In an interview with Guardian.co.uk, celebrated theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking calls Heaven “a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” Â That’s a pretty simple summary, but I think he hit the nail right on the head.
Hawking has spent the last 23 years trying to live down a single overly-poetic sentence in his bestselling nonfiction book A Brief History of Time. Â When discussing the possibility of discovering the elusive Theory of Everything, Hawking wrote, “It would be the ultimate triumph of human reason–for then we should know the mind of God.” Creationists and other religious hacks have seized upon this unfortunately worded passage to tout the inability of even the most eminent scientist to explain the universe without reference to a deity.
Hawking has gone some ways in repairing the damage. Â There’s his 2010 book The Grand Design, which dismisses the need for a god in explaining the origins of the cosmos. Â And now in this Guardian interview he puts to rest any possibility that he’s some sort of closet agnostic. Â When it comes to Reason versus Religion, Hawking knows which to deserves his homage. Thanks to modern medicine, a will to thrive, and a bit of good luck, Hawking has lived nearly half a century longer than anyone would have thought (he was diagnosed with motor neurone diseases when he was 21 years old).
If you read the comments section after the Guardian article, you’ll find a number of people who think Hawking has no business expressing an “expert” opinion on matters of religion. Â One reader sarcastically suggests we should next ask the Pope about quantum mechanics. Â What these folks overlook is that quantum mechanics, unlike theology, is a falsifiable system with a logical structure; i.e., it’s science. Â Opinions about Heaven, or Hell, or gods, or any kind of afterlife, don’t even rise to the level of theories, and so Hawking’s opinion is as good as the Pope’s, or a plumber’s, for that matter.