Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow’s The Grand Design (Bantam Books) was Amazon’s top seller upon its release on Tuesday. It has since fallen to the fourth spot, raking in less than Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy but more than Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom [even without Barack Obama getting an ARC].
Co-authored by the world’s most recognizable living physicist, the book uses science to answer ancient questions about the purpose of life. According to Amazon, The Grand Design illustrates how we create history by observing it and dives into the M-theory, described as the “theory of everything.”
The Twitter community brings up The Grand Design every few minutes while a few religious groups get riled up over the book’s ideas. One scientist and former head of the Royal Institution in the U.K. even described Hawking’s determined convictions as “Taliban-like.” After all, according to the Telegraph, Hawking and Mlodinow (more or less) deny the existence of God, writing the following: Because there is a law such as gravity, 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.”
In the midst of it all, The New York Times’ Dwight Garner has given the book another slap:
The real news about The Grand Design, however, isn’t Mr. Hawking’s supposed jettisoning of God, information that will surprise no one who has followed his work closely. The real news about The Grand Design is how disappointingly tinny and inelegant it is. The spare and earnest voice that Mr. Hawking employed with such appeal in A Brief History of Time has been replaced here by one that is alternately condescending, as if he were Mr. Rogers explaining rain clouds to toddlers, and impenetrable.
Garner later describes the co-authors as an awkward pair, part A Beautiful Mind, part borscht belt, and the book as provocative pop science, an exploration of the latest thinking about the origins of our universe. But the air inside this literary biosphere is not especially pleasant to breathe.
Q&Q has yet to smell the air in The Grand Design‘s literary biosphere. But it’s easy to see why Hawking and Mlodinow might get condescending: they are writing about creation, a subject we’ve failed to get any real grasp of for thousands of years.