Testing God – Episode 1 – Killing the Creator

Testing God – Episode 1 – Killing the Creator

May 17, 2019 44 By Bernardo Ryan



the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep and God said let there be light for millennia we accepted that our world had been created by God then science began to challenge this belief to be fobbed off with a cheap supernatural explanation that really doesn't explain anything I think it actually is mentally degrading but however much science advanced a complete explanation of creation remained elusive if you ask it at a very deep level if you want to know why is the universe the way it is we are nowhere near answering that question in science and we're no closer now than the ancient Greeks were in the days when creation was a mystery belief in God gave meaning to our struggles to our lives but was God real or just something we had invented to cover our ignorance and ease our pain I can never prove to somebody else's satisfaction that the gods that I perceive is not simply a figment of my imagination but I personally don't believe that I have invented God the modern rational world finds fewer of us drawn to church or speaking of God yet a yearning for there to be a reason for our existence out there has never gone away if you feel the absence of God you are so fear the dark night of your soul you listen to nothing you see nothing you taste nothing you just close yourself in when you say I mean has science somehow remove the mystery of that absolutely not you like the God problem has got pushed from one place to a deeper place there are no simple answers on this journey more than 20 years ago minister and theologian Don Cupid had a mission to explain the meaning of God in people's lives on radio and television he articulated a belief in God that made sense in the modern world I think until the 1950s and 60s it was possible to believe that there were certain six certainties out there by which one could live but cultural change since that time has gradually eroded the certainties for all of us but his mission has not ended as he expected in the last few years he has found it impossible to reconcile his wants simple faith with a rational and scientific world around him he's very hard to describe how one's whole system of thought gradually changes in evolves but it does I think many people suddenly wake up one morning and find they no longer believe some beliefs that's been very important to them in the past I used to think there was reality out there truth out there God out there so I saw life as a kind of dialog between oneself and the supremely real in relation to which one lived God was the basis on which everything else exists God was the foundation of everything that God is dead that God is dead that called these dailies day Cupid stands in a long line of intelligent thinkers who have found traditional religious teaching coexists uneasily with scientific discovery I think it's undeniably true that if you look at the great revolutions in human thought getting back say to Copernicus and then followed by the work of Newton and Darwin and then Einstein each of these in their own way I think has shaken the foundations of the Christian religion I think we're talking very much in Christian terms in this discussion I can't say for other religions but as far as the Christian religion is concerned which was the dominant religion in Europe where science began it has been historically a sequence of retreats by religion in the face of scientific advance I think it's got to the point where most people probably feel that science has won the battle that religion has very little to offer when it comes to explaining the natural world ever since science first looked at the heavens and puzzled at what lay beyond God's unquestioned role as creator has been under attack in the Middle Ages in particular they understood a certain amount of scientific process and then there was a gap in their understanding and they understood the next bit so they said God did this bit that we don't understand then as their scientific knowledge increased the gap narrowed and God was out of a job since the Renaissance science has pushed God back but not until the sixties that the gaps for which he was needed look like disappearing altogether the breakthroughs made by astronomers and physicists began to make it seem that scientific inquiry not the Word of God was the route to absolute truth there was a fantastic decade or two in the 1960s early 70s where radio astronomy in particular pulled in a number of major discoveries it was an incredibly exciting time very heady and just the kind of circumstances where you might go overboard and think you'd get absolute truth with capital A and capital T there were several things that that I can recall happening one was the discovery of pulsars that I was involved with when we first stumbled over the Pulsar signals we were quite sure there was something wrong with the equipment the signal they had come across was unlike anything they had ever seen or heard before these pulsars were stars more massive than the Sun but smaller than the moon the fantastic density of these exotic objects would provide the first clue to where our universe itself had come from this not the Word of God seemed the material of creation now it turned out there was nothing wrong with the equipment and these pulsars are tiny tiny stars they're very compact they're very dense and they opened up a whole new load of physics it seemed the universe was capable of things even Einstein hadn't suspected one of the men working at this frontier was Roger Penrose he was convinced that pulsars were only the beginning and that there were things in the universe that the known laws of physics couldn't explain singularities of infinite