June 08, 2010

11.gif agnostic image by heartonawireIn past articles I have written about God, his existence and the influences of religion on our lives. On this article I'll treat the topic on a intellectual and scientific point of view.

Therefore it will be a bit difficult to understand to ordinary people, but as I said before, is for the benefit of those, that having done their investigation, believe that science can produce a satisfactory answer to the existence of god or the use of religion on our lives.

Before I go into detail let me define the labels given to a person, that like me, commits the heresy of asking these questions.

Atheist is the name given to those who do not believe in god at all. These persons are materialistic in the sense that there is no soul, or energy which stays "alive" when you die.  It all ends with death and there is no after life to live and no god, ghosts or holy spirits.

Theists are those who believe in some kind of divine entity and follow a set of rituals to demonstrate their faith in that deity.

Then there is a kind of people who are not theist.  They do not follow any kind of divine and do not perform any ritual to any image, idol or belief.  These persons are also not sure that there is no god. Or lets say they believe that something from each person stays after death and that "something" pass to another type of process that, although no understood, they believe it exists. They refuse to believe that everything is lost at death, even knowledge.

These people does not affirm or deny the existence of god, or any other divine entity. They are called Agnostics.

I am one of those people.

But lets read about a scientific analysis of the existence of a "creator" of everything and how that process might have worked.  The following are exerts of Stephen Hawkins' book "A brief history of Time" I have modified some words and concepts and added my personal opinions and conclusions to make the whole writing more understandable.

On the question of how the universe started and how it behave, the general theory of relativity, on its own, cannot explain these features or answer these questions because of its prediction that the universe started off with infinite density at the big bang singularity. At the singularity, general relativity and all other physical laws would break down: one couldn’t predict what would come out of the singularity.  This means that one might as well cut the big bang, and any events before it, out of the theory, because they can have no effect on what we observe. Space-time would have a boundary – a beginning at the big bang.

Science seems to have uncovered a set of laws that, within the limits set by the uncertainty principle, tell us how the universe will develop with time, if we know its state at any one time. These laws may have originally been decreed by God, but it appears that he has since left the universe to evolve according to them and does not now intervene in it.

But how did he choose the initial state or configuration of the universe? What were the “boundary conditions” at the beginning of time?

One possible answer is to say that God chose the initial configuration of the universe for reasons that we cannot hope to understand. This would certainly have been within the power of an omnipotent being, but if he had started it off in such an incomprehensible way, why did he choose to let it evolve according to laws that we could understand?

The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired. It would be only natural to suppose that this order should apply not only to the laws, but also to the conditions at the boundary of space-time that specify the initial state of the universe.

There is the case that quite a number of different initial configurations for the universe would have evolved to produce a universe like the one we observe. If this is the case, a universe that developed from some sort of random initial conditions should contain a number of regions that are smooth and uniform and are suitable for the evolution of intelligent life. On the other hand, if the initial state of the universe had to be chosen extremely carefully to lead to something like what we see around us, the universe would be unlikely to contain any region in which life would appear. In the hot big bang model described above, there was not enough time in the early universe for heat to have flowed from one region to another.

This means that the initial state of the universe would have to have had exactly the same temperature everywhere in order to account for the fact that the microwave back-ground has the same temperature in every direction we look.

The initial rate of expansion also would have had to be chosen very precisely for the rate of expansion still to be so close to the critical rate needed to avoid recollapse. This means that the initial state of the universe must have been very carefully chosen indeed if the hot big bang model was correct right back to the beginning of time. It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us. 

In the classical theory of gravity, which is based on real space-time, there are only two possible ways the universe can behave: either it has existed for an infinite time, or else it had a beginning at a singularity at some finite time in the past. In the quantum theory of gravity, on the other hand, a third possibility arises. Because one is using Euclidean space-times, in which the time direction is on the same footing as directions in space, it is possible for space-time to be finite in extent and yet to have no singularities that formed a boundary or edge. Space-time would be like the surface of the earth, only with two more dimensions. The surface of the earth is finite in extent but it doesn’t have a boundary or edge: if you sail off into the sunset, you don’t fall off the edge or run into a singularity. (I know, because I have been round the world!)

If Euclidean space-time stretches back to infinite imaginary time, or else starts at a singularity in imaginary time, we have the same problem as in the classical theory of specifying the initial state of the universe: God may know how the universe began, but we cannot give any particular reason for thinking it began one way rather than another. On the other hand, the quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behavior at the boundary. There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down, and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. One could say: “The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary.” The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed, It would just BE.

There is the suggestion that maybe time and space together formed a surface that was finite in size but did not have any boundary or edge. Although this hypothesis is rather mathematical, its implications for the role of God in the creation of the universe are devastating.
The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. Atheist-Jokes-atheism-1511722-400-343

With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started – it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?

So, in order to have a definitive answer to those important questions related to God, we are looking for a theory that would unify all existing theories on physics.

But can there really be such a unified theory? Or are we perhaps just chasing a mirage? There seem to be three possibilities:
  1. There really is a complete unified theory (or a collection of overlapping formulations), which we will someday discover if we are smart enough.
  2. There is no ultimate theory of the universe, just an infinite sequence of theories that describe the universe more and more accurately.
  3. There is no theory of the universe: events cannot be predicted beyond a certain extent but occur in a random and arbitrary manner.
Some would argue for the third possibility on the grounds that if there were a complete set of laws, that would infringe God’s freedom to change his mind and intervene in the world. It’s a bit like the old paradox: can God make a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it?

But the idea that God might want to change his mind is an example of the fallacy, pointed out by St. Augustine, of imagining God as a being existing in time: time is a property only of the universe that God created. Presumably, he knew what he intended when he set it up!

The fact that gravity is always attractive implies that the universe must be either expanding or contracting. According to the general theory of relativity, there must have been a state of infinite density in the past, the big bang, which would have been an effective beginning of time. Similarly, if the whole universe recollapsed, there must be another state of infinite density in the future, the big crunch, which would be an end of time. Even if the whole universe did not recollapse, there would be singularities in any localized regions that collapsed to form black holes. These singularities would be an end of time for anyone who fell into the black hole. At the big bang and other singularities, all the laws would have broken down, so God would still have had complete freedom to choose what happened and how the universe began.

When we combine quantum mechanics with general relativity, there seems to be a new possibility that did not arise before: that space and time together might form a finite, four-dimensional space without singularities or boundaries, like the surface of the earth but with more dimensions. It seems that this idea could explain many of the observed features of the universe, such as its large-scale uniformity and also the smaller-scale departures from homogeneity, like galaxies, stars, and even human beings. It could even account for the arrow of time that we observe.

But if the universe is completely self-contained, with no singularities or boundaries, and completely described by a unified theory, that has profound implications for the role of God as Creator.

Einstein once asked the question: “How much choice did God have in constructing the universe?” If the no boundary proposal is correct, he had no freedom at all to choose initial conditions. He would, of course, still have had the freedom to choose the laws that the universe obeyed. This, however, may not really have been all that much of a choice; there may well be only one, or a small number, of complete unified theories, such as the heterotic string theory, that are self-consistent and allow the existence of structures as complicated as human beings who can investigate the laws of the universe and ask about the nature of God.

Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? Is the unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence? Or does it need a creator, and, if so, does he have any other effect on the universe? And who created him?

However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.

For more about my work on science and reason please visit my YouTube Channel: JOLULIPA: Reazon & Science

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