Stephen Hawking: ‘I’m an Atheist Because Science Is More Convincing than God’
The world’s preeminent theoretical physicist has explicitly acknowledged for the first time that he is an atheist, explaining that “science offers a more convincing explanation” of the origins of the universe than ‘God.’
In an article published in the leading Spanish daily El Mundo, Hawking clarified an infamous passage in his international bestselling book A Brief History of Time, in which he wrote:
“If we discover a complete [unifying] theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we should know the mind of God.”
“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,” Hawking, 72, told El Mundo reporter Pablo Jáuregui. “I’m an atheist.”
“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe,” said Hawking. “But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”
Although Hawking does not believe in any supernatural ‘God,’ he is convinced that earth isn’t the only planet harboring intelligent life.
“The idea that we are alone in the universe seems to me completely implausible and arrogant,” Hawking told El Mundo. “Considering the number of planets and stars that we know exist, it’s extremely unlikely that we are the only form of evolved life.”
But Hawking warned humans would be wise to proceed with extreme caution when attempting to reach out to extraterrestrial beings, comparing any first contact to Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.
“[That] didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans,” he noted.
Hawking, who has previously stated that he doesn’t believe humanity will survive the next thousand years “unless we spread into space,” reiterated his assertion that space exploration was humankind’s best hope for long-term survival.
“It could prevent the disappearance of humanity by colonizing other planets,” he said.
Hawking’s ‘coming out’ was among the worst-kept secrets in the world of science. He has strongly hinted at his atheism on numerous occasions.
In a 2010 conversation with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, Hawking was asked if he believed the origin of life on earth is nothing more than coincidence.
“The existence of the earth and the properties that made it possible for biological life to develop depend on a very fine balance between the so-called constants of nature,” he explained. “If they were more than slightly different, either planets like the earth would not occur or the chemical processes necessary for life would not take place.”
“One might take this as evidence of a divine creator, but an alternative explanation is what is known as the multiverse,” Hawking continued. “The idea is that there are many possible universes [and] only in the small number of universes that are suitable will intelligence beings develop and be able to ask the question, ‘Why is the universe so carefully designed?'”
Hawking has even resorted to the sort of provocative anti-religion rhetoric that made Dawkins a household name and the world’s most famous atheist.
Comparing the human brain to a computer, Hawking suggested to the Guardian in a 2011 interview that ‘heaven’ was a “fairy story.”
“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” he explained when asked what happens when people die. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
When asked by ABC’s Diane Sawyer in 2010 whether there was a way to reconcile science and religion, Hawking cited a “fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason.”
“Science will win because it works,” he asserted.
Still, Hawking has also occasionally confused observers by seemingly leaving the door open to the possibility of a ‘God.’
During a 2010 CNN interview with Larry King, for example, Hawking said, “God may exist, but science can explain the universe without the need for a creator.”
But his “we could know the mind of God” passage has been seized upon by some religious believers, who erroneously claim Hawking is a man of faith, or at least an agnostic. His latest comments, however, leave no doubt about his atheist beliefs.