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Curiosity: Did God create the universe?


Published: 12 November 2011 (GMT+10)
Photo NASA Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
This is the pre-publication version which was subsequently revised to appear in Creation 34(2):44–46.

This Discovery Channel TV program “examines the creation of the universe through the commentary and opinions of Professor Stephen Hawking”.1 The aim appears to be to show that the concept of God is unnecessary for the creation of the universe, and hence likewise for life.

Making a universe

According to Prof. Hawking, you need two basic ingredients to make a universe. These are energy and space, and he tells us: “At the moment of the big bang, an entire universe of energy came into existence, and with it space.” He goes on to say: “The laws of physics demand the existence of something called negative energy.” And he illustrates this by showing a man with a shovel in his hand walking towards the centre of a flat field. The man then starts digging a hole, simultaneously making a small mound or hill by piling up the earth out of the hole onto his hill.

Prof. Hawking then tells us:

“The hole is the negative version of the hill. When the big bang produced a vast amount of positive energy, it simultaneously produced the same amount of negative energy. In this way, the positive and the negative add up to zero—always; it is a law of nature.”

The worthy Professor presumably hopes you didn’t notice two things that negate most of what he says about the big bang. These are:

  1. The formation of the hill needed a cause—the man with the shovel.
  2. This ‘cause’, i.e. the man, existed in time before he started to build the hill.

Prof. Hawking then asks: “Where is all this negative energy today?” and he answers his own question:

“It’s in space. According to the laws of nature concerning gravity and motion, space itself is a vast store of negative energy, enough to ensure that everything adds up to zero. The endless web of billions of galaxies pulling on each other by the force of gravity acts as a vast storage device. The positive energy is like the hill. The negative energy is spread throughout space. It means that if the universe adds up to nothing, you don’t need a God to create it. The universe is the ultimate free lunch.”

What triggered it?

Prof. Hawking moves on to ask what caused the spontaneous appearance of the universe, and he replies to that question with the answer: “The laws of nature tell us that nothing caused the big bang.” This, of course, raises the philosophical problem of whether anything can create itself, because until it exists, it is not in a position to cause itself.2

Prof. Hawking avoids this by appealing to ‘quantum mechanics at the sub-atomic level’. Here, he says,

“ … you enter a world where conjuring something out of nothing is possible, at least for a short time, because of quantum mechanics. … The universe was once very small, less than the size of a proton. This means the universe could pop into existence without violating the known laws of physics.”

Scientist critics of the big bang theory, Alex Williams and Prof. John Hartnett, comment:

… the laws of quantum physics would have had to already be in existence, so one could not say that the universe created itself ‘out of nothing’.
“So is it possible that the universe just popped into existence out of the vacuum through nothing more than a quantum fluctuation? Some people think so, although they seem to conveniently forget that the laws of quantum physics would have had to already be in existence, so one could not say that the universe created itself ‘out of nothing’. Others have pointed out, however, that the lifetime of quantum events is inversely proportional to the mass of the object and this precludes any such cosmological quantum event. If a universe did pop into existence by quantum fluctuation, nobody would notice—the lifetime of a quantum event the size of our universe would be less than 10-103 seconds. Moreover, virtual particles today appear within the vacuum of space. In the primordial singularity there was no space and so no vacuum.”3

Cause and effect need time

Prof. Hawking concludes by telling us that time began at the big bang, and so the big bang had no cause, because

“ … there was no time before the big bang for the cause to happen. There was no time for God to exist in. What happened at the beginning of the universe is the final key for removing the need of a creator of the universe. … There is no God who directs our fate. There is probably no heaven and no after-life either. We have just one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.”
Both the hill and the hole needed a cause, and the cause existed in time before the hill-building began.

But wait a minute, Prof. Hawking, you have just destroyed your analogy of the hill and the hole as an explanation of the formation of the universe. Both the hill and the hole needed a cause, and the cause existed in time before the hill-building began. Furthermore the Bible indicates that God exists outside of time.

