LONDON, U.K.-Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking makes a controversial claim in his new book The Grand Design that God is not in any way responsible for events transpiring in the world of athletics. Hawking's new theory argues that the failures or triumphs in the world of sports are not the will of God, but rather the inevitable consequence of the laws of physics and probability.
"In times past, we lacked the evidence for a definite answer as to why some teams and athletes were successful, and others were not," writes Hawking. "A popular answer-and plausible explanation given the state of human knowledge-was that God must be somehow involved. But now, appealing to the laws of physics, we can confidently say that, in fact, God plays no role, for better or worse, in any athletic event or the career of any one athlete."
Hawking's claim of lack of a divine agent in sports is a sharp reversal from his stance in his 1988 bestseller A Brief History of Time, in which he left the door open to the presence of divine intervention in sports.
"Because there is a law of hard work and a law of athletic ability, athletes and teams at all levels of competition can and will succeed on their own merits," writes the Cambridge professor. "Being more able and better-prepared, as well as using illegal performance-enhancing drugs is the reason why some teams lose and some teams win."
Hawking's book also discusses specific instances in which holy action was credited with a positive outcome, including David Tyree's famous helmet catch in the closing moments of Super Bowl XLII.
"David Tyree, of course, credited God with helping him make the catch. However, using the law of forward motion and the law of the tired fourth-quarter defense, we can positively rule out any possibility of supernatural determinism."
Hawking's claim has already created a backlash in the sporting world, with many prominent players and coaches coming forward to denounce Hawking's work.
"I don't care what Hawking thinks he knows," said Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow Thursday night. "I didn't win a Heisman Trophy or two BCS championships because I was 'talented' or 'motivated'. I won them because Jesus loves me, and there isn't a damn thing you can do to convince me otherwise."
"If God isn't guiding my athletic career, then why did I grow to be 6'11?" demanded Magic center Dwight Howard following an Orlando practice. "Explain that. Or explain why I'm two-time defensive player of the year. However you want to look at it, it all points to the same conclusion: God wants me to win.
"Now, He hasn't given me an NBA Championship yet, true," Howard admitted. "But what can I say? He moves in mysterious ways."
"It's understandable that [the book] would generate controversy," said Hawking in an interview with the BBC Thursday. "We're still at a very early stage of human knowledge and scientific progress. While I personally find the idea of a creator who chooses favorites in sporting competitions between advanced apes on a tiny planet of an ordinary star in one of perhaps infinite galaxies personally appealing, the truth of the matter is we just don't have the evidence to support that."
Hawking's work is just the latest in a series of high-profile attempts to disprove the action or inaction of a righteous being in athletics, along with Christopher Hitchens' famous study on pre-game prayer and Neil DeGrasse Tyson's work disproving the theory that a rare planetary alignment allowed the Phillies to win the 2008 World Series.
Hawking's work was inconclusive on whether God plays a hand in freestyle rap battles or middle-schoolers passing tests they haven't studied for.