December 04, 2006

Science vs. Religion: Bridging the Gap

The gym is not a place I associate with insight into the important spiritual or intellectual issues of our day. Nor for that matter is Time Magazine. I had just finished my workout on the elliptical machine and was on my way to the weight room when I glanced at the magazine table in the hall and in the corner of my eye caught the cover of Time. The cover article “God vs. Science” got my attention. Yet it was as much the spaciousness of the cover design that held my interest. In contrast to Time’s usual dark and busy cover, it was a large white field mostly empty except for an uncurled DNA double helix sauntering down its length to one side. The DNA bases turned into rosary beads and the "molecule" ended up holding a cross--- but I didn't see that until later. I grabbed the magazine and brought it with me to the weight room.

The body of the article turned out to be a debate between an evolutionary biologist and a Christian geneticist. Richard Dawkins , a well-known evolutionary biologist is virulently anti-religion: his recent book is called The God Delusion. The geneticist, Francis Collins, led the effort to decode the genome: his recent book is called The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. A while back I heard Dawkins debate a leading intelligent design proponent on NPR. I am very attached to the idea of evolution---to its power and elegance: my sympathies were certainly not with the fundamentalist. However I felt there was something lacking in the case that Dawkins made. Evolution and a sense of a deeper purpose or meaning to existence than that of the material world are not necessarily opposed to each other. I have trouble with the concept of God, but I do believe in the reality of something beyond the material world.

Francis Collins, the geneticist argued--- as do many scientists of faith--- that the fact that the six universal or cosmological constants work out to be just what they have to be to support life indicate that the universe was the handiwork of God. Most scientists agree that if even one constant had been a little off in one direction after the Big Bang--- for example if the gravitational constant had been off by one part in 100 million million --- the expansion of the universe would not have occurred in a way that would have eventually supported life. This is called the anthropic principle.

Dawkins countered in part that this assumes that the cosmological constants are fluid rather than fixed.

"People who believe in God conclude there must have been a divine knob twiddler who twiddled the knobs of these half-dozen constants to get them exactly right. The problem is that this says, because something is vastly improbable, we need a God to explain it. But that God himself would be even more improbable. Physicists have come up with other explanations. One is to say that these six constants are not free to vary. Some unified theory will eventually show that they are as locked in as the circumference and the diameter of a circle. That reduces the odds of them all independently just happening to fit the bill."

Certainly it is difficult to imagine the divine knob twiddling. Yet much more interesting to me is the other tact he and others use to argue against the difficult to account for coincidence implied by the universal constants working out just right to support life. If there were not just one, but a very large number of universes with different cosmological constants, then finding one where everything worked out right would not be so wondrous and would not necessitate an underlying intelligence.

"The other way is the multiverse way. That says that maybe the universe we are in is one of a very large number of universes. The vast majority will not contain life because they have the wrong gravitational constant or the wrong this constant or that constant. But as the number of universes climbs, the odds mount that a tiny minority of universes will have the right fine-tuning."

In response Collins invokes Occam’s razor, saying that he finds the idea of a designer a simpler hypothesis than postulating a large number of alternative universes.

"This is an interesting choice. Barring a theoretical resolution, which I think is unlikely, you either have to say there are zillions of parallel universes out there that we can't observe at present or you have to say there was a plan. I actually find the argument of the existence of a God who did the planning more compelling than the bubbling of all these multiverses. So Occam's razor--Occam says you should choose the explanation that is most simple and straightforward--leads me more to believe in God than in the multiverse, which seems quite a stretch of the imagination."

This helps illustrate what is so often true. One person’s Occam's razor, or simpler explanation, is another person's Mount Everest--- or nearly impossible impasse. I have to say that I am with Collins on this one (though I would posit an intelligent force rather than a designer-- which is too” knob twiddling” for me). An intelligent force seems to be simpler to me than an almost infinite number of universes. Yet I'm not sure which I would think the simpler hypothesis if I didn't have sporadic experiences that support the existence of a deeper and more sophisticated force working in us and through us. My personal concept of spirituality is pretty much grounded in those brief moments in which I get hints of this larger consciousness in the cosmos.

Notice I said nearly impossible impasse above when remarking that one person's Occam's razor is another person's Mount Everest. Alas Dawkins, a scientist with a large theoretical reach---in spite of his strong antireligious bias --- does seem able to make an assent. He says,

"I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine…My mind is open to the most wonderful range of future possibilities, which I cannot even dream about, nor can you, nor can anybody else. What I am skeptical about is the idea that whatever wonderful revelation does come in the science of the future, it will turn out to be one of the particular historical religions that people happen to have dreamed up…. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed."

Thus Dawkins is not necessarily arguing against mystery, but just for greater mystery that can be contained in God as a historical concept. A wise not so old man I met recently, when I told him about this debate, gave me a new sense of why Jews are not supposed to say the word God. Perhaps Annie Dillard , whose books have a strong spiritual thread (see Oct 26), captures this best---for our unholy and minimalist age--- when she writes, “I don't know beans about God.”
Paul Tallant wrote me after reading my piece that he had some thoughts about science and religion. I encouraged him to put them in writing and submit them as a comment. The result was so comprehensive and moving to me and also so parallel to what I had written in certain ways --- I decided that it fit best right afterwards. Paul's views are not exactly the same as mine, but they come close in many areas.
No Essential Difference by Paul Tallant

Acknowledgment: I am grateful to Lois Isenman for her encouragement to write this note and for her gentle and thought-provoking comments and queries as I wrote it.

