Friday, February 21, 2014

Where Science and Religion Meet (Is Somewhere You Don't Want To Be)

The eye of God?  Not really.  More like a nebula in outer space, as photographed by the Hubble telescope.

Humanity has been trapped between the rock of science and the hard place of religion since... well, since long before you and I were born.

As we know, science and religion are two competing ways that humans use to try and make sense of the mysterious world we find ourselves in.  

I'll say this for us: we deserve some props for even trying.  Good work on that front, humans.  You get an A for effort.  Beyond that?  I dunno.


The Difference Between Science and Religion

Science tries to explain reality through a rigorous process of observation, deduction, and then the exhaustive testing and re-testing of ideas.  

Religion tries to explain reality by making up wild, outrageous assertions, then insisting they are true, in the face of all evidence to the contrary.  

Science creates space for exploration, as well as lively and often heated debate.  If you don't agree with an idea in science, you are invited to prove that it is false, or replace it with one of your own - one that can withstand intense scrutiny by other scientists.  

Religion demands that you believe, even in the absence of proof.  Especially in the absence of proof.  If you can't believe, you'll do well to play along.  If you can't play along, you'll probably die in an untimely, grisly and painful fashion, at the hands of people who have no trouble playing along.

Science is primarily logical.  Religion is primarily emotional.  Humans are primarily chimpanzees, and so we tend to like religion better.  

Oh, we tolerate science, as long as it heals our loved ones when they are sick, and gives us nifty gadgets to play with, and provides us with the means to annihilate people who don't agree with our religious beliefs.  And science does all of these things rather well.

What we don't like about science is how it tends to get out ahead of us.  We don't like a lot of the conclusions it comes to.  And we don't like the smug, atheistic scientists who come to these conclusions.

An example?  

Sure.  


How Science Crushed God

Science has been quietly, but systematically demolishing the basic tenets of Western religions for the past 300 years.  

Remember how this guy God created the Universe and the planets and all the creatures of the earth in seven days?  And how He created man and woman, and He loved us, and gave us dominion over all things?  And remember how this all happened about 3,000 or 4,000 years ago?

That was a nice story.

Well, science replaced God with a tiny dot that exploded outward for no reason at all.  This happened in an instant, but then this long period of several billion years followed, and everything happened very slowly and gradually.  

Eventually, a long time later, simple one-celled organisms appeared, which over gigantic periods of time, evolved into increasingly complicated life forms.  And a looooong time after that, humans evolved from apes, mostly so they could survive better in an uncertain world.  And that happened around two million years ago.  

Quite a change, eh?  And not for the better.

Worse.  Remember how God lived in this place called Heaven, which was up in the sky?  And how you could go there when you died?  But then science went up in the sky, and found a lot of neat shit up there, and a lot more questions than answers, but nothing remotely resembling Heaven?         

That was kind of a bummer, wasn't it?  If Heaven's not there, where is it?  And where the fuck is God?

If we really thought about it, we'd probably be better off annihilating scientists instead of Muslims.  At least we'd put a stop to all this progress.


Science Will Find God (And You're Probably Not Going to Like Him)
 
But suddenly, just as science appears to have God on the ropes (but not religion - religion's not going anywhere), something has changed.  It has to do with theoretical physics.

Theoretical physics is an arm of science.  It has been the very definition of "getting out ahead of us" for most of the last century.  

The reality that theoretical physics describes is terribly at odds with the one that we clever monkeys experience.  

We would need a lot more space than we have here to describe that reality, but let's just say this: it's based on advanced mathematics.  Most physicists believe that math is the foundation, the underpinning, of reality.  

In short, math exists independently of our perception of it.  We did not invent it.  All we did was discover it.  It was here before we arrived.  We are visitors in a place that has pre-defined rules, and those rules are math.

The great scientist Kurt Gödel argued that mathematical concepts and ideas “form an objective reality of their own, which we cannot create or change, but only perceive and describe.”

I promise you, if you can take the time to allow this idea to sink in, eventually you will say:

"Whoa.  That is the heaviest thing ever."


Shadow puppets of Alice and the White Rabbit, who is late for a very important date.  Are we shadow puppets?

Q. So where is all this going, Patches?

A. Just here.  Science is on the verge of finding God.
    
Naturally, physicists wouldn't describe it that way.  But let's face it, physicists are idiots.   

For the past 35 years, they've been working to resolve discrepancies in the math that they believe governs the Universe we live in. 

And as they do, the ideas the math implies are a little, shall we say, disconcerting?  

One such idea is the Holographic Universe.  This theory was first proposed by Charles t'Hooft in the 1970s, and later added to and improved upon by Leonard Susskind.  

It suggests that the reality we perceive is actually taking place in two-dimensions, against a theoretical "wall" of the Universe.  

This two-dimensional shadow puppet show is being projected outward in three dimensions, like a hologram, in a manner similar to how Princess Leia sent her distress call to Obi-Wan in the original Star Wars movie.

If true, we are basically watching a movie, and it's taking place against a flat screen, but we're watching it in 3-D.  And we are in the movie.

Another idea is that we are living inside a Computer Simulation.  Yes, just like in the movie The Matrix.

This idea is increasingly being taken seriously.  Indeed, some scientists believe it is more likely than not, and evil theoretical physicists are already hard at work, designing ways to prove whether it is true.  

For example, the physicists Silas Beane, Zohreh Davoudi and Martin Savage have outlined one possible method for doing so.  Apparently, all computer simulations create small anomalies within them, basically, "a glitch in the Matrix," as described in the movie.     

Physicists are now looking for such anomalies in our reality.  If they find one, they believe that will be proof enough.

But, you ask, where is God in all this?  

Simple.  If we live in a hologram or a computer simulation, it didn't come about by itself.  Someone had to have created it, right?  

That's God.  He's a cosmic computer programmer or audio-visual geek, and he's outside of our reality looking in, sitting at a desk and drinking a Red Bull.  And He looks a little something like this:

Mankind, meet your maker.
 

3 comments:

Unknown said...

Max remark gives a very reasonable argument that when he looks at nature, everything breaks down into math, which is what would be expected if living in a simulation, as this math would simply be the program or coding if the simulation.

Similarly, error correcting codes embedded in quarks and super symmetry seems to be for lack of a better word, telling.

Alan Weiss said...

Max Tegmark * #googlesosmart

Anonymous said...

If you think about, finding out this was all a simulation would be kind of a relief. Like one of those nightmare stories where the person wakes up and goes: Oh, it was only a dream!