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Can the Laws of Physics Disprove God?

This text about faith and science is republished right here with permission from The Conversation. This content material is shared right here as a result of the subject could curiosity Snopes readers; it doesn’t, nonetheless, characterize the work of Snopes fact-checkers or editors.


I nonetheless believed in God (I’m now an atheist) once I heard the next query at a seminar and was surprised by its magnificence and depth: ‘If there’s a God who created your entire universe and ALL of its legal guidelines of physics, does God comply with God’s personal legal guidelines? Or can God supersede his personal legal guidelines, similar to travelling sooner than the pace of sunshine and thus with the ability to be in two completely different locations on the identical time?’ May the reply assist us show whether or not or not God exists or is that this the place scientific empiricism and spiritual religion intersect, with NO true reply?

I used to be in lockdown once I obtained this query and was immediately intrigued. It’s no surprise in regards to the timing – tragic occasions, similar to pandemics, typically trigger us to query the existence of God: if there’s a merciful God, why is a disaster like this taking place? So the concept God could be “sure” by the legal guidelines of physics – which additionally govern chemistry and biology and thus the bounds of medical science – was an attention-grabbing one to discover.

If God wasn’t in a position to break the legal guidelines of physics, she arguably wouldn’t be as highly effective as you’d anticipate a supreme being to be. But when she might, why haven’t we seen any proof of the legal guidelines of physics ever being damaged within the universe?

To sort out the query, let’s break it down a bit. First, can God journey sooner than gentle? Let’s simply take the query at face worth. Mild travels at an approximate pace of three x 105 kilometres each second, or 186,000mph. We study at college that nothing can journey sooner than the pace of sunshine – not even the united statesEnterprise in Star Trek when its dilithium crystals are set to max.

However is it true? Just a few years in the past, a bunch of physicists posited that particles referred to as tachyons travelled above light speed. Thankfully, their existence as actual particles is deemed extremely unlikely. In the event that they they did exist, they’d have an imaginary mass and the material of area and time would turn into distorted – resulting in violations of causality (and probably a headache for God).

It appears, thus far, that no object has been noticed that may journey sooner than the pace of sunshine. This in itself doesn’t say something in any respect about God. It merely reinforces the information that gentle travels very quick certainly.

Issues get a bit extra attention-grabbing when you think about how far gentle has travelled for the reason that starting. Assuming a conventional huge bang cosmology and a lightweight pace of three x 105 km/s, then we are able to calculate that gentle has travelled roughly 1024 km within the 13.eight billion years of the universe’s existence. Or reasonably, the observable universe’s existence.

The universe is increasing at a fee of roughly 70km/s per Mpc (1 Mpc = 1 Megaparsec ~ 30 million km), so present estimates recommend that the gap to the sting of the universe is 46 billion gentle years. As time goes on, the quantity of area will increase, and light-weight has to journey for longer to achieve us.

There may be much more universe on the market than we are able to view, however probably the most distant object that we now have seen is a galaxy, GN-z11, observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. That is roughly 1023 km or 13.four billion gentle years away, which means that it has taken 13.four billion years for gentle from the galaxy to achieve us. However when the sunshine “set off”, the galaxy was solely about three billion gentle years away from our galaxy, the Milky Manner.

We can’t observe or see throughout everything of the universe that has grown for the reason that huge bang as a result of inadequate time has handed for gentle from the primary fractions of a second to achieve us. Some argue that we due to this fact can’t be positive whether or not the legal guidelines of physics could be broken in other cosmic regions – maybe they’re simply native, unintended legal guidelines. And that leads us on to one thing even greater than the universe.

The multiverse

Many cosmologists consider that the universe could also be a part of a extra prolonged cosmos, a multiverse, the place many various universes co-exist however don’t work together. The concept of the multiverse is backed by the theory of inflation – the concept the universe expanded massively earlier than it was 10-32 seconds previous. Inflation is a crucial concept as a result of it could clarify why the universe has the form and construction that we see round us.

But when inflation might occur as soon as, why not many instances? We all know from experiments that quantum fluctuations can provide rise to pairs of particles all of the sudden coming into existance, solely to vanish moments later. And if such fluctuations can produce particles, why not total atoms or universes? It’s been suggested that, in the course of the interval of chaotic inflation, not all the pieces was taking place on the identical fee – quantum fluctuations within the growth might have produced bubbles that blew as much as turn into universes in their very own proper.

Pictures of bubbles containing universes.
Are we residing in a bubble universe?
Juergen Faelchle/Shutterstock

However how does God match into the multiverse? One headache for cosmologists has been the truth that our universe appears fine-tuned for life to exist. The basic particles created within the huge bang had the right properties to allow the formation of hydrogen and deuterium – substances which produced the primary stars.

