The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking


   The Grand Design is the first major work from Stephen Hawking in nearly ten years. With this new book, he sets out to answer the following questions:

1) Why is there something rather than nothing?
2) Why do we exist?
3) Why this particular set of laws and not some other?

We are promised that, unlike the answer given in Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, his answer will not be “42.” Though I dare say it may as well have been.

By the end of this book, and in all honestly well before the end, it becomes quite clear that the entire purpose for writing it was to disprove the existence of a supernatural creator of the universe. Most of the book is spent discussing background to the new M-theory, and pointing out creation stories from different religions and cultures throughout history. The scientific background was very interesting, and is really like a refresher course going over theories brought forward by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein and more. The last few pages of the last section of the book are really the only place there is a solid presentation of the M-theory, which, from what I can tell, comes down to, “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing….” Which, of course, is not a new theory at all. The new concept here is that there may be no one set of laws that govern the entire universe. Several sets of laws may be needed to explain the universe as a whole, so long as those sets of laws agree where they overlap. This is the M-theory. It is also claimed, that according to M-theory, there are several histories of the universe all occurring at the same time and that our observation of our universe affects the history and not the other way around. Just how this happens, he never really explains.

The 3 questions posed at the beginning are never really answered:

1) “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing.” – Even if I believed in this explanation, this answer would really be better suited for “how” is there something rather than nothing and leaves us open to more questions such as “what causes spontaneous creation?” and “how, again, does something come from nothing?” If gravity if the cause of a universe just “popping” into existence, but there was nothing there but gravity, what exactly was the gravity acting upon? And if the force of gravity existed, was there really nothing? How did gravity exist?

2) The same answer is given for why we exist. Again, this answers more “how” than “why.”

3) After a recap of what the ultimate theory of everything needs to include, we are told, “For these reasons M-theory is the only candidate for a complete theory of the universe…. We must be part of this universe, because there is no other consistent model.” This, after the short one-paragraph recap, sounds like a big scientific because-I-said-so. And I also find it funny that a scientist of any kind would give this as an answer to anything. We’re basically being told, “this is the closest explanation we have, so we’re going with it.” And this is still a theory; Hawking states that it has yet to be proven if the theory is finite, which it must be.

As a lover of both God and science, I become more and more upset over the route science is taking. This atheistic view believes that if something can be proven by science then it disproves God and “religion” as a whole. By Hawking’s own admission, one set of laws may not account for all of creation. It is quite possible to explain our world through science. We can explain how bees pollinate flowers, but could it be that God created bees for just that purpose? That he set that process in motion at creation? Even if we finally get to the point where science can say exactly, without a doubt, what happened at the moment the universe came into existence… could it be that it is just our way of explaining what occurred at the moment God called the world into existence? How is belief in an alternate history, that is currently going on at this moment, any less “absurd” than belief in a supernatural creator?

The only thing that saved this book at all for me was the discussion of scientific history, which filled the book almost completely.

For purposes of scoring this book, I have obviously had to remove scoring on accuracy. I am not a physicist or a mathematician.

1) Is it understandable? = 4
2) Presentation of Information = 3
3) Accuracy = removed from average
4) Quality of Writing = 3.5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2

Average of  score 3.1

Overall grade = C

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

This was book 21 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

6 thoughts on “The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

  1. I just read a good book that refutes The Grand Design. It’s called God And Stephen Hawking, by John Lennox. It’s short, but very good. You should check it out! I’ll be reviewing it at my blog on July 1st.

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  2. Thanks. I’m actually reading that one next. I wanted to read Hawking’s book first to make sure I understood the concepts being discussed in Lennox’s.

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  3. Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?

    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
    – Stephen Hawking in “The Grand Design”
    “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
    – Stephen Hawking, Ibid

