Theology for the Masses

November 16, 2006

A Short History of a Quantum Fluctuation

Filed under: Philosophy,Religion and Science — Henry Imler @ 12:24 am

�When I speak of objects in time and in space, it is not of things in themselves, of which I know nothing, but of things in appearance.�
� Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Part Three, The Cosmological Ideas.

With all that the human race has learned since Kant’s day, some of his maxims still ring true. There have been many realizations that have shaped humanities understanding of how the universe operates. Throughout it all, the majority of man’s believes about what is beyond their world has not matched pace. In the years following Kant, the West thought that it was about to reach an endgame in regards to science. All that was left were a few clouds on the horizon. Those clouds quickly grew to become massive hailstorms that completely altered the way one views nature and even the very nature of reality.

The majority of these storms one can trace their origin to the late, great Albert Einstein. The ideas that he cultivated helped to lead to one of the great revolutions in science. It even lead to the birth of cosmology as a science. His paper on the photoelectric effect lead to Quantum Mechanics, the most successful theory on describing the behavior of matter and energy on the subatomic level. His papers on relativity vastly changed the way one views space and time. His ideas showed that there was no actual distinction between time and space, they are both merely different dimensions of the fabric of reality, called space-time. The fourth paper published in 1905 entitled Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content? gave rise to the famous equation E=mc2. This equation meant that energy and matter are equivalent; they are merely different forms of the same thing.

On the surface of things, one might suspect that these advancements served Western religion well. Theologians from Saudi Arabia to Israel to Rome could all point to the notion of a unified space time and say that the entire universe and its history is one great painting of Allah’s. They could also point to the energy-mass equivalence and posit that there is but one base to the paint that the Lord used. Islamic scholars point to the Qur’an and note sura 21, verse 30, �the heavens and the earth were joined together as one unit, before We clove them asunder� and sura 51, verse 47, �The heavens, We have built them with power. And verily, We are expanding it.� These passages seem to be very compatible with the Big Bang. Pope Pius XII also echoed this same notion of compatibility in 1951 when he declared that Big Bang cosmology was compatible with Genesis[1] For every religious view that seems to accept what it knows of science there are others that reject science for fear of being a thistle in the wind.

A deeper look does not reveal hopeful promises of reconciliation between western religion and the newfound science. Instead, a much bleaker picture emerges, one where the Lord of Lords finds himself either banished completely from the picture, or reconfigured in such a way that it is barely recognizable. With the unification of space-time comes the stretching of each by energy. Just at the slope of the spatial dimensions are stretched, so is the seeming flow of time. In areas of higher energy, such as shipA traveling faster than another shipB, time runs slower for shipA than it does for shipB. The ramification of this is that there is no “Universal Now”, or T1. Time runs at different speeds at different locations in the universe. This creates a problem for a notion of a omniscient God. One cannot know everything that is happening now if there is no Universal Now. Restated, if there is no universal T1, then it is not possible to know the state of the universe at T1.

Additionally, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, or UP dictates that there is no possible way that one can know both the position and momentum of a particle below a certain limit. As a dictum, the UP is stated as follows, �The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa.�[2] In exchange for measurement of one, the probability of the other is what is received. The future position and momentum can be described at a probability function. The introduction of this idea showed determinism the door. The ultimate form of determinism is expressed in the idea of a God that knows the future. It would seem that with indeterminacy introduced in the universe with UP that is would be impossible for God to have a futureknowing characteristic.

Another property of God’s that has come under fire is the creation of the universe ex nilo. If you trace back the history of the Universe via the laws of science, one reaches the singularity that sparked the Big Bang. The moment of the Big Bang is the lower boundary of time of the Universe. Classically, it is thought that since the Universe is here, and it must have come from somewhere, that something must have popped it into existence. This is the �necessary being� from Kant’s fourth antinomy. Stephen Hawking, in his book The Universe in a Nutshell, suggests that �maybe the Universe has no boundaries in space and time.�[3] Hawking then goes on to describe whole universes as instances of what is known as quantum fluctuations. He describes this to the non-doctorates as bubbles of steam in a pot of warm water. In this light, no special creative act is needed. Our universe is simply a bubble that happened to have the right conditions for the allowance of creatures like us that are able to ask such questions like, �Why are we here?�

