Unified Theory and God

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  • #1
itwillend
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It seems I posted this same post in the wrong area before. So maybe someone might be interested in discussing the topic on this section of the forum.

My curiosity is about the quest or search for a Unified Theory and ultimately what it means. From reading Hawking's on the subject, it seems to me it is all about looking for a single force behind everything. Very akin to God, in that it is the ultimate explanation for our life and universe, and attributes it to mono-type force.

Does anyone else find that just a little ironic?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Max Faust
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Very akin to God

That would have to be a very passive and panentheistic God-concept, like the Aristotelian "unmoveable mover".
No, I don't see that as ironic; rather as an example of linguistic shortcomings.
 
  • #3
itwillend
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That would have to be a very passive and panentheistic God-concept, like the Aristotelian "unmoveable mover".
No, I don't see that as ironic; rather as an example of linguistic shortcomings.
Is your response assuming that I am limiting the god-concept to just this one aspect "unified theory"?

I mean, the irony to what I am saying is, our greatest physicists would like to find a unified theory, a single force behind it all. At the same time, monotheistic religions believe one God is behind it all.

The linguistic shortcoming you refer to would be true if God was simply limited to only this universe as God's ability, but I haven't suggested that. all I am suggesting is it is ironic after thousands of years humans have decided it is one force behind everything, and currently we have it broken down to four forces, trying to unite them into one.

Thanks for the reply!
 
  • #4
Max Faust
78
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monotheistic religions believe one God is behind it all

I'd still maintain that there are some very significant differences between the monotheistic religions' belief that there's one God, and science's hypothesis that there may ultimately be a mathematical-conceptual way to formulate a single force, or cause, for the entire universe and all the forms and manifestations therein.
 
  • #5
kote
867
4
I don't see how a unified theory would add anything to a discussion of God. Physics assumes that the world behaves coherently, according to a single underlying set of rules. Discovering what those specific rules are would not shed any extra light on the existence of an underlying cause, reason, or creator.

I don't think I've ever heard of an argument for God (and I can't conceive of one either) that depends on the lack of a unified physical theory for its validity.
 
  • #6
itwillend
16
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I'd still maintain that there are some very significant differences between the monotheistic religions' belief that there's one God, and science's hypothesis that there may ultimately be a mathematical-conceptual way to formulate a single force, or cause, for the entire universe and all the forms and manifestations therein.
Sure Max, on the surface this would be/should be the case. After all what does an Ark have to do with gravity?

It could be developed further though, because aside from these four forces we aim to unify, we have other aspects to consider like consciousness, purpose (if any), morals (intrinsic or absolute). Indicating something independent of the unified theory, yet seemingly as important.

No big deal, I just had some things on my mind, and thought I would share them on here. Thanks for your time.
 
  • #7
itwillend
16
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I don't see how a unified theory would add anything to a discussion of God. Physics assumes that the world behaves coherently, according to a single underlying set of rules. Discovering what those specific rules are would not shed any extra light on the existence of an underlying cause, reason, or creator.

I don't think I've ever heard of an argument for God (and I can't conceive of one either) that depends on the lack of a unified physical theory for its validity.
All I was saying is it is a little ironic, that science can almost isolate our existence to a single force. That's all. What we call that force, I don't really care. It might as well be God, because the term God is really just a place holder for the source of life. Is it not?
 
  • #8
kote
867
4
Sure Max, on the surface this would be/should be the case. After all what does an Ark have to do with gravity?

It could be developed further though, because aside from these four forces we aim to unify, we have other aspects to consider like consciousness, purpose (if any), morals (intrinsic or absolute). Indicating something independent of the unified theory, yet seemingly as important.

No big deal, I just had some things on my mind, and thought I would share them on here. Thanks for your time.

I think those are all important things, but I don't know if physics can ever tell us anything about purpose or morality etc. One way to think about it is that physics is the study of material and efficient causes, but not final causes. Physics tells us how but not why. We can know the how as precisely as we want, but that doesn't help us with the why.
 
  • #9
Max Faust
78
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we have other aspects to consider like consciousness, purpose (if any), morals (intrinsic or absolute)

Okay now... that would be an interesting philosophical debate.

Given the existence of a (hypothetical) unified field theory as the ultimate, underlying cause of all of exsistence, where does this leave "free will"?
 
  • #10
itwillend
16
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Okay now... that would be an interesting philosophical debate.

Given the existence of a (hypothetical) unified field theory as the ultimate, underlying cause of all of existence, where does this leave "free will"?
Biblically speaking and philosophically speaking I have yet to see a compelling argument for such a thing as free will. In the sense that it is anything more than being able to choose what color socks one wants to wear.

From simple observation it appears ultimately we have no free will, because we are products of history, genetics, upbringing, environments, prevailing attitudes, and biased education. Seeing we are products of such a weed infested reality, how can one say they have totally chosen via free will who and what they are. Seems impossible to me.

Please elaborate on you purpose to writing such a thing about free will. Where do you think it leaves free will, if such a thing existed?
 
  • #11
Pattonias
190
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This may become a discussion for another topic, but the argument for or against free will really comes down to the individual. In a universe without the existence of free will it would be difficult to find the circumstances behind an individual making an totally irrational choice despite all their prior experience in the matter. The fact that at any moment you can choose to do anything makes it difficult for me to say their is no free will.

A hundred robots with all identical programming will do the same thing in every situation.

A hundred human beings who have all had the same life experiences will always have have a individual who wants to behave differently. Despite the trends of the group.

Of course, as I said, this is my own beliefs on the subject. You could probably come up with a similar argument to the contrary that makes just as much sense to you.
 
  • #12
Max Faust
78
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a compelling argument for such a thing as free will

Although sticking with a central principle of determination, nature seems to favour a bit of randomness at the edges.
 
  • #13
itwillend
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This may become a discussion for another topic, but the argument for or against free will really comes down to the individual. In a universe without the existence of free will it would be difficult to find the circumstances behind an individual making an totally irrational choice despite all their prior experience in the matter. The fact that at any moment you can choose to do anything makes it difficult for me to say their is no free will.

A hundred robots with all identical programming will do the same thing in every situation.

A hundred human beings who have all had the same life experiences will always have have a individual who wants to behave differently. Despite the trends of the group.

Of course, as I said, this is my own beliefs on the subject. You could probably come up with a similar argument to the contrary that makes just as much sense to you.
Free will is obviously to vague of a term to have much of a meaningful conversation. In your post you point out that humans can go against the grain at any given moment, completely random of the past. However, this assumes a certain meaning for free will. A separate thread would be needed for that discussion.
 
  • #14
itwillend
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Although sticking with a central principle of determination, nature seems to favour a bit of randomness at the edges.
Sure, I would say that is how natural selection works. Completely random.

Comparing a unified theory with something like human consciousness, are we dealing with randomness and natural selection still?
 
  • #15
humanino
2,490
8
I think those are all important things, but I don't know if physics can ever tell us anything about purpose or morality etc. One way to think about it is that physics is the study of material and efficient causes, but not final causes. Physics tells us how but not why. We can know the how as precisely as we want, but that doesn't help us with the why.
Science can answer moral questions
 
  • #16
kote
867
4

Interesting talk, but he makes a lot of assumptions. He assumes that persons are reducible to their brain states, for one. More importantly, he assumes that values are "facts about the well-being of conscious creatures" and brings up how we don't care about rocks etc.

Why should we care about conscious creatures more than rocks? If consciousness is purely physical, why should we care about conscious creatures at all? His answer is simply that we do care about conscious beings. He bases his morality on popular intuition.

Why should we care about conscious beings? Because we care about conscious beings.

It's not a valid argument.

If he were explicitly stating how we need to redefine what we mean by morality, and question what drives us to these questions in the first place, I'd buy it. He doesn't though - he's just arguing circularly.

I mention that last bit because he's almost on to something that I like here. This has hints of experimental philosophy. It might be very useful to give up on an ultimate reason and just accept some basic psychology about what people value. That doesn't get us to the classic version of morality in question though.
 
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  • #17
apeiron
Gold Member
2,133
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I think those are all important things, but I don't know if physics can ever tell us anything about purpose or morality etc. One way to think about it is that physics is the study of material and efficient causes, but not final causes. Physics tells us how but not why. We can know the how as precisely as we want, but that doesn't help us with the why.

And you know my position. Physics did succeed by reducing the burden of modelling to material and efficient cause. But that leaves science still with the prospect of dealing with formal and final cause. And a unified theory would be one that did include all four quadrants of causality - arguably.

The OP is misguided in the standard way - expecting a monadic answer to the big questions.

And to the extent that physicists think a unified theory is a theory of a vanilla force (uniting gravity with strong and EW), this is the same error.

