A prominent scientist has argued that there is no need to invoke the idea of Stephen Hawking to explain the new book, The Grand Design, which will go on sale September 7. ‘Because there is a law such as supply and demand, a book like this can and will create itself from nothing,’ said Robin de Byer, Lucresian Professor of Theoretical Economics at the University of Shepton Mallet. ‘It is not necessary to invoke Stephen Hawking to set the book going.’

The statement has proved controversial, provoking replies from various quarters of the religious community, many of whom still believe that books like this were actually written, perhaps even personally dictated, by a figure referred to as Stephen Hawking. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Revd Owen Millions, said ‘There is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity every book ultimately depends for its existence. Economics on its own will not settle the question of why there are books rather than no books.’

Other books have been attributed to Hawking by theologians, including A Brief History of the Last Twenty Minutes. Fundamentalists believe he once wrote a book on mathematics. The arguments will no doubt continue, but most people seem likely to continue to believe in an intelligent design to make a few grand.

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