Guide Is God The Only Reality: Science Points Deeper Meaning Of Universe

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After all, where is most science done? At universities. And who founded those universities? The church. Indeed, until the middle of the 19th century and the rise of the state universities, many scientists were in fact clergymen. Who else had the education and the free time to go out collecting and classifying leaves and bugs and all the other day-to-day, data-gathering things that form the backbone of science? And what do we call the work of sorting and filing information?

Clerical work. Work done by clerics. But the religious roots of science are even deeper than who pays the bills. We all know that any logical system must start with fundamental, unprovable assumptions You have to believe that the physical world actually exists — I am not just a butterfly, dreaming that I am a scientist, in an imaginary universe. But third, and most profoundly, you have to believe that the physical universe is worth studying.

Think of it Only such a religion could possibly believe that you could find God in the book of nature.

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And so, this means that as astronomy expands our understanding of what is in creation and how it operates, it inevitably colours the ways we understand who that God is and how that God operates. They assumed that the physical universe was equivalent to, and no more than, the earth they saw all around them. You look around and can see for yourself what the universe looks like.

Is God The Only Reality: Science Points Deeper Meaning Of Universe

You can develop this picture — many ancient cultures did — by postulating all sorts of different heavens, layers of heaven, that line up with your understanding of the spiritual realm. For example, last spring when I was speaking to a group of native American Indian elders in northern Wisconsin about meteorites, rocks that fall out of the sky, they wanted to know: which sky?

You can see some stars in the night-time sky that move among the other, fixed stars; these wandering stars are called planets. And if you plot their positions night after night, you can see them move; eventually you see that sometimes they move backwards. There are seven visible planets if you include the sun and the moon ; hence, seven levels of heaven that anyone can see for themselves.

The Pythagorean mathematician Eudoxus, about BC, explained the observed motions of the planets by describing the universe as an elaborate system of interlocking transparent spheres whose axes of rotation pass through the Earth. By then, the Earth itself was long recognized as a sphere: probably the Pythagoreans had worked that out a hundred and fifty years earlier. There are panentheists who say that the Universe is God plus more.

There are Deists who say God is what made the Universe, but that God does not intervene in the Universe anymore. There are Nontheists who say that God is real, but beyond any human understanding or definition. There are theists who say that God is a being with specific will, agency, and a plan for humanity. Among theists, there are many opposing ideas about God.

The world's three largest religions all point toward the God of Abraham, but they disagree wildly on God's character, and what His or Her plan for humanity is. We can't forget polytheists who believe that there are many gods out there. Let's start the same place the Bible does: the origin of everything. Whatever there was before there was a before is completely beyond our understanding today. We have a word for what happens when the math of how we understand reality breaks down: singularity.

The singularity state is deeply strange. There is no light, matter, gravity, or any of the other things we are familiar with. Our current understanding is that all the forces in physics were just one unified force. Matter, energy, and whatever makes up matter and energy, it seems all was one. When you are in a singularity state, big is small and small is big.

Space is compressed so tightly that the forces that usually govern the behavior of the tiny particles that make up atoms and forces have an effect on a cosmic scale. This is very fortunate—without it we probably would not be here today. Scientists have all kinds of hypotheses about what caused this state. Sometimes little pockets of this something slow down enough to make a Universe, sort of like a bubble in a pot of boiling water.

Another idea is there are infinite Universes stacked atop each other like membranes of film, which sounds funny because how can things that are infinite in 3 directions stack at all? These Universes can stack because the stacking happens in additional dimensions that are curled on top of themselves. Sometimes these membrane Universes touch each other and you get a Big Bang in each of them. If that gives you a headache, you are perfectly normal.

On the other hand, consider a career in theoretical physics if the idea comes naturally to you. These ideas are just hypotheses—ideas put forward by someone on an educated hunch. Science works because no one will accept a hypothesis unless it is verified by an experiment or observation in the real world. The results of this observation have to be recorded, and you have to tell people how they can make this observation on their own.

You publish all that and then other scientists review it, and confirm or reject it with other experiments, which are also reviewed. Occasionally, a hypothesis is tested so thoroughly that it is proven, and you get a Law. Other times, it becomes part of a large body of work that helps us understand the world better.

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These larger understandings are called Theories, and they change the world. Theories are so well supported with data that you can trust them, and whatever problems they have describing reality are widely known in the scientific community. However nothing became something, our tiny Universe was filled with immense levels of energy. It was unimaginably hot, enough to annihilate anything that exists in the Universe today at a fundamental level.

When the Universe started to grow, it grew at an incredible rate—a process called Cosmic Inflation. The singularity expanded faster than the speed of light. We've found the first direct evidence for Inflation this week in the form of gravity waves. Gravity waves were first proposed by Einstein, and we finally imaged them in Nothing can travel faster than light in our Universe.

Mere moments after the singularity started to rapidly expand, our Universe was made of something called quark-gluon plasma, and we built the Large Hadron Collider specifically to reproduce those conditions on a very small scale. Quark-gluon plasma is strange. Little bits of matter and energy appear and are annihilated really quickly. There are no atoms, molecules or other large scale matter. Even light is absorbed or annihilated. Our Universe was hot and chaotic for its first , years, but after that something remarkable happened.

