Noting that science offers a more convincing explanation for the origin of the universe than God, this week Stephen Hawking officially announced that he is an atheist.
Speaking at this week’s Starmus Festival at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Hawking clarified some previous statements he had made about god. In so doing Hawking clearly stated, for the record:
“I’m an atheist.”
NBC reports that in the past, there had been some ambiguity concerning Hawking’s attitude towards God. In “A Brief History of Time,” Hawking writes that the discovery of a unifying set of scientific principles known as the theory of everything would enable scientists to “know the mind of God.” But in a follow-up book about the quest for the theory of everything, titled “The Grand Design,” Hawking said the mechanism behind the origin of the universe was becoming so well known that God was no longer necessary.
When asked about those two references to God, Hawking responded:
“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”
This isn’t the first time Hawking has discussed his religious belief, or lack thereof. In 2007, Hawking told Reuters:
“I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.”
In a 2011 interview with The Guardian, Hawking said that heaven and the afterlife is a “fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
Also in 2011, during an episode of the Discovery Channel program Curiosity entitled ‘Did God Create the Universe?’ Hawking declared:
“We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is 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 made his most recent comments concerning God to the Spanish-language paper El Mundo during the Starmus Festival. In addition to declaring his atheism, Hawking said he believes that humans are not alone in the universe, and that meeting extraterrestrial life could be like Christopher Columbus coming to the Americas: “Which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans,” Hawking warned.
Hawking also told the paper:
“The idea that we are alone in the universe seems to me completely implausible and arrogant. Considering the number of planets and stars that we know exist, it’s extremely unlikely that we are the only form of evolved life.”
An advocate for the exploration of space, Hawking said he believes that space travel offers the best hope for our species’ immortality, noting: “It (space travel) could prevent the disappearance of humanity by colonizing other planets.”