A ‘Final Theory’ of God – An Overview: Part I

A ‘Final Theory’ of God – An Overview: Part I

By the time I had published my second book in 2007, I had already become weary of the relentless attacks on the notion of God from certain scientists, and an ‘intellectual’ clique of atheists and humanists like Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling, and the late Christopher Hitchens.

The effect of the scientific denial of the existence of God is best illustrated by Steven Weinberg, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, when he proclaimed in his book The First Three Minutes that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”[1] In an attempt to deflect the criticism his remark attracted, Weinberg sought to ‘explain’ what he meant in his next book, Dreams of a Final Theory. There he makes this remarkable statement: “I did not mean that science teaches us that the universe is pointless, but rather that the universe itself suggests no point. I hastened to add that there were ways that we ourselves could INVENT a point to our lives, including trying to understand the universe.”[2]

In other words, in answer to his critics, Weinberg suggests that we can “invent” some point to our lives by dedicating ourselves to proving that there is no point to life. That sounds more like ‘a Final Theory of Despair’.

So far as the ‘intellectual’ clique of humanists and atheists are concerned, their “cause”, according to AC Grayling, is to “invite people to a truer and healthier view both of the world and of the source of what is good in human life.[3] That is, a “truer and healthier view” than the religious view that only a God can provide some purpose to life, and only a God can provide any kind of objective sense of morality and justice. And, of course, in order to discover this ‘utopian’ “view” we need look no further than their ‘superior intellects’, sense of compassion, and their ‘superior’ understanding of ‘tolerance’ and ‘justice’.

The “cause” proclaimed by this ‘intellectual’ clique betrays a disturbing authoritarian streak. But more pitifully, it also reveals a deep sense of insecurity; an insecurity that can only be assuaged by the acknowledgement of others that their “view” of the world is the only view that provides the “best, most generous, most sympathetic understanding of human reality.”[4]

Sad as this combination of insecurity and authoritarian inclination may be, it is also highly dangerous. That is because the very thing that they claim to be the source of the world’s problems, a Supreme Lawmaker as the author of a Supreme Law, is the very role they aspire to assume for themselves.

Essentially their argument is this: if you reason in the right way you will agree with us; if you don’t agree with us, that, in itself, is ‘evidence’ that you have not reasoned in the right way.

Apart from the inconvenient fact that such ‘reasoning’ is simply a claim that there is a supreme law that is discoverable by adopting the correct procedures, in other words, something similar to religion, they also see as ‘fair game’ for ridicule, insult and humiliation, anyone who reveals themselves to have failed to apply the ‘right’ kind of ‘reasoning’, thus coming to a view different to theirs. That is the danger of insecurity in those with an authoritarian streak – they are ‘tyrants’ frustrated by their inability to impose their view on the rest of us.

However, the most delusional aspect of their ‘thinking’ is their belief that we would all agree with their view if only we would renounce any notion of God. In fact, the contrary is the case. Their view, as exposed in my review of Grayling’s book The God Argument (http://www.freedomvrights.com/godargument.html), is a view that the vast majority of people would reject whether or not they believed in God, or subscribed to any form of religion. Their view is firmly rooted in the indulgence of some of the most primitive human instincts, the sort of instincts we share with animals. And it doesn’t take a belief in God to reject the primordial carnality of such a view of “human reality.” Their view of ‘morality’ is one that would be certain to provoke strife, discord and conflict – the very charge they levy against religion.

Nevertheless, it was the incessant “banging on the table[5] by this ‘intellectual’ clique of wannabe ‘tyrants’, and the lofty declarations from certain scientists, that  finally compelled me to take a closer look at the so-called evidence that is claimed to provide the compelling ‘proof’ that there is no such thing as God.

I should emphasize, however, that I do not subscribe to any particular religion, so I didn’t approach the evidence from a subjective, religious standpoint. Instead, I approached it from a strictly objective, legal perspective, as I did over the years in the many legal cases I investigated. The consequence was that the evidence took me to some unexpected places. I had to re-evaluate some of my own strongly-held opinions in light of the evidence.

