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The Fabric of God's Mind: How theory shapes faith

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The Fabric of God's Mind

"I had the intention of becoming a theologian... but now I see how God is, by my

endeavours, also glorified in astronomy, for 'the heavens declare the glory of God."

(Johannes Kepler, http://www.thingsrevealed.net/organon1.htm)

 

With the death of astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1601, mathematician Johannes Kepler, Brahe's friend and assistant, inherited a life time's work of astronomical observations that were likely the most accurate of their time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Kepler). Kepler worked tirelessly almost two decades to make the data fit the Copernican heliocentric model, using circles as planetary orbits and constant speeds; yet when he finally matched the observations with the heliocentric model, he found that instead of orbiting in perfect circles, the planets orbits were ellipses. Together with his work in geometry, Kepler believed that in studying the structure of the universe, one could ultimately see God:


"Geometry, which before the origin of things was coeternal with the divine mind and is God himself (for what could there be in God which would not be God himself?), supplied God with patterns for the creation of the world, and passed over to Man along with the image of God."
(Courtesy of
http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Quotations/Kepler.html)


This very pantheistic statement was striking to me when I first heard it on a PBS special (of which I cannot recall the title) years ago, for it not only made an attempt to empirically quantify God but also was the first by a modern scientist - as "modern" as the early 17th century can get - to equate the Christian God with pantheism. Since the universe was made up of a mathematical fabric called geometry and that this geometry was God himself, it only made sense to equate God with the universe. Yet more than that, it confirmed for me an idea which I had developed in the late 1980's while stationed overseas in Japan.

Working toward a synthesis of the major, generally accepted tenants of Christianity and science, I was involved in a thought experiment of my own in 1988. How, I asked myself, is God able to see into the future and give prophetic visions to people? Always curious about epistemological issues such as these, I needed to find a way to reconcile the concept of biblical prophesy with scientific reasoning. Unlike the great figures of science such as Einstein, I had no way to put an advanced mathematical framework to my thought experiments that would either support or refute my ideas. All I would have for the task at hand is my intense amateur's love of science and a very curious, analytical mind. Proof in the form of theorems, corollaries or other computations would have to wait. Here is the sum of my mental exercise:

The universe, cosmologists tell us, is governed by four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force. In simplistic terms, gravity is an attractive force making the planets, stars and galaxies revolve around one another, electromagnetism is light across the entire spectrum, the strong nuclear force binds the nucleus of an atom and the weak nuclear force bind atoms into molecules. These four forces combine to make the universe we see - and often don't see - today. The mass of the universe, though, seeming indicates that there lays hidden a "dark" matter whose properties are still unknown. And the science of quantum mechanics, the study of the nature of the tiniest particles in the universe, does not easily reconcile with the general relativity of physics. It is a universe slowing revealing its secrets, mathematical layer by mathematical layer.


From general relativity, I knew that from every vantage point in the universe, an observer peering into the heavens is really looking into the past so that if two people - one on the earth and one on the sun - should look at each other, they won't be able to see the other individual in "real time" but rather in the past. Although anyone at any given point in the universe experiences the "here and now" (in space and time) for themselves, they cannot observe anyone else's "here and now" because of the amount of time it takes light to reach them from the other person's location. Thus, if we peer at someone in orbit around the sun (if only we could see so well), we won't see them for eight minutes or so, the amount of time it takes light to reach our eyes. Similarly, they won't be able to see us for eight minutes or so because that is how long it takes light reflected off of the earth to reach them. It seems, then, that an observer can peer into the past relative to their own position but may only see the past when peering at someone else's position; and seeing into the future at any position appears impossible. So how, then, can a being see into the future assuming that this ability even exists?


Since the key, I believed, to answering my question involved taking a look at both the larger and the smaller scale of the universe, I decided to focus on the concept of one's positioning within the universe to determine if indeed there was a way for a being such as God to "see" into the future using the known laws of the physics; in other words, I am tossing out the Pixie-dust-and-magic-wands theory as God's means of so doing. No longer would "it's a mystery" or "he just did it" explanations work for me.


Since I knew, then, that changing the focal point from where one looked merely changed the observer's view relative to their new position in space and did not allow them to see ahead in time for any position, I chose to use multiple points at once to see how this would change the viewer's perspective. If God was geometry, then surely he could move his consciousness from point to point in the universe to observe events in the past and present in his "here-and-now."

