L-theory?

 

About this time last month, in an interview in honor of his 70th birthday, famed Cambridge University theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking repeated through his voice synthesizer his claim that the universe spontaneously created itself from, quite literally, “nothing”. Or to quote his 2010 book The Grand Design  (p. 180), “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”  While I’m at a loss as to what Hawking means by “blue touch paper” ¾ maybe blueprints? ¾ apparently he believes there is a some kind of design that just happened, yet without there being a designer of any sort.

Instead, Hawking has concluded that the latest variety of string theory that Hawking and his colleagues call “M-theory” explains everything, although he admits that no one knows for sure really what the “M” in M-Theory stands for. According to Hawking (on p. 117), “it may be ‘master’, ‘miracle’, or ‘mystery’.”  Nevertheless, he is sure that “it has eleven space-time dimensions, not ten” and that it (p. 118) allows for virtually an infinite number of universes ¾ maybe as many as 10 followed by 500 zeroes, “each with its own set of laws”!

Now maybe such a theory makes some sense in the topsy-turvy world of contemporary physics, but in terms of forensic proof of anything, a case with trillions or more possible suspects would never even make it into court. However, assuming that all this is some reality that they do understand, then logic would seem to indicate that this “nothing” really is “something” even if it is nothing more than some fundamental law or reality that explains the structure of the universe.  In other words, if they are correct, then this fundamental reality may be neither matter, nor even energy, but rather an abstract principle of some sort, something like the law of gravity, except without anything (yet) for it to gravitate.

If this is the case, then it occurs to me that maybe Hawking’s claim could be renamed “L-theory”, with the “L” standing for logos, a Greek term for “word”, “reason”, even “rationality”.  I say this because it seems to me that what Hawking appears to be saying (although at this point he’d surely deny it) is really not all that far from what the author of the prologue of the Gospel according to John meant when he wrote,

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,

        and the Word was God….”

 

Nor was this thought even all that original. Several centuries before John’s gospel was written, the Stoics or “porch” philosophers in ancient Greece had spoken of the Logos  ¾ “mind”, “reason”, or expression of that rationality as the “Word” that permeates and guides the universe. So too did the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who probably was still alive during the time of Jesus.  Given this philosophical heritage, and the fact that Philo had already equated the Logos with God’s “wisdom” as it is personified in the Old Testament, there should be little wonder that Christ, in the eyes of the early Christians, was seen as the physical embodiment or personification of this divine reason or “Word”.  Thus, “The Word was made flesh and he dwelt among us….”

Why, one might ask, can’t brilliant people like Hawking not see this or make such an obvious connection? For one, I suppose it is because someone who occupies Isaac Newton’s “chair” at Cambridge can hardly afford to make the same mistake as Newton himself did and try to engage, on the side, in alchemy or even in esoteric biblical interpretations.  In today’s world, to be a respectable scientist one must rigidly remain materialistic, even when the foundations of this materialism have become even more puzzling or mysterious.

Yet I must say that I find a delicious irony in all this, in that even when they speak of their “theories”, scientists are unwittingly, certainly unintentionally, speaking of God or divinity (theos). So it seems to me that perhaps the greatest theoretical physicist of them all, Albert Einstein, when he doggedly sought a “theory of everything” was really not joking when he told people that “I want to know what God thinks.”  Einstein, having rejected the more extreme (he called them “spooky”) interpretations of the quantum mechanics that he had helped found, was never convinced he had yet found this ultimate theory.  If so, it may just be that Hawking and his friends, who seem to have pushed their own theories as far as they can go, have come close to this same goal, yet without recognizing the fullest implications of their thoughts.

 

R W Kropf      2/5/12                                   L-theory.doc