Cosmology

Hawking: God Not Needed for Universe to be Created

2 Sep , 2010 by Video

Physicist Stephen Hawking has written a new book called “The Grand Design.” While the title might seem like Hawking could be delving more into the “mind of God” that he alluded to in his earlier book, “A Brief History of Time,” Hawking actually says that the universe’s beginnings – or the “Big Bang” was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics and that God wasn’t needed to “light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

Co-authored with US physicist Leonard Mlodinow, in “The Grand Design” Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant. The Times of London newspaper published excerpts from the book today. The book goes on sale on Sept. 9.

The laws of gravity rather than the intervention of a divine being set the Universe in motion, Hawking wrote, and he contests Sir Isaac Newton’s belief that the universe must have been designed by God as it could not have created out of chaos.

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” Hawking wrote.

He said the first blow to Newton’s contention was the observation in 1992 of a planet orbiting a star other than our Sun. “That makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions – the single sun, the lucky combination of Earth-sun distance and solar mass – far less remarkable, and far less compelling as evidence that the earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings,” he wrote.

For decades, Hawking has been at the forefront of looking for a ‘theory of everything,’ and in “A Brief History of Time” he wrote, “If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we should know the mind of God.”

Hawking, has a neuro-muscular dystrophy that is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a condition that has left him almost completely paralyzed. He is only able to speak through a computer-generated voice synthesizer, and in the video above he discusses related issues with British biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins.

Read more reviews and commentary on the book at Cosmic Log, The Guardian, The Times of London (subscription required) and Reuters.

By  -        
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.



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fnanfne
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fnanfne
September 2, 2010 7:25 AM

Unable to view the video reporting that I’m in the wrong country(Channel 4 content) even though I’m located in the UK!

SpaceNinja
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SpaceNinja
September 2, 2010 7:55 AM

I already preordered this book on amazon. It’s going to be amazing!

Also, that Dawkins-Hawking interview involved probably my two favorite people. Good find!

Dawkins and Hawking understand that even if we don’t understand the beginning of the universe, “God” is no better of an answer than “we do not know”, since neither make testable, scientific predictions or expand the knowledge of humanity.

Molecular
Member
Molecular
September 2, 2010 8:13 AM
Nothingness is a perquisite for things that occur randomly, like a blank canvas, a blank sheet of paper, a leveled cemented foundation, a blackboard, a boiling pot of water, an empty stage, a formless mound of clay, a computer monitor, etc. These things slowly take shape, evolve and transform through random thoughts of the mind. Every musical composition, work of art, architectural design, movie, novel, sculpture, etc., were once “objectives” that became finalized through a process of random, creative thinking. Each of these came into to being with a the use of some kind of tool, be it a piano, a brush, a pen, a shovel, etc., they were utilized as elements for bringing the “objective” about. When… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
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Torbjorn Larsson OM
September 2, 2010 8:41 AM

Hawking’s more outspoken stance will have interesting consequences, the Catholic church to this day is “in agreement” with Hawking as per an old cosmological conference.

One can do one better and have symmetries and symmetry breaking (laws and parameters) from spontaneous emergence, see Vic Stenger’s models. But perhaps Hawking is alluding to something very close, as gravity is a singular effective theory as per Einstein.

Oops, so now I have may have to buy that book. As if by design, Mr Hawking!

simon wareing
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simon wareing
September 2, 2010 9:05 AM
I think Hawking is hitting the nail on the head here. Perhaps my understanding is limited but if, for a moment we take God out of the equation we are left with Nature and it’s governance through the laws which dictate that the universe was created because nature conspired through the appropriate conditions to bring it into form. To ring God back into the equation we are left with the Nature of God created the universe. Was it deliberate through the intent or thought of a supreme being or was it inevitable and a function of nature to create it. God being far removed from the intention of nature but every bit of nature being a function of… Read more »
jennis
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jennis
September 2, 2010 11:28 AM

Let’s back up a sec: We’re certain there was a ‘beginning’ to the universe?

Even Hawking can’t solve these riddles. The human mind is incapable of even visualizing all the paradoxes. Even the obvious ones like what’s on the *outside* of the (or a) universe? We are limited to think in terms of boundaries, like containers. We need beginnings and ends.

I think an understanding is too unreachable to even ponder – for us – for Hawking.

RoyDeSoto
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RoyDeSoto
September 2, 2010 1:31 PM

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

A law such as gravity does not prove or disprove the possibility that something arises from nothing.

prajna
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prajna
September 2, 2010 1:31 PM
So god is not needed to initiate the big bang because the laws of physics make it inevitable… Isn’t God also the one that created said “laws” of physics? Granted I am no bible thumper, or religious person by any means, but I can’t help but see God in everything, including how the universe got here, how things work, etc etc etc. God is such an infinite idea, there is no way at all the individual would ever “get it” and understand all that is God w/o being God themselves. If God could be comprehended at such a infinitely small size as ourselves, what’s the point in having some “big huge version” of that? No, science to me… Read more »
Olaf
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Olaf
September 2, 2010 1:56 PM

@prajna he does not say god is disproven, he says god is not needed to have a universe just like this. Or in other words, it is a very lazy god since he had nothing to do because it is all automatic. He might have pressed a button once.

