Tuesday, October 5, 2010

M-Theory, M-Theology, and the Nature of God

Hawking and Mlodinow have, in establishing that the nature of the universe involves a functionally infinite array of different universes, inadvertently given viable rational ground for the existence of God.  But...err...which God?

The scope of the M-Theory universe is dizzyingly, immensely, terrifyingly vast, and contains the possibility of almost anything.   Among the panoply of possible modes of being, getting to a being that is omniscient and omnipotent is conceptually easy.  Such a being would be inseparable from the processes of creation that blort all things into reality.  It would be a self-aware and endlessly generative Reality Engine.  But is this the God that Christianity claims is the source and font of all being?

Such an entity easily passes muster as the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle, or the distant, abstracted Clockmaker of Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment Deists.   It's also precisely the sort of entity that might have I Am That I Am on its nametag at this year's Higher Being Society Annual Convention. 

So we can kinda work our way to a Creator, immortal, invisible, in light inaccessible, hid from our sight.  But though we may love that old hymn, this isn't enough.  Does the God of M-Theology manifest the single primary defining characteristic of the God Jesus kept on about?  Can we point to such a Creator and assert that God is Love?

Honestly, though the M-playing field has gotten a whole bunch larger, I don't think that's any more difficult an assertion to make than it was back when the universe was only our little linear sliver of spacetime.  The disconnected, unmoved, unfeeling, utterly uncompassionate god-cog of Deism has always been inadequate conceptually, and the One Step Beyond we've taken into the multiverse doesn't change that.

The assumption of a being that is "impassible," meaning beyond the passions and feelings of humankind, is one of the underlying presumptions of most Greek philosophy about the nature of deity.  The Stoic logos, for instance, is neither personal or "feeling."  But the omniscience we suggest as a necessary aspect of such a being incorrectly approaches knowledge as abstraction.  Our human assumption is that an eternal, all-aware being would know things as we know.  We assume that our Creator knows us in the same way that even though I'm sitting in my church office, I know the wall in my living room is red.   Or through our symbolic forms of language or mathematics. 

But this is such a limited way of knowing.   Omniscience has always seemed meaningless absent knowledge that isn't just conceptual in character, but that is ontological in character.  Meaning, the Maker knows all things...knows you...in the same essential way that you know that you now exist. Right now.  As you read this.

Though it's beyond our capacity for grasping, such a being's level of awareness would annihilate any meaningful distinction between itself and others.  In forming us, it knows us, and approaches us as not an it, or an "other," but as a "Thou." 

This being is and always has been the heart and goal of faith.  If love...the highest gift of our faith...is our yearning for participation in the other, and compassion for the other, then within the probabilistic boundaries of a functionally infinite multiverse, our capacity for reason can give assent to the possibility of what faith has always known.  That to which faith cries out, O God, is and always has been, love.  And now that faith is evidently necessary to understand the infinitely manifold providence of creation as it actually is, and infinite love can be discerned streaming up from that probability fountain, well, gosh.  Quantum cosmology and the deep yearning of Christian mysticism seem finally united.

But what does this mean for us?  What does M-Theology do for the way we live our day-to-day lives?

Further up and further in...

8 comments:

  1. So in your M-Theology, an omnipotent, omniscient being spontaneously appears near the beginning of the multiverse as a just one particularly improbable but inevitable quantum fluctuation. Then, because the laws of causality don't apply to him, he jets back in time to the very beginning and oversees the whole process from the beginning, bootstrapping himself into existence, which makes him the creator as well. (How conveeeeeeeeenient.)

    So then he creates the multiverse that will bring himself into being as well as literally every other possible thing that can happen, no matter how good or evil -- an actual complete set of all possibilities. But he is still completely benevolent, because in M-Theology, omniscience equals love. So when innocent sentient beings suffer in the hells he has created, they should still love him back because, like Bill Clinton, he feels their pain.

    Do I have that about right, Fonzie?

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  2. @ Potsie: "Beginning?" "Jets back?" "So then he creates..." "Oversees the whole process from the beginning..."

    No, you don't have it right, my linear-thinking friend. Another round of coffee at Al's might clear up your thinking.

    And in any cohesive systematic theology...or any logical philosophical system...omniscience equals love. I'm hardly breaking new ground here.

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  3. Are you sure you don't mean "rationally-thinking friend"?

    I'm not so sure that caffeine is the most appropriate psychoactive substance to get me thinking more like you.

    You say, "From his cosmological premise, Hawking would be required to cede that among the 10^500 possible permutations of physics that spring forth from singularity might be a self-contained, self-aware, and functionally infinite being that met all the checkbox criteria for God."

    In other words, the multiverse has to be already cooking for proto-God to appear. A stable universe with a physics that can lead to his existence is required. But because you need for him to be the creator and not the creation, you have to imagine in a very ad hoc way that he appears in a universe where there is no causality so that he can effectively cause the universe that caused him, and all the other universes.

    Your language is also linear. He "springs forth" in a "generative process," "arising from nothing." "In the beginning, both were." But you are bending your line into a circle. Which is fine -- I like a good grandfather paradox as much as the next guy -- but if that's not what you really mean, then I think you have not expressed it very clearly.

    **********

    The problem with "omniscience equals love" is that in a complete multiverse "love" has no meaning besides "omniscience." That kind of "love" does not prevent him from doing evil, knowingly. He knows us while he tortures us, therefore, he "loves" us.

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  4. @ Browning: Yeah, I'm sure.

    "Already cooking?" "Can lead to?" What do those things mean in the realm of thought we're exploring?

    True, I do use linear language. It's hard not to, given the nature of our wee sliver o' spacetime and the way we process concepts. But I'm deeply aware of its utter inadequacy, in the same way that I'm aware of the limitations of symbolic expression as a means of conveying actuality. "Beginning," for instance, is particularly inadequate.

    There are other thoughts you articulate here well worth exploring...but there are posts to follow that will deal with them more directly, so you can have at me there.

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  5. Okay, so what you're saying is that you don't actually have a language adequate to describe what you mean. So my criticisms of the logic of what you are describing can never touch the thing itself. You can claim that M-theory proves that God exists, but you can't really say how or why. Again, how conveeeeenient.

    But it makes me wonder what you think you are doing talking about it all. It's just a semantic shell game. (And I suspect this will always be God's last refuge -- his Last Gap, as it were.)

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  6. D: Here is what a snark is like. Isn't it amazing?
    B: But that doesn't make any sense.
    D: That is merely because I am not able to actually tell you what a snark is like, as any fool knows. And that's just one of the many things that is so amazing about it! Why, oh why, do you hate the snark so!?

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  7. I think you jumped the snark.

    Word verificating: "xitching." I just like it. Very Lewis Carroll.

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  8. @ Browning: If anyone in the world knows what snark is, it would be you, mon frere.

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