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)

New Space Exploration Initiative "Breakthrough Starshot" Announcement

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.

Richard Dawkins on the elitism backlash

SpaceX catches Falcon Heavy nosecone with net-outfitted boat

It marks another milestone in SpaceX's long-standing effort to make spaceflight cheaper.

Technology & Innovation
  • SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy into space early Tuesday morning.
  • A part of its nosecone – known as a fairing – descended back to Earth using special parachutes.
  • A net-outfitted boat in the Atlantic Ocean successfully caught the reusable fairing, likely saving the company millions of dollars.
Keep reading Show less

Are these 100 people killing the planet?

Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Jordan Engel, reused via Decolonial Media License 0.1
Strange Maps
  • Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
  • This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
  • The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
Keep reading Show less

‘Climate apartheid’: Report says the rich could buy out of climate change disaster

The world's richest people could breeze through a climate disaster – for a price.

(Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report from a United Nation expert warns that an over-reliance on the private sector to mitigate climate change could cause a "climate apartheid."
  • The report criticizes several countries, including the U.S., for taking "short-sighted steps in the wrong direction."
  • The world's poorest populations are most vulnerable to climate change even though they generally contribute the least to global emissions.
Keep reading Show less