But that is the nature of law. Lawyers have to leave their personal opinions and views at the door of the court and go where the evidence takes them. And that is how I conducted this investigation.

Quantum Physics versus Classical Physics

For those with a detailed understanding of physics, let me apologize in advance for what may seem a rather basic summary of these two concepts. However, they are important for the discussion that follows.

Since I mostly address the effects of quantum physics in A ‘Final Theory’ of God, the term Classical physics is used to include special and general relativity; in other words, it comprises the laws that apply from the level of isolated atoms and molecules through to the cosmic world of planets, stars and galaxies. It is the physics that defines the predictable, deterministic world we see all around us.

Quantum physics relates to the behavior of sub-atomic particles like electrons, photons and quarks. These particles make up everything we know as ordinary matter and, as Weinberg says, scientists study these fundamental particles because they believe that by doing so they “will learn something about the PRINCIPLES that govern everything.”[6] That is, scientists believe that the behavior of fundamental particles may lead them to a ‘final theory of everything.’

The first thing to note about fundamental particles is that they are not like tiny grains of sand. They are more like waves. Scientists call this property of a particle its wavefunction. The wavefunction determines that a particle can adopt any one of all probable states. But the important aspect of this, as explained by the physicist Brian Greene, is that “a particle can hang in a state of limbo between having one or other particular property … and only when the particle is looked at (measured or observed) does it randomly commit to one definite property or another.”[7]

In brief, we could say that there is a two-stage process that determines the physical universe.

First, particles are ‘free’ to choose from all probable states. Second, only when a particle is observed will it choose one specific state.

Many physicists believe that this is the basis for what we describe as “free will.” The popular television physicist, Michio Kaku, describes the effect of quantum physics by saying that in a “quantum play, the actors suddenly throw away the script and act on their own. The puppets cut their strings. Free will has been established.”[8] That establishes freedom as a fundamental principle of physics, or at least quantum physics.

But Kaku says that “physicists realize that if [they] could somehow control these probabilities, one could perform feats indistinguishable from magic.”[9] As will become apparent, this is an important element of the argument in A ‘Final Theory’ of God.

There are also two other aspects of particle behavior we ought to note.

The first relates to what are described as delayed-choice experiments. In these experiments, particles are fired through a beam splitter at a detector. When the detector is switched off, the particles show an interference pattern demonstrating that they are in a wave-like mode. However, when the detector is switched on, the particles pass through one or other slit on the splitter and appear as a dot. That means they are in a particle-like mode because they have assumed a specific state after being measured (observed) by the detector.

But when this experiment is modified, the behavior of particles becomes even more peculiar. If the detector is switched off after the particle has been emitted, the particle appears to predict that the detector will be switched off before it is fired, and adopts a wave-like state. If the detector is programmed to randomly switch on and off as particles are fired at it, the particles always ‘guess’ correctly whether the detector will be switched on or off when they arrive. Brian Greene notes that the particles appear to “have a ‘premonition’ of the experimental situation they will encounter farther downstream, and act accordingly.”[10]

Greene goes on to say that these experiments suggest that “a consistent and definite history becomes manifest only after the future to which it leads has been fully settled.”[11]

That conclusion is reinforced by further modifications to the experiments in which an erasing device is placed just in front of the detector which causes the particles to revert to a different mode. But it also suggests that whatever state a particle adopts by perceiving what the future environment may be can be undone at any time before the actual observation is made. And that is an important aspect of these experiments, as we shall see.

The second aspect of particle behavior we should note relates to what are called Feynman’s “sum over paths” equations. Richard Feynman, another Nobel Prize-winning physicist, demonstrated that although particles are free to choose from all probable paths, the path that leads to the Classical laws of physics is the most probable path. But as Kaku notes, “Feynman showed that the Newtonian (Classical) path is simply the most probable path, not the only path.”[12] Particles are still free to adopt any of the other paths.

