Re: String Theory

From: Don Nield <>
Date: Mon Aug 08 2005 - 23:20:13 EDT

John Hewlett wrote:

>Hey guys and gals, well I have been reading a little bit about string theory. I have read enough to still be about 2 degrees shy of completely clueless. Never the less it looks like a very odd and strange theory. I was curious if you guys know any physicist that are in ASA or elsewhere that hold a theistic universal veiw that are experts in string theory? First of all, I have a question, I listened to an interview by Brian Greene on NPR and I know he is an expert on the string theory who hold NO theistics veiws at all. This is you learn in the interview because he says so, very plainly. The news caster says well these extrademisions could house our spiritual conceptions, and he said "I would disuade you from thinking that because we expect that we will eventually predict the behavior of these demisions, and therefor basically since you can't predict theology, I would not encourage you to think this way" [I was parapharsing but it is really pretty close]. She responded by sa!
>ing "Well whats wrong with faith?" And he said "Nothing at all, my brother is hindu and yada yada yada... he said you can never disprove the concept of God because one can always say 'thats the way God made it'" Which I would have to agree with.
>Now I find this, infact I personally have never seen a theistic assault by the string theory. Now I have heard this, that the string theory "CAN explain the four fundimental forces in physics", now I know that alot of people may say "hey, well if this explains it then God gets pushed out", and I could see why this is the case if you subscribe to the God of the Gaps, where the gaps get smaller. Which I do not subscribe to, because as Galileo once said "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." And not to give you my anti-treatise on the Gaps philosophy, but I think we should investigate nature to the ends of our ability.
>But I draw (at least in my veiw, and I don't get attacked for saying this) a falasy from the logic of "Welp its completely explained, so well we don't need a creator anymore now so..." because the same could be said about evolution too, and we have seen this before, Richard Dawkins said something like "After darwins theory I don't know how any could beleive in religion". What a load of crap (pardon my language), I happen to not find ANY ANY ANY problem with evolution at all (darwinian or not), and I just don't think it is a threat at all. I tend to kind of fallow Kenneth Miller from brown in his veiws (sort of). And I find it completely intellectually fullfilling to beleive an Christian and hold these veiws. Now you are probably thinking "WHAT IN THE WORLD DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH STRING THEORY?" Well couldn't the same principle be drawn of string theory?
>Going back to evolution I would like to elaborate because its a good theory to do so with. First all, in Darwinian evolution we are taught random mutations and natural selection (among other stuff) are accountable for the diversity of life on earth. Ok, well thats just hunky dory and I can live with that explanation. NOW the point here is, I AM IN NO WAY saying God plays no role in evolution. Infact I beleive the oposite because I don't think we (humans) are aquainted with all the details. I strongly and confidently feel that just because it looks "random" or godless (meaning God plays no role) to us, doesn't mean that it is to God. I think God plays a role in all of nature. And if string theory works out, then I will in all likely hood feel the same way.
>So basically I was just wondering if there were any christians or theistically inclined people working in String theory these days?
>Would anybody here thats in physics like to give me some comments on their views of the String theory?
I am not an expert on string theory, but I have some background in
mathematical physics. I was an undergraduate student of Fred Hoyle's at
St John's College, Cambridge and I attended some of his lectures on
general relativity and cosmology. I have just finsihed reading the
excellent biography by Simon Mitton, "Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science",
ABC Books, Sydney, 2005. Amonst other things this gives an excellent
case study of how some theories about astrophysics struggle to be
accepted and then either gain favour or lose favour as new experimental
evidence becomes available.

Some brief comments about String Theory (10D) , M-Theory (11D), F-Theory
(12D). A useful summary of their status, given from a personal point of
view, has been given by Roger Penrose, "The Road to Reality" (Jonathan
Cape, London, 2004, 1094 pages!). Penrose is cautious. String theory and
its extension explain some things. Lots of other things are left
unexplained. The connection with reality is uncertain. Distinguishing
bewteen mathematical coincidences and physical consequences is difficult.

[Incidentally, I find the attempt by Hugh Ross, in "Beyond the Cosmos"
(Navpress, Colorado Springs,1996, 1999), to relate multidimension
physics (including string theory) to the Bible, quite ludicrous.]

Here is what I wrote about the big bang (and I could say more or less
the same about string theory) in my booklet "God Created the Heavens and
the Earth" (Telos Publications, Auckland, 2004):

"Because the discovery of the cosmic background (and more recently of
certain fluctuations in that background) verified predictions of the big
bang theory, that theory is now firmly established. Many Christians have
been cheered by that. However, one should be cautious. Many theologians
believe that theology could have accepted the steady-state model. John
Polkinghorne (formerly Professor of Theoretical Physics at Cambridge and
now an Anglican priest), for example, believes that it is erroneous to
assume that big bang cosmology, with its datable point of departure for
the universe as we know it, has a superior value for theology over the
steady-state theory, which essentially supposed the universe to have
been everlasting. Theology could have lived with either physical theory,
for the assertion that God is Creator is not a statement that at a
particular time he did something, but rather that at all times he keeps
the world in being. The doctrine of creation is a doctrine of
ontological (relating to the nature of being) origin.

"Australian theologian Mark Worthing agrees that theology could have
lived with either theory. A continuous creation out of nothing could
have been reconciled with Christian theology as an aspect of God’s
divine sustenance. Worthing notes that no one can guarantee that a
similar theory may not one day become the “standard” operating theory.
Also, the steady-state theory should serve as a reminder of the danger
of using any specific scientific theory as confirmation of a theological
position. Worthing notes that even if theology need not make room for an
ongoing creation out of nothing, we are nevertheless far removed from
the old view of a static universe that is simply maintained by God. We
live undeniably in a dynamic, changing universe. Hence a theology
engaged in dialogue with the natural sciences must affirm a God who
sustains the world in its dynamic process of change.

"The above fact, that it is not critical for theology that the universe
had an origin at a finite time, would become important if cosmologists
came up with evidence justifying an alternative theory in which our
universe is just one of an infinite number of universes. At the moment
there is no real evidence for a multiple-universe theory, so according
to Occam’s razor the simpler theory, namely that in which there is a
unique universe, is to be preferred. However, it is possible that
sometime in the future a new theory, one combining particle theory with
gravitational theory and with some empirical backing, may favour a
multiple-universe hypothesis, so one should be cautious."

<>The refrences are to
John Polkinghorne, "Science and Theology: An Introduction", (SPCK,
London, 1998).Mark William Worthing. "God, Creation and Contemporary
Physics'" (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1996).

In summary, in my opinion string theory has little importance for theology.
Received on Mon Aug 8 23:22:30 2005

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