"We are such stuff as dreams are made on." Shakespeare, The Tempest

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Theory of Everything

In his doctoral dissertation, Steven Hawkins demonstrates that the universe could have begun spontaneously. That is to say, the big bang could have gone off without being triggered by a divine intelligent being, or God in the sense of the word as used in the Abrahamic religions. To say that the universe could have begun in a moment of singularity is not necessarily to vitiate the deity-concept of all content. In fact, Hawkins’ work may one day trigger a movement to hem in the concept to the terrain that is distinctly religious.

Throughout A Theory of Everything (2014), God as the Creator is depicted in a strict dichotomy with physics as only one of the two can survive intact. I submit that the “either/or” choice is unnecessary because it arises from a category mistake involving religion. In positing God as the first cause or prime mover of a physical process, we distend the religious domain onto that of the natural sciences. Characterizing God as the condition of existence, on the other hand, backs the concept of the deity away from physics, chemistry, and astronomy and thus avoids the unnecessary dichotomy.

We can go even further still, putting some daylight between the two domains. Plotinus, a second century Platonist, characterized God as extending beyond the limits of human cognition and perception. Infinite space and never-ending time, on the other hand, are within our realm and thus not particularly divine. Indeed, what we experience as existence is within our realm rather than transcendent. To claim that God as Creator is the condition of existence can be interpreted as an attempt to source God beyond the limits of human cognition and perception unless that condition is taken as the cause of a sequence of events understandable through any of the natural sciences.My point is simply that theology is not one of the natural sciences, so the choice between them is unnecessary as it stems from a category mistake wherein the religious terrain oversteps or encroaches onto that of physics and chemistry. Pruning back the ancient conception of the Abrahamic deity to the distinctly religious can save the concept from entanglements that pit it against scientific investigation. Put another way, to apply such investigation to God represents a category mistake wherein science oversteps its innate boundaries. Rather than debate if God is behind the chemical reactions known as the big bang as is done throughout the film, we might try to figure out what is distinctly religious or theological in nature.