God redundant says Hawking

LONDON (Reuters) – God did not create the universe and the "Big Bang" was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book.

In "The Grand Design," co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts on Thursday.

"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 writes.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."
Read more here.

Er, atheist though I am, there seems to be a slight problem with this, right?


Joe Otten said…
I expect it was put in on the advice of the publisher. Mention God, and we'll get lots of publicity and extra sales.

What a sell-out.
Anonymous said…
The issue is generally an equivocation on 'nothing'. The physics is quite sound otherwise for gravity to produce the initial expansion of the big bang. Lawrence Krauss, a prominent physicist, has provided accessible content on the subject for the lay person.

Mike N said…
You should read the comments on the article in the Telegraph ... it got posted on the Drudge report and all the fundies came out of the woodwork!

I don't get it either, but maybe the book will explain it. Mlodinow is an excellent science writer with the ability to clarify complex issues so that even I can understand.
wombat said…
Re- publicity: Hawking himself apparently speculated that if he hadn't put in the comment about "the mind of God" in his other book that it would have halved sales.

By way of clarification of his blue touch-paper comment (an incendiary statement?) he is quoted as saying
"If you like, you can call the laws of science 'God', but it wouldn't be a personal God that you could meet, and ask questions."

Anyway it makes a change from the Tony Blair book.
Fordi said…
"Er, atheist though I am, there seems to be a slight problem with this, right?"

What would that be?
Stephen Law said…
"What would that be?"

It explains the existence of the universe from the laws of physics. Which are something, not nothing.
Giford said…
I've been thinking a bit about the argument from first cause lately. It seems to me that there are two levels. One would be 'what caused the universe'. To this, Hawking has given an entirely adequate explanation; gravity has existed forever, unchanging; all else is a result of that. Gravity is the uncaused cause, without the problems of eternal intelligence that the God hypothesis runs into. At least, assuming his argument is valid - I haven't read the science.

The more fundamental question is 'why is there something instead of nothing?' To that, Hawking has no reply, and nor do the theists. We will likely never know the answer - unless, as Victor Stenger claims, there are just two fundamental rules: (1) Everything happens unless it is expressly forbidden, and (2) Nothing is forbidden.

Incidentally, is there a way for theists to rescue the argument from first cause, or is it certainly a failure in any form? I'm thinking of arguments like 'reason needs a reasoning cause and only God is eternal and reasoning', etc. Would like to hear others' thoughts.

wombat said…
I suspect he was just using the everyday shorthand for matter, light and so on. - All the usual things that we accept as being able to exist.

So doesn't this just go back to the old "what happened before the start of everything?" Which Hawking answered in his first book - (there wasn't a "before")
which seemed to leave the question but "OK but why this specific improbably hospitable Universe?". Now it seems he's attempting to put forward the case that it isn't anything special, its just the one we inhabit. So no need for any agent to set the parameters.

I suppose the implication is that the maths, when we understand it, is self explanatory.

In the Blair autobiography it probably goes
"Well when I spoke to God it seems He'd been thinking along the same lines as me on this, but had a few misgivings, so I said `Trust me on this.' - and he just went ahead and did it."
Interesting thoughts from Sean Carroll:

wombat, is that the same Blair who now calls Jersualem home?
Ken said…
The point I don't understand about the "why is there something rather than nothing" question is why "nothing" is normal and "something" needs to be accounted for. Presumably if we could open a window into another universe and find that it was completely empty (problematic of course - there wouldn't even be space) then those who find this an engaging question would not think that the empty universe required any explanation? Or would they stroke their chins and wonder why there was nothing rather than something?
wombat said…

Blair - Reckon so - he seems to have homes all over the shop now. The one who works as a Peace Envoy in the Middle East, does a lot of public speaking, and is patron of Tony Blair faith foundation
Mr Spinoza said…
Excuse my ignorance but is Nothing represented by Zero mathematically not everything. I mean conceptually you can never ever imagine Nothing. It therefore cannot exist if I am understanding Plato correctly.

If you look at zero you see nothing but look through it and you will see the world.
Robert Kaplan
Mr Spinoza said…
Something is making it all up, and it cannot be us. After 150 years of neuroscience they are no nearer today of finding the homounculus.
Hawking by evoking the laws of physics to explain where the universe came from just invokes the problem of infinite regress. Where did the laws of physics come from? They have it all backwards materialism is a cul-de-sac that leads to a dead end.
Scientists are not separate from their experiments, the experimenter effect has been known about for a long time.
The act of observation plays an integral role because without consciousness nothing would be here.

If the body came into being because of consciousness that is a wonder, but if consciousness came in to being because of the body this is a wonder of wonders.
Jesus The Gnostic Christ
TurboTom said…
The sad thing in my mind is that many people will simply use the argument "Stephen Hawking said.....". I fear that some people will merely take his view as given due to his prominence
kev said…

Hawking also said that philosophy is in danger of becoming a 'trivial word game'. He's listened to because he's a world famous celebrity with his own TV series. I'm not aware of any philosophers with such status. Hawking is winning the battle.