Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England during World War II. His family moved there from London to escape the relentless bombing of that city, but quickly returned after Stephen was born. He grew up and attended high school in St. Albans, England.
Hawking is a scientist, perhaps the world’s most famous and often-quoted scientist. As such, he has dredged up the old science vs. religion argument on more than one occasion. He clearly feels that religion is inferior to science in terms of finding answers to question of the natural world. He once said:
There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.1
However, Hawking has reconciled the belief in God with an acknowledgement of the importance of science, but only with the condition that God isn’t necessarily all-powerful. He said:
One does not have to appeal to God to set the initial conditions for the creation of the universe, but if one does He would have to act through the laws of physics.2
God must act in accordance with the laws of physics!? Then wouldn’t physics be God? It’s telling God what to do, after all. According to Hawking, that’s pretty much it. He said:
What could define God [is thinking of God] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God. They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible.1
Essentially, Hawking might be able to concede calling the whole of the natural universe “God” if that floats your boat, but tradition conceptions of God seem, to him, to be rather silly. We could call it a pantheistic view, but more than likely, Hawking is an atheist.
Bigger than politics
It is said that Hawking is, politically, heavily influenced by his mother, Isobel. She was distinctly liberal and even served on St. Albans Liberal Association in the 50′s.3
However, Hawking has his eyes to the stars. There are more pressing concerns for Hawking than the petty political activities of humans on Earth. Still, as an intelligent and famous man, Hawking has been asked his opinion on various political matters, and though he’s reluctant to give it, there have been a few issues of interest to Hawking.
As a victim of a motor neuron disease that has confined Hawking to a wheelchair and only allows him to speak through a speech generation machine, he is particularly interested in the politics of health care. He has defended public, universal health care in both Britain and the United States. He once said:
I have received excellent medical attention in Britain, and I felt it was important to set the record straight. I believe in universal health care. And I am not afraid to say so.4
Hawking has also condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza–and war in general as a useles, mindless exercise that rarely, if ever, accomplishes anything of value.5
Beyond that, Hawking spends most of his time contemplating the theory of relativity or what would happen if aliens visited Earth.6
- Stephen Hawking on Religion: ‘Science Will Win.’ Abcnews. [↩] [↩]
- Quotes on Religion: Stephen Hawking. About. [↩]
- Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science – Michael White, John R. Gribbin. Googlebooks. [↩]
- Life and the Cosmos, Word by Painstaking Word. The New York Times. [↩]
- Israel/Gaza: Stephen Hawking Get It. Do You? Frihost. [↩]
- Stephen Hawking: Humans Should Fear Aliens. Huffingtonpost. [↩]