“There is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate,” celebrated physicist and a known atheist Stephen Hawking writes in his final book, which also covers important existential questions such as creation of the universe, alien intelligence, space colonisation and artificial intelligence.
“For centuries, it was believed that disabled people like me were living under a curse that was inflicted by God. Well, I suppose it’s possible that I’ve upset someone up there, but I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature,” he wrote in the chapter titled “Is There a God?”
He says he uses the word ‘God’ in an impersonal sense, like Albert Einstein did, for the laws of nature, so knowing the mind of God is knowing the laws of nature.
“My prediction is that we will know the mind of God by the end of this century.”
According to Hawking, who died in March, the universe is the ultimate free lunch and if the “universe adds up to nothing, then you don’t need a God to create it”.
Did he have faith?
He answers, “We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.”
He then goes on to write: “This leads me to a profound realisation – there is probably no heaven and afterlife either. I think belief in an afterlife is just wishful thinking. There is no reliable evidence for it, and it flies in the face of everything we know in science.”
There is no God, but life on other planets is not such an alien concept, Professor Hawking revealed.
He said it was completely rational to assume there was intelligent life elsewhere; but if they visit, it may not turn out so well for us.
“The idea that we are alone in the universe seems to me completely implausible and arrogant,” he said.
“Considering the number of planets and stars that we know exist, it’s extremely unlikely that we are the only form of evolved life.
“If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.
“I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers,” he said.
“I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space.”
We should pursue space travel, he said, but leave robots alone. “Success in creating artificial intelligence would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last,” he said.
“Artificial intelligence could be a real danger in the not-too-distant future. It could design improvements to itself and out-smart us all.”