Physicist Stephen Hawking says in a new book that the "universe can and will create itself from nothing," so there is no need for God as Creator.
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.
Hawking says he sympathizes with another physicist who dabbled in theology, Isaac Newton, who believed that God both created and brought order to the universe. Hawking believes that discoveries of other solar systems, and theories of how the universe works and is held together makes reference to God as creator unnecessary.
Hawking's conclusions are nothing new to people who have followed his writing. He did leave the door open to the possibility of God's existence saying, in his previous book A Brief History of Time, that physics puts boundaries around when God might have created the universe. Carl Sagan noted in that book's introduction that Hawking left God with nothing to do. The new book called The Grand Design, argues for a design with no designer, putting forward the idea of spontaneous creation from nothing.
The book will come out in the UK on September 9 (just in time for the Pope's visit) and in the US on September 7.
Of course, the pop atheists are thrilled. Richard Dawkins says that Hawking has kicked God out of physics the way that Darwin kicked God out of biology.
The Times opines that what makes for faith is not proved by science anyway, saying, "The ground for religious faith in the modern age cannot be a misguided insistence that science is the path to God: that way lies intellectual chaos. It is more likely to lie in the pull of emotion and — in the title of a famous essay by William James — the will to believe."
CNN quotes two theologians in their article:
"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.
Other religious leaders are responding in a series of op-ed in The Times of London. The Times reports (from behind their paywall) on the reaction of the Archbishop of Canterbury and other British religious leaders:
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, dismissed the conclusions of Britain’s most eminent scientist, telling The Times: “Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence.
“Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote the first response (also from behind a paywall):
What would we do for entertainment without scientists telling us, with breathless excitement, that “God did not create the Universe”, as if they were the first to discover this astonishing proposition? Stephen Hawking is the latest, but certainly not the first. When Napoleon asked Laplace, two hundred years ago, where was God in his scientific system, the mathematician replied, Je n’ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse. “I do not need God to explain the Universe.” We never did. That is what scientists do not understand.
There is a difference between science and religion. Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation. Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. They are different intellectual enterprises. They even occupy different hemispheres of the brain. Science — linear, atomistic, analytical — is a typical left-brain activity. Religion — integrative, holistic, relational — is supremely a work of the right brain.
It is important for us to understand the misinterpretation Professor Hawking has made, because the mutual hostility between religion and science is one of the curses of our age, and is damaging to religion and science in equal measure.