Searching for God in the Big Bang

Apparently as physicists work on models describing earlier and earlier moments of the Universe, they’re realizing that there might be some worth in talking with theologians. It’s happening in an informal way at an event organized by people from CERN.

The BBC has long report on the meeting, and their post includes this quote by one of the participants remarking on the need for the two disciplines to be in conversation:

“‘We face a problem in our culture of hyperspecialisation,’ says Dr Pinsent.

‘This ignorance of other fields can cause problems, like a lack of social cohesion.’

And although Prof Krauss said the meeting felt at times like ‘people who can’t communicate trying to communicate,’ even he sees some value in this somewhat esoteric exchange.

‘Many people of faith view science as a threat,’ he said.

‘I don’t think science is a threat, so it is useful for scientists to show that they don’t necessarily view it that way.’

As one contributor put it during the meeting: ‘Religion doesn’t add to scientific facts, but it does shape our view of the world.’”

More here.

That first line is really quite important. Physics is, at it’s best, the application of philosophical ideas in a way that makes testable claims. Einstein’s work in relativity was motivated by his own fascination of European philosophical challenges to empiricism and determinism. For physicists to decide that they have no need to talk with a branch of philosophy that focuses on the question of the divine is to lock themselves out of an interesting and often fruitful arena of thought.

I’m always nervous whenever any intellectual enterprise decides that it can a priori dismiss an entire discipline. I’m nervous too when theologians dismiss physics, cosmology or biology because those disciplines contradict their axiomatic beliefs. In either case it such actions impoverishes the conversation and denies the possibility that the physicist or the theologian needs to circle back and rework part of their position.

About Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...
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5 Responses to Searching for God in the Big Bang

  1. Tom Wharton says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the view you express here. There is something about opening the doors to some of the ambiguity between “The Sciences” and “The Church” that I think allows some of the real truth to shine through. In the end, it seems to me that all areas of human understanding and endeavor run up against the limits of our created and hard-wired capabilities, and perhaps embracing ambiguity—or what The Church might call mystery—is the only way to see beyond those limitations.

    Thank you for the post!

  2. sheldoncurry says:

    Correct, sir. Blinders addiction. We can become so focused on our individual concerns, we forget that rampant curiosity is the mother of knowledge.

  3. Christopher Hoctor says:

    I think the closer we get to understanding how mass and space first came to be, the closer we will come to understanding God; science answers how – God answers why.

  4. Shawn Halayka says:

    ‘This ignorance of other fields can cause problems, like a lack of social cohesion.’

    This reminds me of the casting of the entropy as an information-theoretical concept, and of the salvation from information loss via the holographic principle. If the study of Shannon’s theory had been given proper consideration in the first place, they would have deduced from the signal space representation of the black hole that the position of the signals (states) is uncertain, which allows them to leak out to infinite distance. This is of course entirely different from the standard derivation, where we find that the position of the energy is uncertain, but we are left with an ambiguity as to what happens to the signals (states) — are they left in the black hole, do they escape with the leaking energy, do they simply cease to exist? As we know now from any derivation, the signals (states) are not lost and the entire system stays as one cohesive, entangled unit.

    Seems like the information loss paradox (and the 20 year war that went with it) could have been avoided if Shannon had been given proper consideration in the first place. That’s life; a lack of social cohesion.

  5. Tom Ramsey says:

    I’m agnostic and have trouble wrapping my brain around the word God- However -Given that we are all looking for answers I would think it quite foolish that the Hard science people and the Philosophy people wouldn’t be up for some sort of conversation. To me anyway the word agnostic simply means I don’t know.

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