“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” writes Hawking. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists why we exist.

“It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going,” he writes, according to excerpts published in the Times of London today.

Hawking, who co-wrote “The Grand Design” with Leonard Mlodinow, a U.S. physicist, has come to this position fairly recently.