Because there are laws such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself out of nothing. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.
Besides setting our imaginations reeling, such words about the necessity of God bring to mind Napoleon’s conversation with Pierre-Simon LaPlace, who, when asked by Bonaparte why he hadn’t mentioned God in an entire book about the system of the universe, famously replied, “Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis.”
‘Course, if we know anything about Hawking, it’s that things can never be as simple as they initially appear. But then Publishers Weekly was eager to breathlessly proclaim that Hawking may
finally explain the mystery of the universe’s creation without recourse to a divine creator
The Guardian’s Eric Priest calls it like this:
Furthermore, many of the questions that are most crucial to us as human beings are not addressed adequately at all by science, such as the nature of beauty and love and how to live one’s life – often philosophy or history or theology are better suited to help answer them.
The complementary nature of different questions and in particular of the difference between how and why are important. If M-theory does indeed turn out to enable a unified theory, Hawking may be able in future to say how the universe started, but as a physicist he cannot answer the question “why?”
This is well illustrated by John Polkinghorne’s story about boiling a kettle: I can describe with physics how it boils in terms of the stove making its temperature rise; but why it is boiling is a different type of question altogether – most probably in my case because my wife is thirsty!
As Church Mouse sees it, there’s an appreciable difference between what Hawking may be saying and how we may be wired to hear it. Context is king.
Stephen Hawking said that the laws of physics could explain the creation of the universe without the need to refer to a God.
An Atheist heard “There is no God and I can prove it”.
An Anglican heard “God has revealed the wonder of his creation yet further”.
An Evangelical heard “I don’t believe in God, but please tell everyone you know why I am wrong”.
Personally, I’m surprised no one has yet invoked chapters 38 to 41 of Job. Seems a natural.