The universe is full of magicals things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Imagine a world called flatland, where there is length and width but no height. The world is infinitely flat. Say one day a strange visitor called a Mr. Ball decided to pay the residents of flatland a visit. To the residents there, the visitor would appear as a slice of a circle whose dimensions constantly changed in size. If the ball picked up one of the residents, he would appear to his flat friends as magically disappearing, and would magically reappear when returned. Does Flatland sound strange? Well, in a way we may already be living there.
If today’s scientific community is right, we may live in a multi-dimensional universe. And since we only inhabit three of what might be many dimensions, whole sections of the universe may not only be beyond our present understanding, but may be beyond what we can understand. As Shakespeare once said “There are more things in heaven and earth then is drempt in our philosophy.” If that is the case, is our understanding of the universe may be no better then a child’s tale, grasping for things beyond our perception.As a flatlander is not only unable to see the whole of the ball, but also unable to even perceive the real form of the ball, so also may our understanding of the universe be similarly faulty, and in some ways a myth. And if that is the case, how does that change the never ending debate between science and religion?
The Myth of Our World?
Imagine you are an intelligent carp living in a pond. Also imagine you are a scientist. You know nothing for certain of the world beyond the pond and the water’s edge. Many other carp scientists have wondrous theories, but alas, nothing concrete. Perhaps one day it rains, and the carp scientists see lilies on the pond mysteriously move around all by themselves, unaware of the raindrops influence.
When I was younger I use to believe that through physics that man would best understand the mind of God. I did not, and still do not see anything contradictory between physics and religion. On the contrary, various aspects of physics actually confirm the existence of God for me. But as I delved deeper into the strange world of physics, I realized that the world is not only stranger then I imagined, it is stranger then I can imagine. For instance, the subatomic world is filled with ghostly phantoms where it is impossible to know exact details. Time and length changes as you speed up and slow down. And the universe may be made up of strings and filled with more dimensions then one can imagine. But it gets even weirder. Try to imagine a particle breaking up into two fragments, and imagine later they are even separated by great distances. Any observation on one of the fragments instantly affects the reality of another fragment. Another interesting fact is that light also has both the properties of a particle and a wave, depending on the observation. Also, light acts like a wave through a vacuum, despite the fact there is no medium to carry the wave. Some of these facts come from a theory the Quantum theory, and Einstein hated it. His celebrated retort “God does not play dice.” is a rejection of the randomness and fuzziness of the Quantum world. Quantum mechanics has been tested for almost a century, and is quite correct. But is it misleading, because our reality is misleading because we too are trapped in a pond?
Perhaps the ghostlike action at a distance and light duality is the result of viewing a multidimensional world while stuck in three dimensions. Let us go back to flatland and their science. It does not take a genius to realize the physics in a two-dimensional world will be different then ours. Like carp in a pond, the universe they live in utterly affects their science and their life. Physicists realize this and try to probe into the hidden borders of this world. However, to test most of their theories require energies well beyond the dreams of man for perhaps centuries. These Plank energies are quite unreachable, which begs the question, “Is it really possible for man to really understand this grand and amazing Universe?” Besides, at least to me, what happened before the big bang seems just as much a question of faith as where did God come from.
I have found it amusing the many predictions from amateur scientists predicting one day mankind will one day solve the “Theory of Everything” and there will be nothing left to ask. Personally, a Universe with no questions left to solve is a Universe with no mystery and quite a dull place to live in. I also think it is an underestimation of the grandeur of the Universe and an overestimation of the mind of man. History does not support this assumption. Many particle theorists are surprised and discouraged at the zoo of particles that have been discovered after believing the Standard Model was the end all of particle theory. There has been a plethora of Grand Unified Theories that are no closer to the goal then Einstein’s unfinished papers left on his deathbed in the 50’s. I expect this trend to continue, that deeper we go down the rabbit hole, the stranger and more wonderful the universe will become.
