LONDON, England (CNN) -- God did not create the universe, world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book that aims to banish a divine creator from physics. Hawking says in his book "The Grand Design" that, given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing," according to an excerpt published Thursday in The Times of London.
"Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he writes in the excerpt. "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going," he writes.
…He introduces the idea of multiple universes, saying that if there are many universes, one will have laws of physics like ours -- and in such a universe, something not only can, but must, arise from nothing. Therefore, he concludes, there's no need for God to explain it.
But some of Hawking's Cambridge colleagues said the physicist has missed the point. "The 'god' that Stephen Hawking is trying to debunk is not the creator God of the Abrahamic faiths who really is the ultimate explanation for why there is something rather than nothing," said Denis Alexander. "Hawking's god is a god-of-the-gaps used to plug present gaps in our scientific knowledge."
"Science provides us with a wonderful narrative as to how [existence] may happen, but theology addresses the meaning of the narrative," said Alexander, director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion.
And Fraser Watts, an Anglican priest and Cambridge expert in the history of science, said that it's not the existence of the universe that proves the existence of God. But, he said, "a creator God provides a reasonable and credible explanation of why there is a universe, and ... it is somewhat more likely that there is a God than that there is not. That view is not undermined by what Hawking has said."Click here to read all.
It's funny, I think both scientists and religious folks miss the point when it comes to God. God shouldn't be a requirement - a necessity for explanation. If God must exist to fill some gap in logic - as Alexander says - we're using God as a crutch or a placeholder - we're fudging. Too often, the purpose of God becomes explanation. In fact, I'd even say that purpose itself is problematic (yes, sorry to Purpose Driven Amerivangelicals) because it's ultimately driven by economics. Why can't we just "be"? Why can't God just "be"? As soon as we "have to be" we've placed restrictions and demands. God doesn't have to be. The universe could very well exist without God (I mean it might, I simply don’t know, and neither do you…) but the two are not co-dependent. Interdependent? Maybe...
I'm not threatened by Hawking's statements, nor do I completely disagree with the thoughtful responses to him from people of faith (more responses here). What it really comes down to is, Hawking is answering a different question than the one religion itself is (should be) addressing. Getting all worked up about that is an adventure in missing the point.
A great resource on this discussion is Eric Middleton's The New Flatlanders.