Stephen Hawking, the late renowned scientist and author, had a straightforward response when asked about his belief in the existence of God.
Hawking’s life’s work was centred on theoretical physics and cosmology, with a particular focus on black holes and the discovery of Hawking radiation. In a video, one can hear his views on God and the afterlife.
Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a type of motor neurone disease, in 1963 when he was just 21.
Doctors warned him that he had just two years to live, but Hawking defied the initial prognosis and lived until the age of 76.
However, his ability to move and communicate continued to deteriorate, and he later communicated using an advanced computer system.
The computer was a tablet mounted to Hawking’s wheelchair arm, powered by his wheelchair batteries. It had a keyboard on the screen, controlled by detecting his cheek movements, allowing him to type out what he wanted to say.
In his final book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Hawking referenced his disability and wrote, “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.”
Hawking went on to explain his opinion on the possibility of God or an afterlife, stating, “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. This leads me to a profound realization: there’s probably no Heaven and no afterlife, either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
Hawking also believed that the concept of an afterlife was just wishful thinking. He wrote, “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.”
Hawking’s statement is not a unique perspective among scientists, many of whom maintain that science and religion are separate fields that operate under different principles.
Nevertheless, Hawking’s beliefs on the matter are quite definitive, given his authority on science and his popularity.
Hawking’s work earned him many accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received from Barack Obama in 2009. Hawking died in 2018, but his legacy lives on through his contributions to science and his influential writings on the nature of the universe.