I spend most of my time exploring everything in the realms of the Spirit and the Secular. More accurately stated, I work in these two realms of existence. It is fun then to explore the unseen realm of particle physics. Subatomic physics challenges the analytical mind. How is light both a particle and a wave? The imagination is exercised to explain what is demonstrated as real by the computer you are using to read this. But, the theoretical side is interesting because it takes imagination to figure out how to experiment and prove everything.
The Theory Of Everything
A friend once e-mailed me the following question. “What do you as a pastor think of physics?” It is an odd question indeed.
I replied, “Well, if they can explain the math and the thinking behind in terms I understand, I like it.”
His response was, “Dang autocorrect! I meant psychics?”
It was a good laugh. But I was serious in my first answer. This stuff intrigues me. I have walked in the world or General and Special Relativity, Quantum Theory, Quantum Electrodynamics, String Theory, Dark Matter, Blackholes, Curved Space, and Superstrings as a tourist in a foreign land. The knowledge makes me want to know more.
I received my copy of Michio Kaku’s new book The God Equation: The Quest For A Theory of EVERYTHING on the day it was released. His writing and explanations allowed me to read it all the same day too. It is easier to read than Stephen Hawking’s final popular book Brief Answers To The Big Questions.
A Troubling Problem
There is a troublesome problem with all of this popularized reading. Questions about how these ideas are developed arise. Several years ago I had a question. I decided to turn to a previously untapped resource. I knew the mother of a solid state physicist who I thought could help. My question concerned M-Theory.
He apologized in his reply. It turned out he had no idea what I was asking about. He “had to look it up,” he said. M-Theory is short for “Membrane Theory.” But that is not confusing enough. Membranes, like those of animal cells, are the defining barriers of the multiple universes from the “multiverse theory.” My friend’s son explained that to his mind M-Theory is just “merely mathematical philosophy.”
I was reading in his reply the old problem of theoretical versus experimental science. It is the dispute between Edison and Tesla which began before they lived and continues to this day. The reason I asked the question in the first place was an assertion about one of my own philosophical positions.
A Reason For Everything
Is there a purpose to the Universe? Did it come into being with no guiding principle and somehow develop beings that could ask these questions?
The Universe appears to be “fine-tuned” for the development of life and sentient beings. The idea is called the Anthropic Principle. The purpose of the Universe is to produce a self-awareness of itself through thinking beings. My own view is considered in scientific terms the weak Anthropic Principle. The difference is similar to the Strong and Weak nuclear forces.
M-Theory proposes an infinite number of possible (or potential) universes until we find one (or more) that produce intelligent beings. This is the view Hawking settled into. Kaku thinks M-Theory has too many problems and gives us the theoretical equivalents of 2+2=5 thus violating mathematical logic. (pp. 189-190) To my mind Occam’s Razor would favor the Anthropic Principle. Kaku even makes reference to Freeman Dyson “it seems as if the universe knew we were coming.” (p. 175) Yet, Kaku does not argue for this idea.
Any Or All
Kaku knows there a metaphysical questions that come from choosing his title. The word “metaphysics” is a compound Greek word meaning “after physics.” A theory of explaining the work and interactions of everything can be given the title “The God Equation” just like the Higgs-Boson became “The God Particle.” The idea relies on the proposed contribution the idea would make. Higgs-Boson explains the existence of mass. The God Equation would explain what makes it all work.
Kaku claims agnosticism as his metaphysical position. But as the famous line from the book by Aristotle says, “All people by nature desire to know.” Even with a simple e=mc2 type equation explaining how the universe works, we will still desire an explanation of why it exists. And if we get the answer that the universe exists because of the instability of nothingness there will still be a desire on our part to know why that is the case. The fact is we are never going to get away from the question of purpose. Whatever we learn will require us to know more. This truth was learned when Albert Einstein developed his theories of Relativity. The quest for knowledge never ends.
Will human being ever know all there is to know? Is information finite? It may be. Eventually individuals get tired of learning and are satisfied that we know enough. I can’t see that happening anytime soon for me. But I may get there tomorrow.