I was waiting in the doctor’s office and spied a copy of the 17 July 2006 Canadian issue of Time. The cover with a cowboy hat sporting a Presidential Seal and boots protruding beneath caught my attention initially, but my eyes rapidly shifted to one of the cover’s sub-captions; “Exclusive Einstein Letters.” I started reading Walter Isaacsons’s feature “The Intimate Life of A. Einstein,” however my name was called before I finished (a seemingly infrequent event in the patient-waiting rooms of Canadian medicine). After my appointment, the receptionist told me I could borrow the issue. I returned home with it and placed it on my night-time reading table. At bedtime, after reading Isaacson, I discovered David Van Biema’s article “Reconciling God and Science” in the “Religion” section of same issue of Time. Naturally I began reading Van Biema. I did not turn out the light until I had read his entire account of Francis Collins’s personal encounters with God and how Collins reconciles his work in science with his beliefs in the Divine---taken from Collin’s new book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.
Serendipitously, Lois Isenman’s post, a doctor’s appointment, and a five-months old copy of Time provided me an opportunity to comment on a subject that, in various incarnations, has held my attention for years. I thank Lois for the opportunity to describe briefly the latest edition of my thoughts regarding God and science.

I believe in God. I believe in evolution. And I believe that those two beliefs are intrinsically harmonious. But this harmony is infrequently heard amid the crescendo of a commonly perceived dissonance between God and science. It is the perceived dissonance that likely led Van Biema to title his piece “Reconciling ---” and similarly for Lois to title her’s “--- Bridging –“

I grew up with beliefs far more conservative than those of Collins. Early-on I believed in a “young” Earth, and essentially accepted the Genesis story as an account of Divine science. But Collins does not take that tack and is quite clear in his view about the Genesis account. He says “I don’t think God intended Genesis to teach science.” I now agree with Collins.

Collins’s approach to spirituality was different than mine. Collins was hiking in the Pacific Cascades and encountered a frozen waterfall with the shape of three distinct streams. From those frozen forms Collins recognized the Trinity and surrendered to Jesus Christ. My hike was figurative. It seemed that on a thickly-clouded night I was deep in the Barrens of the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland Canada, seeking to return to the only road that led back home to Witless Bay, a small ex-fishing community near St. John’s. I was lost. But out of the darkness appeared a woman who was studying to be a rabbi. She handed me a copy of Minyan, Ten Principles for Living a Life of Integrity by Rabbi M. Shapiro and said “read it.” I did.

Rabbi Shapiro’s account of the foundation of spirituality is strongly credible to me because he is a Jewish Rabbi who has moved spiritually beyond both his Orthodox upbringing and the Reform rabbinical training he received. In “Minyan –“ Shapiro gives a moving account of his experience as a rabbinic student. Shapiro says:

“I delivered a sermon on the necessary unity of God, woman, man and nature. Immediately after the service I was called into the office of the chairman of the philosophy department for a scholarly reprimand.”

“Referring to my position that God and creation are one, the chairman said; ‘You sir are a megalomaniac.’”

“”With all due respect, Rabbi,’ I said, you are wrong. If I understand the term correctly, a megalomaniac thinks he is God. I, on the other hand, know I am God.’”

“What I meant to convey and doubt very much that I did, was my deep conviction that God is not something or someone living somewhere in or out of time and space. To me God is the One who manifests as all things in time an space. God is not something you pray to, but rather the greater reality to which you awake.” (Italics mine.)

Rabbi Shapiro’s approach to spirituality is in a sense similar to Collins avowing a belief in God and concurrently possessing acknowledged stature in molecular genetics. Shapiro moved beyond the traditions of his cloth and Collins embraced a spiritual belief not common among his scientific peers. I take the essence of Shapiro’s thesis to be that God dwells within each of us, is indescribable, is Love, and is accessible through the exercise of our own free will.

The lady with the book provided the way for me to figuratively return to the road and civilization. I believe in God and further believe that God dwells within me, and within every human being. I spent years wondering about the nature of God, feeling almost a compulsion to discover the nature of God. Lois comments about the deeper meaning of the Jewish concept of God being indescribable and un-nameable. That now is my view of God, perhaps not in the strict Jewish sense, but I recognize that neither I nor any other human can possibly define God, other than to deny God’s existence – and that is a thread-bare definition. I am now content to believe that as part of God being God, the Divine dwells within each of us. And I leave the huge remainder to God alone.

Francis Collins, when viewing the frozen waterfall, surrendered to Jesus Christ. After absorbing more of Minyan -- and the works of other thoughtful writers (for example see Williamson , Welwood , Walsch) I surrendered to God Within, to Love Within. In the broad theme of the Divine, I believe there is no essential difference between Collins’s experience and mine (and that of zillions of other spiritually inclined people)--- what difference there is lies in human viewpoints. I believe further that there exists a perspective that presents these seemingly different views of God as a single Wholeness.

The notion of “no essential difference” applies also to my belief about a “gap” between science and religion, or the need to “reconcile” God and science. Within the broad theme of the Divine, I believe that there is no difference, no gap, and no need for reconciliation. I believe that nature is an explicit revelation of God and that science is the tool available to us humans to learn of the “testable” part of the Divine.

Lois quotes Richard Dawkins as saying, "I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine…” She also quotes Annie Dillard as saying, “I don't know beans about God.” Van Biema describes an exchange between Collins and a Ph.D. candidate at a meeting of Harvey Fellows in Alexandria Virginia. The student asked Collins if he felt that evolution applied to everything else but humans. Collins responded that such a position would get you into real trouble. Collins also said “the human genome contains nonfunctional elements in the precise spot where they can be found on chromosomes of lower animals.” Then Collins asked a question and provided his own answer. “If God was creating humans afresh, why would He insert a pseudo-gene that has lost its ability to do anything in the same place that it appears in a chimp? “ Collins continued “Barring evolution, you are forced to the conclusion that God was trying to mislead us and test our faith and I have trouble with that kind of conjecture.”

Physicists have long recognized the extreme sensitivity of the nature of our Universe to the value of fundamental physical constants. From the Big Bang on, very slight changes in one or more of these constants would have resulted in a dramatically different Universe than what we observe today. And as Lois describes, argument and controversy in the context of God swirls about the origin of the value of these constants.

In graduate school one of the most important things I learned about representing physical phenomena is to use a coordinate system that is intrinsically appropriate to the process itself. For example, if a process inherently has spherical geometry, don’t describe it or cast it in Cartesian coordinates; you’ll only create a symbolic mess for yourself. On a more abstract level, a coordinate system is simply a formality through which details of phenomena can be visualized. It is a perspective through which to view the behavior of a process or system.

Personally, I take the approach of choosing the appropriate “coordinate system”, the appropriate perspective to solving the issue of God and science. If you do not believe in God, then you have the “trivial” solution; there is only science and no need to look further. But if with me you admit the existence of God, then I believe we require a figurative “coordinate system,” a yet undiscovered and undefined perspective, a point-of-view, that will allow the “problem” of God and science to be resolved with efficacy and integrity.
This perspective must deal with both the spiritual and the physical. The spiritual requires faith, the physical intrinsically does not; it is “testable.” With Annie Dillard, I don’t know “beans about God.” But I believe that God exists and I believe with Rabbi Shapiro that the Divine dwells within me and within each of us humans. I further believe with Collins that DNA is a “language of God,” that evolution exists and that it has been and continues to be active in our world. I also believe with Richard Dawkins that “—there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine –.” I further believe that a perspective exists that contains an elegant and non-trivial solution to the issue of God and science. And finally, when viewed via this perspective, I believe we will discover that the solution contains no essential difference between God and science.


island said...

Interesting to find a biolgist who isn't a creationist, but who does believe that there is higher purpose in nature.

So do I, and I'm an agnostic atheist, myself.

Lois Isenman said...

island---its not as uncommon as you might think. I've been to several science and spirituality conferences at which biologists are well represented.

I suspect that many scientists have had experiences that suggest a higher meaning or purpose to nature but they tend to compartmentalize this information off from their scientific understanding. Cosmology is one place they sort of banging into each other and trying to understand intuition in all its various manifestations is another.


island said...

I suspect that many scientists have had experiences that suggest a higher meaning or purpose to nature but they tend to compartmentalize this information off from their scientific understanding.

Lois, it's been my very frustrating experience that they tend to auto-reject any such evidence, because they are wrongly convinced that evidence that we are not here by accident constitutes evidence for a higher intelligent being.

The fact that extremist creationists are insessant doesn't help matters, and it causes "the other side" to be highly reactionary, and closed. They typically assume the position of devil's advocate to the opposite extreme and they will willfully ignore scientific evidence that doesn't agree with their belief system.

Lynn Margulis went as far as to call them "neo-darwinian bullies" as the honored guest speaker during the 2005 evolution conference.

Check out H. Allen Orr for an extreme example, he wants to remove any and all language from biological terminology that implies purpose in nature.

Physicists aren't much better.

I truly hate what I've learned.

Lois Isenman said...

I certainly know what you're talking about here. Honest discourse often goes out the window when debates get polarized. They become more like a sporting competition. Maybe that is why my piece had its start in the gym. At the same time, Collins, in contrast to the fundamentalists, embraces science and Dawkins really surprised me with how far he went towards bridging the gap.

Perhaps we need to more carefully parse out what the words plan, purpose, meaning, being, and consciousness---mean to us as they relate to this “deeper something.” I for example use the word purpose and meaning in this context almost interchangeably. But perhaps this is not entirely kosher. Perhaps purpose is too strong a word---too much like a plan. There might be a plan or purpose --- but it is far past my experience. It could be much more open ended. However I do experience that this deeper something does have valences--- certain things resonate better with it than others--- so for me at least some level of “meaning” is in.

This begins to sound like a something living or a being --- but besides being outside my experience---this doesn't feel big enough to me. I am drawn to the idea of an ultimate intelligence or consciousness of which we are all a part.

In this regard, there is an interesting article in this month's Journal of Consciousness Studies. It is the target article of the volume; it claims that the idea of emergence, which is inherent to evolution, implies pre-existing psyche or mind. This was also Teilhard de Chardin’s view (see my post from Oct 26).

island said...

Purpose and meaning fall natuarally as emergent teleological manifestations from cosmological models that are causally connected. That's where Einstein got his ideas from, as this phenomenon is defined by the most natural extension of his General Theory, and he clung to this in the face of much conviction from his peers to the contrary, until the day that he died.

Misquoting his famous phrase:
"god"... does not throw dice!

If there is a "final cause", or an ultimate goal to the action of such a universe, then all of your suspicions are also perfectly valid science, and the "why questions" *can* be addressed. The terminology is entirely proper in this context.

For example, the "flatness problem" is an anthropic coincidence, and it has baffled physicists since the day that it was discovered that the observed universe does not agree with the modeled expectation.

In this case, the near-absolute balance of the universe that resulted from the big bang is highly indicitive of a very nearly achieved *goal*.

The nearness of the miss is the key give-away that the big bang was a very good, yet inherently flawed "try".

So physicists are essentially looking at it backwards if they can't readily see this, and the fact that they don't willingly recognize that an anthropically constrained universe will **necessarily** include a reciprocal connection to the human evolutionary process, explains why they don't get it.

island said...

"i" said:
The terminology is entirely proper in this context.

Think of what these "scientists" who want to remove these concepts from science, (only because of pressure from extremist creationists), are trying to do to science, if this cosmology turns out to actually be in effect.

Contrary to popular assmption, nothing has been settled yet, and modern physics is in a greater state of turmoil right now than any of them want to admit, because nothing that the "uncertainty worshiping" dim-bulbs try is working for them.

Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating, as well as well-written blog on an important issue. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

A simple thought. There is no reason, if it's felt necessary to focus on the gap between science and religion, not to conceive of the basic idea of God as roughly "the total system of all nonlinear dynamic equations and other mathematical relationships capable of accounting for this and any other possible world." Such a definition is possible especially in Judaism, where it is forbidden to make an IMAGE of God, but could also be claimed even in Christianity, where Jesus can be understood as the "son of God" -- with a divinity derived from this origin). The polytheistic religions of pagan antiquity could be viewed as merely simplistic symbols for a mass public. IF SO, THE ISSUE DISAPPEARS IMMEDIATELY.

In fact, the tension between science and religion arises primarily for those who think of God as an old man with a long beard sitting on a fancy throne. Such a belief is usually anathema or impious in monotheistic religions whose God created the universe ex nihilo.

Roger D. Masters

island said...

You guys might be interested in Paul Davies new book if it ever manages to stay on the bookshelf in the U.S.

It is listed on amazon U.K. and elsewhere around the world, but it has been pulled from Amazon U.S. twice since it first appeared earlier than was expected:

Note that my rewiew gets a near-equally mixed reaction, or non at all.

Please also read this excellent review of Davies, Dawkins, and Michael Frayn, by Tim Adams, who really did his homework:,,1873989,00.html
Paul Davies goes a long way towards suggesting that he believes the creation of life to be somehow the 'goal' of the universe without suggesting that it is the work of a higher intelligence or God. That is to say he tends towards the belief that the principle of life 'builds purpose into the workings of the cosmos at a fundamental (rather than an incidental) level, without positing an unexplained pre-existing purposive agent to inject purpose miraculously.' (Read that twice.) This belief is his tentative solution to the 'Goldilocks Enigma', the 'reason' why planets such as our own are 'not too hot and not too cold but just right'. Davies is prepared to let this sense of purpose remain unexplained, but to propose that the universe is somehow geared toward its own understanding, because only 'self-consistent loops capable of understanding themselves can create for themselves, so that only universes with (at least the potential for) life really exist'. (Read that three times.)

Lois Isenman said...


I went to the web after your last comment and started looking around. I came across Davies book and was perplexed that it was available from Amazon UK but not Amazon US. This illustrates what you have been saying about the problem in a dramatic way. Thanks for your review. I look forward to reading the book. Also I will be going to a small Science and Religion conference in January where Davies is a speaker and I will try to speak with him about this 'political' issue among other things.

I am working on my own answer to your comments about purpose.


island said...

Lois, I'm not sure what's going on there, but Davies has a very powerful and "tricky" literary agent, John Brockman, so I suspect that they are just testing the U.S. market, and the timing is bad right now, since there are so many anit-anthropic books and papers popping up all over the place, thanks to the great string theory debate.

Which isn't to say that I can't quote Davies as saying many of the same things about the predisposed mentality of scientists.

Brandon Carter called it "dogmatic anticentrism", to point out that the opposite extreme of geocentrism, (pure copernican extensions), doesn't fit the observed universe.

I'd love to hear Davies lecture in person, but I doubt that he'll come anywhere near Florida. You make me jealous... ;)

Lois Isenman said...


Thanks for setting me straight about Davies book. I wish I knew more about the physics.

Here is how my thoughts have been running about purpose in the universe. I fear this thinking out loud will be a philosopher’s bad dream. But I will take a deep breath and trust that you or whoever finds their way to reading this will be sympathetic to the effort.

It seems likely to me (at least when I am wearing my favorite hat) that certain things were set---as suggested by the anthropic principle---so as to be compatible with cosmological, geological, and biological evolution. But setting initial conditions is not the same thing as having a specific purpose--- since evolution can take many forms--- for example the dinosaurs. Having said that, there does seem to be something inevitable about intelligence in the long, long run. I see it as a kind of virtual “stickiness.” Yet at least most of the time I don't know really what the purpose of this intelligence is other than perpetuating its biological vehicle so as to enhance intelligence more. But what for? To ask why we are here and how we came about? This is not completely satisfying to me. At other times I do sense that some deeper or more resonant (recursive?) kind of consciousness is what it's all about.

At another level though--- here is what is really interesting to me (if indeed I can spit it out). As I suggested above, setting things in motion is not necessarily the same thing as a purpose within time. Yet whatever set things in motion and gave birth to time itself exists outside of time. However from the timeless perspective --setting things in motion, having a purpose and achieving it---are the same thing. This strikes me as very important, though I cannot, or cannot yet, garner its implications. Perhaps Davies will set me straight about the whole thing.

I see once again that I don’t know beans about the word “purpose.” Is it a want, is it a goal, is it an intention plus an action plan, is it the mechanism that makes sure the end is achieved?

I feel best, all things considered, seeing it a value--- and we get to choose this value or not. Of course most of the time, we do not know what this value demands ---or mistake our superego urges for its message.

island said...

Hi Lois,

For the lack of a better idea, (I guess), Paul Davies has latched onto John Wheeler's ideas about backwards causation, which is an interpretation of observer dependent quantum mechanics. In this scenario, we create our own universe by the sheer act of observing it, which I don't buy, and I was very disappointed that this was the route that Davies took, since it has already been done and nobody else buys it either.

There are, however, a small number of scientists, like James Kay, Eric Schneider, Dorion Sagan, and Scott Sampson, who think that the second law of thermodynamics instills purpose in nature in the manner described in this article... or this book.

I do believe that they are on the right track, but this is still not enough to justify an anthropic cosmological principle, so there has to be something more to it than that, and I also believe that I have very good reason to believe that I know what it is.

There is a facet to this that doesn't get recognized because of preconceived bias on either side of the debate. Think about the following, and then see if you can understand why I say that:

It is highly probable that a true anthropic constraint on the forces of the universe will **necessarily** include a reciprocal connection to the human evolutionary process, which indicates that there exists a mechanism that enables the universe to "leap"... and somehow, we are it.

So the implication is that physicists should be looking for a mechanism and a cosmological model that enables this to happen.

You can skip down to the bottom of the page to see what I'm getting at:

It's too bad that your physicist friend won't comment, because I can promise you from experience with many PhD theorists... that my physics is correct, and somebody owes Dr. Einstein's static finite model another little look-see. I only wish that I had the endorcement to get this published.

These "asymmetric transitions" are what Richard Dawkins is talking about when he says:

"Natural selection is an anti-chance process, which gradually builds up complexity, step by tiny step. The end product of this ratcheting process is an eye, or a heart, or a brain - a device whose improbable complexity is utterly baffling until you spot the gentle ramp that leads up to it."

Asymmetric transitions

This is also what happens when we make real, massive particles from vacuum energy, and they even make the connection to vacuum energy at the bottom of the first linked page.

I told Lee Smolin and a bunch of other theorists about this, and the closest thing that I got back to a reply was from Lawrence Krauss, who "sees no purpose in nature".

Course, he's also the same guy that said this, so I have to wonder what it takes:

"But when you look at CMB map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? That's crazy. We're looking out at the whole universe. There's no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun — the plane of the earth around the sun — the ecliptic. That would say we are truly the center of the universe."

island said...

Quoted from Lois' article:
Dawkins countered in part that this assumes that the cosmological constants are fluid rather than fixed.

Right, and this is where everybody really loses touch with the whole reason that *physicsts* first proposed the strongest interpretation of anthropic physics possible. It is a hard known fact that string theorists who support the multiverse have given up on finding the stability mechanism, so they defer to an infinite number of possibilities, instead. From there, they abuse the anthropic principle as a "selection effect" in order to choose from the slew of possibilities.


It is a huge mistake to assume that the constants could possibly be any different than they are, because one would most naturally expect that the least action principle would define symmetry breaking.

But that isn't what is observed, since the actual configuration defies all practical attempts to model the normal expectation for the evolution of the universe since the big bang in a way that seems to point at us.

That doesn't mean that we should abandon the least action principle, rather it means that we need to figure out how we are relevant to it, and this IGNORED FACT is what Brandon Carter said needed to be done in order to complete this "line of thought".

It is an unavoidable fact that the anthropic coincidences are observed to be uniquely related to the structure of the universe in a way that defies what our projected models expect. If you disallow unproven and speculative physics theory, then an evidentially supported implication does necessarily exist that carbon-based life is somehow relevant to the structure mechanism of the universe, and weak, multiverse interpretations do not supercede this fact, unless a multiverse is proven to be more than cutting-edge theoretical speculation.

That's the "undeniable fact" that compells Richard Dawkins and Leonard Susskind to admit that the universe "appears designed" for life! There is no valid "weak" interpretation without a multiverse, because what is otherwise unexpectedly observed without the admission of speculation, is most-apparently geared toward the production of carbon-base life, and even intelligent life. Their confidence comes from the fact that their admissions are qualified by their shared "beleif" in unproven multiverse theories, but their interpretation is strictly limited to equally non-evidenced "causes", like supernatural forces and intelligent design.

These arguments do not erase the fact that the prevailing evidence still most apparentely does indicate that we are somehow relevantly linked to the structure mechanism, until they prove it isn't so, so we must remain open to evidence in support of this, or we are not honest scientists, and we are no better than those who would intentionally abuse the science. We certainly do not automatically dismiss the "appearance" by first looking for rationale around the most apparent implication of evidence.

That's like pretending that your number one suspect doesn't even exist! There can be nothing other than self-dishonesty and pre-conceived prejudicial anticipation of the meaning that motivates this approach, and often *automatically* elicites false, ill-considered, and, therefore, necessarily flawed assumptions, that most often elicite equally false accusations about "geocentrism" and "creationism". That's not science, it's irrational reactionary skepticism that is driven without justification by sheer disbelief and denial.

This is simple obvious physics that our best scientific minds can't figure out because 'WE can't possibly be woven into the path of least action in a relevant way. Why... that's just so rediculous that we won't even bother to consider the possibility. Instead, we'll just sit here looking like fools that can't do simple physics, while we pretend that the ToE is just around the corner"

And that's the way it is, I'm afraid, although the screams of denial and accusations would blow out your eardrums if you actually told them that.

Trust me on that, don't try it yourself... ;)

Anonymous said...


You may find this summary of life-as-a-natural-concommitant-of-nonequilibrium-thermodynamics contributions of interest:

The suggestion here is that the universe's job is just to provide a sufficiently complex nonequilibrium thermodynamic system: life ( self-organizing and replicating subsystems ) will appear naturally in almost all paths toward equilibrium. See Prigogine in particular.

As to getting the suitable universe; it seem's obvious, in fact tautologically so, that, if we are here at all, we are in one of the ( possibly infinitely many ) universes in which it is possible for us to exist! This means in particular that if if we are interested in modelling the evolution of our universe, that any parameters not otherwise determined in the model in question possess ranges which yield a "sufficiently complex nonequilibrium thermodynamic system". Recent models appear to have a chance of looking like ours over a suspiciously narrow range of some parameters, suggesting we may have, not just the option, but an actual need ( ontologically, teleologically, not so much in the physics of it ) for the "existence", in some sense, of all these other universe-realizations, having other, maybe all possible, values for undetermined parameters, to remove our embarrassment over it coming out ok at least once! Is there something controversial here? Not to me, but red flags go up for anyone heavily invested in a belief system requiring that only one universe exist. I understand that belief is a powerful filter, and one of my few strong beliefs is that one should not unnecessarily challenge the beliefs of another, but instead rejoice in the diversity, etc.;yet I find it hard to fathom a belief system in which Occam's razor favors the unseen hand over just making no assumption pending further developments in ( lets say ) model-building.


island said...

Except that Bert has to ignore that the most natural extension of general relativity does not produce more than one universe, nor does the normal evolution since the big bang lead to more than one expected universal configuration.

Even infationary theory can't remove the need for the anthropic principle as a selection effect from A MINIMUM OF 10^500 different possible vacuum solutions, so attempts to downplay the significace of anthropic physics that most certainly does not **first most apparently** indicate other possibilities, proves that the cutting edge is willfully ignoring the most apparent implication of the evidence.

Can't define the stability mechanism, huh Bert?

Did ya try looking at the evidence?

island said...

Well, I was waiting to see if Bert was going to reply with some objection to the amount of credence that I was putting on relativity.

Then there would have been an argument about just how much I had proven in the linked article, but anyway...

Bert, my point is this:

I can successfully argue that the anthropic coincidences *most apparently* carry a strong anthropic implication, which is expected to affect the structure of the universe to some relevant end.

Don't you realize what a true anthropic cosmological principle would mean to the ToE?

Do you realize that anthropic reasoning indicates that traits/characteristics/ASSYMETRIES are ***inherent***.

In other words, Bert, the forces cannont be unified, because the energy of the universe is inherently imbalanced!!!

No theorist can shoot down the physics that backs this up, yet... they still simply can't believe it to the point of willful ignorance of what could be the answer to it all.

That makes me more angry at those whom I respected the the most, than I've ever been at any fanatically blind young-earth creationist.

Kay, I'm done.

Lois Isenman said...

island---can you send me your email address. I have a proposal for you that I would like to communicate about with you in more depth.

island said...

Sure Lois,

The easiest way to reach me is via

I'd love to hear what you have in mind.

Anonymous said...

Island, ya got me: I haven't looked, not carefully, in around 40 years. I certainly wouldn't expect a model of a single relativistic universe to produce 10^500 such universes: the direct sum of 10^500 such model spaces would do it, but boy is that not in any way compelling! If there is no possibility of detecting one from another, best to apply Occam's Razor. Compelling would be a model which only makes sense, or makes more sense in a multiuniverse context. There is another widely respected model, on the other hand, which is at least suggestive.

50 years ago, I was a physics student: couldn't understand how Quantum Mechanics came out of Schrodinger's Equation. Finally got that QM is a story about measurement, in it's roots a decade older than SE, into which N. Bohr graciously allowed SE limited access to run the world in between measurements, and much more practically, to provide much needed eigenfunctions and eigenvalues for isolated stationary systems meant to model not the world; just tiny parts of it, like the hydrogen atom uncoupled from the radiation field. (As far as useful exact solutions go, the preceding and the isolated radiation field, pretty much conclude discussion of the SE. Joke. ) We can surely follow ( numerically ) nonstationary solutions of the SE much better than 50 years ago, but it was understood pretty much from the beginning that under SE, sensible looking initial conditions produce solutions strikingly at odds with our experience: all we can do is turn SE off and project the project the wavefunction at a time of interest onto the stationary eigenstates of our apparatus corresponding to possible results of measurement. Note: measurement, a process outside of SE, and not SE itself, thus yield probabilities. Think back. Didn't this seeming indeterminacy bother you, a lot, when you were first exposed to it? Einstein objected strongly, and looked in vain for a contradiction in the QM process. Thanks to the work of Hugh Everett ( 1957 ), et. seq., we now understand that, at least conceptually, we need not isolate ourselves from the swim of the solution space of SE: we can put our apparatus, ourselves, in fact the entire observable universe into the model: we, in the model, never observe anything contrary to our own experience. QM is out; there is just the continuously evolving SE solution space. Not a quantum in sight, and it's all 100% deterministic, except that if we look within the solution space for a representation of a certain measuring apparatus, we find downstream of a measurement that the apparatus exists in all possible states physically consistent with initial conditions, with densities which we can speak of , in the QM model, as probability densities for the various outcomes. Of course, we, in the model, observing the apparatus, also appear with the same densities, and if, within the model, we are able to repeat the experiment as often as we like, we will arrive naturally at a probabilistic interpretation of the experiment reflecting the previously described densities. I find this immensely satisfying. On the other hand my colleagues who long ago gave in to QM ( 13 decimal place accuracy! )and so accepted that every observation they undertook forced the fundamental laws of the universe into abeyance pending the result of their experiment, get upset, and shout, Many Worlds, Many Worlds, tsk., tsk.. Talk about egocentrism! Of couse, this is not really Many Universes: it's just one, but to us all but the one line ( bundle, really, we're in a thermodynamically nonequilibrium system,: lots of microstates per macrostate ) leading to our experience of all that has come before this moment is most easily described in terms of alternate realizations, alternate universes. ( Everett showed, in each such bundle we are unaware of the others.).

Anyhow, I have been so long-winded just to get to this: Everett's ( et seq.) conclusions don't depend on details of the physical model: I've called it SE for concreteness; we can suppose otherwise arbitrary constants in the model to vary within and even be affected by events in various regions of the solution space*: we can say we're in a bundle where ( so far ) the parameters are ok and, as far as I know, don't seem to be varying observably. I do agree that it is hard to be immensily satified by this nonexplanation: I would much prefer a deeper model, in which no arbitrary parameters occur, and which gives our current models as some sort of tangent or limit equations: in particular, I'd love to see h ( Planck's constant ), the one that started all the 20th century uncertainty mischief, emerge from some sort of construction analogous to the one we argue** gets us from Newton's Law, via Statistical mechanics, to the Navier- Stokes Equations; this time yielding SE, Dirac Eq., etc.


* Ok, so if it goes nonlinear we're not really in a vectorspace anymore. Might be better: nonlinear systems can create something out of nothing; you have to put the stuff into linear ones.

** As far as I know, Boltzmann et. seq. have had to make unsupportable assumptions at a number of steps in putative derivations; for now, I guess N-S constitutes an independant model.

island said...

Wow, I'm impressed by your knowledge of the relevant physics.

Rather than to argue with you, I think that you might be the perfect guy to understand why I'm so sure of myself.

Bert, do you remember when Dirac successfully unified SR and QM, but could not achieve the same for GR and QM?

Well, the physics that I've stumbled onto appears to resolve that problem very simply in Einstein's abandoned static model, except there is no instability problem, because particle pair production in this model causes gravitationally counterbalanced vacuum expansion.

And out pops the basis for a valid theory of quantum gravity from the *intended* application of the Dirac Equation.

This, in turn, also explains why Dirac wasn't just practicing numerology when he put forth his large numbers hypothesis, and when it gets applied in this model, then, by golly, it IS a number provided by Nature, and, "someday" a theory DID provide a REASON for it.

In other words, it's no coincidence that Robert Dicke got his anthropic coincidence from Dirac's Large Numbers Hypothesis, because Diracs Cosmology literally becomes "Darwinian" when particle creation offsets the antigravitational effect of expansion, as the electric force, etc... increases in proportion to the size of the observed universe.

This resolves all of the anthropic problems, flatness, horizon, asymmetry, and monopoles without the need for inflationary theory, since the universe has certain volume when we have periodic big bangs.

The physics for all of this is extremely simple, because of the model that it falls from, and I would love nothing more than for you to tell me that Einstein would not have let the cutting edge arrogantly ignore my point... had he only known.

There are four extremely short statements made by me to the PhD moderated physics research group, which clearly explain why I persist:

Anonymous said...

Island---Sorry I missed your thrust: I was busy grinding my own ax, which, if I had paid attention, was mostly already included in your own comments! So, if I understand it--

You take Einstein's original static model, empty for simplicity ( no constant needed ), apply matter-antimatter generation in line with Dirac's original formulation of QED, and--my God-- it's still in static equilibrium, but now there's stuff happening; matter present and interacting, and all! I like this very much. Expansion isn’t needed to explain the red-shift: it’s already present in the 1917 model! See

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 December 1; 90(23): 11114–11116.
Geometric derivation of the chronometric redshift.
I E Segal
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307, USA

It even “accelerates” with distance, more or less in accord with recent observations , specifically like tan^2 of the Einstein metric! The 2 bothers me, but apparently somehow it works out.

But where is all the antimatter? Maybe you were speaking of the model with matter and a cosmological constant present, and indicating that rampant pair creation out of the Dirac sea wouldn’t upset things, but it would be great if all the matter just popped up out of the sea, and somehow got separated from the antimatter. Thoughts?

I took some courses with I. E. Segal 45 years or so ago. He was already pointing out that there was plenty of red shift around without invoking expansion, and also curious why we over in physics were still trying to work with QFT in 3-D, which was known to have no solutions ( Dirac knew that even as he was creating QED around 1930! ), and pointedly suggested we try 10 or 11 dimensions ( most of them being small, or if large, restricting forces and particles somehow onto a 3-D membrane*) . That was around 1960!


*Kepler thought the planets were restricted to a plane for a similar reason!

island said...

Hi Bert, I'm sorry for not responding sooner, but we've had family in the house for the holiday.

But where is all the antimatter? Maybe you were speaking of the model with matter and a cosmological constant present, and indicating that rampant pair creation out of the Dirac sea wouldn’t upset things, but it would be great if all the matter just popped up out of the sea, and somehow got separated from the antimatter. Thoughts?