density known today as black holes if you have a situation where there's enough material falling together which in situation we now call a black hole the equator in Stein's equations run out if you like they come to a place where you can't continue them the singularities tell you an end to the very notion of space-time geometry as described by Einstein's equation so tell us we've got to have something new that's the end of the of the physics that we knew before if we like Penrose wanted to prove that matter could disappear but in doing so he inadvertently came across the back door to creation because if matter could disappear into nothing then it was only one bold leap to imagine the reverse that matter could appear out of nothing a Big Bang the work that I did and then subsequently Stephen Hawking showed that the same applies when you work your way back to the beginning of time you find again there is a singular state and that's the Big Bang singularity Penrose and Hawking's work was a revolution they had proved that theory could explain even the beginning of the universe sciences next triumph was to find the physical proof it came unexpectedly on a clear spring day in 1965 on a hilltop in New Jersey came an unbidden whisper scientists working here at Bell Labs were the first to hear lost in the roar of the universe a whisper of the moment of creation they found their microwave antenna had a persistent hiss at first they thought it was pigeons living in the horn antenna then when they saw the frequency of the sound they realized this ugly hiss was exactly the frequency theory had predicted the radiation from the Big Bang would have yes discovering that cosmic microwave background or the heat or his left leftover certainly made astronomers much much more confident that they understood the Big Bang and 15 billion years swayed of the universal history and certainly for those of us who are astronomers and religious the question promptly cut comes up what was God's role in all this or even did God have a role in all this for some this sound of the background radiation is the sound of God's absence the picture it produces on the television a vision of a creation without creator that goes these days did God have a role in all this that call these days there's no need to have a Creator God who sits around for all eternity planning a universe and then presses a button makes the Big Bang go bang we don't need that anymore and I think it's a rotten idea theological II anyway I think it's good thing we dispose of the God who is there before the universe so in this modern age physics has become our satanic tempter promising to rid us of God and answer all our questions asking us why prefer superstition over knowledge why blind faith over inquiry why but to all why but to keep you low and ignorant his worshippers he knows that in the day you eat far off your eyes which seems so clear and yet a dim shall perfectly be opened and cleared and you shall be as gods [Applause] but have the very certainties of science robbed us of what we most desire a purpose for our lives a reason for being here divided we here in Haiti today and it is our Lord now save these Christ I guess we go by to tell you by the Lord in the past it was just believed that six thousand years ago last Tuesday God created the universe and that's the end of it but we never learned anything there that's a dead end don't put your faith in man what you're favoring the word of God every culture has had a cosmology and used to be the cosmologists wore robes and were associated with religious things and now it's the scientists who are the cosmologists and there is a different way of understanding nature based upon science based upon experiment rather than based upon some sort of revealed truth of scripture the Gospel according to physics left us on the fringes of creation we on the earth do not occupy any special position in the universe we are certainly not at the center of the solar system we're not at the center of our galaxy and our galaxy is not at the center of the universe the universe exists on the basis of the laws of nature and we are here riding along in the expansion of the universe and we're here for a few billion years until the Sun burns out and I don't think there's any meaning to that that's a lie that's a lie it's alive is it a spread of deception that's a lie what's alive we all need a together baby only yourself but do we really have to accept this godless universe for his Sciences claimed a victory over God premature the great breakthrough of the Big Bang Theory of the 1970s had been to show that just as matter can collapse in on itself until it disappears into absolutely nothing so by simply reversing the equations matter could spring out of nothing but the theory left unanswered the deeper question of why there had been a Big Bang at all all they really had was a theory without a cause it's important to understand that the Big Bang Theory was around for a long time without any attempt to explain what caused the event itself so you know the fifties and sixties when the evidence was piling up in favor of the Big Bang Theory it was considered that the originating event was off limits that it was simply an event without a cause that one could say nothing at all about what set the thing off in the first place so for a while it seemed the creator god like some endangered species would survive in this last gap in our knowledge so long as the originating event was outside the scope of science it was always possible to argue that one had to have got to as it were like the blue touch paper I always regarded that as the last refuge of the god of the gaps if science can't explain something you will got in to offer an explanation if science was finally going to close