I haven’t read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. I missed that one. Friends tell me it is a very difficult read. That doesn’t surprise me. As a sucker for popular science books I have never found one that didn’t begin to lose me to one extent or another after about fifty pages. I can recommend a number of them for general readers who want a thoroughgoing brain workout: Just Six Numbers by Martin Rees; Quantum by Manjit Kumar; The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene; The Origin of the Universe by John Barrow and Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe by Richard Gott.
All of the above left me floundering after luring me into thinking I was capable of understanding them. Never mind, I thought, pathetically, my latest scientific read — Time Reborn by Lee Smolin — might provide me with an intellectual breakthrough. Alas it was not to be. Professor Smolin lost me as effectively as the rest. I could blame him but it seems a stretch.
My brief comment on Smolin’s book should, therefore, be put in the perspective of my inability to understand a lot of what he says. Why comment at all? Well, it seems to me that his iconoclastic approach to cosmology is a reminder that science is struggling to find any satisfactory answers for the sheer improbability of our existence. Meanwhile, God is the ever-present metaphorical elephant in astronomical observatories.
Smolin thinks the uncertainty principle in quantum theory — you know the cat is only in the box if you look — exists only because the theory is incomplete. He seems to sort of agree with Einstein who proffered the comment that God didn’t play dice with the universe. However, he rejects the general scientific consensus, born of Einstein’s work, that time is relative. He believes that everything happens through a common time. As a result he doesn’t like the idea of an infinite number of parallel universes.
A lot of scientists subscribe to parallel universes. The theory seems to spring from quantum theory and string theory in mathematical ways that I haven’t, er, um, quite grasped. Nonetheless, like Smolin, I reject the idea. It seems plain silly to me that an infinite number of copies of me — perish the thought — could be existing, as we speak, in different universes. And, not only that, in other universes I am bound to be a tree-hugging, coal despising, refugee loving, fan of Richard Di Natale and Sarah Hanson-Young and, to boot, even more horrifically, a Manchester United supporter.
Mind you, Smolin doesn’t desert the concept of there being an infinite number of universes. If he did, then God would rear His ‘unscientific’ head. No, he just thinks they appear in sequence, as new baby universes are spewed out of black holes through the straight arrow of time. Potentially this is testable, he argues, because debris of our parent universe, within which the black hole which spewed us existed, might be found; whereas, he doubts that the existence of parallel universes is testable. Call me a sceptic but it all seems as tenuous as a nine dollar bill.
The difficulty that scientists have is the extreme unlikelihood that our life-giving universe and planet could have happened by sheer one-off chance. Fred Hoyle likened it to the chance of a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard and assembling a Boeing 747. Accordingly, all scientists that I have read reject the ‘anthropic principle’; which is, well, here we are, so it must have just happened this way. This leaves them a stark choice. Either there is a creator or our universe is simply one of a very, very large number. Infinity is the popular choice of the number, as it has to be, when you think about it, otherwise there would be a start to explain.
Hard evidence for any of the competing theories of infinite universes is, in a word, zilch. But, never mind, they are scientific, so far as I can tell, because scientists have proposed them. Would the existence of God become scientific if scientists were to propose Him as the explanation? Apparently not. For example, the former head of the human genome project Francis Collins (The Language of God) is a believer and yet has not managed to move Richard Dawkins and his ilk one jot from their position that religion is a superstition.
However, if God exists scientific advancement can’t but help to edge towards uncovering His footprint. The quirkiness of quantum theory – e.g., electrons apparently can be here and then there without having been anywhere in-between – may eventually lead to a designer. This brings me finally to well-regarded theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. He recently claimed to have found evidence for the existence of a creator. He is bound to me dumped on by the scientific establishment of course. I assume this has already begun though nothing has immediately sprung out when I have searched for it. In any event, we general readers will only be able to look on bemused at any to and fro. Why? For the same reason I only get through the first fifty pages of any popular science book before my eyes start glazing over. Here is Kaku, as reported:
“I have concluded that we are in a world [“a Matrix”] made by rules created by an intelligence, not unlike a favourite computer game, but of course, more complex and unthinkable…By analysing the behaviour of matter at the subatomic scale affected by the semi-tachyon pitch radius, what we call chance no longer makes sense, because we are in a universe governed by established rules and not determined by universal chances plane…This means that, in all probability, there is an unknown force that governs everything.”
I happen to think Kaku is right, though I have not the least clue what ‘semi-tachyon pitch radius’ means. Moreover, self-reflectively, I know that I will never really know what it means, even if it were carefully explained in a popular science book. This leaves me with the pub test as my guide to the universe.
Applying this test leaves me unimpressed with the concept of an infinite number of universes. To me, conjuring up such a concept to explain why we are here shows how imaginative scientists can get when they ‘unscientifically’ (in my view) and determinedly reject God; and are freed from actually having to test their own, untestable, theories.
Occam’s razor points in the direction of a creator. And science may one day find pointers to God, as Kaku already claims to have done. Perhaps, in the future, thinking about science and God will increasingly coalesce. Religion has already made the leap to accepting science. Science may have taken a first tentative step with Kaku.