The battle between science and religion has been resurrected.
A new book and public statements from famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking state that God is not the reason for the creation of the universe.
The book, The Grand Design, asserts that the existence of God is not necessary to explain the origins and mysteries of the universe. Caltech physicist Leonard Mlodinow, co-wrote with Hawking, and Bantam Books published the book on Sept. 7.
The reception for the controversial book has been ambivalent.
In an article entitled "Hawking and God: An Intimate Relationship", Marcelo Gleiser of NPR wrote, "It's extremely misleading to promulgate highly speculative theories as the accepted word of the scientific community." He went on to call the media scrutiny displayed in the book as "irresponsible."
Leading British scientist Baroness Greenfield also criticized Hawking's new book in a radio interview with BBC.
"Of course they can make whatever comments they like but when they assume, rather in a Taliban-like way, that they have all the answers, then I do feel uncomfortable," she said.
Others have praised the book, such as James Trefil, a physics professor at George Mason University, who wrote a glowing review of the book for The Washington Post, calling it "groundbreaking."
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, known for his prominent atheist views, gave particular credit to Hawking, saying, "Darwinism kicked God out of biology, but physics remained more uncertain. Hawking is now administering the coup de grace."
In the book, Hawking and Mlodinow set out to answer the fundamental question of how the universe originated, as well as why the laws of physics in our own universe exist the way they do.
The authors start off with the history of how science progressed and evolved, starting with the ancient Greeks up to the 20th century and the advent of relativity and quantum mechanics.
They go on to posit that the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics explain how the universe was able to form from nothing.
Related to this are the "M-theories", a set of theories that state that there are 11 dimensions and that our universe is just one of many infinite universes or part of one giant "multiverse."
Hawking subscribes to these theories, making the argument that if countless other universes exist then there is a real chance that other life exists elsewhere, dispelling mankind's position as the sole source of intelligent life.
"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," reads an excerpt from book.
Part of Hawking's argument stems from the beliefs of ancient thinkers and scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton who believed that the universe was created by God especially for the existence of humans. The exact conditions that allow human life to survive – adequate distance from the sun, water, oxygen, carbon, and many other physical and molecular factors - are so precise that even a miniscule change in the equation would alter life as we know it.
The massive complexity of our physical universe and its laws has led many to "use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God," writes Hawking. However he disagrees with this view and claims that physics and M-theory explains the spontaneity of our universe and its relatively small role in a bigger "multiverse."
The Grand Design quickly became the number one bestseller on Amazon.com a few days after its publication.
Hawking, now 68, is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, as well as one of the most famous scientific figures in the world. He studied at Oxford and received his Ph.D from Cambridge, where he held the post of Lucasian professor of mathematics for 30 years. His books include The Universe in a Nutshell and A Brief History of Time, which was a bestseller.