Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.
He then asks
Huh? I can’t make sense of it at all. Is it just me that finds it entirely devoid of either logic or meaning?
He has a poll where you can vote on whether the statement is meaningful.
I voted, and then I wrote a comment explaining my vote. Having written it, I figured I might as well throw it up here, so that two or three more people might see it:
I find the intended meaning of the statement tolerably clear: given that there are certain laws of nature, including gravity (among other things such as quantum mechanics), a vacuum state (“nothing”) can and will evolve into a state containing a universe like ours.
That strikes me as meaningful and quite possibly even true. As a piece of science communication to the general public, though, it’s counterproductive. In context, it’s clear that Hawking means to claim this as an answer to hoary old questions of the “why is there something rather than nothing” variety, and it doesn’t do that. If you’re the sort of person who’s inclined to be bothered by questions of that sort, you’ll be just as bothered after understanding this claim as you were before. You’ll just want to know why there was a vacuum state lying around obeying these particular laws of physics.
Similarly, this argument certainly doesn’t prove the non-existence of God, as Hawking seems to be claiming.
Scientists harm our brand when we make overly broad claims about what science can “prove.” Hawking should know better.
Scientists who try to explain things to the general public are on the side of the (secular) angels, but it drives me crazy when they make overly grandiose claims, either about the science itself or about its philosophical interpretation. Every time a scientist does this, it erodes the credibility of the entire profession.