Upon what do we base Intelligent Design theory?

Upon what do we base Intelligent Design theory?

Submitted by frlarry on

Stephen Hawking, in A Brief History of Time, remarked that the late Pope John Paul II was incorrect in his assumption that the Big Bang proved that God exists. Hawking went on to describe his theory of a non-singular beginning of time as an alternative to the Pope's thesis. This example demonstrates that it is hazardous for a philosopher to take any given physical property (or class of properties) of the universe and derive fundamental conclusions in natural theology, such as Creation Ex Nihilo or Intelligent Design.

Most recently, Intelligent Design has focused on the fundamental constants of physics, such as the ratio of the mass of an electron to the mass of a proton, and pointed to the observation of cosmologists that these "constants" appear to be tuned to support life. String theorists have risen up in protest at this suggestion, and sought an alternative theory, namely that all possible configurations of these physical constants are realized in alternative universes, universes whose existence is implied by a very strongly held hypothesis about the early physics of our universe (immediately following the "big bang"), called "inflation theory." If these alternative universes exist in sufficient numbers (numbers that would beggar the imagination of anyone who isn't gifted in mathematics) then their explanation could replace "tuning theory" with "the anthropomorphic principle," that simply points out that we happen to live in a universe whose constants make our existence possible, and all other possible universes, with constants that don't support life, also exist.

An interview with Leonard Susskind, a String Theorist at Stanford, appears in an article in the New Scientist, rather inappropriately entitled "Is string theory in trouble?" Given the point of the article, it strikes me it would be more appropriately titled, "Are secular phsysicists in trouble?" The article's journalist is Amanda Gefter. Her climactic question to Susskind is, "Is it possible to test the landscpae idea through observation?" This gets at a fundamental question in the philosophy of physics, if an idea is untestable, even in principle, then it doesn't belong to physics proper, but to metaphysics. Susskind admits, by way of suggesting one possible avenue of examining this question, "It's a long shot but not as unlikely as I previously thought." From this point, Gefter finishes with the question, "If we do not accept the landscape idea are we stuck with intelligent design?" The "landscape idea" has to do with the mathematics of string theory, and properties of the "landscape" of possible solutions (which amounts to "possible universes" that fit the theory), and Susskind's final response is…

I doubt that physicists will see it that way. If, for some unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent - maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation - I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature's fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics. One might argue that the hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.

People who believe that God designed and created the universe need not despair if these secular string theorists are right, though they will have to abandon any resort to "tuning theory." What remains, however, is irreducible to any secular explanation, namely that there exist universes of any physics whatever implies the existence of a cosmological physicist, namely God. This goes beyond the notion that "since there is something, there is a creator" to "since there is something with structure, their is a designer and creator."


The postings on this Blog are © 2003-2024, Fr. Larry Gearhart.

Individual comments are the property of the contributors.

The views expressed on this website are mine alone (or the contributors of comments)
and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Church or any of my superiors.