Setting the record straight

  1. First of all, for skeptics like Stephen Hawking to maintain their atheistic faith they must provide a naturalistic explanation for everything that the Bible attributes to the power and will of Almighty God. This includes the creation of the universe; the big bang is the current naturalistic atheistic explanation. There have been, and are, others.4
  2. God tells in the Bible not only how He created the universe, but also when. It was not by means of anything resembling today’s big bang theory. He commanded the universe and all things in it into existence (Genesis ch. 1), beginning with the Earth (Genesis 1:2). And He tells us that this was recently, i.e. about 6,000 years ago.
  3. Time was one of the things that God created on Day One of Creation Week (Genesis 1:3–5).
  4. God is not limited by anything that He Himself created. God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15). He is able to declare the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10)—in fact, He says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). All this means that He is transcendent to the universe (that is, He is outside of time), but He also chooses to reveal Himself within the universe.
  5. Contrary to the conclusion of Stephen Hawking, God does exist, and so does heaven, as also does hell. According to the Bible, there is indeed an after-life, and it involves Judgment (Hebrews 9:27–28). All those who wish to avoid the consequences of this are urged to make their peace with God now, that is, in this life. We do this through repentance and faith that God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins (Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 2:24), and rose again to be not only Saviour, but also the Judge of all the world (Acts 17:31).

Post Script

The Discovery Channel program Curiosity: Parallel universes do they exist?, shown in Australia two weeks after Curiosity: Did God create the universe? puts forward four competing theories from four different scientists for the alleged origin of so-called parallel universes. One of these theories is that when a black hole sucks a star into itself, gravity spins the star’s matter into a coiled spring waiting to explode. This matter then spews out the other side of the black hole as from a white hole. The scientist says that this shows “our big bang was the result of a black hole from another universe”. So one of the Discovery Channel scientists quoted in this episode in effect says that Prof. Hawking was wrong in the ‘science’ he used (i.e. no cause or time before the big bang) to ‘prove’ that God does not exist.


  1. Partly with Prof. Hawking’s computer-generated voice, and partly with the more stately sounding actor Benedict Cumberbatch standing in for him. Return to text.
  2. For further discussion, see Sarfati, J., Refuting Compromise, Creation Book Publishers, Atlanta, 2011, pp. 175–76. Return to text.
  3. Williams, A., and Hartnett, J., Dismantling the Big Bang, Master Books, Arizona, 2005, p. 120. Return to text.
  4. Including the ‘steady-state’ theory popularized by Fred Hoyle and others, and the ‘plasma theory’ propagated by Eric Lerner in 1991 in his 466-page book The Big Bang Never Happened. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Refuting Compromise, updated & expanded
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover
Does God exist?
by Drs Don Batten, Jonathan Sarfati
US $0.75
Soft Cover
Dismantling the Big Bang
by Alex Williams, John Hartnett
US $17.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Colin N.
Two things were necessary according to this man - energy and space. It's hard to believe that energy would not have had to be there previously in order for the bang to occur. Energy and space came into existence as a consequence of the bang according to him. How could there have been a bang unless the energy was already there, and how could the universe expand unless the space was already there? The bang (energy) created energy and space and at the same time filled space? What was it that banged, and where did it reside if there was no space? How could it have existed if there was no-where for it to be? How can he use arguments like "it is a law of nature" yet can't know whether these "laws of nature" existed before the creation of the universe? Mr Hawkins needs to openly admit that he has a grudge against God and will frantically keep trying to cover his prejudice with newer and newer theories until it's too late. God will that he has a change of attitude and begins to be honest with himself and sees the universe for what it is; an amazingly complex incredibly creative artistically and imaginatively designed cosmos.
Kevin R.
Hawking’s claim that the universe has zero energy is based on the claim that gravity is negative energy. Lawrence Krauss tries to justify this in A universe from nothing, but his explanation is absurd. I have searched the web in vain for a good explanation. Most reputable physics sites say it is a convention rather than a fact, to make the maths easy. There is no law of physics that says that gravity is negative energy and there is no empirical experiment that can be performed to test this. Hawking’s argument seems to be circular. By the laws of conservation of energy, the net energy of the universe must be zero. Therefore gravity must be negative energy. Since gravity is negative energy, therefore the net energy of the universe is zero. Am I right or wrong? I am interested in your opinions on whether Hawking is right about gravity being a magic pudding.
Jonathan Sarfati
Actually, I think you answer your own question, as did the main article above. This whole claim is a dodge to try to re-define nothingness as a balance between positive energy and an arbitrarily defined equal and opposite negative energy.

