The Grand Design | Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow

Physics is one of those fields where you can’t rely on information you learned a decade ago. In The Grand Design, Hawking & Mlodinow lay out the current state of physics with an eye towards the holy grail: the Theory of Everything.

Unless physics is your field, you’ll need to concentrate while reading this book. That said, it’s remarkably readable. Three or so quiet hours is all you need to be appraised of the current state of (our understanding of) the universe. There’s enough humor mixed in to make your education more of a joy than a chore. (For example, apparently the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything isn’t 42!)

Hawking and Mlodinow took a couple of frustrating pot-shots at straw-man Christianity. When they offered the odd side-remark, I found myself agreeing with them—and disappointed that they perpetuated some of those irritating stereotypes about Christians.

The climax of the book is an overview of M-Theory, the leading candidate for the Theory of Everything. For Hawking and Mlodinow, if M-Theory is tested and accepted, the universe needs no designer—it’s self-replicating. That’s where I have to disagree on logical grounds.

Christian apologists have often offered the question, “If our universe began at the big bang, what or who came before it?” Hawking and Mlodinow rightly turn that logic back by asking, “If God came before the big bang, who came before God?” That response cuts both ways, though. If the idea of a self-running universe with no beginning or ending is proven true, the question still exists, “what or who came before?” In the end, that’s a question that neither science nor theology can answer. Your worldview will determine your answer: where does your faith (trust, belief) lie?

I should make it clear that the last few paragraphs about the intersection of science and religion are far from the centre of The Grand Design. The book is a brilliant example of popular scholarship that should be read by any human being who looks into the sky at night and asks questions.

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