Yes, but I think that you're missing what happens to the vacuum when you condense energy from it, since this is what causes negative pressure to increase, and that's where the "antimatter" is.

In other words, you have to "compress" vacuum energy, which is less-dense than matter, and this rarefies the vacuum, son negative pressure, (the cosmological constant), increases as a consequence of this process.

The classical "rubber sheet" space-time analogy would be to stick a fork into the matter-less spacetime structure, and twist it into a knot around the fork. Note that this causes the metric to "pull-back".

Another more practical example is to get into a sealed jar and remove all pressure. Then if you can further compress some of the remaining "vapor pressure", you will also create a condition of negative ambient pressure.

If you compress enough of this energy, then you can attain the matter density, and this is where Feynman enters the picture, because you have to "seal the deal" with a high-energy photon interaction.

So the energy that comprises the observed antimatter particle exists in a "rarefied", less-dense state, until you condense it into a particle pair.

The graviational acceleraton is zero if the density of the static vacuum is -0.5*rho(matter) because, rho+3P/c^2=0.

If you condense enough of this vacuum energy over a finite region of space to achieve postive matter-density, then the local increase in pressure is immediately offset by the increase in negative pressure that occurs via the rarefying effect that real particle creation has on the vacuum.

That means that created particles have positive mass, regardless of sign, and this resolves a very important failure of particle theory, becuase it explains how and why there is no contradiction with the asymmetry that appears to exist between matter and antimatter. This is the reason that we don't observe nearly as much antimatter as particle theory predicts exists, because the energy that comprises the observed antimatter particles normally exists in a more rarefied state than observed antiparticles do.

Anonymous said...

Island---I guess you're taking antimatter-virtual or otherwise- to have positive gravitational mass (The inertial mass ship seems to have sailed long ago). Googling around, I see experiment kind of 90% supportingbut not proving, positive gravitational mass. But if it's negative, then it looks like real and virtual pair production produce no net mass, leaving the vacuum in particular no more capable of producing net mass than net charge(unless maybe CP violation allows or reflects a slight mass imbalance), so lambda~0 and the universe remains static if it was initially, i.e., at some time or other. At no extra charge (weak pun), we get matter-antimatter separation through mutual gravitational repulsion: the coulomb attraction may bond M-M, AM-AM, and M-AM pairs equally (say), but the M-AM pairs will annihilate pretty quickly, leaving gravitational repulsion to separate the remaining elecrically neutral atoms from antiatoms. This would explain the paucity of antimatter around here: it's all been pushed to the antipodes by universal repulsion; possibly beyond the visible (finite red-shift) horizon!


Anonymous said...

Island---Posting a few minutes ago I found that you had in the meantime posted also. I have to go back to some work I promised I'd get out today first, but am anxious to see if I can understand what you have written.


island said...

Island---I guess you're taking antimatter-virtual or otherwise- to have positive gravitational mass...

I'm just the messenger, I'm not taking anything anywhere.

In Einstein's **Finite** static model the vacuum has negative density when, P=-u=-rho*c^2.

In this static state, pressure is proportional to -rho, but pressure is negative in an expanding universe, and so energy density is positive.

Negative mass doesn't appear anywhere, so the negative mass solutions are simply misinterpreted representations of rarefied mass-energy.

island said...

Okay Bert, I just did the same thing that you did, and now I understand why you brought up negative mass.

Anonymous said...

Island---I haven't finished my work, but played hookie long enough to take a look at your 1:21 PM posting. Looks like you find that taking antimatter to be holes in the Dirac sea of negative energy matter is NOT equivalent to taking matter to be holes in a sea of negative energy antimatter. In Dirac's QED these views are equivalent: is it that working gravity into the picture requires you to pick one view and stick with it, so matter and antimatter are inherently different, and we needn't stare off toward the antipodes looking for the missing antimatter; it just fizzles out. This, if true, is big; as big as the your finding, if I understand it, that pair production so reduces (makes more negative)the pressure of the vacuum as to maintain Cosmological stasis (or, I suppose, whatever state of balance the universe may find itself in). Am I reading this correctly? Can you point me to a more detailed explication of this?


island said...

You've got it, Bert, and again, I am sorry for any delay.

I've made this same point before more PhD's than I'd care to admit without them having even attempted to correct me, or shoot me down. Instead, they'll occassionally note that this is the same mechanism that gets used in some inflationary models, so it is perfectly valid in that context, as well.

But my abilities are limited and I cannot write down the basis of wave functions in this background, including an expansion of the field in corresponding creation and annihilation operators - compute the stress-energy tensor in that background - quantitatively describe the vacua - and then work out the matrix elements of the stress-energy tensor between the vacuum and the one-particle states.

You can get everything that I have been telling you from studying Ned Wright's excellent resource on general information about this particular vacuum.

Also Bert, please check out this interview with Paul Dirac, and see how my point changes his cosmology:

What happens to the vacuum when you rip a hole in it?

Simple as that, and it's big alright... for all the good that it does, which is apparently none if I can't do the math, because nobody else seems to care enough to do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

I am glad I somehow landed on your blog page!

Science and Religion (I would like to put it as Science of Religion) is an interesting topic for me too.

The Non-Dualistic or Zen Buddhist "Oneness" world-view vs. the self-protecting "Me" world-view are dependent on the neuronal network gateways, as it appears to me. I addressed Prof. Heatherton on this and I am waiting for his reaction.

In the meanwhile, I will be happy if you can have a look at

Thanks and regards,