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Stephen Hawking and the Growth of Quantum Cosmology

Since around 1980 cosmological interest has shifted to the first ten million, billion, billion, billion, billionth of a second (10-43 second) of the universe’s history, when the developing universe was so small as to be significantly affected by quantum theory. Stephen Hawking records that he was at a conference at the Vatican in 1981 at the end of which:

the participants were granted an audience with the Pope (John Paul II). He told us that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God. I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference - the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means that it had no beginning, no moment of Creation.[FTEXT]

The physicist continues, ironically, ‘I had no wish to share the fate of Galileo...’ However, Hawking has ventured various theological comments much more extreme than any uttered by Galileo, most famously that:

So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose that it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?[FTEXT]

To understand Hawking’s new idea for a universe with no beginning see the Hawking-Hartle proposal for the early universe. See also theological responses to quantum cosmology.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

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