Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Unified Theory and God

  1. Mar 31, 2010 #1
    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?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2010 #2
    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.
  4. Mar 31, 2010 #3
    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!
  5. Mar 31, 2010 #4
    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.
  6. Mar 31, 2010 #5
    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.
  7. Mar 31, 2010 #6
    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.
  8. Mar 31, 2010 #7
    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?
  9. Mar 31, 2010 #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.
  10. Mar 31, 2010 #9
    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"?
  11. Mar 31, 2010 #10
    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?
  12. Mar 31, 2010 #11
    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.
  13. Mar 31, 2010 #12
    Although sticking with a central principle of determination, nature seems to favour a bit of randomness at the edges.
  14. Mar 31, 2010 #13
    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.
  15. Mar 31, 2010 #14
    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?
  16. Mar 31, 2010 #15
    Science can answer moral questions
  17. Mar 31, 2010 #16
    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.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2010
  18. Mar 31, 2010 #17


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    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.
  19. Mar 31, 2010 #18
    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.
  20. Mar 31, 2010 #19
    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.
  21. Mar 31, 2010 #20
    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.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook