Phil-osophically Speaking


A Cosmic?

If it is true that melodies of the soul arise from nature’s majesty, then the glorious, lambent light of this Easter morning serenaded us with the poetry of being alive. The other week, I cautioned the religiously inclined about the dangers of seeing concrete evidence of God’s design in the physical world. The physics and the biology of the divine is a risky enterprise and that instead of scientific proofs one should instead look for the existence of God in the moral laws inscribed in our hearts as the sine qua non of God’s existence and influence in our world. This does not preclude me from poignantly wondering about the deep and miraculously patterned order of the cosmos. Even Einstein was susceptible to its philosophical charms and the human mind’s peculiar and rapturous affinity to its marvelous architecture stating, “That the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”

My own belief is that God acts in the world through us but not necessarily as a conjuror violating with abandon the same laws of nature he created. As I noted in my previous article, explaining every unknown by invoking God can be eroded anew with every scientific discovery, saddling religion with a superstitious and anti-intellectual quality. This would be a terrible injustice and a misreading of the narrative of Western religious thought. The Catholic theologian Hans Kung noted that modern Biblical criticism belongs among the greatest intellectual achievements of the human race. Have any of the great world religions, Kung rhetorically asks, outside the Jewish-Christian tradition ever investigated its own foundations and its own history so thoroughly and so impartially. 

Upon this pedestal of scholarly introspection, religious tradition can intellectually stand on its own and confidently provide a comprehensive, unified meaning of human existence amid the vast and incomprehensible dimensions of time and space. It is when religion claims knowledge of the natural world and its phenomena through revelation instead of scientific principles that it needlessly puts itself in peril. But if religion has encroached upon the realm of science to find the divine, science is making peace with the metaphysical in response to a series of staggeringly improbable numerical accidents that ultimately gave rise to us being the Alpha and Omega of creation. According to one world-renowned physicist, the universe must have, in some sense, known we were coming.

The extraordinarily, fortuitous coincidence of how life formed and evolved on this green and blue orb is something that modern science has gingerly elided except to emphatically deny any providential explanation. In turn, this explains their enthusiasm for the relatively new and highly popular theory of the existence of the multiverse or multiple universes. By postulating, as this theory does, the existence of trillions of parallel universes, mostly sterile but others surely teeming with life, the fantastic improbability of us being in the one universe that is congenial to our existence becomes a more manageable proposition. No one, mind you, has ever seen even one of these parallel universes and its   exotica sounds like a science fiction plot right out of an Isaac Asimov novel, with the accent on the fiction rather than serious science. Physicists, of course, will protest against such pejorative characterizations; yet to label multiverse cosmology as hard-boiled science involves a level of mental gymnastics that brushes a little too close to the operations seen in religious faith for scientific comfort. It was Saint Paul, after all, who said that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.  

Yet, Paul’s definitions of faith, bound up as it is with the unseen, sounds suspiciously like the science of multiple universes. Scientists tell us that these unseen universes constitute a part of reality we don’t have access to. Other universes, they claim, arising from other big bangs lie outside our reality, so we can’t visit or observe them, which sound, come to think of it, like those parallel universes in theology, heaven and hell. Since they can’t be empirically discerned, so as not to be caught up in what they see as the snare and delusion of what constitutes religious belief, scientists rely on mathematics to abstractly reveal truths that aren’t observable to us. But while mathematical equations possess astonishing capacities, theories still must ultimately conform to the physical realities they predict. Five centuries ago, mathematicians could construct a valid earth-centered solar system; but absent credible, physical evidence to underscore its scientific truth, the notion simply lapsed into a specious construct that is historically interesting but nothing more.

Without burrowing too deep into the arcane world of theoretical physics and quantum mechanics, scientists as if to avoid a purely faith based science, have admitted the possibility for our universe to physically bump into another universe. Okay — so how would we know when and if our universe makes contact with another? Well, sighs your friendly astrophysicist, a collision between them would generate ripples in our cosmic microwave background (residual heat from the big bang) and as a result our powerful telescopes would detect these undulating waves. Interesting. So have our sophisticated instruments detected any cosmic inflections of this sort? Well, not yet. This absence of any evidence compels us, or at least me, to ask ever so humbly: How is it possible for our universe, one that has existed 13.7 billion years, not to have, or at least show, any evidence of ever having bumped into one of these trillions of other universes. It is said that peering into the heavens through a telescope to find God is like trying to find the mind by viewing the brain under a high-powered microscope. The multiverse creed takes this a step further by abolishing one invisible God for an infinite number of invisible universes and then calling it science.

In the Second Book of Chronicles it says Behold, I build a house to the name of the Lord my God… But who is able to build him a house, seeing the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him. Such mind- boggling words, by any measure, profess an immeasurable, sacred sense of awe. Perhaps scientists sympathetic to a single, cramped universe have charitably devised the multiverse to give the Almighty a little more legroom. I only wish it was so. In the clash of ideas, I can only account for myself. I have never wavered from the view that regarding the physical processes of our universe, science alone is the final arbiter. Most physicists will surely agree with this but then, it seems indisputable, that being rationally and mathematically inclined, many of our most brilliant scientific minds cannot help but be subconsciously troubled by the crushing odds stacked against their own existence and have grasped, through the soaring, wind-surfing axioms of mathematical theory, a far-flung scenario to salvage from the boisterous cosmic sea, a speck of plausibility from the unbelievableness of it all.       



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