    Here three questions can be asked:
    1) Which one came first, universe, or laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    2) If the universe came first, then how was there spontaneous creation without the laws of gravity and quantum theory?
    3) If the laws of gravity and quantum theory came first, then Hawking has merely substituted God with quantum theory and laws of gravity. These two together can be called Hawking’s “Unconscious God”. Therefore we can legitimately ask the question: Who, or what, created Hawking’s unconscious God?
    Not only this, but there are other problems also. If the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes spontaneously appearing from nothing, then initially there was nothing. Then wherefrom appear those laws of gravity and quantum theory to allow universes appearing spontaneously from nothing? In which container were those two laws of nature?
    Now regarding the M-theory: I have already written something on multiverse theory (not yet published anywhere). There I have come to the conclusion that if there are an infinite number of universes, then only within that infinite number of universes there will certainly be at least one universe in which life will emerge. If the number of universes is only 10 to the power 500, then it is very much unlikely that any one of them will support life, because no universe will know which set of values the other universes have already taken, and if everything is left on chance, then there is every probability that all the universes will take only those set of values that will not support life. There will be no mechanism that will prevent any universe from taking the same set of values that have already been taken by other universes. There will be no mechanism that will take an overview of all the universes already generated, and seeing that in none of them life has actually emerged will move the things in such a way that at least one universe going to be generated afterwards will definitely get the value of the parameters just right for the emergence of life. Only in case of an infinite number of universes this problem will not be there. This is because if we subtract 10 to the power 500 from infinity, then also we will get infinity. If we subtract infinity from infinity, still then we will be left with infinity. So we are always left with an infinite number of universes out of which in at least one universe life will definitely emerge. Therefore if M-theory shows that it can possibly have 10 to the power 500 number of solutions, and that thus there might be 10 to the power 500 number of universes in each of which physical laws would be different, then it is really a poor theory, because it cannot give us any assurance that life will certainly emerge in at least one universe. So instead of M-theory we need another theory that will actually have an infinite number of solutions.
    Now the next question to be pondered is this: How did the scientists come to know that an entire universe could come out of nothing? Or, how did they come to know that anything at all could come out of nothing? Were they present at that moment when the universe was being born? As that was not the case at all, therefore they did not get that idea being present at the creation event. Rather they got this idea being present here on this very earth. They have created a vacuum artificially, and then they have observed that virtual particles (electron-positron pairs) are still appearing spontaneously out of that vacuum and then disappearing again. From that observation they have first speculated, and then ultimately theorized, that an entire universe could also come out of nothing. But here their entire logic is flawed. These scientists are all born and brought up within the Christian tradition. Maybe they have downright rejected the Christian world-view, but they cannot say that they are all ignorant of that world-view. According to that world-view God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. So as per Christian belief-system, and not only as per Christian belief-system, but as per other belief-systems also, God is everywhere. So when these scientists are saying that the void is a real void, God is already dead and non-existent for them. But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist. So how have they accomplished that job, the job of making God redundant in case of creation event? These were the steps:
    1) God is non-existent, and so, the void is a real void. Without the pre-supposition that God does not exist, it cannot be concluded that the void is a real void.
    2) As virtual particles can come out of the void, so also the entire universe. Our universe has actually originated from the void due to a quantum fluctuation in it.
    3) This shows that God was not necessary to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, as because there was no creation event.
    4) This further shows that God does not exist.
    So here what is to be proved has been proved based on the assumption that it has already been proved. Philosophy is already dead for these scientists. Is it that logic is also dead for them?

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  4. While I agree with your basic ideas (that these scientists seem to throwing logic out of the window), I disagree with this point:

    ” But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist.”

    God and science are not opposed to each other. So even if it can be shown through science exactly how the universe came into being it will not disprove the existance of God. We can explain a lot about our world… does that mean that God is out of it? We can explain through science how a rainbow appears. That doesn’t mean that God didn’t put the very first rainbow in the sky, thereby creating the scientific laws which create a rainbow. I’ve always seen science as a way to study God’s creation. God gives us, through science, some insight into how his creation functions. I also believe that as long as man tries to use science to disprove God, we will never find the true answers in those areas…. such as the creation of the universe.

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  5. Now I want to add something on quantum laws. It may be read as a joke also.

    In olden-golden days the saying goes: When there was nothing, there was God. When there will be nothing again, there will still be God.
    But then came the scientists and changed everything. The above saying also changed to this: When there was nothing, there were quantum laws. When there will be nothing again, there will still be quantum laws.
    These quantum laws are spaceless, timeless, changeless, eternal, all-pervading, unborn, uncreated and immaterial. Only that these laws lack consciousness.
    These quantum laws are spaceless, timeless and immaterial, because when there was no space, no time and no matter, there were still these quantum laws. (Vilenkin’s model)
    These quantum laws are all-pervading, because these laws act equally everywhere.
    Quantum laws are scientists’ God.

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    • Exactly. They’ve replaced one mystery with another. Quantum laws is just more acceptable to them because they won’t have to one day answer to it.

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