OK, well, as I said, I'm not really interested in what Hawking left for his estate to publish (geesh, I hope they don't drib and drab him out for maximum profit the way Sagan's or Douglas Adams's families have after their deaths) but I'll go over what was published in the Times of London excerpt.
The question is, is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can’t understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second," wrote Hawking. "If you like, you can call the laws of science 'God', but it wouldn’t be a personal God that you would meet and put questions to.
I would start by the assertion that "the universe" is "determined by a law of science". What Hawking explicitly states he chooses to "BELIEVE" . First, he doesn't claim to "know" that, he chose to "believe" that. So, he clearly figured he didn't have the goods on that to feel comfortable with claiming to "know it" as opposed to what the atheist blog flies are asserting. What even a Stephen Hawking believes on a topic he has not spent much time on is not worth what the woman at the hardware and feed store downtown thinks about it. I suspect she's read and thought about it more than Hawking did.
But it's a rather incredible thing for one of the most famous physicists and cosmologists of the 20-21st centuries to claim, that "a law of science" determined the universe because all laws of science are human formulations that human beings have come up with as a means for human beings to make the universe partially somewhat more comprehensible to human beings. Since the news stories about his posthumous book also say he speculates about non-human intelligence, both extraterrestrial and "artificial"* Hawking certainly opened up the consideration that other intelligence might not find our "laws of science" convincing or even comprehensible. As I've pointed out before, that's hardly a new consideration for modern physics and cosmology, such considerations became not only relevant but entirely important for physics in the early 20th century to consider. Arthur Stanley Eddington, who, from what I can see, is heads and shoulders above Hawking in the philosophical consideration of science, was talking about things like that more than eighty years ago.
"It is one thing for the human mind to extract from the phenomena of nature the laws which it has itself put into them; it may be a far harder thing to extract laws over which it has had no control. It is even possible that laws which have not their origin in the mind may be irrational and we can never succeed in formulating them."
This seems to be coming true, though not in the way that then suggested itself. I had in mind the phenomena of quanta and atomic physics, which at that time completely baffled our efforts to formulate a rational system of law. It was already apparent that the principle laws of molar physics were mind-made — the result of the sensory and intellectual equipment through which we derive our observational knowledge — and were not laws of governance of the objective universe. The suggestion was that in quantum theory we for the first time came up against the true laws of governance of the objective universe. If so, the task was presumably much more difficult than merely rediscovering our own frame of thought”.
Since then microscopic physics has made great progress, and its laws have turned out to be comprehensible to the mind; but, as I have endeavored to show, it also turns out that they have been imposed by the mind — by our forms of thought — in the same way that the molar laws are imposed…"
A. S. Eddington: The Philosophy of Physical Science, p 179
The laws of science are imposed by our minds, they are man made, there may well be "laws" of the universe which we are incapable of comprehending or discerning, those laws would in no way be able to become "laws of science".
A scientist of Hawking's stature, in the late 20th and early 21st century, to claim that the universe is determined or that it started from "a law of science" is philosophically and logically inept. That is especially true if you take the Big Bang model seriously because whatever the universe would have come from at the Big Bang, it would have had to preceded the formation of the very things which human science deals with, physical matter, energy and time. I know that both Hawking and Lawrence Krauss have made noise about the "law of gravity" guaranteeing the beginning of our universe but the law of gravity requires the very things that weren't there before the Big Bang so it would not have existed before matter, energy and time did. Those came into being with the Big Bang, or at least that's what I was taught that meant. If it didn't I'd really like an explanation from observation instead of the hardly uninterested speculations of atheist-materialist hacks like Krauss or Carroll as to why that isn't true.
Hawking, in the only honest part of what he said noted, "If you like, you can call the laws of science 'God'" which is something I said here to some controversy a few days back,
You can call God "nature" or "chance" or "probability" or, as Hawking and Krauss did "the law of gravity" but it's just a different word even as their assertions prove they're talking about God no matter how much you angrily deny that's what they're doing.
It's another coincidence that later the week I wrote that I got to the page in my current book, Hans Kung's Does God Exist, where he said pretty much the same thing, though I can't find the exact quote in that very large book this morning, I will. I can say that what he has to say about the relationship of science and God is far more interesting than anything I've read any atheist-scientist say about it. I am intending to write about that in the near future.
While it's tempting to call what Hawking and his fellow atheists who, instead of opening an antique shop or the equivalent, went into the popular retirement career in the atheism industry, ironic, it isn't ironic when you consider how most of them openly disdain the philosophy that would, if applied rigorously, have shown them that is exactly what they're doing.
They aren't in the business of disposing of God they're in the business of substituting gods of their own liking and, since they want to replace God with the human construct of scientific laws, they are merely setting up less tangible idol in place of God. I think that is the real nature of modern, materialist, scientistic atheism, it is an unconscious, unintended form of idol worship which only seems more sophisticated than the "primitive" religion that they love to mock. Even the most simple and literal of those who find images of Jesus in the scorch marks on a tortilla or the oxidation on the side of a building or believe in the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin don't mistake those images as God but, clearly, these atheists mistake human made "laws of science" and other things such as I listed as creator gods. I don't know of any theologian who has even a minor level of academic reputation who doesn't hold a far more sophisticated view of what they address than even these top scientists do when they try to mix science with God talk. But, then, theologians, for the most part, have had training in philosophy and their academic field is far more rigorous in its review than the extra-scientific god-scribblage of popular atheism. I think in a lot of cases even than academic peer-review in some areas of science. That these scientists have exposed their naive view of their professional subjects is not ironic, it's pathetic.
They might like to condescendingly snipe about people who believe in the personal God who believers believe "you would meet and put questions to" but their idol, whether it's "nature" or "probability" or "the law of gravity" functions in exactly the same way, especially for scientists. What was Hawking's entire career as a scientist about if not becoming familiar with "nature" or "probability" through mathematics in order to put questions and come up with answers. That his means of doing that failed when he went down the road that so many cosmologists did, to try to get rid of God with science, going down the rat hole of multi-verse, M-theory to do so and he insisted on being exempted from the requirement of observation from nature to confirm the reality of his equations only means his god failed him. He went from being a conventional scientist who chooses "nature" as a god to one who demanded that balanced equations could create universes. If he hadn't disdained philosophy, he might have realized that's what he did.
* For the love of Mike, don't get me started on the superstition of artificial intelligence right now. It's scientific Pygmalionism of a particularly stupid kind.