The concept of intelligent design usually involves a type of omniscient, omnipotent being. This being, who is generally known as God, has been the subject of millions of words and thousands of years of religious discussion. This God is the Supreme Being that science has tried to avoid involving in its theories since the time of Galileo. Science dislikes the notion that God was involved in the creation of the universe because such a postulate can’t be proven or disproven. Rather it has to be taken as a matter of faith and is thus unsuitable for science.
But intelligent design doesn’t have to involve God. If we carry the parallel universe theory to one logical conclusion (not the only conclusion, but one) intelligent design can be involved without involving God. Isaac Asimov wrote a delightful short story called “The Last Question” in 1956. The story begins in 2061 when man at last harnesses the energy of the sun. While a world-wide celebration is taking place, two computer programmers, half drunk, discuss this accomplishment.
“Now we have energy forever,” one says.
“Not forever,” the other replies. “The sun will eventually burn out and die.”
“That’s billions of years in the future,” the first says.
“But it’s not forever. The law of entropy says everything will run down eventually.”
From this the two programmers wonder if entropy can be reversed and decide to ask the computer.
“There is insufficient data for a meaningful answer,” the computer eventually responds.
From here the story shifts scenes several times. In each scene, which is in the future from the previous scene, a computer, which eventually become housed in hyper-space and accessible simply by thinking, is asked this question and each time the answer is the same: “insufficient data for a meaningful answer.”
Finally the last descendant of humanity dies and his mind merges with the all-knowing computer. The computer now has all knowledge that ever existed. Were it not for the final, unanswered question about reversing entropy, the computer could cease functioning. It spends a timeless interval processing the accumulated knowledge of humanity and can finally answer the question, can entropy be reversed?
“And AC said, ‘Let there be light’.
“And there was light.”
As with so many things first put forward by science fiction writers, later developments in science have moved this story from the realm of pure fantasy into a plausible scientific theory that is actively discussed in serious conversations. In fact, one hypothesis
from string theory has made its way into popular culture. In a recent episode of “The Big Bang Theory” while trying to impress Penny, Leonard explains that one conclusion to be drawn from string theory is that we are all holograms projected by a far more advanced society. While this got some laughs from the laugh track (and probably from the viewing audience as well), it was not just the wild imaginings of the script writers at CBS. We’ll explore the notion that we are holograms or a sophisticated simulation run by a kid playing Farmville in another universe in coming posts.