There remains only one further thing to note about the relationship between quantum physics and Classical physics – and that is the question of how the quantum laws morph into the Classical laws. Scientists still don’t know the answer to that question, which prompted Weinberg to suggest that what is needed is a “quantum-mechanical model” that shows how, “as a result of repeated interactions of a [conscious outside observer] with individual systems, the wave function of the combined system evolves with certainty to a final wave function, in which the [conscious outside observer] has become convinced that the probabilities of the individual measurements are what are prescribed by the Copenhagen interpretation.[13]

Now that may all sound like gobbledygook to non-scientists, but all it really means is that we need an explanation of how the uncertainty inherent in the quantum laws that apply to fundamental particles have brought about the predictable, deterministic physical world we see all around us. And that explanation has to include an explanation for the necessity for a conscious outside observer in order to ensure that particles adopt a particle-like state; but not just any particle-like state, but the state that brought about the universe and life as we know it.

And that leads to an evidential problem when we come to consider the arguments for and against the existence of God.

The Evidential Problem

The most notable aspect of the evidential problem is that both sides of the argument tend to use the word evidence in a very loose, non-legal sense. The result is that the arguments go round in circles.

In law, very strict rules apply to the use of evidence, the weight to be attached to evidence, and the party that has the burden of adducing evidence. In general, the party asserting a claim has the burden of proving the claim by adducing the evidence necessary to meet the standard of proof required for the type of action that is brought.

In most Anglo-American systems of justice, there are two broad standards of proof: beyond a reasonable doubt for a criminal charge; and on a balance of probabilities for a civil claim.

The reason for the higher standard of proof in criminal cases is obvious; the consequences are that much more severe, often resulting in incarceration, or even execution (in some States in the United States).

In respect of the evidence for and against God, only the higher standard of proof is applicable. There are two reasons for that. First, without going into the evidence in full, although I do so in the book, each side of the argument can quite comfortably meet the standard of proof on a balance of probabilities – because of the unknowns involved. The second reason is that the issue goes to some very deeply held beliefs that define many people’s very existence; and such deeply held convictions should not be undermined by mere speculation or abstract ‘theory’, and certainly not by what the previous Astronomer Royal and physicist, Sir Martin Rees, calls a “hunch”.[14] Only the highest standard of proof is appropriate.

And that brings us to the first limitation in respect of the evidence. Max Planck, the physicist who first formulated quantum theory, once noted that “science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And it is because in the last analysis we ourselves are part of the mystery we are trying to solve.[15] But that limitation doesn’t only apply to science. Religion has the same limitation. As the Preacher says, “[God] hath set the world in [man’s] heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”[16] And “though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.[17]

That limitation also leads to a second limitation, which relates to what scientists would claim to be the conclusive nature of scientific evidence. That claim is based on the fact that scientific evidence is evidence verified by experiment. Yet, that is the limitation, because evidence verified by experiment comprises only a small proportion of the evidence on how the physical world functions. The CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) website says this: “Here’s a sobering fact: The matter we know and that makes up all stars and galaxies only accounts for 4% of the content of the universe!” The rest is dark matter and dark energy. But more limiting for the scientific evidence is that the 4% scientists do know something about is composed of sub-atomic particles; and those particles, as we have seen, are subject to quantum laws. And most scientists will acknowledge that they still understand very little about those laws. As Weinberg says, “I admit to some discomfort in working all my life in a theoretical framework that no one fully understands.[18] And Weinberg goes on to say that “we really do need to understand quantum mechanics better in quantum cosmology, the application of quantum mechanics to the whole universe, where no outside observer is even imaginable. … No one today knows even the rules for applying quantum mechanics in this context.[19]

The debate regarding the existence of God falls squarely into this category of evidence. To invoke as incontrovertible ‘evidence’ for a claim, facts regarding only some 4% of the issues in dispute, and then acknowledging that no one even understands why the 4% works in the way it does, is to invite a legal motion from those who argue for the existence of God of “no case to answer.[20]

But that is not the road I go down in this book, because a lack of evidence by one party does not in itself prove the claim of another party. In other words, the fact that science cannot prove that God does not exist is not evidence that God does exist.

