Life after death: Stephen Hawking declared ‘afterlife is wishful thinking’ before he died

Dr Sam Parnia reveals what happens when we die

Professor Stephen Hawking is widely regarded as not only one of Britain’s greatest minds but one of the greatest physicists period. Professor Hawking’s groundbreaking theoretical work on black hole radiation and gravitational singularities with colleague Roger Penrose has earned him numerous accolades and respect from the scientific community. It comes, therefore, as no surprise that Professor Hawking was fairly outspoken about God, life after death and how these spiritual concepts clash with the field of science.

In Brief Answers to the Big Questions, the last book he completed just before his death at 76-years-old in March 2018, Professor Hawking tackled a wide array of subjects from the existence of God and extraterrestrials to time travel and humanity’s future in space.

In the book’s first chapter, titled Is There a God?, the physicist explained his position on the afterlife, which he branded “wishful thinking”.

Professor Hawking was a staunch atheist who often argued in favour of a Universe governed by the laws of science – not divine ones.

He famously said the difference between religion and science, is one is guided by authority while the latter is based on observation.

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In his final book, published just seven months after he died, the physicist claimed there is no evidence of a divine Creator and there is no evidence life goes on after we die.

He said: “Do I have faith? We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God.

“No one created the Universe and no one directs our fate.

“This leads me to a profound realisation: there is probably no heaven and afterlife either.

“I think belief in the afterlife is just wishful thinking.

“There is no reliable evidence for it, and it flies in the face of everything we know in science.”

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There is probably no heaven and afterlife either

Professor Stephen Hawking, Brief Answers to the Big Questions

So what happens when we die? Professor Hawking bluntly said “when we die we return to dust”.

Instead of a heavenly afterlife, the physicist argued our lives go on after death through our influence and our genes that we pass on to our children.

He added: “We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the Universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.”

Professor Hawking died peacefully in his Cambridge home on March 14, 2018.

The scientist overcame the odds for 54 years after doctors diagnosed with him with a degenerative motor neuron disease that slowly took away control of his body.

Despite only being given a few years to live at the age of 22, Professor Hawking went on to become one of the most recognisable names in science, alongside Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.

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He remarked on his official website: “The human race is so puny compared to the universe that being disabled is not of much cosmic significance.”

Professor Hawking was the director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge at the time of his death.

And yet, not all scientists are of the mind the world of science and religion are at a crossroads.

The Big Bang theory, the widely accepted theory for the birth of the Universe was proposed by Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian Catholic priest.

Father Lemaitre was a groundbreaking mathematician and astronomer in his own right, who applied Einstein’s theories to the field of cosmology.

The priest was also the first to devise what would later be known as Hubble’s Law – a law for the expansion of the Universe as observed by galaxies drifting further and further apart.

According to Dr Karl van Bibber, author of the biography The Atom of the Universe: The Life and Work of Georges Lemaitre, Father Lemaitre found a balance between the scientific laws of nature and how they fit in a world created by God.

Dr Bibber said: “Science for him was the methodology for understanding the physical cosmos; revealed religion taught truths important for salvation.

“He was quite content to observe that the findings of science were in no way discordant with scriptural revelation, and vice versa, but neither should overreach.

“If Lemaitre has a lesson for the science-faith discourse today, that would probably be it.”

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