It would seem as if the Western notion of God as an all knowing being that created the Universe is in serious trouble. Perhaps a better notion of God is the approach that the eastern religions adopt. Perhaps there is no God, no other, no Numinous; but the universal consciousness of Hinduism and Buddhism. The interdependence of mind, matter, time, space, and energy are central to their views. The idea of universes popping in and out of existence sits will with Buddhists. Trinh Xuan Thuan puts it like this, �The Buddhist notion of interdependence is synonymous with emptiness, which is in turn synonymous with impermanence.�[4] The Buddhist would welcome the notion of quantum fluctuations, where virtual particles flicker into real particles and then annihilate themselves along with their opposites.

Saving the Western ApproachIs there any way that the Western approach can be saved? Consider the software program Avida, wrote by Chris Adami. For over seventeen years Avida has been emulating the evolutionary process. The project that was started in the late 1990s is considered to not only to mimic evolution, but be an instance of evolution.[5] The creatures in Avida are small snippets of code that replicate, mutate, compete and compete with one another for resources. In the process of evolving they have demonstrated the finer point of Darwinian Theory. They evolve in spurts, similar to what the fossil record suggests happened on earth. This program and its results have been one of the final straws in winning over critics of Darwin by demonstrating in practice qualms found with the theory.1 These points are not pertinent to the discussion here. Imagine for a moment these Avidites advancing to the point where they gain self-awareness. Say they even advance to where they can inquire about the nature of their environment. They might discover first the laws dictated by the computer code. This might not be unlike the Newtonian Revolution of our history. Then the Avidities investigate deeper and realize that it is not possible for the laws of code to describe all that they are able to observe. The beings begin to draft new principles to cover the instances. In doing so, they discover some properties of hard drives on which they are stored and even about the nature of electricity. This can by analogous to our recent discoveries about the nature of space-time and of matter-energy. Keeping in mind these new discoveries, those among the Avidites who believed in a creator, give up their belief. Such a being that could have made us could not exist in such a system as ours. Others tried to manipulate their ideas of the creators to mimic the advances in science. They came up with a being whose essence was compatible with the universe as they knew it, but was rendered as a super-Avidite, one who�s existence also would need a creator.

One day an Avidite, one that sounds very similar to Kant, said that there was not a way to perceive what lies outside our Universe. He also noted that the Avidites don�t directly perceive a creator. Then that must mean that if such a being exists, it must exist beyond the system that the Avidites inhabit. Thus, it is impossible to know anything about such a god scientifically. It is the same with the West. Science can only tell us about the system we inhabit. What we know about the system we inhabit is that the Western idea of god cannot exist in a system like ours. Thus either such a being does not exist at all or it exists outside the system. If such a being does exist outside the system, then perhaps it is not subject to the same problems that a being encounters inside the system. For instance the problem with the universal time and God omniscience can be remedied. If space-time is a unified four dimensional fabric, with wrinkles in it representing the folds in space-time, such as gravity wells and the like, then God could be the privileged observer and see things outside of time. Here the universe would seem like object, the totality of the events that transpired in its existence. From the inside of the fabric, there could be no privileged observer and the same problems would apply. From the outside, however, it is possible to get around the restrictions. Just like the bounds of the Avida software do not bound the developers, neither does the bounds of this universe necessarily bound being outside it. With this said, it is vital to note that this only deals with a possible case. Infinite possible cases have the potential for existence. From inside our system it is impossible to tell which one is the case. In that lacking there is faith. Faith in what one cannot possibly know one way or the other is all that the Western Religions have left in the face of modern science.

Notes:
1 Personal admission by author

Linknotes:

  1. Discover Magazine – �Before the Big Bang� accessed May 1, 2005.
  2. American Institute of Physics – �Quantum Mechanics 1925-1927, The Uncertainty Principle�. accessed May 1, 2005.
  3. Hawking, Stephen. The Universe in a Nutshell. Bantam Books, New York. 2001.P 82.
  4. Thuan, Trinh Xuan. The Quantum and the Lotus. Three Rivers Press, New York. 2001. P. 278.
  5. Discover Magazine – Zimmer, Carl. �Testing Darwin�. Accessed May 1,2005.
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