What Does It Mean?

It’s worth taking a pause right now to consider where we’ve come. We started with a brief biography of physics, moving from the earth-centered view of things to a vast universe that might be just one of virtually infinite universes. This view is called the multiverse.  We’ve seen that the Big Bang Theory is currently the predominant theory on how the universe came into being. It is now almost universally (no pun intended) recognized as the accepted theory because it and it alone explains what we observe.

By running the Big Bang backwards we are led to an inescapable conclusion: that everything was all together in one place at one time. That instant in time is the Big Bang itself, the instant when immeasurable energy exploded. Both space and time began at that instant. We’ve speculated on what caused the Big Bang and we’ve run into a knotty problem that occupies physicists today. How do we reconcile General Relativity and String Theory? Is there one unifying theory? This unifying theory is given the name of the Grand Unifying Theory, inelegantly known as GUT. Too bad scientists have fallen prey to the seemingly insatiable desire to create an acronym for everything.  But science is no different than anyone else. We have reduced the Supreme Court of the United States to SCOTUS, which looks an awful lot like scrotum. But I digress.

We have seen that there are three possibilities for why the universe is the way it is. The first is that it is a random event. After the Big Bang there were almost infinite possibilities for how the universe could turn out and it turned out this way. In other words, we won the cosmic lottery; otherwise we wouldn’t be here to ask such questions. The second possibility is that of the 10500 universes that exist in the String Theory-predicted multiverse, the odds are that at least one of them would be like ours, that is, capable of sustaining life. The final possibility is that, given how exquisitely fine-tuned our universe is, it must be the product of intelligent design.

We purposely chose this last postulate because it gives us much more room to let our imaginations run wild as to what form this intelligent design takes, is this a Supreme Being in the classical sense of God, does time exist for God, what was God doing before he created the universe and what is He doing now. Along the way we rejected two other possibilities, one suggested by Isaac Asimov that this universe is the creation of a super-computer created by another civilization; and the String Theory variant of that that we are all simulations in a highly evolved Farmville game being run by a seventh-grader somewhere.

So, where we are is with the proposition that a Supreme Being, God, created this universe. The Big Bang is consistent with Genesis. What does that mean for us?

First of all, it gives real problems to the evolutionists. Evolution takes a similar tack as String Theory. Over time, given so many variants in organisms, we evolved. Evolution has no need for God, just as LaPlace had no need in his theory. But if God created this universe for us, doesn’t it make sense that He also placed animals, plants, microbes and all other forms of life here as well? If evolution is going to stand on the proposition that God isn’t necessary for life to have developed on Earth then it better explain the existence of the universe in the first place.

With the almost certainty of further offending anyone other than a physicist, I’ll close this post with one of my favorite quotations

on science. This is from Ernest Rutherford:   File:Ernest Rutherford cropped.jpg

                       All science is either physics or stamp collecting.

By this he meant that every other science is simply concerned with categorizing information.

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“I Have No Need of that Hypothesis”

Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace, one of the m...

Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace, one of the main early developers of Bayesian statistics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1814, Pierre-Simon Laplace, a French mathematician, developed a theory of the universe which he presented to Napoleon. As the story goes, Napoleon asked Laplace why the theory contained no mention of God. Laplace is said to have replied, “Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là. (“I had no need of that hypothesis.”). Some have taken this as evidence that Laplace did not believe in God; however, others believe that Laplace meant that he saw no need for God in the role of a creator of the universe.

Modern science has come up with string theory and probability that likewise allows it to say it has no need for a hypothesis as to the creation of the universe that includes God. But as we’ve seen string theory can lead to a conclusion that there is some sort of intelligent design involved in the creation of the universe; it’s just not the same form of intelligent design that Judeo-Christian theology presents.

As I mentioned a few posts back, string theory presents us with three choices: The universe is just a fluke, a random happening; this universe is a result of the probability of huge numbers; or there was some form of intelligent design involved in the creation of the universe. We chose (actually I chose because, after all, this is my blog) to follow the third possibility because it offered more room for speculation.

Now we face another choice: what form do we want our intelligent designer to take? Do we want to believe we are just simulations in a seventh-grader’s science project? Do we want to believe Earth was seeded by a more advanced society millions of years ago? Think the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course, this latter view begs the question, where did the more advanced society come from? Or do we want to take a more traditional view that we are uniquely created by a benevolent Supreme Being whom we refer to as God? Personally, I’m egotistical enough to reject the notion that I’m nothing more than a holographic image projected in someone’s basement or dorm room. Once again the third option offers more fertile ground for speculation.

Postulating God in this form raises all sorts of interesting questions. What was God doing before He created the universe? Was God doing anything since if He was doing something, was that not some sort of creating? In that case, it couldn’t have been “before” the creation. Can there be God if there was no “before” the creation, since both time and space began at the moment of creation? If there was no “before” where was God?

God the Father 16

God the Father 16 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

So with foreknowledge that one should never discuss sex, religion or politics in order to remain on good terms with all involved, I will throw caution to the wind and dive headlong into a discussion of the nature of God.  To make is a bit more manageable, this God will be the traditional Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. And, in view of the fact that I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), I’ll make use of its doctrine as well.

Does God Exist?

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?