A new collection of Stephen Hawking's essays and articles, Brief Answers to Big Questions, have been released posthumously, and, we're sorry to say, but it's bad news for theists.
In it, he talks candidly about the future of the human race, which is, we're sad to say, not particularly rosy. He also puts his cards on the table regards God and the afterlife. Answering these questions in the final months before his death, he said he'd come to the 'profound realisation' that there was no afterlife or supreme being.
Writing in The Telegraph, science editor Sarah Knapton quotes Hawking as saying:
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 realisation: there is probably no heaven and afterlife either. I think belief in the afterlife is just wishful thinking.
It flies in the face of everything we know in science. I think that when we die we return to dust.
But there is a sense we live on, in our influence, and in the genes we pass to our children.
Hawking was forever being asked the same questions throughout his life, and Brief Answers to Big Questions aims to answer these questions. He started it in the last year of his life, but didn't finish it before he died at 76, earlier this year in March.
His family and his academic colleagues finished it from material drawn from his large personal archives, and Lucy Hawking, his daughter, spoke at its launch at the Science Museum on Monday. Speaking to AFP, she said:
It was very emotional. I turned away because I had tears forming.
It feels sometimes like he's still here because we talk about him and hear his voice—and then we have the reminder that he's left us.
She also explained the aim of the book:
He was deeply worried that at a time when the challenges are global, we were becoming increasingly local in our thinking.
It's a call to unity, to humanity, to bring ourselves back together and really face up to the challenges in front of us.
Hawking's 10 big questions.
Is there a God?
There is no God. No one directs the universe.
How did it all begin?
In a hot Big Bang.
What is inside a black hole?
Falling into a black hole is definitely bad news. If it were a stellar mass black hole you would be made into spaghetti before reaching the horizon.
Can we predict the future?
No and yes. In principal the laws allow us to predict the future but in practice it is too difficult.
Is time travel possible?
Travel back in time can't be ruled out according to our present understanding.
Will we survive on Earth?
The present world order has a future but it will be a very different one.
Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
There are forms of intelligent life out there. We need to be wary of answering back until we have developed a bit further.
Should we colonise space?
I expect within the next hundred years we will be able to travel to anywhere in the Solar System.
Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?
A super-intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing goals and if those goals aren't aligned with ours we're in trouble.
How do we shape the future?
Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.