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Hawking: 'There is no heaven'

Rodger Bosch / AFP - Getty Images file

Physicist Stephen Hawking delivers a lecture in South Africa in 2008. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, he called the notion of heaven a "fairy story."

Stephen Hawking, the famous British physicist, called the notion of heaven a "fairy story" in an interview with The Guardian newspaper published today.

The physicist, 69, who was diagnosed with A.L.S. at age 21, made the heaven comment in response to a question about his fears of death.


"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first," he told the newspaper.

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven of afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark."

The comments are seen as going beyond those in his 2010 book, "The Grand Design," which stirred up passions with the observation that science can explain the universe's origin without invoking God.

Hawking has far outlived most people who have A.L.S., also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, producing important cosmological research and writing books. His "A Brief History of Time," published in 1988, has sold more than 9 million copies.

The Guardian interview is the latest the scientist has given to news media in recent weeks. It is published the day before he is scheduled to address the question "Why are we here?" at the Google Zeitgeist meeting in London.

In the talk, according to The Guardian, he will argue that the tiny fluctuations in the very early universe became the seeds from which galaxies, stars, and ultimately human life emerged.

"Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in," he said.

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John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).