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« Atrocity of the Day: August 19 | Main | The Watchman’s Call »

August 19, 2008

The Theory of Everything

Universe From whence the universe? That question lies at the heart of the metaphysical quest. For what we believe about the origin of the universe will largely determine what we believe about the most pressing questions of human existence.

If the universe is the product of intelligent creation, then purpose is intrinsic to our being which, in turn, provides a compass setting for life’s direction. If, on the other hand, the cosmos is an artifact of unintelligent processes, life has no ultimate aim or meaning, leaving matters of ethics and morality up to the whims of each individual.

To early thinkers, the rational order of the world suggested a non-contingent source of reality. In various schools of thought, this source was the “apeiron,” the “One,” aether, or the “logos”—in all cases, a veritable fount of being that not only gave birth to the universe, but continuously shaped and sustained it. Discoveries made over the last century have supported this ancient concept, overturning some common perceptions.

The notion that the universe is a vast, dark wasteland, sprinkled hither and yon with random clumps of matter, has been shattered. The universe, as understood by modern science, is a cosmic fabric, supercharged with an all-pervading quantum potential. With space and time its warp and woof, the cosmos flexes and twists under the influence of matter and energy to weave out exquisite patterns of galaxies, nebula, and supernovae.

The interlocking of space, time, matter, and energy suggests a grand unifying principle that gives form and texture to the universe. The hope of researchers is to discover this mega-principle, or, as it has come to be called, the “theory of everything” (TOE)... Continue reading here.

(Image © Stanford)

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Comments

Tom Gilson

The current candidates for TOEs (or Grand Unified Theories, which makes another nice anatomical acronym) should really be called TOAEs, "Theories of Almost Everything" instead. No matter how successful superstring theory is, it won't begin to address many of the crucial initial conditions, such as the entropy state at the time of the Big Bang (see W.L. Craig, _Reasonable Faith_, 3rd ed., page 158 and following).

This distinction is important because of its impact on cosmological fine-tuning explanations (why the universe is so "finely tweaked" for life, as Nicoll put it). Some of the universe's fine tuning could conceivably be explained by a TOE that requires various forces (for example) to relate in precisely the manner that they do. But the initial boundary conditions would not be part of that TOE; they would still be arbitrary, and extraordinarily lucky--or else well designed--as far as anyone knows.

Also:

Nicoll raised a good point about theories of an infinite multiverse: "An infinite cosmos, in which everything (and anything) is inevitable, is one in which even God must exist in one of its branches."

That's true, and it's important. I can't help enjoying the thought of other, more entertaining implications, though.

Somewhere, in an infinite cosmos, Richard Dawkins is saying, "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in Intelligent Design, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)."

And P.Z. Myers is the rock-solid, faithful, and devout Roman Catholic Archbishop for his part of Minnesota.

labrialumn

While many scientists do misplace a unified theory of physics into the metaphysical category where it does not belong, there are nonetheless valid reasons for seeking it.

As it says in Proberbs: "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of kings to seek it out."

There is in us the image of God the Creator, and we are curious as a result, and seek knowledge and understanding of His creation. As we do so, we are moved to glorify God.

Just as understanding the relationship between electricity and magnetism made it possible to generate electricity, built MRIs and many other things which help fight against the results of the Fall, and thus glorify God, so also being able to understand the relationship between those two forces and gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces will likely help us do a great deal more to benefit mankind. "God keeps watch over all knowledge." Jesus healed, and Luke was not condemned for being a doctor. God never commanded us to use no tools or anything man-made, instead, the names of inventors of the crafts and engineering are recorded for all eternity in Genesis.

It is always sad to see people put the creation (in this case the laws giving organization to the Sea of Dirac)in the place of the Creator, but it does not therefore follow that we should not try to understand what God has made that we might better praise Him and serve our neighbor.

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