Stephen Hawking has taken the occasion of a Guardian interview to reiterate that he doesn’t believe in any of that childish heaven jazz:
I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
Yes, pure silliness. Silly to believe in some magical, unseen dimension that holds all the answers. Silly to rely on unproven faith as the foundation for our being.
Well, since we don’t have to worry about that, what has been on your mind, professor?
[A Hawking lecture] will focus on M-theory, a broad mathematical framework that encompasses string theory, which is regarded by many physicists as the best hope yet of developing a theory of everything.
M-theory demands a universe with 11 dimensions, including a dimension of time and the three familiar spatial dimensions. The rest are curled up too small for us to see.
Eleven you say? Well, that sound pretty reasonable, I guess…
One possibility predicted by M-theory is supersymmetry, an idea that says fundamental particles have heavy – and as yet undiscovered – twins, with curious names such as selectrons and squarks.
So, selectrons and squarks: a definite possibility. God: no chance. Got it.
I certainly won’t argue with Hawking, because I could never stand up to his withering insults.
For those not sarcastically inclined: I should probably go ahead and note that I’m not making fun of Hawking’s (or anyone’s) work in physics or string theory or anything else. I just think it’s odd and humorous that someone would think that believing in heaven is ridiculous, and then that same person would put all his eggs in the basket of a theory that requires the existence of 11 dimensions.
Maybe there are 11 dimensions, I can’t say I’ve done the math. (What if there are 12? Does that blow the theory?) But doesn’t believing that and devoting your life’s work to it require just a little bit of faith?