that last refuge of the God of the gaps scientists needed to investigate what the universe was like when it began to do that they needed to find a way of looking much further back in time than they could with any telescope right back to the very first instant of the universe's existence no matter how large of a telescope we build we can't look out in space back in time earlier than 300 thousand years after the bang because for the first 300 thousand year history of the universe the universe was so hot and dense we cannot see through it so we have to find another way of looking at the early universe and the way we can do it is to recreate what we believe the conditions of the early universe to be recreate them in the laboratory and that's what we do at atom smashers at particle accelerators at particle accelerators like Fermilab in America scientists use immense machines to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang deep underground in the massive Tevatron Collider thousands of supercooled magnets use vast amounts of electricity to accelerate plasma beams of matter and antimatter to almost the speed of light when we are running the machine the the amount of our electricity bills run the $1,000,000 per month okay let's get ready to do a shot once the beams have reached the highest energy levels the magnets can stand there collided in this vast particle detecting machine PDF is a collider detector in Fermilab this monster VTech particles were lied to me and the center of this tea but actually it would be wet hit there places where the beam when collisions occur within the detector it is not fragments of particles that are produced it is pure energy Rolle tuned up let's take a shot but Fermilab we can create energies that were present in the universe for picoseconds after the bang for million millionth of a second after the bag when the temperature was a gazillion degrees it's the the numbers are so large are so small that it's sort of beyond our everyday experience extracting antiprotons cause I'm even a man injector at such extreme temperatures in line with the strange laws of quantum mechanics the energy takes on the form of the primordial particles of the Big Bang in effect the scientists are forcing into existence the very first things which existed in our universe initiating collisions if the scientists can recreate conditions like the Big Bang in which matter appeared out of nothing what need for a creator in effect this is an experiment for replacing the blue touch paper God what Fermilab does is examine our universe in the instance after the Big Bang when the universe was entirely governed by quantum mechanics but in pushing their understanding all the way back scientists contributed to a major theoretical breakthrough they realized the nothing the very void from which our universe sprang is itself governed by the same bizarre principles of quantum mechanics picture of nothing is very different in the 20th century than the picture of nothing before the advent of quantum mechanics one of the basic tenants of quantum mechanics is a principle of uncertainty named the uncertainty uncertainty principle by Verna Heisenberg and because of the uncertainty principle energy can be violated for a brief instant of time so at any point in space it's possible for a particle and antiparticle to pop out of the vacuum existing for a brief instant violating in some sense conservation of energy for an instant before they annihilate and go back into the vacuum so if you could see nature on microscopic scales you would not see a quiescent space but what you would see would be a quantum foam of frothing of particles and antiparticles popping out of the vacuum and then annihilating again so before the Big Bang there was nothing there was no space in no time no universe there was no before no after then because of quantum uncertainty an expanding bubble of vacuum came into being this expanding bubble of vacuum grew to enormous size and that is the entire universe that we see what particle accelerators have helped confirm is that the Big Bang did not need a supernatural cause the void from which our universe sprang is in fact made of energy positive and negative in perfect balance and why the Big Bang should have violated this balance is because nature at the quantum level can and does suffer the uncertainty of random events and more startling still the scientists said nothing could precede that moment so the Big Bang the moment of creation was just one random event in a timeless nothing the Big Bang was not the explosion of a lump of something in a pre-existing void it was the origin of space and time as well as matter and energy when people say well what happened before the Big Bang the answer was nothing nothing simply because there was no time before the Big Bang time itself didn't exist Stephen Hawking and said is a little bit like saying what lies north of the North Pole again the answer is nothing not because it's some mysterious land of nothing there but because they no such place is not for the North Pole well in the same way ain't no such time as before the Big Bang the Big Bang was the emergence of time itself and when you ask the question what came before or what came after you have in the back of your mind some picture of time is smoothly flowing is smoothly flowing but if the Big Bang was really the emergence of the universe the very beginning of the universe it's also the very beginning of time itself the very beginning of time itself time itself is as strange and counterintuitive as quantum mechanics is scientists have subsequently been able to check everything the theory predicted with practical observations nothing was needed to set the universe going no blue touch paper no Creator God is this good news or bad I'm