Yesterday, The Times of London printed excerpts from Stephen Hawking’s new book The Grand Design — excerpts in which the renowned author and physicist casually called God “redundant” and explained how his existence is not essential to explaining creation. This caused quite the commotion among some members of God-centric religions. And as it often does, controversy is turning into book sales.
The Grand Design has, in one day, gone from a science book only of interest because of Hawking’s far-reaching name recognition to the hottest book on Amazon. It’s currently ranked number one in sales among every book on the site, sitting above the three Steig Larsson books, Freedom, and all the other heavy hitters. To put its meteoric rise in perspective, let’s compare these recent sales of Hawking’s book to those of Mockingjay, the publishing phenomenon that has now been demoted to the number two spot on the Amazon bestseller list. Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel has been in the top 100 for 220 days. The Grand Design, on the other hand, has been in the top 100 for two days. Mockingjay has 393 customer reviews. The Grand Design has 8.
The excerpts from the book prompted a response from religious figures from all parts of the world as they attempted to discount Hawking’s logic and reaffirm God’s importance. Jonathan Sacks, British Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation, slammed Hawking’s argument in an essay that ran beside it in The Times of London (though the article is still locked behind Rupert Murdoch’s paywall). Dr. Rowan Williams — the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England — said “physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing,” CNN International reported. As these attacks made the rounds, others spoke to The Times about how their faith could not take claims such as Hawking’s seriously.
With hubbub not yet dying down, the number of copies of The Grand Design shipped will probably surge up until its Sept. 7 release date and after. If you only read one book this year in which physics explains the meaning of life, read this one!