A belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a “fairy story” for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said. In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain’s most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time.
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the cosmologist shared his thoughts on death, M-theory, human purpose and our chance existence. Hawking has had his zero-g astronaut training. He is prepared for any possibility.
Hawking spoke at the 2011 Google Zeitgeist Conference in Hertfordshire. The video of his talk is below. Hawking presented M Theory as the grand solution. It’s a family of different theories working similarly to a grouping of maps. He also discussed the role of cosmology, the inflation of the universe and the Planck satellite.
Speaking to Google’s Zeitgeist Conference in Hertfordshire, the author of ‘A Brief History of Time’ said that fundamental questions about the nature of the universe could not be resolved without hard data such as that currently being derived from the Large Hadron Collider and space research. “Most of us don’t worry about these questions most of the time. But almost all of us must sometimes wonder: Why are we here? Where do we come from? Traditionally, these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead,” he said. “Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science. Particularly physics.”
Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21.
The incurable illness was expected to kill Hawking within a few years of its symptoms arising, an outlook that turned the young scientist to Wagner, but ultimately led him to enjoy life more, he has said, despite the cloud hanging over his future.”I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he said.
“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” he added.
Hawking’s comments deserve to be compared to those in his 2010 book, The Grand Design. He asserted no need for a creator to explain the existence of the universe. It provoked a backlash from some religious leaders. The 69-year-old physicist fell seriously ill after a lecture tour in the US in 2009. He has since returned to his Cambridge department as director of research.