Does a finite universe that creates itself eliminate the need for a Creator God? Stephen Hawking answers with a yes. He pulls no punches again Christian creation theology in spelling out the implications he sees in his scientific work. A universe that started with a boundless sphere from which time emerged would need no extra Creator. The sphere sufficiently plays that role.
Hawking was always bothered by the popular picture of the Big Bang in which there is absolutely nothing and suddenly a brilliant explosion of matter and energy followed by rapid expansion. It seemed to be a scientific end-game because it had unscientific implications in his eyes. A singularity and Big Bang that appeared from nowhere begged scientists to accept the theological idea of creation ex nihilo. Astronomer Robert Jastrow’s frequently quoted conclusion to God and the Astronomers drives Hawking’s fear home:
Now we would like to pursue that inquiry farther back in time, but the barrier to further progress seems insurmountable. It is not a matter of another year, another decade of work, another measurement, or another theory; at this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; and as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries (107).
The reason this cosmological picture looks bad for theologians is that a boundless sphere can persist “forever” before expanding via the Big Bang because it persisted when time did not exist. However, lest I be accused of making astronomers into angry mean-spirited people who like to eliminate meaning in the universe, it is worth mentioning just how captivating and beautiful this Godless picture can be. I can think of nobody better to give that sense of beauty than one of the world’s greatest public scientists for whom Hawking has taken over in the realm of astronomy after his death, Carl Sagan. I’ll let him speak for himself, as he is far more poetic than I am: