

      The belief that "god' exists is also an unverifiable claim. Why not dedicate your life to realistic endeavors, instead of wasting yourself on non existent sky cake.

      June 8, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  10. arjen

    The amount of non-logic and clear misunderstanding on the basic of physics and biology is stunning.

    Is this a representation of all the peoples in America? You sure are very much behind when it comes to enlightenment, you appear so silly and uneducated when you say silly things like this.

    From what I'm reading here it would seem no religious people have any sort of understanding of science. Just look at all the flaws religious people say of evolution, a-bio genesis and the big bang theory.

    June 6, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • aruffledwallace

      Agreed, arjen. Sickening is it not? I feel bad for people so dumb 😦 no one should wonder why America lags so far behind in math and science.

      June 10, 2011 at 1:27 am |
  11. Duce

    It's amazing to see a bunch of average dopes who believe in a book comprised of stories passed down from nomadic bards call Stephen Hawking an idiot... Maybe the logical explanation for "spontaneous creation" hasn't yet been discovered, but neither has a cure for many diseases and cancers. Science is a business of discovery and it will take time for the answers to be revealed.

    June 5, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Halleluljah

      It's a buisness thats for sure. Like any other industry they release it only when convienent and profitable. We all hope for the best in others but some times I wander if others make a profit at the misfortune of others? Not all things just happen, sometimes there is a reason and people behind them.

      June 8, 2011 at 3:47 am |
    • Duce

      A scientific reason, indeed!

      June 13, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  12. Walter Weinzinger

    I'm a physics/mathematics major myself, but I sure have to say boy, will he sure be surprised!!

    June 5, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • arjen

      You're a fool, if you truly believe so I hold your opinion of less value than a monkey's. You seem to lack ANY logical thinking skills.

      June 6, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • Jonathan

      Logical thinking? Hmm, ok, how about this. Which is more logical?
      You see a cake sitting somewhere. Given what you know of the laws of physics and the universe, what do you assume:
      "That cake must have suddenly sprang from nothing."
      "Somebody must have baked that cake."

      Being a logical, reasonable person, you would naturally assume that something as complex as a cake does not just normally appear out of thin air.

      The cake is actually a product of a very long evolutionary process: learning which plants and animals are edible and which are harmful; learning how to harvest/catch said food; learning how to cultivate said food; learning how to process said food; learning how to transform food through various methods like the application of heat; learning how to combine them in various ways; learning the specific way to combine them to get the outcome of a cake; and then gathering the ingredients; combining them together properly; baking the result with the correct amount of heat over the correct amount of time; and decorating it.

      The universe, and all it contains, is infinitely more complex than a cake. How can a reasonably logical person think that something so complex just suddenly appeared, and that everything in it is the product of nothing more than a extremely improbable set of coincidences?

      June 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  13. oopscanada

    hey taliban, Stephen H has 1/2 a brains; and *he* cannot see that he's making a fool of himself. Oh well, he will get what he deserves. With his luck, he might be lucky and repent before he goes into the dark, and *then* he' stop being a fool.

    June 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • Woolfie

      Even if he had a QUARTER of a brain, he still sounds smarter than that dumb comment you just made.

      June 7, 2011 at 2:46 am |
  14. oopscanada

    , "the universe can and will create itself from nothing.". Amen; the Universe was created from nothing. I agree with Stephen on that. I also agree with him that the universe was created by God. I believe this is what he meant, given that he is supposed to be one of the most intelligent human beings on the planet. Maybe he is misquoted, and he did not really mean that Universe can create "itself" from nothing? Ha ha ha ha, that sounds so absurd, that I don't want to believe that he said that. Because if he said, he would be a Fool!!!!!. how can something come out of nothing? Ha ha; really????? It sounds more like a FALSE RELIGION that a scientific theory. Poor guy; so smart, yet so fool. The fools says to himself, "there is no God". Ha ha; on my..... What a CLOWN!!!

    June 5, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I think anyone with half a brain can see who the fool is here.

      June 5, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • arjen

      You're IQ isnt very high is it? Clearly you lack the intelligence to understand anything he would say.

      June 6, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  15. Blasphemy

    I was with my homeboy Stephen Walking until the "spontaneous creation" bit. That in and of itself really is reminiscent of magical maggots that appeared on carcasses "spontaneously" until a real scientist came along and proved that that wasn't the case. Stephen Walking's explanation sounds just as ridiculous as the godites'.

    June 5, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  16. bobbo

    He thinks of the brain as a computer? What a dope.

    June 5, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Martrese

      It's called a "metaphor."

