Theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking passed away Mar. 14 at age 76. As one might expect for one of the most brilliant minds of our time, the tributes have been flooding in. The British scientist was renowned for his research work into black holes and relativity and wrote several popular science books, including A Brief History of Time. He was also a fierce atheist, refusing to believe that anything existed beyond the realm of empirical science.
Despite being diagnosed with a rare form of ALS at age 22, Hawking went on to become one of the most famous scientists in history. Writing in a Brief History, Hawking said that if we ever discovered a “theory of everything,” it would be “the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God.”
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This comment caused speculation that he had inadvertently acknowledged the presence of a God. But he quickly shut this down.
“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe,” he explained. “But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”
As he aged, however, Hawking’s opinions may have shifted. According to Christian Today, Hawking occasionally attended St. Andrew’s Baptist Church in Cambridge years ago, and his first wife, Jane, was a Christian.
Perhaps the most astonishing revelation regarding Hawking’s views on the existence of God came when journalist Andrew Graystone asked him directly about his beliefs on the presence of a sovereign power. In tribute to Hawking, Graystone posted about the interaction on Twitter:
I asked him at length whether he believed there is a God. He refused to answer the question. When I asked him why, he said “If I say I believe in God, everyone will immediately claim that I believe in the same God they believe in. So I won’t say at all.”
— Andrew Graystone (@AndrewGraystone) March 14, 2018
Hawking did insist, however, that it would be impossible for any God to intervene in the laws of nature and science.
“I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws,” he said, adding, “In my opinion, there is no aspect of reality beyond the reach of the human mind.”
But Hawking was not one to shy away from religious figures. He met several popes and even gave a talk at the Vatican, addressing the issue of “The Origin of the Universe.” Hawking was also a devout believer in the Big Bang Theory (he even made a cameo appearance on the hit TV show of the same name).
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” Hawking wrote in his 2010 book, The Grand Design.
“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going," he also wrote.
Hawking also referred to God as distinctly irrelevant in the face of his profession: science.
“One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist. But science makes God unnecessary,” he once told ABC News. The laws of physics can explain the universe without the need for a creator.”
(H/T: Christian Today)
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