In 2006, Leonard Susskind, a physicist and one of the co-creators of string theory, wrote a book entitled The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design. In this book Professor Susskind attempts to set forth the physics and the cosmology of string theory for a popular audience. The subtitle “The Illusion of Intelligent Design” appears to be more for the sake of creating controversy because much of the book is devoted to the finely-tuned physical constants, many of which we have already noted, that are necessary for life to exist, rather than to the presence of a creator and his design of the origin and evolution of life.
Professor Susskind posits that these precise physical constants raise the inference of a creator (intelligent design) but this is an illusion. The illusion results because there are 10500 possible four-dimensional universes (three spatial dimensions plus time). Even though only about one in 10120 such universes is capable of sustaining life, every universe splits into two identical (at that time) universes each time there is an event (a leaf falling, for example). Once again, simply by the laws of probability, some of these universes will develop as ours has. We think there must be intelligent design at work because we assume our universe is unique. In reality it’s only one of an infinite number of possibilities. All of the other universes besides ours are unreachable by us and their existence can neither be proven nor disproven. In other words, the “illusion of intelligent design” is no more provable that the existence of intelligent design.
Consider the ramifications of an infinity of universes suggested by string theory. Let us take Professor Asimov’s story a bit further. He ended “The Last Question” with a highly advanced computer creating a new universe. If string theory is correct, there are an endless number of universes capable of supporting intelligent life. If one of those universes is more advanced than ours, it is likely that technology in that universe has progressed to the point it can build simulated universes. We already see that in our world with humans sitting at computers and creating virtual worlds. Imagine greater technology that gives the ability to create not just a city or neighborhood but an entire universe, complete with “intelligent” beings inside them who are unaware that they are living in a simulation. Over time these simulated beings progress to the point where they can create simulations and voila, worlds without end. Thus there may be only one top-level universe and all the rest are simulations. Once again by the laws of probability we are one of the simulations. We may all be nothing more than a geeky kid’s seventh grade science project. Let’s hope the kid’s mother doesn’t call him to dinner and he turns the simulation off!
But here’s the thing. If that conclusion from string theory is correct, we are the product of intelligent design. The creator is not a Supreme Being that most associate with a concept of God but it is an intelligent being, whether that is the level immediately above us or several levels removed. At the top level, wherever that may be, there is an original, intelligent, non-simulated life form that set all the rest into motion.
Professor Susskind recognizes the limits of string theory. He concludes his book by saying that those looking for affirmation of intelligent design in the form of God will find little comfort in those pages. Yet he concedes that neither does string theory disprove the existence of God.
The question may not be, does God exist. Rather it may be, what form do you prefer your God to take?