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New Scientist magazine has published a letter by me about Stephen Hawking’s views on the limits of science. Unfortunately, at the time of posting the link seems to be broken (it redirects to the wrong page), so here is the text of my original letter:

In the first paragraph of his article “The Impossible Puzzle” (issue 2389, page 34), Michael Brooks repeats a common distortion of Stephen Hawking’s views. Hawking doesn’t think that we would “know the mind of God” if we invent a theory of everything. Instead, he thinks that such a theory would be just the first step:

“However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we would know the mind of God.” (from the last page of A Brief History of Time)

It is clear from that paragraph and the discussion that leads to it that Hawking doesn’t think that physics gives insight into the “mind of God”. Indeed, he explicitly states that science can’t answer the question of what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe” and that this is a job for philosophers.

(The published version has an edited version of the last paragraph that doesn’t flow as well, in my opinion.)

Well if *you* read it, my life is worthwhile. *smiles* take care.

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