But really, a unified field theory, or theory of everything, is being talked about as a symmetry-breaking phase transition with self-organising logic. So it is not really about Hawking seeking a single force that can act as the prime mover, the original efficient/material cause.
 
  • #18
humanino
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Why should we care about conscious beings? Because we care about conscious beings.

It's not a valid argument.
He explicitly says that he can be wrong about this specific assumption, that "values are certain facts about the well-being of living creatures". In his opening he mentions that this is merely an empirical observation of which he knows no counter-example.

As it turns out, I personally do not believe rocks can suffer.

Besides, this is an illustration of his points, not something crucial. Certainly, his claims are quite bold. I first watched the presentation because I disagreed with the title.
 
  • #19
kote
867
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He explicitly says that he can be wrong about this specific assumption, that "values are certain facts about the well-being of living creatures". In his opening he mentions that this is merely an empirical observation of which he knows no counter-example.

As it turns out, I personally do not believe rocks can suffer.

Besides, this is an illustration of his points, not something crucial. Certainly, his claims are quite bold. I first watched the presentation because I disagreed with the title.

Although his points can be arrived at through different arguments, his derivation of morality is crucial to his argument. Circular argument, no matter how sympathetic we are to the conclusions, is no argument.

I very much like his conclusions, but to get to them rigorously I think requires abandoning the classical conception of morality, which we simply can't get to. Psychology is the only reason we desire an explanation for morality, so why not let psychology ground the answer?

I agree with apeiron that we are expecting too much when it comes to questions of morality. I actually would speculate that Sam Harris might agree as well, but has crafted his presentation to have the broadest popular impact.
 
  • #20
humanino
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Although his points can be arrived at through different arguments, his derivation of morality is crucial to his argument. Circular argument, no matter how sympathetic we are to the conclusions, is no argument.
I think he did a short attempt in "values are certain facts about the well-being of living creatures". Also, I am quite sure he has much more to say than he could fit in 20 minutes, but I agree with you (on what I interpret as the criticism) that is was bit sketchy, or that it deserved much more discussion. The reason I posted it is because I found it an interesting presentation, a courageous attempt. I also think this is close to Weinberg's view, so I guessed it would be appropriate here.
 
  • #21
kote
867
4
I just realized also what you're talking about with "he could be wrong." He used that to prove that science was involved - it's the falsifiability test (which itself has been falsified, ironically). What he didn't discuss was that his logic was wrong, which is a different issue :smile:.
 
  • #22
kote
867
4
I think he did a short attempt in "values are certain facts about the well-being of living creatures". Also, I am quite sure he has much more to say than he could fit in 20 minutes, but I agree with you (on what I interpret as the criticism) that is was bit sketchy, or that it deserved much more discussion. The reason I posted it is because I found it an interesting presentation, a courageous attempt.

Thanks for the post! It was definitely worth watching, and I was surprised that he touched on all of the philosophical points early on (addressing is and ought etc). I had to look up his credentials and after seeing the philosophy major decided to watch the rest :smile:.
 
  • #23
Freeman Dyson
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I think he did a short attempt in "values are certain facts about the well-being of living creatures". Also, I am quite sure he has much more to say than he could fit in 20 minutes, but I agree with you (on what I interpret as the criticism) that is was bit sketchy, or that it deserved much more discussion. The reason I posted it is because I found it an interesting presentation, a courageous attempt. I also think this is close to Weinberg's view, so I guessed it would be appropriate here.

Courageous? Just looks like moral dogma under the guise of science. Which there is none of. Gravity does X. Even though gravity does X, it SHOULD do Y. Why should it do Y? Because Y is better. These aren't scientific arguments. Too many fallacies to begin with. We know we shouldn't poison water so poisoning water is objectively bad. What?
 
  • #24
Freeman Dyson
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Harris is saying that science can tell us what is worth dying and living for and what constitutes a good life. These are not scientific questions or statements. Harris is trying to turn science into a religion. Minus the science. How that fact doesn't hit everyone smack in the face as soon as they watch the video baffles me.

and i honestly burst out laughing about the facts about conscious creatures nonsense. Off to the New Age section of the bookstore with the rest of your books Harris. You can keep citing Dean Radin and xenoglossy there too.
 
  • #25
humanino
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Freeman Dyson, being aggressive does not make your points more sound. The entire audience of TED gave him a standing ovation, those are not your average Jo audience honestly. I think a little more humility would serve better your argumentation.
 