As such, the debate for and against the existence of God is like any legal case. In almost every legal case, most of the facts are agreed by the parties. It is the small element of unknown or disputed facts that make a case contentious. And the burden of proving that the unknown or disputed evidence supports a particular party falls on the party making that assertion.

That is where the arguments for and against the existence of God all run aground.

It is futile for those arguing in favor of the existence of God to point to the remarkable coincidences that had to occur in order for the universe and life as we know it to exist. Scientists like Martin Rees acknowledge that. As Kaku says, “It is no accident, [Rees] believes, that the universe is finely tuned to allow life to exist.”[21] But to get round the improbability, Rees, like many other scientists, simply multiplies the probabilities ad infinitum by postulating a multiverse.

Conversely, it is also futile for scientists to simply keep multiplying the probabilities in an attempt to eliminate the impossible improbabilities. The multiverse theory is what I liken to a multi-lottery. Instead of increasing the number of entries in one lottery, the multi-lottery theory multiplies the number of lotteries so that our one entry is bound to win in one of the billions of lotteries that is the multiverse. But the problem is that we still then don’t know where the lotteries came from; we still don’t know who makes the draws; and we still can’t know whether we have won until the numbers are drawn.

In the legal arena, such arguments cannot establish the required burden of proof for either of the parties. As any astute lawyer will know, the only real way to address such a deadlock is for the party asserting a position to demonstrate that their position must hold even assuming the alternative theories.

But that poses a problem for those claiming the non-existence of God. They can’t exactly establish a theory of the non-existence of God by assuming the existence of God. That would have the effect of providing Weinberg with precisely the “quantum mechanical model” he says is required; except the conscious outside observer would be God. And as I demonstrate in the book, that is precisely the kind of model set out in Genesis Chapter 1.

However, compelling as the evidence is in Genesis Chapter 1, it still doesn’t satisfy the required burden of proof for those asserting the existence of God. And that is because we could simply reverse the argument and say that the term God is used in Genesis in the same way as Weinberg uses conscious outside observer. In other words, both ‘models’ recognize the need for an observation in the creation of the universe and life.

So what is really required is evidence, in the form of a theory, that the fundamental principles that determine and govern the laws of physics require a Supreme Lawmaker.

And that is the kind of theory formulated by A ‘Final Theory’ of God.

Click here to read Part II

Copyright © Joseph B.H McMillan 2014 All Rights Reserved

Notes:

[1] Weinberg, Steven. The First Three Minutes, 1993 paperback edition, page 154.

[2] Weinberg, Steven. Dreams of a Final Theory, Vintage Books 1994 (paperback), page 255 – emphasis on invent is mine.

[3] Graying AC, The God Argument, Bloomsbury 2013, page 3

[4] Grayling, page 4.

[5] Alf Ross – describing those who invoke ‘justice’ in support of an argument.

[6] Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory, page 61.

[7] Greene, Brian. The Fabric of the Cosmos, Penguin Books 2005 (paperback).

[8] Kaku, Michio. Parallel Worlds, Penguin Books 2006, page 149.

[9] Kaku, page 147.

[10] Greene, page 189.

[11] Greene, page 189.

[12] Kaku, page 164.

[13] Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory, page 84.

[14] Rees, Martin. Just Six Numbers, Phoenix 2000, page 174.

[15] Quoted in Kaku, page 158.

[16] Ecclesiastes 3: 11.

[17] Ecclesiastes 8: 17.

[18] Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory, page 85.

[19] Weinberg, Ibid, page 85.

[20]No case to answer” is a legal motion in which the defence elects not to advance any evidence on the basis that the prosecution’s evidence simply cannot support the charge brought.

[21] Kaku, page 250, quoting Rees.

 

 

 

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