Stephen Hawking, Big Bang backer and renowned physicist, has again insisted that the origins of the universe have nothing to do with God.
The 71-year-old scientist told a packed auditorium at the California Institute of Technology that no divine intervention was required to trigger the Big Bang, the widely accepted cosmological event that created the Universe.
Hawking, whose 1988 book A Brief History of Time has sold over 10 million copies, addressed people who still look for a divine solution to the origins of the universe when he quipped:
“What was God doing before the divine creation? Was he preparing hell for people who asked such questions?”
Hawking opened his talk by recalling an African creation myth, before describing the historical theological debate about the creation of the universe.
A review of more scientific cosmological explanations followed, with mention of Fred Hoyle and Thomas Gold’s steady-state theory, a hypothesis that suggests there is no beginning and no end to the universe. The popularity of the idea began to lose support in the scientific community after the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964.
After briefly discussing the history of relativistic physics and cosmology, Hawking tackled the concept of a repeating Big Bang, pointing out that he and fellow physicist Roger Penrose had disproven the theory in the 1980s. This led Hawking to conclude there has been only one Big Bang event, which scientists believe took place around 13.8 billion years ago. The number and maturity of observed galaxies support this idea, argued Hawking.
“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
He recently warned that mankind would not survive another millennium unless further space exploration was carried out.
Tickets for Hawking’s talk at the California venue on Tuesday night were in short supply, with queues for the event at one point stretching for a quarter-mile. Admission was free, but Space.com‘s Rod Pyle reported at least one attendee offered $1,000 for a ticket (with no success).
Titled “The Origin of the Universe,” Hawking’s lecture was watched by a packed second auditorium and a lawn with a Jumbotron screen.