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Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Religion ... Science ...

Scientists are on a tear these days to stamp out any rational reason for believing that there might be a knowing and almighty God or similar “higher power” as postulated by many of the world’s major religions. Over the centuries, science has broadened its jurisdiction over many areas of mystery where the ancients once thought God’s fingerprint might be found. E.g., humankind found out that we live on a limited sphere (planet) and not an infinite flat plane (or a limited island on an infinite ocean, as the Book of Genesis seems to imagine); then we found out that this sphere was not the center of the universe with all other heavenly bodies circling it; then we found that the forces of life are driven by ordinary chemistry and physics (and information processing), not by some spiritual “elan vital”; then it turned out that humans themselves evolved through these physical processes over time through trial-and-error processes, and not by any direct intervention from the divine.

In recent years, our physicists and cosmologists have made much progress in understanding the universe on both the largest and smallest scales. I.e., Big Bang/inflation cosmology (replete with dark energy and dark matter) rule the macro end, while quantum mechanics and the Standard Particle Model (and maybe soon, superstring theory) hold at the micro scales. Nonetheless, a problem has emerged over time for many of these physicists, when they realized that “it didn’t have to be the way that it is”. If ‘life, the universe and everything’ can be compared to a loaf of baked bread, scientists now realize that just a few tiny differences in some arbitrary factors governing matter and energy relationships could have left the universe as a gummy blob that never rose, or a stack of burnt crumbs after the primordial dough rose too fast and then blew to pieces. Things turned out as they did, with organized clusters, galaxies, stars, planets and living things (and then living things with sentient consciousness), because of an unlikely confluence of “just right” settings in the basic laws of the universe.

Now, obviously this seems to leave a door open for God to leave a fingerprint. So the scientists are working their minds overtime in trying to weld this door shut, with concepts of repeating “multi-verse” bubbles and parallel universes based on the still-untested notions of superstring theory. Under this scenario, the anti-God people will weld this door in similar fashion to how Darwinian evolution foreclosed the possibility of Adam being fashioned out of the mud directly by the hand of God. (SCIENCE CLEARLY DID WIN THAT ROUND; even though plenty of people are still wasting plenty of energy trying to fight that losing battle.) They will do so by postulating and hopefully proving a very-long term process of trial and error.

This still-theoretical process of universe creation requires lots of time and causes lots of trials with lots of random factors involved. I.e., there are plenty of Big Bangs in some dimension. Sooner or later, just the right combination HAS to result. And tah-dah, here we are! No one yet has detected the “unrisen dough” or “burnt crumbs” of remnant universes, even though there must be trillions or even unimaginable numbers of them out there, given the complexity of the physical processes involved. But some of the more imaginative physicists are starting to dream up possible ways of looking for gravitational effects or high-energy events that would reflect the reality of a multiverse situation.

[Interestingly, two more layers of trial and error systems relating to the occurrence of intelligent/sentient life on earth have been uncovered recently, lying between the realm of DNA mutation / natural selection in living beings, and the creation of vast numbers of universes each with random differences in the design and functioning of their physical laws. First, regarding our solar system, scientists are now racking up information on many other planetary systems in our galaxy thanks to highly sensitive observation instruments and superfast computers to crunch all the data they generate. There are all sorts of planet-sun combinations, but a “just right” combo like the Earth and its Sun seems quite rare thus far.]

[Second, I just read an article in Scientific American about how galaxies need just the right balance with their core black-hole objects, in order for life-sustaining conditions to emerge in certain regions of the galactic star fields. Our Milky Way just happens to be at the right age with the right kind of black hole; of the 150 billion galaxies in our “known Universe”, only a small fraction will have the right black hole dynamics that allow places where the elements needed for life can accumulate in a peaceful-enough fashion.]

I wouldn’t be surprised if someday, perhaps beyond my lifetime, an international team of physicists announces the discovery of highly probably evidence for a multi-dimensional reality where scads of universes are created, each with some different combination of physical constants and tuning factors. Well, hallelujah, no more “God behind the Big Bang” scenarios put forth by doddering old fools like Pope Benedict 26

But wait . . . so now we have sentient life evolving by a random trial-and-error process on a life-supporting planet in a solar system that evolves by a random trial-and-error process, in a galaxy that evolved to support the formation and peaceful existence of such solar systems through a random trial-and-error system, in a universe which evolved through a random trial-and-error process to have physical laws that allow such a galaxy with such systems . . . sorry to be impertinent, but why end it here?