Space had spread out enough for the Universe to cool and for the first time our Universe was transparent to light. The first light was very bright. Everything in all directions was much brighter than any star today. This event, more than any other, allows us to determine the age of the Universe.

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We took a picture of it. No seriously, we did. I get asked a lot how we could take a picture of something that happened before galaxies, stars and planets existed. The answer is simple: the sky is a time machine. Things in space are really far away, so it takes quite a while for light to reach us from other objects in the Universe.

When you look at the moon, you see the moon as it was 1. For instance, we might discover inconsistencies in the laws of physics. Alternatively, the late artificial-intelligence maven Marvin Minsky has suggested that there might be giveaway errors due to "rounding off" approximations in the computation. For example, whenever an event has several possible outcomes, their probabilities should add up to 1. If we found that they did not, that would suggest something was amiss. Some scientists argue that there are already good reasons to think we are inside a simulation.

One is the fact that our Universe looks designed. The constants of nature, such as the strengths of the fundamental forces, have values that look fine-tuned to make life possible. Even small alterations would mean that atoms were no longer stable, or that stars could not form. Why this is so is one of the deepest mysteries in cosmology. There are limits to the resolution with which we can observe the Universe, and if we try to study anything smaller, things just look "fuzzy".

One possible answer invokes the "multiverse". Maybe there is a plethora of universes , all created in Big Bang-type events and all with different laws of physics. By chance, some of them would be fine-tuned for life — and if we were not in such a hospitable universe, we would not ask the fine-tuning question because we would not exist.

However, parallel universes are a pretty speculative idea. So it is at least conceivable that our Universe is instead a simulation whose parameters have been fine-tuned to give interesting results, like stars, galaxies and people. While this is possible, the reasoning does not get us anywhere. After all, presumably the "real" Universe of our creators must also be fine-tuned for them to exist. In that case, positing that we are in a simulation does not explain the fine-tuning mystery.

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Others have pointed to some of the truly weird findings of modern physics as evidence that there is something amiss. Quantum mechanics, the theory of the very small, has thrown up all sorts of odd things. For instance, both matter and energy seem to be granular. What's more, there are limits to the resolution with which we can observe the Universe, and if we try to study anything smaller, things just look "fuzzy". Smoot says these perplexing features of quantum physics are just what we would expect in a simulation.

They are like the pixellation of a screen when you look too closely. However, that is just a rough analogy. It is beginning to look as though the quantum graininess of nature might not be really so fundamental, but is a consequence of deeper principles about the extent to which reality is knowable. A second argument is that the Universe appears to run on mathematical lines, just as you would expect from a computer program.

Ultimately, say some physicists, reality might be nothing but mathematics. Max Tegmark of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology argues that this is just what we would expect if the laws of physics were based on a computational algorithm. However, that argument seems rather circular. For one thing, if some super-intelligence were running simulations of their own "real" world, they could be expected to base its physical principles on those in their own universe, just as we do. In that case, the reason our world is mathematical would not be because it runs on a computer, but because the "real" world is also that way.

Conversely, simulations would not have to be based on mathematical rules. They could be set up, for example, to work randomly. Whether that would result in any coherent outcomes is not clear, but the point is that we cannot use the apparently mathematical nature of the Universe to deduce anything about its "reality". However, based on his own research in fundamental physics, James Gates of the University of Maryland thinks there is a more specific reason for suspecting that the laws of physics are dictated by a computer simulation.

Gates studies matter at the level of subatomic particles like quarks, the constituents of protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus. He says the rules governing these particles' behaviour turn out to have features that resemble the codes that correct for errors in manipulating data in computers.

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  • So perhaps those rules really are computer codes? Or maybe interpreting these physical laws as error-correcting codes is just the latest example of the way we have always interpreted nature on the basis of our advanced technologies. At one time Newtonian mechanics seemed to make the universe a clockwork mechanism, and more recently genetics was seen — at the dawn of the computer age — as a kind of digital code with storage and readout functions.

    We might just be superimposing our current preoccupations onto the laws of physics. It is likely to be profoundly difficult if not impossible to find strong evidence that we are in a simulation. Unless the simulation was really rather error-strewn, it will be hard to design a test for which the results could not be explained in some other way. We might never know, says Smoot, simply because our minds would not be up to the task.

    After all, you design your agents in a simulation to function within the rules of the game, not to subvert them.

    This might be a box we cannot think outside of. There is, however, a more profound reason why perhaps we should not get too worried by the idea that we are just information being manipulated in a vast computation.


    Because that is what some physicists think the "real" world is like anyway. Quantum theory itself is increasingly being couched in terms of information and computation. Some physicists feel that, at its most fundamental level, nature might not be pure mathematics but pure information: bits, like the ones and zeros of computers.

    In this view, everything that happens, from the interactions of fundamental particles upwards, is a kind of computation. This gets to the nub of the matter. If reality is just information, then we are no more or less "real" if we are in a simulation or not. In either case, information is all we can be. Does it make a difference if that information were programmed by nature or by super-intelligent creators? It is not obvious why it should — except that, in the latter case, presumably our creators could in principle intervene in the simulation, or even switch it off.

    How should we feel about that? Tegmark, mindful of this possibility, has recommended that we had all better go out and do interesting things with our lives, just in case our simulators get bored.