In a book completed by his family and colleagues after his death, physicist Stephen Hawking says in no uncertain terms, “There is no God. No one directs the universe.”
Brief Answers to the Big Questions is, as the title suggests, a series of responses to the ten questions Hawking heard most often during his life. Along with questions about time travel, black holes, and artificial intelligence, people wanted to know Hawking’s thoughts about God. That may be because he evaded the question for quite some time. He didn’t definitively say he was an atheist until 2014, and his books often alluded to knowing the mind of God, at least metaphorically speaking.
But he’s done with the ambiguity. Regarding a question about God’s existence, Hawking was crystal clear:
We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God.
No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realisation: there is probably no heaven and afterlife either. I think belief in the afterlife is just wishful thinking.
It flies in the face of everything we know in science. I think that when we die we return to dust.
But there is a sense we live on, in our influence, and in the genes we pass to our children.
That lines up with what many atheists and scientists have said. Note that Hawking isn’t saying he has conclusive proof of God’s non-existence; he knew as well as anyone that such proof is impossible. Rather, he’s just summarizing his own thoughts on the subject in simple terms.
Will it convince religious people to change their minds? Probably not. Reason isn’t always enough to sway people from an emotional belief. But his book isn’t meant to be an argument against God’s existence. The responses are his own. Take them or leave them. At the very least, if there was any speculation that Hawking converted in his final moments, let’s hope this book puts an end to that fiction.
In any case, stay tuned for hot takes from Christian apologists who insist they know more than one of the smartest people in history.
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