Stephen Hawking: "There is no God. No one directs the universe."
Hawking, who died in March, answers questions like "Is there a God?" and "Is time travel possible?" in his final book, which is available today.
- Hawking's final book is geared toward a popular audience.
- Each of the book's 10 chapters is posed as a question, such as "How did it all begin?"
- Hawking claims there is no God, time travel could be possible and intelligent aliens exist.
The final book from Stephen Hawking, the late theoretical physicist and cosmologist, was released Tuesday under the title Brief Answers to the Big Questions.
Hawking, who lived most of his life with the neurodegenerative disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), was still working on the book when he died in March. The work was completed by his family and publishers, who filled in the gaps by drawing on an "enormous personal archive" of essays, interviews and articles from Hawking's half-century career.
Brief Answers to the Big Questions is divided into 10 chapters, each of which is posed as a question: "What is inside a black hole?", "How did it all begin?" and "Is there a God?" Hawking's answer to the God question is a resounding "no."
"There is no God. No one directs the universe," he writes. "For centuries, it was believed that disabled people like me were living under a curse that was inflicted by God. I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature."
This sentiment, by the way, is far clearer than what Hawking famously wrote in his 1988 bestseller A Brief History of Time: "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 touched upon the existence of alien life.
"There are forms of intelligent life out there," he wrote, adding, "we need to be wary of answering back until we have developed a bit further."
He also argued that traveling back in time can't be ruled out, artificial intelligence might someday outsmart humans and "within the next hundred years we will be able to travel to anywhere in the Solar System."
Hawking's parting gift
(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
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Hawking's final book probably won't have a big impact in the scientific world. Still, as Matin Durrani writes for Physics World, there's a good chance the book will strike a chord with a popular audience.
"Brief Answers to the Big Questions will appeal to school students, undergraduates and non-scientists with an appetite for the grand challenges in physics. Those who are more familiar with cosmology, relativity and astronomy will not find much that is new, although it is always interesting to see Hawking's take on affairs. In essence, this book – especially the final chapter "How do we shape the future?" – will stand as Hawking's manifesto. Optimistic, upbeat and visionary, it sees science – and scientific understanding – as vital for the future of humanity."
At a book launch event on Monday in London, organizers played some remarks from Hawking lamenting the changing ways in which scientists are received in the culture.
"With Brexit and Trump now exerting new forces in relation to immigration and the development of education, we are witnessing a global revolt against experts, and that includes scientists," Hawking said.
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- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, especially in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, what we're seeing is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
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- Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
- To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
- They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
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- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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