Cosmologist Stephen Hawking addressed a huge crowd of students at California Institute of Technology this week to explain why the creation of the universe did not need divine help. According to The Huffington Post, Hawking began his talk by joking about “what God was doing before the creation of the world” — perhaps “preparing hell for people who asked such questions.”
Hawking then went on to explain the history of the creationism debate vs. the more cosmological theories, presenting the new estimated age of the earth at 13.8 billion years. His talk also included a discussion of M-theory, which proposes that multiple universes are created out of nothing with many possible histories and many possible states of existence, and in only a few of these states would life be possible, and in fewer still could something like humanity exist. Hawking mentioned that he felt fortunate to be living in this state of existence, then closed the event with his familiar plea to continue exploring the cosmos, as “we must continue to go into space for the future of humanity.”
After the talk, Hawking allowed a few students to ask him questions, topics of which ranged from black holes to the speech-generating technology that allows Hawking to speak despite his debilitating Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The Los Angeles Times quoted Hawking as saying, “It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics. Our picture of the universe has changed a great deal in the last 50 years and I’m happy if I have made a small contribution. The fact that we human beings, who are ourselves mere collections of fundamental particles of nature, have been able to come this close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our universe is a great triumph.”
Hawking spends about a month out of each year at Caltech discussing the cosmos with fellow theoretical physicists.