Putting the word "design" in the book's title is the kind of cheeky humor that Mr. Hawking has become known for. The authors' answer to the riddle of the universe has nothing to do with intelligent design or with religion generally. "Some would claim the answer to these questions is that there is a God who chose to create the universe that way. . . . We claim, however, that it is possible to answer these questions purely within the realm of science, and without invoking any divine beings."
The Hawking vs. God debate has featured prominently in the news of late. He and Mr. Mlodinow don't claim to have proved that God doesn't exist; their argument is somewhat more confined, but still important in its implications. We understand enough about the ultimate laws of physics, the authors say, to conclude that we don't need God to understand the universe.
This is what I wrote earlier when I illustrate it with my example of the eclipse. In other words, what we originally do not have a mechanism for (creation of the universe), now we find that we do have such possibility. It is an argument directed towards those who use the "god of the gaps" to prove the existence of god.
As with most things, people get into a tiff over nothing. There are MORE DAMNING books against the existence of god than this one. Vic Stenger's book "God: The Failed Hypothesis" is a lot more "combative" against the existence of God than Hawking's book. Yet, there's hardly a ripple about it when it came out.