In my thought experiment, I place God's consciousness in multiple places in the universe at once, then step back and attempt to see what God may see. From any point in the universe, God can shift his consciousness too see the here-and-now and peer into the past of all other locations. He can even move his awareness immediately to the point whose past he is observing and be immediately in their here-and-now, looking back on the past of the point from which he moved the focus of his awareness. There must be a way, I told myself, of accounting for seeing into one point's future before it has yet happened relative to them.

I imagined that I had the answer, though it was, admittedly, a bit of a stretch. Yet how much of our philosophical tradition - handed down by minds far, far greater than my own - require a similar leap in logic? That comforted me no little bit. Additionally, lacking a mathematics and physics background (I had gone no further than college trigonometry), I'd have to leave the job to the real scientists to explore the possibilities one day...if ever.

I had established in my thought experiment, then, that God could view the here-and-now as well as the past for any given point in the universe. Allowing God to see future events for any of these given locations would require more than instantaneous movement of his consciousness from point to point. It would involve travel, I surmised, back to that point in the past from which God had a vantage so that God's consciousness would simultaneously arrive at the time the light had left that world; in other words, God would require the ability to not only shift his awareness from point to point instantaneously in space but also in time. But to do this, God would necessarily have to move through something akin to a wormhole, passing his awareness through it so that the instant it arrives at the planet, such as earth, is the moment the light was departing. In other words, after viewing the present from any point in the here-and-now, he would have to cross space in nearly zero-time to the pre-chosen moment in that world's past to utter a prophesy of what will be that world's future.

Now, assuming for a moment in my mental exercise that this could be done (that indeed there exists a means by which a being like God could use his own physical laws of nature to execute such a maneuver), What, I asked myself, must the nature of this divine being be? The theological model for God that was handed down to me since the beginning of my parental and institutional religious instruction indicated that God was a literal entity in spiritual form seated somewhere in the heavens "above." All knowing and able to be everywhere at once, God was nonetheless a being of singular consciousness and awareness so that he could easily appear wherever he chose and still possess an awareness of everything else around him. What was the model or form God would need to take in order have this omnipresence awareness and still fit my mental model for seeing future events in a finite universe as we currently understand it? Einstein's general relativity theoretically allows for the notion of faster-than-light movement through large, physical structures like wormholes, providing a conduit for movement that could place one at a point in the universe in the past. Could God have the ability to pass freely and instantaneously through such a structure while still maintaining a conscious awareness of every vantage point necessary to "see" both the here-and-now and the past?

It was then that I came to a conclusion based upon both the physical laws of the universe and the premise that God could see into the future: God and the universe must be one. To possess an ongoing awareness of every point in the universe and still be able to shift that awareness to and from the present and the past, God's omniscience and ability to give visions of the future to individuals could only be explained if the universe and God were physically synonymous. The very fabric of God's sentient mind was enmeshed within the fabric of the universe itself. The two are one. This was the conclusion I came to in an attempt to understand God in the context of his creation. By coming to the realization that the universe was living, that everything in existence was all part of God's awareness, that the universe was God, I was able to better understand this divine being and accept the existence of the "creator." The creator and the creation were one and the same.

And today...?

With the advent of an exciting new theory in theoretical physics known as M-Theory ("M" stands for matrices), the possibilities of a sentient, living universe abound in my mind (
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/). String theory, supersymmetry, and extra-dimensional space allow for possibilities of coexisting realities and time travel that baffle the mind. The boundaries which my limited understanding had originally set for God - confining him in my mind's eye to the three dimensions of space and one dimension of time - suddenly seem inadequate, the realization slowly dawning that the essence of the universe is so much greater than anyone has yet envisioned. Concepts such as time travel that seemed more science fiction than science fact may prove to be part and parcel of this newly-discovered fabric of the universe, a mosaic of dimensions we are only now beginning to understand. Such discoveries - instead of generating fear of reductionism, of somehow lessening the awe of God and the universe - only heighten the magnitude of awe and wonder I feel when pondering questions such as how and why we exist. And both the feasibility and rationality of near-miraculous feats such as seeing the future (not to mention altering the physical properties of matter as in a resurrection and changing water into wine) become that much easier for me to conceive when I begin to understand just how truly complex, yet elegant, the universe is. Far from compelling atheism (I have the impression both fundamental Christianity and Islam equate knowledge with agnosticism), the continued search for knowledge, the search for a unified theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, only strengthens my belief in the existence of God. It is a God, though, not of abstract mirrors and smoke and magic, but of concrete rationality and order, one that both fashions and is fashioned by the physical laws of nature that govern our universe in all its dimensions.

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