I’ve been doing some interesting research for a novel I’m writing. (More on that, maybe, in another post.) It concerns quantum physics and even smaller things – string theory, branes, theories of 10- or 11-dimensional space-time, multiple universes – all sorts of what can be considered either cutting-edge physics and cosmology or crazy crap.
I confess I came to the whole quantum physics stuff late. In high school we got “classical” physics, down to the electron, proton and neutron. I didn’t take a college science class (Yea music degree!) so I didn’t get anything there. Most of what I got was from science fiction I read, and the science fact articles I’ve absorbed through the years from Analog or other magazines.
Parallel to this I was a kid growing up in small-town Ohio in the Sixties in a German-Lutheran environment, religiously speaking. The Lutheran Church there had not yet been changed by the inclusion of Scandinavian influences. I’ve always thought that the Church I grew up in was closer to old-school Roman Catholicism that the Catholic Church was in the Sixties. Minus that transubstantiation stuff, of course.
These two viewpoints always kind of fought in my head. Is there a God? Is He a personal God? If I pray to Him, does He hear me? Does he answer prayers? How do I reconcile my religious upbringing with, not Darwinism, but cosmology, which was trying to determine how the whole universe started.
What was here before there was a here? If the universe was created from a Big Bang, how did that happen? And why? I’ve always felt that the intense study of the Big Bang and what happened immediately after it, while extremely valuable, ignored the more basic question: what was there before it occurred?
Now there are scientists who are saying that maybe our universe has collided with others. (Also see here.) Some believe that branes have collided, or that gravity, weak in our 4-dimensional view, could be very strong in another dimension or set of dimensions. Others are seeking to understand why the universe seems to be perfectly set up for life to exist.
None of these, nor superstring theory or it’s successors using branes, really refers to why things are the way they are. They just seek to describe what they are. If strings exist at the Planck length (or less) it may be impossible to ever detect them directly. God may just not want us to look that far “behind the curtain.”
The more we know about the very small, the more we can determine about the very large. The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is supposed to whack protons together so hard as to produce energies never before seen on Earth. There was an unfounded concern it would create a black hole that would ultimately eat the Earth. The smaller you want to observe, the greater the energy required. That may put a limit on what we can detect.
Instead of looking at this from the “blind watchmaker” angle, let’s look at it from the point of view that there is some kind of intelligence that is extra-universal. It exists outside of our universe but can perceive what happens in our universe. Perhaps it influences how our universe began. Is this the vengeful Yahweh of the Hebrews? Is this a being that cares about us at all as individual solar systems, as planets, let alone as individual people?
I don’t know. In an infinite set of universes, being created and collapsing, eventually there will be one that will have exactly the physical characteristics necessary for life to evolve. (If you wait long enough, those million monkeys will eventually type all of Shakespeare.)
I was going to say, “Are we lucky enough to be the only ones who live in that universe?” What popped into my head was, “Are we the only ones blessed with living in that universe?”
I have to confess that God nowadays seems a bit close-mouthed about things. Back a few thousand years ago he would talk to people, or smite somebody, and demonstrate he was there. Now we look for anything that might be somehow made to fit into our beliefs. I’ve got a couple of incidents myself (which I will not relate here). Is it just our evolved predator brains, looking for patterns where there are none?
I just can’t believe that. If there is some kind of intelligence outside of our universe that tweaked the parameters of our universe so that suns and planets could form, so that water and carbon and other elements could exist and combine in certain ways, and so that ultimately life, sentient life, could come to be – I’m calling it God. Does He listen to my prayers? If He can design a universe, why not? If He went to all the trouble to make the universe balance so we could exist, why wouldn’t He take an interest in His creations?
What happens outside of our universe? Are there more universes? How many more? An infinite number? At what point does the multiverse become self-aware?
I think the problem with atheism is that it is thinking too small. “I can’t see it, or smell it, or touch it, so it can’t exist.” I think the ideas of what is outside of our universe, how our universe began and how it might end, and how it is built at its fundamental level all tell me it was designed for us. God did want companionship. Perhaps trillions of trillions of companions. Perhaps the multiverse is self-aware and is looking after its component parts, which it labored long and hard to build in a certain way.
Now: let’s say the multiverse idea is correct. What’s outside of the multiverse?
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”
– Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time