'There is no God': Stephen Hawking's final book has 'Brief Answers to the Big Questions'

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/10/18/there-is-no-god-stephen-h.html


I guess that, with access to his speech-synthesizer, Prof. Hawking can still do the audio version of this book.


He says that by the time people realize what is happening with climate change, it may be too late.

He nailed that one.


Is there a God? [“There is no God. No one directs the universe.”]

Well, there’s a nicely unhelpful answer. One can believe in God without believing that the universe has “direction”. Heck, one can even believe in God without believing that God “created” the universe. But sure, the one sentence answer is always going to be more attractive than some millennia of heated theological dispute…


If god isnt directing the universe, then what is it doing.
If god isnt directing the universe, then why bother.

Yours seems like a russell’s teapot kind of god - can’t be sensed, doesn’t do anything, has no power or inflence, but it’s totes real. Believe me.


If there is a God, who created God?


“God” is such an incoherent concept that no matter how hardened the atheist, there will always be a tortuous definition that he can “believe” in. Whether a god that satisfies the definition-by-rationalization is recognizable to other theists, or is any way a useful idea, is another matter.


I think the “does god exist” question is always approached from a very childish, ancient way, it seems to focus on some humanoid ultra-being who created everything. I always liked the phrase “Great Spirit” translated from various Native American traditions because that takes the human out of it. Whatever “god” might be can’t be defined by any ancient book or scroll.

I could never bring myself to believe in any of the established religions, and I knew this at a very early age in church, it all seemed like bunk and superstition, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something underneath/within it all. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Asking if you believe in god is like asking if you believe life has meaning. There’s no mathematical/scientific way to prove it either way, but it’s pleasant to believe there is a meaning, and no harm in it as long as you aren’t trying to enforce that belief on others.


Stephen Hawking was a clever dude. I used to see him about when I was doing my PhD years ago. But a scientist is not always a generalist. I find his ideas on AI and space travel a bit odd. Okay, let’s do the quiz…

— Is there a God?

Laplace’s “I had no need of that hypothesis” is very good. Sadly he may have never said it, but it is much in character.

— How did it all begin?

When I was at school, the age of the universe was somewhere between 2 billion years old and everlasting. We now believe it to be 13.799±0.021 billion years old, and we have a models down to the first point 36 noughts 1 second. Science is still working on this, but we have made some progress in my lifetime. At that point, every wave function of every particle overlapped so much that they could not be distinguished. Quantum stuff does not always need a cause: radioactive atoms just disintegrate. It might have just started at time zero.

— What is inside a black hole?

I will say “a delicious, chewy caramel centre”. Prove me wrong. Our Stephen can have this one uncontested: this is what he was best at.

— Can we predict the future?

I predict we will never be able to predict the future. Ask Godel, it was his idea. Non-cheating answer: quantum stuff makes absolute predictions unreliable.

— Is time travel possible?

I can’t see how. You have a Time machine where time moves forward on the inside, and in the other direction on the outside. What happens at the boundary between the two? Must it have existed forever?

— Will we survive on Earth?

Best place there is for hundreds of millions of years, even if some clowns much it up.

— Is there other intelligent life in the universe?

Amazing if there wasn’t. Amazing if there was, and it was close enough to communicate.

— Should we colonise space?

Nice to have a backup if the Big Comet hits. But, in astronomical terms there is no rush. Stephen seemed to think there was.

— Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?

There are some specific things that AI can do better than us, but it often fails in stupid ways. However, we haven’t trained AI systems anything lie as thoroughly as we will bring up a child. There has been an abiding belief that if you build a machine that’s big enough, then intelligence will boot itself. I have never seen signs of that: it seems to be all in the training, and if we bring up something as we bring up a child, teaching it to outsmart us, then we will be so proud when it does. Stephen was more on the gloomy end, here.

— How do we shape the future?

Be Excellent to One Another. That Is All.

Farewell Prof.


I think you think you’re much funnier than you actually are.


Aguafiestas: Spanish. noun. 1. Person who spoils others’ pleasure


What if the universe IS god? What if we are all god, or a part of “it”? What if there is life after death and no god? Or not. Or some combination.
This is why I’m an agnostic and not an atheist.


And I think you think your reading comprehension is much better than it is. There’s no indication that he was trying to be “funny,” and his post is in fact very good.


Man is he going to be bummed when I get my 72 virgins!


I think a far more relevant question is, is the notion of there being a God beneficial? Which notion(s), and beneficial to whom?

If your religion makes you more kind, and helps you deal with life, then I think it’s a good one. If it doesn’t, then it ain’t. Those are my Deep Thoughts on the matter.


This is a dazzling reminder that we don’t get all the time we need to answer the questions we hope to with real satisfaction.


I have been told many times that God will punish me for my non-belief.

But it looks like he is taking a circuitous route of striking me down from old age, reasonably decent health, full of friends and family who love me.


Pretty sure you’re not allowed to do that to virgins…


Agree. But might not God be described by ancient book or scroll?

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