Extracts of The Grand Design printed in The Times today reveal Hawking’s challenge to the core belief of the world’s major religions, that God is the creator of all things.
Hawking argues that the Big Bang was not caused by a divine force but was instead an inevitable consequence of the law of gravity.
He writes: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.
“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
Hawking appears to turn his back on the position he held in a 1988 work, A Brief History of Time, in which he suggested that if man discovered a complete theory of the creation of the universe “then we should know the mind of God”.
In his latest book he cites the discovery of another planet orbiting a star in a similar manner to Earth orbiting the Sun as evidence that creation was not deliberate.
He writes: “The makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions – the single Sun, the lucky combination of Earth-Sun distance and solar mass – far less remarkable, and far less compelling as evidence that the Earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings.”
The Grand Design has been co-written by American physicist Leonard Mlodinow and lands in stores on September 9.