Again, part of the problem might lie with the fact we live in only three dimensions, and the universe might have as many as 26. This crazy scenario started with the discovery by scientists that many theories become unified when higher dimensions are evoked. For instance, Maxwell’s electromagnetic field equations and Einstein’s equations are found in a theory called Kaluza- Klein, which has the 5th dimension curled up in a little ball. But this is one of the few successes. No one has unified Einstein’s gravity and quantum mechanics. This is the holy grail on physics. Solve this one and you never have to work again. But is it truly possible to understand the true nature of the universe or are we just carp in the pond? Is our understanding of this universe we live in a fiction, a myth, because we are trapped into a small corner of it, or are all the secrets of the universe available to us through the tools of science?Perhaps it is my romanticism, but I cannot imagine a worse universe then a universe with no mystery.
It is no surprise to me that there are so many unanswered questions in science. Maybe the reason why light (a wave and a particle ) can travel in a vacuum and shares both the properties of a particle and a wave is that us humans are seeing only three dimensions of a multi-dimensional force. Perhaps one day we will know the answers to these questions, and then again perhaps not. I do think some things are beyond the mind of man, but not the mind of God. I am not saying, however, that the study of physics is a useless or hopeless endeavor. Interestingly enough, as I stated earlier, various aspects of physics do confirm the existence of God for me. So in some ways my beliefs are akin to the feelings of many of the great Renaissance Scientists, for I believe that it is through physics that we can better understand the Designer’s hand.
Seeing the Designer’s Hand
Atoms are mostly empty space, yet your hand does not slide through the coffee table Why? The repulsive force in all atoms. So what keeps atoms together? The world as we know it, the world that supports life, is full of forces that are everyday taken for granted. Few care why the Sun shines, or why the sky is blue, or that time actually slows down when you are traveling at high speeds or the fact that when you look up in the sky at night, you are looking back in time. Sometimes homo- sapien is the least inquisitive species on the planet. The average person might not care about the strong force, the weak force, gravity, or electromagnetism; however, if these forces were only slightly off in value, the world as we know it would be unrecognizable.
I grew up in a Catholic family, but also had a deep love of science, and contrary to what some might think, I did not find these beliefs in contradiction. I have often heard many say, “If God exists, why does he not show himself and prove it to the unbeliever?” Perhaps he shows it to us every day, but like those of us that do not care why the Sun shines, we do not care to think hard enough to see it.
I know the average reader does not care about science, and a few might have already stopped reading, but again, the reason why things are the way they are is found in science. And some might find it interesting that the more I read about science, the more I think I have found evidence of the designer’s hand, evidence for the existence of God. Take for the example that all atoms have a repulsive force and an attractive force, and that except for atoms with high atomic numbers these forces are in balance. (It is in fact very difficult to overcome these forces, which is why fusion as a power source has been so difficult to realize) That these forces are in balance is taken for granted. But is that if these forces were not in balance, we could not exist in this universe. Even more, the fact is, if any of these four fundamental forces had a slightly larger or smaller value life as we know it could not exist. And there are other problems, such as the flatness problem. In short, a universe that is the product of randomness and one that also supports intelligent life seems to me to be a tall order indeed.
And there is the rub. That this situation could have happened by chance seems to me nothing short of miraculous. Scientists recognize that something odd is going on and quickly made up a number of theories so they would not have to utter the G word. There is a curious term known as the Anthropic Principle, which states that the universe must be one that admits life to exist. Another theory is the Many Universes Theory, which states that are a number of universes, so it is not surprising that one exists that supports life. This to me is really reaching, and is ignoring the obvious. Scientists have long feared uttering the G word, and the closest they will come is utter the phrase, intelligent design, but is really the same thing. I do not always believe the simplest explanation is always the correct one, but to ignore another explanation because it makes you feel uncomfortable is to me very unscientific. And in the end, who created God seems no more unanswerable then what happened before the big band. To me they are both questions of faith. The most likely scenario seems that we should not be here at all. Nevertheless, we exist.
The more I study the universe, the stranger and more wonderful it seems. The more I read of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the duality of light, of superstrings, and curved space, the more I realize just how amazing it is that we are here at all. To me the simple fact that we exist shows the hand of the designer, the hand of God at work. The universe is full of miraculous things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. But the most miraculous thing of all is us. And there, more then anything else, is evidence for the designer’s hand.
( thanx to Michio Kaku for borrowing the Carp idea.)