I was actually a guest at a Christian radio station for their show Militant anti-Theism, hijacking science and Dawkins & Krauss on Redemption Radio, which you might like. We are also planning to publish a review of Krauss’ book in the Journal of Creation this year.
Dmitri M.
Where from Hawking got the zero density for energy? It does not follow from Einstein equations. Moreover, they talk about huge positive dark energy!

Physical Science does not apply before Big Bang of "virtual history". So there is no law of energy conservation. Therefore, the Hawking's zero is unnecessary.

[Sent later] Mass of Universe is not zero! Has Hawking to offer peer-reviewed material?
Dmitri M.
Taking Friedmann FLRW metric of Universe I have checked, that on left hand of Einstein Equations, there is non-zero energy density (positive). Before the Virtual (anyone, please publish my papers dmart@hot.ee) Big Bang was nothing for Physical Science. So the energy after Virtual Big Bang can have any value without violating law of conservation. Why zero?
Fancois M.
Hawking says “We have just one life to appreciate the GRAND DESIGN of the universe and for that I am extremely grateful”
Abel G.
“There is no God who directs our fate. There is probably no heaven and no after-life either.” I just wanted to point out that even Prof. Hawking used the word “probably” indicating his lack of certainty.
Anthony R.
This is a critique worth saying, showing clearly the something-from-nothing idea is as foolish in the scientific details as it is on the surface.
In regarding the creation of time and space the article provoked a thought I would just like to share as well if I may:
Isn’t it interesting that in the beginning God said, “Let there be light!”, not, “Let there be time and space!”? And according to the theory of relativity which Hawking knows so well, time and space are variant, dependants of the speed of light!
Steve B.
Hawking also conveniently ignores Dr. Alan Guth’s dilemma for the inflationary expanding universe model of the Big Bang. If one accepts Hawking’s version of “origins” (which is still not origins), then according to Guth one must also accept that there must be other universes. If the probability that this universe could originate out of “nothing”, then no matter how small the probability it could happen again, it will and does. And does so infinitely times over. In fact, since it is probable, no matter how infinitesimal, that another universe exactly like ours could form, then it necessarily follows that there is another Dr. Stephen Hawking existing right now in that universe as well. In fact, there are an infinite number of Dr. Stephen Hawkings right now no matter how infinitesimal the probability of that is. Guth’s dilemma is that if the Big Bang was without grand design then one must accept this breathtakingly nonsensical implication. Or, the Big Bang of necessity must have a grand designer and cause. (This assumes, of course, one believes the Big Bang model in the first place.)
Paula S.
Quote: “There is no God who directs our fate. There is probably no heaven and no after-life either. We have just one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.”
This statement alone is very telling of Prof. Hawking’s true beliefs about his Creator. He makes a very definitive statement about the non-existence of God, but about an afterlife he’s not so sure. Most telling is his use of the word ‘design’ which by definition presumes a ‘designer’ (it always fascinates me how even the most strident of atheists can’t help throwing that ‘d’ word out occasionally). I would also be very interested to know to whom or what he is so ‘extremely grateful’ for the presumably accidental design of the universe. How does one express gratitude for random physical events?
I can’t think of a better illustration of the truth in Romans 1:20 … “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Thank you for the good work you do, and for your unwavering and unapologetic devotion to the truth of God’s word!
Michael M.
Hawking is a scientist not a theologian or a philosopher. Why should his opinion about the existence of God carry anymore weight than that of the man who recently replaced my central heating boiler? Hawking’s latest book ‘The Grand Design’ is basically a philosophical work but in the book he claims that philosophy is dead! Does he not realise that this makes no sense? Sadly, Hawking seems to have joined the ranks of people like Dawkins for whom science has become a religion.
Judie S.
Not only did the man (the cause) exist in time before digging the hole, the shovel (the means) and the field (the material) already existed, too.
The man had the will, the means and the material. Only God existed before time, only He had/was the Word, and only He can create something material out of nothing.
Thanks for another great article.
John L.
Spot on! It takes more “faith” to believe Hawking’s and other’s incredulous theories than it does to believe what Almighty God says in His Word.
Patrick C.
Oh, Russell, what an excellent exposé of the origin of the Universe. Personally, I enjoy challenging people on the history of man and the Bible, but also realise that I must be ready to give an answer to subjects like this. The quotes were well-chosen and the case well-made. Marvellous piece to direct atheist friends to consider-thanks.

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