Re: String Theory

From: Loren Haarsma <>
Date: Tue Aug 09 2005 - 11:40:17 EDT

On Sun, 7 Aug 2005, John Hewlett wrote:

> 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?

  I'm sure there are several Christians who are experts in string theory.
I personally know at least one, who teaches at Baylor U.

> 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 say! 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.

  I believe he's correct that the "extra dimensions" of string theory
would have no greater (or lesser) "spiritual" aspects than the ordinary 3
spatial dimensions of everyday life.
  I've heard Brian Green speak a few times, and what you quote above
matches my experience. He is not personally religious that I'm aware of.
He sticks to the science and avoids drawing religious conclusions. When
asked a question about religious implications of string theory, his
responses (in my experience) are straightforward, accurate, and
respectful. He doesn't see any particularly special implications of
string theory for religion.

> Now I have heard this, that the string theory "CAN
> explain the four fundimental forces in physics",

  The current "standard model" of particle physics is a very successful
theory. But it has about two dozen "free parameters" which are not set by
the theory itself. (The masses of various particles, the strengths of
various forces.) Experimentalists measure these values, and they get
plugged into the theory. String theory would like to reduce the number of
"free parameters." If successful, string theory could start with a much
smaller number of free parameters and the predict why the masses of
particles and strengths of forces are what we measure them to be.
  If successful, string theory wouldn't explain everything. It would
still have a few "free parameters" which we simply have to measure. And
it certainly wouldn't explain "why something exists rather than nothing."
  M-theory, incidentally, is an extension of string-theory with many of
the same basic assumptions. You can think of string-theory as a sub-set
of M-theory.

> Ok well, I am missing something of course. And that is this, back in
> 2004 Gabriele Veneziano the father of the "String theory" proposed to
> new theories that would indicate that the universe has existed forever
> and would continue too, and he used the String theory to make is case
> for this.

  Ever since the Big Bang theory was experimentally verified, some people
have been trying to develop theories of mechanistic processes -- operating
in some primoidial vacuum or some mother-meta-universe -- which could
generate Big Bangs like ours. To the extent that string theory helps
explain particle physics, string theory helps those physicists develop
more inventive and interesting ideas for mechanistic processes which could
cause a Big Bang.
  I agree with you that, if such a theory were successful, it wouldn't
prove anything about God's existence one way or the other. It might
depress a few theists, but it wouldn't prove anything. Traditional
theology has long said that God can accomplish things via natural
processes or via superseding natural processes, however God chooses.

Loren Haarsma
Received on Tue Aug 9 11:41:40 2005

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