God, the lurker, is watching us from nearby

Sat, 4 Jul 1998 23:52:22 -0400

Since this is my first post to this list I should take a moment to
introduce myself. I am presently a full time student at Moravian
Theological Seminary in Bethlehem PA and help pay the rent by teaching at
Lehigh University across the Lehigh from the Seminary. I was on the faculty
at Penn State before leaving State College to attend the Seminary. My
undergraduate degree is in Chemistry and my graduate work was in Solid
State Science (physics and materials chemistry).

Paul Arveson's recent post on the continuing dialogue between cosmology
and theology included an observation on Hawking's proposal for eliminating
the embarassing - to some cosmologists - singularlity and breakdown of
space-time. Paul said and I quote:

>Hawking devotes some of his book, 'A Brief History of Time' to his
>presentations before the Vatican Academy. He portrays himself
>impishly, when he slipped in his no-boundary proposal which takes away the
>singularity of the Big Bang, and hence (he assumes) takes away the
>need for a creator. It's the ultimate closure of the 'god of the gaps'
>proposals of Newton.

What I personally find provocative about Hawking's proposal grows from what
he has to do in order to achieve continuity through the origin. Unless I'm
mistaken (note: this is not my field of expertise!), to do this he proposed
that time, which - I believe - appears only as its square in the relevant
equations, be taken as mathematically complex with a non-vanishing
imaginary component. With this assumed, the "time" axis does not vanish,
the relevant equations don't become singular at the origin, we simply
continue along a negative direction for that dimension into a different
universe. What is provocative is that while this avoids the singularity,
and permits discussion of an oscillating series of universes, it destroys
any sense of time as a physically determined or real quantity. In short
"time" is now analogous to the state function (or state vector) of quantum
mechanics. In this picture, time no longer has any direct physical
interpretation, but contains of both imaginary and real parts, suggesting
that there is a dimensional part of time which is insensible to our
reality, and possibly transcendent in nature. It seems this proposal,
rather than taking away the need to postulate a creator, requires us to
seek an even "larger" possibility - a transcendent reality we cannot
experience, but from which what we do experience is derived. Does anyone
else had a similar reaction?

Just a thought from a lurker who has enjoyed the contributions of others.

Peace and best wishes to all.

Walter (Wally) A. Yarbrough (way2@lehigh.edu)
Adjunct Professor of Chemistry, Lehigh University
273 Mudd Bldg.
6 East Packer Avenue
Bethlehem, PA 18015
(610) 758-3423 (Mudd Bldg.)
(610) 865-6548 (home - not after 9:00 PM please)