A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Did Hawking write a religious book?

I heard quite often that God exists outside of space-time and that prompted me to pick Stephen Hawking’s best-seller of “A Brief History of Time,” which was published in 1988 and revised in 1996.

I read it twice in my early 20s, and mid-30s. Although I failed to finish it off in both cases, I have been sure that the masterpiece should be a science book as many other people believe.

This time around, however, I felt that the book is about religion as much as about science. Hawking provoked contemplation on God much more than any professional writers of religious topics did.

In particular, Hawking who is known as an atheist dealt with the possibility of God’s existence many times. He argued that discussions on whether or not the universe is self-contained have profound religious implications.

So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator,” he said.

But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?”

To understand his rationale, readers should be accustomed to two concepts of no-boundary space and imaginary time, which is quite a difficult task.

The quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down, and no edge of space-time at which one wold have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time,” he noted.

The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroy.”

Interestingly, he concludes the book by claiming that both scientists and philosophers seek the same eventual goal of understanding the creator.

If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”