really quite delighted that the originating event of the universe the Big Bang itself can now be discussed entirely within the scope of physics that we don't need to appeal to anything peculiar about setting the thing off this is a positive step here because step number one is let's get rid of the ultimate God of the gaps the God who presses the button that makes a big bang go go bang we don't want that sort of God we don't want a God who makes the universe as a supernatural act to time T equals zero so that's a great step forward then the question is is there any room for God at all this act is trying to prove that don't exist of God that also everything that we see and do came about by Big Bang Theory so to speak but how to get over all the laws and gravity and all that kind of thing where no laws gave wrong I mean they base their loans on what somebody else gate so who gave him to go that was the point quantum mechanics might replace the God who rested on the seventh day but how could a random fluctuation of energy deliver a universe with everything just right to produce human consciousness Thank You enemies good well that's a good point in this and I know I mean where science has pushed these problems is not so much in the creation but in the actual nature of the equations the nature of the laws that we have the quantum mechanics that we have and so on it's all very intricately constructed and and extraordinary when you look at these things you come across them when you finally learn you know what it is that makes things behave in one way or another we find these amazing mathematical laws which which govern we never afford of them otherwise they're just just fantastic now that's where we are now we don't know why the laws are of the form they are maybe we will come to a better understanding later on so if you like the god problem has got pushed from one place to a deeper place by the end of the 20th century scientists had an almost complete understanding of the fundamental particles and forces which describe nearly perfectly our creatorís universe works only then as they stood back from their victory did they realize they were facing a far deeper question why these forces by this maths the intricate laws of physics were built around certain principles the scientists had observed in nature but couldn't explain the focus now shifted to these parameters were they there by chance or by design our set of physical laws have these arbitrary parameters in them for example the standard model of particle physics has 17 which are just put in by hand which are determined by experiment they're not determined in the standard model by fundamental physics they could be anything for many scientists what they were was all that mattered what else they might have been was irrelevant I think it was considered you know not quite real science because after all it is in a very real sense metaphysics not physics because we're looking here not ad and the consequences of the physical laws but a sort of meta universe of different possible laws in the early days there was a feeling that this whole subject there was just a little bit dubious but a few realized these were precisely the questions physics had to answer one of the most prominent was Frank Tipler for Tipler saying something was fundamental was not enough he insisted there had to be a deeper theory of how the fundamental or constant parameters of the universe came to be so finely tuned if you vary such things like the proton mass by a factor of two then all sorts of weird things happen in the structure of stars we can't have these long burning stars like our own Sun if these structure constants are change very very much so the question that arises why do the constants have the values they actually do this deceptively simple question rocked physics it meant that scientists had to explain why the universe was the particular way at once now you're into much more fertile territory because you can ask is anything special or particular about the actual laws of the universe as opposed to other possible laws are the possible universes and lo and behold well there is rather a long list of rather special things for example if gravity was just a little bit stronger or electromagnetism a little bit weaker or the mass of the electron were just a tiny bit more or the mass of the proton a little bit less well almost certainly the universe we see would be dramatically transformed there probably wouldn't be complex structures probably wouldn't be life and observers and people like us sitting around pondering on the significance of it all so only in such a universe in which the valleys are very finely tuned can intelligent life arise so the scientists had to explain the fine-tuning of an apparently designed universe without invoking a designer they realized there were only two other possible explanations first of all the overriding law of physics which we have not yet discovered which will be called the theory of everything would say that there is only one logically possible universe that when you understand this theory of everything you will see that these apparently arbitrary physical fundamental constants are not fundamental at all that they have specific values coming from the logical structure of the theory and there is no other possible physical theory the theory of everything if ever it were found would not need arbitrary assumptions and constants to make it work everything would turn out to flow logically from explicable mathematical principle but in the last few years physicists have discovered the cosmological constant a number at the heart of the universe that is so strange even the most hardcore theorists fear it will never be explained and without an explanation they will never have the theory of