God's Substitutes

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche thought we -- or at least he -- had "killed" God. Instead, figuring that without an end, much more a beginning, there is no need for a God, he thought he'd found a good substitute for God in an eternally recurring universe.  According to the mad philosopher -- who died in a Swiss insane asylum in 1900 -- evolution is fated to eternally repeat itself, even to the point which the same combination of atoms of which each of us is made will again repeat itself, and given an infinity of time, each of our lives and the combination of events that characterizes them will also be played out over and over again.

Now, after nearly a century of trying, most serious astrophysicists and cosmologists, like the late Fred Hoyle of Cambridge University, have given up on such ideas of a recurring or "reciprocating" universe, mostly because all the observational data confirms what Hoyle once derisively called "the Big Bang".  Not only that, the latest data seems to indicate that the expansion of the universe is speeding up with the result of there being no possibility of the Big Bang ever repeating itself. 

Not that this data has stopped the skeptics: instead, basing themselves on purely mathematical speculations, we find them dreaming up, visions of other possible universes and even a "multiverse"-- not unlike the medieval theologian-philosophers who did not argue as to how many angels could dance on a pin-head, but did actually argue, for a long time  about "other possible worlds".

The latest wrinkle in this sort of reasoning seems to have come the "string theorists" -- those who have been for the few decades been pursuing Einstein's dream of uniting, within a single mathematical formula, the four major forces of nature into a single "theory of everything".   They've done pretty well in making coherent sense of three of them: the electro-magnetic force, the strong force that holds atomic nuclei together, and the weak force that binds electrons to the nuclei.  But to make sense of the fourth force, that of gravity, especially as Einstein described its working in his theory of general relativity, these mathematicians are forced to dream up an imaginary scenario consisting of infinitesimally tiny "strings" of energy that manifest themselves in a dozen or even thirteen dimensions -- of which only four (three in space, the other time) are detectable to us, but the others, of course, maybe detectable to other creatures in other universes.

At this point, one wonders who was/is really crazy.  Einstein, who was perhaps the greatest mind of the twentieth century, unabashedly said his ambition was "to understand what God had in mind."  So it seems that after his dazzling accomplishments of 1905 (Special Relativity) and 1915 (General Relativity) and his subsequent forty year effort to formulate a single theory of everything, all this really was, from the very beginning -- although some thought he was only joking -- a quest to not only understand the Universe, but also to understand God.

It is a shame that his admirers have not understood this.  Instead, it seems to me, that these contemporary thinkers go on spinning their theories oblivious to the obvious. Not only without a Creator, there can be no creation, or even a succession of them, but that even more fundamentally, just from observing themselves, without a Thinker, there can be no real Thought.  

R W Kropf   10/29/06                                                        

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