In his 1988 book A Brief History of Time, Hawking discusses his lifelong dream to discover the Grand Unifying Theory (GUT) of the universe. GUT is a scientific theory that unites all laws and theories of physics. He declares that when we discover the GUT, we will know the mind of God. This declaration created warm fuzzies in the minds of religionists who viewed Mr. Hawking as a genius and fellow believer on a mission to uncover the handiwork of the Creator. With Hawking’s latest book, however, warm fuzzies have been replaced by sharp criticism.
Here’s one source of the criticism. In The Grand Design Hawking declares that understanding complex theories of physics makes it "[un]necessary to invoke God." Believers are in a tizzy over this statement, claiming that Hawking has dismissed God. Hawking has not dismissed God – he is staying true to the tenets of science by giving a scientific explanation that does not invoke God. Anytime we claim that something happened because God did it, we are giving a theological explanation, not a scientific one. It is good to acknowledge deity in science; it is not good to invoke deity in scientific explanations.
Moreover, hearing that it is unnecessary to invoke God is a good thing because it minimizes our reliance on what are called “God of the gaps” explanations. “God of the gaps” involves resorting to “God did it” explanations when we don’t have an adequate scientific explanation for natural phenomena. Getting rid of such explanations is a good thing because it means that we are moving closer to the truth. However some believers like “God of the gaps” explanations because they represent a validation for their faith (“See here! Science can’t explain this phenomenon, so it must have been done supernaturally. There is a Creator!”) Here’s some advice for these folks: Don’t let your faith be driven by what science does or does not discover.
A second criticism of The Grand Design involves spontaneous creation. Hawking declares that “The Universe can and will create itself from nothing…. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.” He continues, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going…. Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.”
For those who accept the false doctrine of creation ex nihilo (creation from nothing) and believe that there has been and always will be just one god, and that he created the entire physical universe, yes, the notion of parts of the universe existing without supernatural intervention is very problematic, but not if you’re LDS.
From latter-day revelation we’ve learned that the elements of the physical universe are co-eternal with our God. So, yes, in a way our God did not have to “light the blue touch paper and set the universe going” because it was already going.
As I point out in Truth & Science, restored gospel truths can go a long way in helping to reconcile science and religion.