everything when you're faced with a cosmological constant which is ridiculously tiny it will be a powerful argument against theoretical physics ever explaining this number because it's hard simply because it's hard to imagine 10 to the power 100 and minus 120 every merging as a some number of of Pi and factors of two and those sort of things that will come out of mathematical formula so from a sort of pure physicists point of view when you look at this you you just say sort of ugh this is really ugly okay we've got a long way to go and that is one possible attitude is that we are nowhere near actually explaining everything in the universe there are weird coincidences we don't understand now it could be the observations are wrong okay and we will go back to the golden days of physics where we won't have to explain this terrible fine-tuning however it could be there right and we have to explain the tuning instead of a theory of everything physicists then came up with a new idea to explain away the astronomical odds against this universe being just right it wasn't the only universe there were trillions of them the next explanation is that there are many universes out there in which the constants have all sorts of values but we only see that tiny fraction of reality in which the constants have just the right values to allow beings like ourselves to evolve the laws of physics the laws of nature of one way in the universe we observe but in some other region in another universe the laws of nature may be completely different so if we would step back and look at it on scales much larger than we can see in our universe today we may see many isolated bubbles that are enormous size and would be universes in their own right so it would be a multiverse in this multiverse there would be every possible universe so the fact that one of them turns out to be just right to support life isn't so remarkable this is a theory physics currently puts up as its explanation of the design of free universe well you could say that there are maps that are just lots and lots of universes and there's just one that by chance will produce carbon-based life and of course that's the one that we live in because we couldn't appear in any other that's a very prodigal assumption that there are lots and lots of other universes and they would have to be trillions of them to make the argument plausible and it doesn't seem to me to do any other piece of work than simply explaining away the fine-tuning of this particular universe so it's either a prodigal number of universes or the last and perhaps most intuitive solution God a period explanation is that there is only one universe and these particular constants were fixed by God for a purpose John Polkinghorne was for 25 years professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge before he was attained as a minister of the church I didn't leave science because I was disillusioned with it but simply because theology I find even more interesting than than physics because essentially it's asking yet deeper or more comprehensive questions than science itself addresses it's asking the questions of meaning and purpose is there something going on in the history of the universe while science is really describing the process that's going on the fundamental question are which science I think gets stuck and which theology has an answer is to say word of the laws of nature come from where did the quantum vacuum come from where the laws of quantum mechanics the controller come from where the fields that are fluctuating the vacuum where did they come from I think that belief in the world is a creation is a much more economic explanatory argument than simply supposing there are lots and lots of different universes the fine-tuned laws of our universe are telling us that one way or another reality is far larger than just our universe whether this ultimate reality is God or a vast multiverse of universes we cannot objectively know unless of course we are willing to bring other kinds of evidence to bear the question would be them all the laws of nature themselves sufficiently self-contained sufficiently easy to accept as brute fact or do they have features in them which point beyond themselves it seems to me that their rationale beauty and their finely tuned fruitfulness are features that do suggest there is more to learn than simply saying that's the way it happens to be and it seems to me natural to believe that the rational order and beauty is an expression of a divine mind and the finely tuned fruitfulness is an expression of a divine purpose to me that's not an explanation that's just a comment I would say the whole goal of theoretical physics has been to see how much we can understand without invoking someone twiddling the dials to the extent it's exceeded and it has succeeded dramatically all the technology around us is a result of physics at some level and physical understanding to the extent it's exceeded it's been a justification of the attitude that we can make progress without thinking about someone twiddling the dials if you ask an atheist why those laws and where the laws come from I suppose the answer you'll be given is well there is no particular reason for them legs it's reasoned lessly that's the doctrine of cosmic absurdity it's a bit of an inconsistency there because the whole idea of science is that we're supposed to give logical and rational explanations for things and if you trace that down to the starting point the laws and say well there's no explanation for those we just have to sort of accept them as as given as a brute fact then that means doing a sort of back flip at the final stage it says that we live in the universe which is rational and logical in every respect but underpinning it is absurdity so I