When we study the laws of this multiverse and derive equations to understand its workings, those equations will have constant factors in them (even the equation x = y + z uses constants for y and z; they just both happen to be 1). Someone will then ask once again, ‘what if those constants had been different?’ Why not another layer, i.e. a trial and error process that creates multi-verses, some capable of trial-and-error creation of individual universes, and some that can’t . . . call it the “super-multiverse” system. And then, why not a super-super-multiverse system? And a super-super-super-multiverse system? Is this like the apocryphal old lady who allegedly told a scientist that the earth was supported by a giant turtle, and when he asked her what the turtle as supported by, she allegedly said “you’re very clever, young man, but it’s turtles all the way down…”

In Bertrand Russell’s book “Why I Am Not A Christian”, he says

If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, ‘How about the tortoise?’ the Indian said, ‘Suppose we change the subject.’

Well, it looks like the scientists themselves may someday be changing the subject. There’s a ‘reductio ad absurdum’ for both the idea of God as creator and for the scientific view of a life-supporting universe creating itself. Choose your absurdity. I’ll take the one that has consciousness and feelings, akin to the scientifically unexplainable and evolutionarily unnecessary conscious awareness and ability to feel feelings, such as those that I experience during the waking hours of my living years.

To paraphrase the old lady: “It’s GOD, all the way down!”

PS — Here is a quote that I read recently somewhere on an obscure web site; my explications are in brackets.

Infinity exists or it doesn’t. That is really what the big questions are all about. Either there is infinite energy and infinite time or the nature of existence eventually dies. [an infinite universe is its own god . . . a finite universe arguably needs a reason, or it violates the scientific assumption that all physical phenomenon have a cause.]

Yet the in-your-face paradox won’t be changed… The universe has to be a perpetual motion machine of energy production in order to exist forever and continue to use energy. [the infinite universe that is its own god is a perpetual motion machine . . . which science hasn’t favored thus far]

So to have a universe with rules, the rules have to be broken, most fundamentally. [the rules of the entropic time arrow must be broken for the perpetual motion machine to exist.] The paradox is that atheism fails without God. – C. Michael Turner

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:00 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, I certainly agree with you on the points you make here. I would like to add a couple of points; maybe they are simply the same concept you have but from a different point of view—mine. Well, what else can be expected from me? So, some random thoughts.

    I was struck by two words in your first sentence that made me think, ah, right HERE is the problem with science and religion mixing. The 2 words are “rational reason” as applied to anything spiritual, much less “God”. If one approaches the topic of God from the standpoint of religion, any religion starts immediately talking about “faith”—which immediately excludes “rational reason”. Thus, science is mixing apples and oranges.

    Then too one can approach God, not from the standpoint of religion but from the standpoint of spirituality, which it seems many people these days are more interested in than are interested in formal religion. Here also, once again, one is talking the intangible, the mystical, which would exclude “rational reason” as I see it.

    We’ve already talked about the refusal of science to consider anything that approaches the intangible even tho science is standing on the very brink of the intangible in its studies. I keep wondering why science is so threatened by the intangible when it’s standing face to face with it.

    On another point, I do find myself wondering about all the dimensions that science is positing must be “around” the universe. If one wants to *experience* the various dimensions, it seems to me one would have to BE in the particular dimension one is experiencing or wants to experience. And here I admit I have no clue what science says on this subject, but it seems to me that science seldom thinks in terms of actually *entering* another dimension.

    Lastly, science and its attitude about God/god (however one wants to perceive such a concept) remind me of what Kathleen Norris said in one of her books I read recently. (I paraphrase here.) She said that it’s better to have someone disagree openly with a person rather than have the one disagreeing take and approach of insisting he/she is right and the other wrong. It seems to me that science is doing both here: It is openly and bluntly disagreeing with those who want to hold any particular concept of god *and* it is also “snarling” (Norris’ word) that it is right and everybody else is wrong.

    I find myself getting tired of the hubris of science and some scientists. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — August 16, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

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