By Lori Johnston
World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76
Theoretical physicist Stephen W. Hawking died on March 14 at age 76. Hawking was considered to have one of the greatest minds of this generation. (Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)
British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking schmoozed with popes during his lifetime, even though he was an avowed atheist. The famous scientist, who died Wednesday in England at 76, was often asked to explain his views on faith and God. During interviews, he explained his belief that there was no need for a creator.
He said during an interview with El Mundo in 2014: “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”
That followed comments made to Reuters in 2007 in which Hawking, who had a condition much like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS) since 1963, described himself as “not religious in the normal sense.”
“I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science,” he said. “The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.”
[I was raised an Orthodox Jew. Then someone from Reddit sent me Stephen Hawking’s book.]
Because of his involvement in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which fosters “interaction between faith and reason and encouraging dialogue between science and spiritual, cultural, philosophical and religious values,” he visited the Vatican over the years. Hawking gave a talk on “The Origin of the Universe” during the group’s 2016 conference at the Vatican.
During those visits, he met with religious leaders, including Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict XVI seemed to refer to Hawking in his comments to the Academy in 2010, saying, “Scientists do not create the world; they learn about it and attempt to imitate it.”
In Hawking’s writing about the universe’s origin, he and co-author Leonard Mlodinow wrote in the 2010 book, “The Grand Design,” that the big bang was inevitable.
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” the book states. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
In discussing the book, he told ABC News: “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist. But science makes God unnecessary. … The laws of physics can explain the universe without the need for a creator.”
Hawking’s earlier best-selling cosmology book, 1998’s “A Brief History of Time,” also discussed black holes and the big bang. The book offered his “theory of everything” that understanding the universe offers a glimpse of “the mind of God.”
[Stephen Hawking, physicist who came to symbolize the power of the human mind, dies at 76]