In his latest book” Brief Answers to the Big Questions” published posthumously, Hawking declared with an air of finality, that “There is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate”.
Stephen Hawking, who held the post of the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge, England, before his death, was regarded as the worthy successor of Einstein and a scientist who. in history’s hall of fame, stands alongside Newton, Darwin and Einstein. He had occupied the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics in Cambridge University, founded in 1663, and regarded all over the world as the most prestigious chair in Mathematics. After all Isaac Newton had occupied it.
He studied gravitational singularity theorems in the framework of Einstein’s General Relativity, and the physics of Black Holes along with another brilliant physicist Roger Penrose of Oxford University. Their researches led to their discovery that the so called Black Holes emit what has come to be known as the Hawking Radiation, which is of immense relevance to many branches of cosmology. When a journalist asked him somewhat cheekily as to why he had not yet been awarded the Nobel Prize, Hawking also replied with tongue in cheek , that the Honourable men at Sweden were perhaps waiting for experimental corroboration!
Let me now take up the issue I would like to discuss in this article, Hawking’s rather frequent and obsessive denial of the existence of God. In his latest book” Brief Answers to the Big Questions” published only a few days ago (i.e posthumously), he had declared with an air of finality, that “There is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate”.
Almost everyone knows that” A brief History of time” written by Hawking has become probably the best-selling book on science ever written. Hawking had concluded the book with the now famous observation :
“.. if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”
Many people, including scientists were therefore taken completely by surprise by the use of the expression “mind of God” because it had been believed all along that Hawking was a self-proclaimed atheist from an early age belonging as he did to a family of intellectuals and atheists though nominally Christian”. Why was such a man referring to the “mind of God” ?
It is known that even as a school boy, he had often got into arguments with his classmates about Christianity. Similarly, during his college years at Oxford and Cambridge, he made no secret of the fact that he was an atheist.
Hawking married his first wife Jane, a devout Christian in 1965. Obviously they were mutually incompatible in their views on God, and this was perhaps one of the reasons why the two decided to get divorced, in 1990.
Throughout his scientific career, Hawking has made many statements in opposition to religious beliefs. I have listed just three:
- “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
- “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”
- “We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no God. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.
(To be continued)