While I have been working on my current series of posts, God Is Not A Unicorn, I thought it might help my case if I referred you to some heavy hitters in the field of Physics who could back me up – at least at the scientific end of my argument. Some time this week I will add a new post with a bibliography from scientists who are trying to give the general public a deeper insight into the troubles surrounding our current understanding of physical reality. For now, in this post, I give you Carver Mead.
Carver Mead is a pioneer in the field of microelectronics. He’s been trying to wake up the Physics community for a long time about the need to rethink the way we model the physical world. He is very soft spoken, but if you listen carefully to what he is saying you will find it is mind blowing.
ISSCC 2013 Plenary The Evolution of Technology Carver Mead, Professor Emeritus, Caltech, Pasadena, CA, USA
A common argument against the existence of God is to use an analogy with imaginary things such as unicorns. It is said that because unicorns are a product of human imagination then God must be too. The reasoning goes that because unicorns have never been seen, they do not exist and so the same must be true for God. But this is a poor analogy and it is important to understand why before dismissing the concept of God altogether as a fantasy.
Narwhal tusks and Marco Polo
First let us consider the origin of the unicorn. One theory for the imaginative invention of the Unicorn is that Narwhale tusks were the model for the type of horn we see on European representations of unicorns as in the photo above. These unicorns look like an antelope or a horse with the narwhale horn coming out of the middle of its forehead. It is possible the unicorn started as a tall tale from a fisherman or a beachcomber.
Confusion over what Einstein’s Theories of Relativity actually revealed about the true nature of space and time created a major storm of controversy in the early part of the 20th century and continues, though more quietly, to this day. Most people think that Relativity has been “proven” by science and that only cranks would continue to think there is something to debate.
What is not known, by the general public, is that later in life Einstein himself began to reflect on what he had accomplished and expressed some doubt that he had, in fact, been correct about some interpretations of his theories ideas concerning the true nature of time and space.
The Original Sin
Einstein’s original sin, centered on his use of the discovery of the speed of light and the fact that it seemed to be constant no matter which reference frame it traveled in. This means that no matter how fast a light source travelled, the maximum speed light that was emitted from that source had a fixed upper limit. There are other interpretations that could be imagined about the nature of light, space and time from that discovery, but it was Einstein’s interpretation that world came to accept as the true one. Let us see why.
One hardly hears discussion of the kingdoms of the natural world anymore. It is introduced in the early grades of our public schools and hardly ever mentioned again unless one goes on to study one or more of the Kingdoms in college. Our secular culture is dominated by the ideas of science and yet so few of us spend any time engaged in the study or practice of science.
Our minds crave certainty and Science seems to fulfill this need. But while Science seems to function as a Culture (See Culture: Where Do We Go From Here?), in reality it falls short. To understand why this is so, let us look at the scientific categories of existence.
Since ancient times the natural world was grouped into four major categories or kingdoms: Mineral, Plant, Animal, Human. Each level has some element the lower level lacks. Each element is a necessary quality of that kingdom without which it would not exist.
The Elements: m, x, y, and z
The elements that separate the four kingdoms are: Matter (m), Life (x), Consciousness (y), and Self-Awareness (z). The letters in parenthesis in the previous sentences are a shorthand so that we can see more easily how each of the Kingdoms are composed This convention is proposed in a little book called A Guide for the Perplexed written by E. F. Schumacher.
Writing each kingdom with its elements, we have a table that looks like this:
The Heat Death of the Universe was first proposed by Lord Kelvin in the late 19th century. It is a conjecture that the universe is expanding and will continue to expand until all the thermal energy of the universe is expended causing all physical processes to cease.
This faulty and uninspiring mental image of the universe has been a part of the cultural milieu of the scientific community for so long that it has become a part of the popular culture’s understanding of Reality and is rarely challenged.
This apocalyptic vision originated from the observation of physical and chemical processes under specific, local conditions and then extrapolated to include the fate of the entire universe.
“It’s just the abyss, dear. Try not to gaze into it”
We call this kind of analysis empiricism, which is a bottom-up approach to knowledge. While empiricism is a powerful scientific tool, it has its limitations.
the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience. Stimulated by the rise of experimental science, it developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, expounded in particular by John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume.
Physics gives us knowledge when observing concrete (physical), local systems. We can control and submit these local systems to scientific experimentation. We fail sometimes to realize how little we can observe about the universe. From our tiny perch on this small planet whirling about in the vastness of space what can we really know for certain about the fate of the universe?