  • #26
Freeman Dyson
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Freeman Dyson, being aggressive does not make your points more sound. The entire audience of TED gave him a standing ovation, those are not your average Jo audience honestly. I think a little more humility would serve better your argumentation.

Any substance to your argument or his besides agreement from the audience? What does a standing ovation prove? Oprah gets one everyday. Don't lecture me about humility when your entire argument rests on the fame and applause level of the person making the point.
 
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  • #27
Evo
Mentor
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Freeman, Did you actually watch the entire video of Harris, and if so, what, specifically, do you disagree with?
 
  • #28
Freeman Dyson
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Freeman, Did you actually watch the entire video of Harris, and if so, what, specifically, do you disagree with?

His entire premise of science telling us what constitutes a good life and what is worth living and dying for. Are those scientific questions? When has science ever revealed and directed us to correct moral action? Or preferred one moral action over another? Sean Carrol has made similar points, to be called an idiot and stupid by Harris. What did you agree with?
 
  • #29
humanino
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His entire premise of science telling us what constitutes a good life and what is worth living and dying for. Are those scientific questions? When has science ever revealed and directed us to correct moral action? Or preferred one moral action over another? Sean Carrol has made similar points, to be called an idiot and stupid by Harris. What did you agree with?
I can only repeat : when I read the title of the talk, I also completely disagree with the scheme. After I watched the video, I thought it was interesting, while certainly very preliminary and deserving much more discussion. This is also illustrated by the amount of questions and explicitly commented at the end of the talk, and it is very rare at TED to have such a long discussion, even any discussion at all. The host is very skeptical. So, I think we basically all agree on most points, and I am just saying that it does not help to be aggressive. In fact, I can also interpret your reaction as a strong interest in this talk, strongly sided against, but certainly not indifferent.
 
  • #30
itwillend
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Side note guys and gals... Is there an implication in the thread that morals are not absolute?

If I may, would you all not agree at the very least among humans without mental deficiency that a life free from harm is universally agreed upon? I find that concept alone to be common for everyone on the planet, again minus mentally impaired persons.

Thoughts?
 
  • #31
Freeman Dyson
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I just have to add this monumental strawman by Harris that I originally missed from this talk.

"Does the Taliban have an opinion on physics that is worth considering? No? Then how is their ignorance any less obvious, on the subject of human well-being?"

Does Harris have an opinion on physics worth considering? Did Martin Luther King have any opinion on physics worth considering? Did African slaves on the plantation have any opinions on physics worth considering? They can't be trusted to know anything about anyone's well being, much less their own.

So, if a scientologist, Christian, communist, Muslim, etc..came up with a workable form of quantum gravity it would make it "obvious" that their worldview/personal philosophy now has seniority over others and their personal philosophies are now worth considering. Unbelievable.

How can anyone listen to this man?
 
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  • #32
Freeman Dyson
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Side note guys and gals... Is there an implication in the thread that morals are not absolute?

If I may, would you all not agree at the very least among humans without mental deficiency that a life free from harm is universally agreed upon? I find that concept alone to be common for everyone on the planet, again minus mentally impaired persons.

Thoughts?

"Harm" is subjective. You don't really want to rid the world of harm. There is harm in all things. How many people die in cars? You want to ban them? I think most violent crime involves alcohol. Ban that? I walk into my local supermarket and the majority of the foods in there are bad for me. Ban them? A woman rejects my advances. This is psychologically harmful to me and I'm sure it would show up on Harris' little neuroscans. What does science demand we do about all these harms? I guarantee you personally will allow some harms and not tolerate others. Where does science show us what harms should be tolerated?
 
  • #33
rewebster
843
2
Is your response assuming that I am limiting the god-concept to just this one aspect "unified theory"?

I mean, the irony to what I am saying is, our greatest physicists would like to find a unified theory, a single force behind it all. At the same time, monotheistic religions believe one God is behind it all.

The/a unified theory/'theory of everything' will explain how 'forces', 'energies', mass, time, and space correlate in a way that makes logical and scientific sense. It won't be a 'single' force behind it all; and, it doesn't and won't relate to religious ideas.
 
  • #34
Mgt3
79
1
That would have to be a very passive and panentheistic God-concept, like the Aristotelian "unmoveable mover".

Pantheistic, yes but wouldn't this type of pantheistic God contain all information in the universe/multiverse and, in a very real sense be omniscient?
 

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