      June 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  17. gil

    the Bible say "the fool said in his heart there is no God" what a fool Stephen Hawking would be even when he claimed to be a scientist

    June 5, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Martrese

      Just because something is written in a bible – or on a bathroom wall – doesn't mean it's fact.

      June 5, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Bunny

      When you make statements that call Stephen Hawking a fool you are required to follow it up with your published papers, your logical knowledge, your IQ, and whatever honory you might have from Oxford.

      Oh, you don't have all of those things? Then shut up.

      June 5, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • roami

      This is to Bunny and Martrese because there is no other way: So Martrese you would rather believe that humans evolved from monkeys, apes rather than been created in the "image" of God: Free will able the REASON and THINK and LOVE and just about every other way that separate us from the animals? And so you are saying there is no God? Hmmm. I'll stick with the bible.

      And as for Bunny: ...I just take it that you don't believe in the bible, much less, God!

      June 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Alex

      I'd like to point out that humans did NOT evolve from monkeys, we shared a common ancestor. What roami said is like taking two species of domesticated dogs and saying one evolved from the other, when they only share a common ancestor, the wolf.

      June 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • antichristianleague

      You're the fool if you actually believe that the words in bible are anything other than poorly written fiction.

      June 8, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • @ roami

      What you would "rather" believe is not relevant to truth. Biological evolution on earth is supported by massive amounts of evidence without a single counter example. If creation stories of the judeo-christian tradition were true, evolution would be extremely easy to disprove, but the evidence contradicts that story and supports biological evolution. Only ignorance (of the scientific process and extensive verification and corroboration behind our current knowledge base) and desire to be special (ego) keep you from seeing the truth.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  18. Mamadou

    One day of spring 2011, I noticed an advertisement inside a Boston Metropolitan Transport Authority (MBTA) train that said this :

    "It is unreasonable to believe in the existence of God. However, I must admit that it is also unreasonable not to believe in the existence of God."

    The quote was attributed to Albert Einstein.

    Honestly, I do not need to "believe" that God exists in heaven no more that you do not need to believe that you have a heart in your body. I 'know" that God does indeed exist in heaven because I met Him there.

    Of course, Stephen Hawking does not need to believe me.

    June 5, 2011 at 7:16 am |
    • A Nimmo

      The first thing God created was time (John Bunyan) "In the beginning..." The second thing is matter "...God created the heavens and the earth." Every scientist and evolutionist start their argument at step 3 with time and matter already in place. They cannot get to any place before that without God so they just ignore it. Then they go on to lead people astray with their flawed theories which are built on a sandy foundation and one day they will crash.

      June 5, 2011 at 8:27 am |
    • mmaxummmmmmmmmmmm2002

      The idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I am unable to take seriously. (Albert Einstein, Letter to Hoffman and Dukas, 1946)

      June 5, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Ogre

      Mamadou: "I 'know" that God does indeed exist in heaven because I met Him there."

      Pictures... or it didn't happen.

      June 5, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • antichristianleague

      It might be a good idea to make a call to your psychiatrist and ask him/her to up your medications. You're obviously very deluded.

      June 8, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  19. Jason

    Obviously, I respect Hawking's opinion. He's earned that from everybody. But I would point out that the creation of the universe is not something we can repeat experimentally. Therefore the scientific method doesn't really support his claims that creation was "spontaneous". He is more explicit when he says that "it is not necessary to invoke God" to explain the universe. He is essentially applying Occam's Razor here. But, although Occam's Razor is a useful tool, it is not a method of proof. In other words, as we already knew before this article, the existence of a god has not been proven or disproven. So you are free to your own (unproven) opinion. We know Hawking's.

    June 5, 2011 at 5:22 am |
    • Walter Weinzinger

      RIght on, Jason! Well put!

      June 5, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • @ Jason

      Zero evidence one way or the other does not mean that it is reasonable to assume God exists. The existence of celestial unicorns in the Kuiper belt, flying spaghetti monsters, goblins, gremlins, fairies, Zeus, Thor or the Green Lantern have not been disproven either. There is no evidence for them. In fact, zero positive evidence means the likelihood of existence of God is as close to zero as all the others. If you count the bible, then all these are just as real on the written page.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  20. Rbaker

    If we believe in God, that he created man to have free will and free choice. Please allow Mr. Hawkins the gift God gave him; freedom of choice. We do not have the right to take that away from him or anyone & would not want to. Steven is smart enough to realize he can speak to God. if he wishes and there is no doubt in my mind his brain and even heart will bring this great physicist to the most logical conclusion; if there is a God, I woul like to meet Him. It's only logical.

    June 5, 2011 at 2:33 am |
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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.