Thursday, July 05, 2007

Notes on Susskind's Cosmic Landscape

I’m about a quarter way through The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the illusion of Intelligent Design by Susskind and I want to thank you again for recommending the book. It has the best explanation for the layman of the significance of the new physics and what it all might mean in terms of the big picture that I have read to date. That being said, I find myself observing the background noise of belief in his marvelous recounting of the recent history of physics—a kind of interference of belief upon what should be dispassionate observation. Susskind himself is not plagued by this problem as are many of his contemporaries. Susskind dispassionately and scientifically faces the issue of 30 different cosmological constants and lays it all out in such a way as those who might wish to believe in a “higher” entity for the remarkable and, as of yet, unexplained appearance of these “laws” can do so and those who might wish to kick the issue further into the future and into the realm of the unknown can do so too. His presentation represents a remarkable finessing of the issues.

Susskind uses an analogy that I frequently use (and did use in How to Manage Your Dick)—the analogy of the automobile. Susskind claims that every auto mechanic is a reductionist when it comes to repairs and that is of course true but no mechanic is a reductionist when it comes to the origin of the vehicle. Every mechanic knows that the vehicle has been made and made for a purpose—not accidentally assembled. And he even knows the name of the maker of each model. Getting back to my annoyance in a roundabout way; I think that the bending over backwards to try to account for the origin of the physical universe in terms of a kind of Feynman diagramming of many of the different kinds of interactions between particles is disingenuous—it is merely a re-statement of the obvious—the parts are connected and the interaction between the parts produces a variety of results. What is not explained by this sort of opaque presentation is why. The whole desperate notion of the Anthropic Principle is part of this continuing desire to have the universe be produced out of chaos for no purpose and one must ask: why is this? FOG—fear of God.

What I see emerging out of modern physics is something much more pantheistic (in a sense)—it is all God. God isn’t outside the mechanism—He is in the details as the Act of all acts—the old God of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas the first and last cause that causes itself and everything else—the Unmoved Mover. The origin of the fear that those who are afraid of the notion of God is based on a false premise—the notion of the old guy in a beard who is going to slap them for bad behavior. Divine intelligence is not some sort of super human intelligence added on top of the created order, it is intelligence fused with its own existence as in the Hindu Trinity Satchitananada: Existence, Consciousness and Bliss or the more recent and personalized Christian formulation of Father Son and Holy Ghost. The persistent notion of an outside force or Intelligent Design that drives atheistic scientists (the foggers) batty is based on a misperception. God is not outside the machine—it is all God, it is all good and it is all right there in front of them—under their noses in the 30 cosmological constants. I am sure Susskind will finesse this further but I doubt my own take on this will change. FOG driven science is no more dispassionate science than is metaphysics with a religious agenda.

I am often reminded of the wonderful words of Cicero: “The philosophers [scientists] entertain notions that even a common farm hand would not hesitate to dismiss.”

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