Stephen Hawking famously wrote in ‘A Brief History of Time’ that a theory of the universe would allow people to know ‘the mind of God’.
But he later said the quote was misinterpreted, and the physicist’s last book left no doubt about his position on God and the afterlife.
In Brief Answers To The Big Questions, published this week, Hawking answers questions including ‘Is time travel possible?’ and ‘Is there a God?’
Hawking died this year aged 76.
Hawking said, ‘We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God.
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‘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.
‘There is no reliable evidence for it, and 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.’
He previously spoke out against belief in the afterlife, saying, ‘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.’
His famous quote from A Brief History of Time about ‘knowing the mind of God’ was often misinterpreted, he said.
In an interview, he said, ‘What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God. Which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.’
Professor Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with r amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, aged 21, and given only a few years to live.
But Hawking defied the normally fatal illness for more than 50 years, pursuing a brilliant career that stunned doctors.
He said, ‘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.’