The Universe in a Nutshell

The Universe in a Nutshell
by Stephen Hawking, Bantam Books, 2001, 216 pages

Several years ago, the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking released a book titled A Brief History of Time which explained the scientific understandings of the cosmos and proposed options about how the creation came to be as it is. The book was well documented, factual in nature, and easy for the average reader to understand. The only weakness in the book was the last chapter, which was primarily written to provide an alternative to believing God was responsible for the creation. Hawking debunked belief in God by inventing a concept called virtual time which enabled him to avoid a deistic cause to the facts he presented in the book. The Universe in a Nutshell was advertised as "a companion volume" to A Brief History of Time. Those of us who admire Hawking (while perhaps disagreeing with him on some points) had expected the same level of clarity and evidence that we enjoyed in the first book, but this is not the case.

The Universe in a Nutshell is an exploration of the fringe areas of science. Hawking begins with an excellent history of relativity and the concept of quantum theory. He then accepts several theories and tries to construct a cosmology that embraces all of them. Richard Feynman's multiple history theory is a key assumption in Hawking's work. From this foundation, Hawking invokes multiple universes. He uses the hard anthropic principle to shape the direction of creation, and spends the rest of the book using his ideas to predict the future, including a heavy dependence on virtual time.

This book will be popular because Hawking gets into things like time travel and brings in all the latest theories from modern physics. It is nothing like A Brief History of Time. Hawking does a good job of explaining complex ideas, but even so the book will be beyond the reach of readers who do not have a strong science background. Its usefulness in apologetic questions is extremely limited, which was not the case of the first book. Skeptics may try to use the book to deny that God had anything to do with the creation, but all readers must remember that this book simply presents the thinking of a few cosmologists and some of the theories currently held in modern physics. Much of this will be discarded in the future as new discoveries and new theories are advanced.

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, MayJun02.