It also means no intelligence is required to create this universe. Put the lever to stand 5 and press the button. A child could do it.

Lawrence B. Crowell
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Lawrence B. Crowell
September 2, 2010 2:43 PM
Hawking and James Hartle demonstrated a quantum wave function which pertains to a spacetime can quantum transition into another spacetime. This lead to their famous vacuum to cosmology quantum tunneling result called the “no boundary rule.” This is the reason for Hawking’s statement about trying to go south of the South Pole. I can’t go into the details extensively, for this is a rather complicated theory. They published this in Physical Review D in December 1983. The problem is that this is not really a proof that something came out of nothing. It also turns out that in a fuller quantum picture, or in string theory, the classical notion of time might end, but there can still be… Read more »
Dominion
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September 2, 2010 3:11 PM

This reminds me of a quote from “Hagakure” by Yamamoto Tsunetomo

“Our bodies are given life from the midst of nothingness. Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase, ‘form is emptiness.’ That all things are provided for by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase, ’emptiness is form.’ One should not think that these are two separate things.”

Lawrence B. Crowell
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Lawrence B. Crowell
September 2, 2010 5:53 PM

It is sort of a Taoist notion. The successful theory of quantum cosmology is the best vessel possible which can hold nothing.

LC

Torbjorn Larsson OM
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Torbjorn Larsson OM
September 2, 2010 8:38 PM
Interesting that this immediately developed into theology instead of physics. We’re certain there was a ‘beginning’ to the universe? Even Hawking can’t solve these riddles. As LBC notes, precisely Hawkings have solved such riddles. There are now many alternate pathways, but all of them must end where our current observations starts, with the end of inflation. In some pathways, this (or the period immediately before) was the beginning. As we now have started to test different theories of inflation, people are in fact looking back before the beginning of our observable universe. That train has left already, a few years back. There is a therefore good chance that we eventually can tell how it all started. And it… Read more »
Torbjorn Larsson OM
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Torbjorn Larsson OM
September 2, 2010 8:59 PM
@ Prajna: God is such an infinite idea, there is no way at all the individual would ever “get it” But you are discussing something else, and ill-defined by your own words. In the process at hand, there is no such problem, the process is as Hawking points out entirely natural. @ LBC: Science can’t really disprove the existence of God, at least not God in the most abstract I believe this is wrong. Consider: all what we need to test naturalism to the usual certainty, is to gather enough test on natural systems that we can see that they are connected by interaction. (Is a philosophical “monism”, as opposed to the various dualisms of theology.) To do… Read more »
Uncle Fred
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Uncle Fred
September 2, 2010 9:01 PM
“It is also maybe a bit of a bad PR move to tie science to an atheistic Weltanschauung. This is particularly true with young people, for it is better to wow them with cool stuff…” LC, we are all not so shallow. I grew up in a very Catholic conservative household and my religious views are best expressed by Carl Sagan’s own: “An atheist has to know a lot more than I know.” In reply to a question in 1996 about his religious beliefs, Sagan answered, “I’m agnostic.” Sagan maintained that the idea of a creator of the universe was difficult to prove or disprove.” I only wish that all people who do not follow any particular belief… Read more »
Question
Member
Question
September 2, 2010 9:56 PM

value of hawking’s *opinion* on God = 1

just like each of yours.

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
September 2, 2010 10:51 PM

Actually there seem to be a satisfying account of Hawking’s book @ Cosmic Variance by fellow cosmologist Sean Carroll.

It is a self-contained description, but goes back to quantum mechanics of many worlds (or long time) instead of string theory. It is a more basic variant, that relies on that the energy of the universes is zero so they can tunnel into existence.

I note that Carroll adds a pathway along the lines I described: “The universe can simply exist, end of story.”

Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
September 2, 2010 11:18 PM
Also, I missed this (I’m visited by a cold, so rushed at the time): I have funny issues with the whole “New Atheism” movement these days, for it seems to me that science should not be in the business of espousing an atheistic world view. We should, must as empiricists, go wherever the facts leads us. Theology (naturalism as “an atheistic world view”) isn’t relevant in as much that we can’t use it for getting to facts. “New Accommodationism” is such a religious movement, look at how AAAS et cetera support certain beliefs instead of being neutral. In general special pleading (what is so special with religion, anyway; it certainly can’t tell us) is harmful for society and… Read more »
HeadAroundU
Member
September 3, 2010 12:20 AM

It’s funny how Hawking says that you “can’t” ask what was before or outside without saying something more. How are we supposed to ask when discussing multiverse?

Let’s have a fun with the word NOTHING. I say that we are something, therefore nothing doesn’t exist. “Nothing” is something that cancels itself out, as LBC says it’s mathematically zero, therefore we should start calling it cancellation.

I think that science will find out if god exists or not. I don’t know what to think about Torbjorn’s statement that if science exists, then there is no god. Actually, it sounds like Newton’s infinite past. :d

Let’s have a fun with the topic title:
hawking-god-not-needed-for-universe-to-be-created
headaroundu-god-needed-for-multiverse-to-be-created
nobody-“nothing”-needed-for-god-to-be-created

clament
Member
clament
September 3, 2010 12:43 AM

Well, i choose to believe it’s science that creates both Gods & ghosts (or E.T?), if have to.

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