The God Beyond Science
Is scientific inquiry meaningful if it never leads to a discovery of what caused the universe to exist in the first place? That is, what’s the point (no pun intended) of proving that there is no point to life? In that vein, it was theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg who said, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.”
So here’s my question: Why does Weinberg, and scientists like him, keep trying? What is the objective of their scientific inquiries? Is there a purpose to any of it? In a perverse sort of way, I think there is. You see, there are many different disciplines in science, but really only two kinds of scientists – those who believe in a Creator and ultimately are trying to prove it through their research and those who don’t believe in a Creator and are trying to prove that one doesn’t exist – to wit, life is pointless.
Two rather interesting viewpoints on this issue from giants of the scientific community are those of Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. It was Hawking who said that, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary” and Einstein who declared that, “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man….” Oddly enough, Hawking’s comment does tend to somewhat confirm what Einstein said about a spirit being manifest in the universe. It was Dr. E, himself, who first posited that space and time were constructs (somebody built them). More recently, theoretical theorist Dr. James Gates said that his research shows that certain theories which describe the fundamental nature of the universe contain embedded computer codes. Then there is cosmologist Max Tegmark who says that our external physical reality is a mathematical structure and physicist Paul Davies who stated that, “The universe conforms to an orderly scheme.” More on them later.
Scientific American’s recent article entitled “2 Futures Can Explain Time’s Mysterious Past” is a fascinating article about two competing theories that would revolutionize our idea about time. The problem with the two theories is that they both assume that the universe is a closed system. Accordingly, both theories will always contain anomalies because they exclude that which exists outside of our universe. I say outside of our universe because even theoretical physics now encompasses ideas of other worlds, be they parallel universes, the Multiverse or whatever. So if you can’t incorporate what lies outside of our universe in your scientific theory, then you can never comprehensively define how the universe was created or exactly how it all works.
Aye, there’s the rub because science, by definition, can never prove anything that it can’t observe. John Horgan discussed this very issue of the limitations in science in his book The End of Science. The implication is that science will, if it hasn’t already, hit a wall beyond which it can only speculate. The upshot is that for scientists the rest of Creation (that which is beyond our universe) is unobservable and therefore God, if he exists, will forever be unknowable.
Aside: That is, you can’t scientifically prove whether God exists or not.
Of course, philosophers generally don’t have the same constraints as scientists. It was Time magazine which some years back published the story “Modernizing the Case for God.” In that article, it discussed that philosophers are reexamining the case for God. For many, that discussion harkens back to the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument which was named for its author Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who was one of the great thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Leibniz posited that everything that exists has an explanation for its existence and since we exist there’s an explanation for our existence.
Aside: Another way of understanding the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument is to say that our existence is not found in its own necessity and therefore has to have an external cause.
Today, many scientists painfully realize their dilemma. As Lincoln Barnett wrote in The Universe and Dr. Einstein, “ Along with philosophers’ reduction of all objective reality to a shadow-world of perceptions, scientists have become aware of the alarming limitations of man’s senses.” Despite that, it hasn’t kept them from trying to fathom the unfathomable and to comprehend the incomprehensible. However incomplete, the work of Einstein, Gates, Tegmark and Davies (see above) do have one rather remarkable thing in common – an understanding that there is an underlying order in the cosmos; to wit, somebody or something constructed space/time, was responsible for the computer codes embedded in the fundamental laws of the universe, and created mathematics and the structured order of the universe. In other words, there is an intelligence in the universe. In the words of Leibniz, the universe does not exist because of its own necessity so it must have an external cause – and that external cause implies intelligence (or even vice versa).
This intelligence has been downplayed by various people, in some cases referring to it as Nature or the Natural Laws of the Universe. But as Einstein observed, there can be no laws without a lawgiver. So, I think that it’s high time that this intelligence gets a name. As I’ve suggested before, perhaps we could call it Bubba. However, for some, God might do just as well.
“The universe does not exist ‘out there,’ independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators.”
– John Wheeler, physicist