find that rather uncongenial seems to me that it ought to be rational right the way down you so despite agreeing that our universe is special and that it's special quality needs explaining science and religion still stand apart neither can produce the ultimate proof yet each sees the others explanation has more irrational than their own what are we trying to get out of ultimate explanations we're trying to explain the world in terms of something that we can all agree on ultimately we can say that is a starting point we accept it's given now there's a famous parable the tower of turtles which I think goes back to Bertrand Russell and Stephen Hawking recounted in his famous book and just to tell the story it's a that the lecturer is talking about the nature of the universe and a woman stands up at the back and interrupts and this sort of things happened to me I might say and she says you might be very clever but I know how the world is put together and the lecturer says well do you tell us and she says well it said the earth is standing on the back of an elephant standing on the battery back of a turtle and the lecturer replies what's the turtle standing on and the woman says oh you can't trick me it's Turtles all the way down well I think that a catch is a wonderful story that explains really rather well the dilemma that we're up against because you see if we're trying to explain the world based upon something else something supporting it and then something supporting that and so on what do we do we either have an infinite regress which isn't very satisfactory or we have a sort of levitating super turtle that that is something that you just have to accept is given its explanation lies within itself maybe that's a necessary God maybe it's a set of laws that we simply accept as a brute fact but it's always sort of unsatisfactory they have this levitating super turtle of course theology doesn't tell us where God came from but everybody has to have an unexplained starting point and my point of contention would be that a divine agent is a more fitting starting unexplained starting point for a world contains persons and values as well as beautiful science than simply the brute fact of matter itself so some scientists like John Polkinghorne except that God is an unexplained starting point but are quite happy with this other scientists like Neil tor but realize their own solution of an infinite number of universes solves the improbability of our universe being just so but isn't really an explanation at all we're in a way forced to contemplate these parallel universes of possibility when we think about quantum mechanics it's not at all a solution it's why why do the all these possibilities exist you know I that's that's an even deeper most mystery why did somebody set in place all these different possibilities it's a much bigger problem than you had in the first place it doesn't solve anything it just makes it harder proposing an infinite number of universes had a startling consequence it meant inescapably that our physics was just one chance set of laws in one chance universe the only reason scientists were studying it was that it had by chance created them so instead of allowing God to have defined our universe what those scientists are saying is that the universe is defined by our presence in it and the implications of this are profound we hoped we would explain everything about the universe that was the dream as soon as we start saying that the universe depends on us being there we have retreated okay and maybe we have to maybe that is the way the world works and unfortunately we will never have a theory that explains everything we'll only explain the universes containing us so in the end for physics when asked why this universe is the way it is the answer the unexplained first principle of this universe the name of physics is levitating super turtle is us me we hoped we would explain everything about we hoped we would explain everything about the universe that was the dream that was the dream that we have retreated and maybe we have to we have retreated we hoped we would explain everything that was the dream that was the dream that was the dream if you like it you give up the the chance of explaining the fact that we exist by just assuming it so the temptation of science has not succeeded we are not yet as gods with the complete knowledge of why we exist physics did kill the old creator by revealing how the universe began without him but in attempting to explain away the amazing coincidence of its fine-tuned design the old physics killed itself – and in doing so it opened the door to a new and more subtle understanding of physics and of God to give a scientific story in terms of our unfolding of certain consequences of the laws of nature doesn't mean God didn't do it doesn't either God or nature to the God who works through nature the nature that God creates and holds in being so whether by divine creation or simply by chance the result is the same our unlikely and extraordinary universe poised between order and chaos between the land and the sea is the narrow strip of restless potential that defines us and our world a world poised for life for us people say okay you know it's a great advance in understanding to say that we're not the center of the universe and there's all that universe out there but it's not just distance which is important it's not just mass that's important the important thing is consciousness this quality which seems to have evolved on this planet science itself has put us back where religion always said we were at the center of the universe the miracle of creation is not that the universe exists but that we are in it to witness it science and religion agree on one thing we are the true measure of this universe