The bodily legal guidelines governing nuclear reactions in these stars then produced the stuff that life’s fabricated from – carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. So how come all of the bodily legal guidelines and parameters within the universe occur to have the values that allowed stars, planets and in the end life to develop?

Some argue it’s only a fortunate coincidence. Others say we shouldn’t be shocked to see biofriendly bodily legal guidelines – they in spite of everything produced us, so what else would we see? Some theists, nonetheless, argue it factors to the existence of a God creating beneficial circumstances.

However God isn’t a legitimate scientific clarification. The speculation of the multiverse, as a substitute, solves the thriller as a result of it permits completely different universes to have completely different bodily legal guidelines. So it’s not stunning that we must always occur to see ourselves in one of many few universes that would assist life. In fact, you possibly can’t disprove the concept a God could have created the multiverse.

That is all very hypothetical, and one of many largest criticisms of theories of the multiverse is that as a result of there appear to have been no interactions between our universe and different universes, then the notion of the multiverse can’t be immediately examined.

Quantum weirdness

Now let’s think about whether or not God will be in multiple place on the identical time. A lot of the science and expertise we use in area science relies on the counter-intuitive concept of the tiny world of atoms and particles often known as quantum mechanics.

The speculation permits one thing referred to as quantum entanglement: spookily related particles. If two particles are entangled, you robotically manipulate its associate while you manipulate it, even when they’re very far aside and with out the 2 interacting. There are higher descriptions of entanglement than the one I give right here – however that is easy sufficient that I can comply with it.

Think about a particle that decays into two sub-particles, A and B. The properties of the sub-particles should add as much as the properties of the unique particle – that is the precept of conservation. For instance, all particles have a quantum property referred to as “spin” – roughly, they transfer as in the event that they have been tiny compass needles. If the unique particle has a “spin” of zero, one of many two sub-particles will need to have a optimistic spin and the opposite a adverse spin, which signifies that every of A and B has a 50% likelihood of getting a optimistic or a adverse spin. (In keeping with quantum mechanics, particles are by definition in a mixture of completely different states till you really measure them.)

The properties of A and B should not unbiased of one another – they’re entangled – even when situated in separate laboratories on separate planets. So when you measure the spin of A and you discover it to be optimistic. Think about a good friend measured the spin of B at precisely the identical time that you simply measured A. To ensure that the precept of conservation to work, she should discover the spin of B to be adverse.

However – and that is the place issues turn into murky – like sub-particle A, B had a 50:50 likelihood of being optimistic, so its spin state “turned” adverse on the time that the spin state of A was measured as optimistic. In different phrases, details about spin state was transferred between the 2 sub-particles immediately. Such switch of quantum data apparently occurs sooner than the pace of sunshine. Provided that Einstein himself described quantum entanglement as “spooky motion at a distance”, I believe all of us will be forgiven for locating this a reasonably weird impact.

So there’s something sooner than the pace of sunshine in spite of everything: quantum data. This doesn’t show or disprove God, however it could assist us consider God in bodily phrases – possibly as a bathe of entangled particles, transferring quantum data forwards and backwards, and so occupying many locations on the identical time? Even many universes on the identical time?

Artist's concept of entangled particles.
Spooky motion.
Jurik Peter/Shutterstock

I’ve this picture of God protecting galaxy-sized plates spinning whereas juggling planet-sized balls – tossing bits of knowledge from one teetering universe to a different, to maintain all the pieces in movement. Thankfully, God can multitask – protecting the material of area and time in operation. All that’s required is a bit religion.

Has this essay come near answering the questions posed? I believe not: when you consider in God (as I do), then the concept of God being sure by the legal guidelines of physics is nonsense, as a result of God can do all the pieces, even journey sooner than gentle. Should you don’t consider in God, then the query is equally nonsensical, as a result of there isn’t a God and nothing can journey sooner than gentle. Maybe the query is de facto one for agnostics, who don’t know whether or not there’s a God.

That is certainly the place science and faith differ. Science requires proof, spiritual perception requires religion. Scientists don’t attempt to show or disprove God’s existence as a result of they know there isn’t an experiment that may ever detect God. And when you consider in God, it doesn’t matter what scientists uncover in regards to the universe – any cosmos will be considered being in line with God.

Our views of God, physics or the rest in the end is determined by perspective. However let’s finish with a citation from a really authoritative supply. No, it isn’t the bible. Neither is it a cosmology textbook. It’s from Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett:

“Mild thinks it travels sooner than something however it’s fallacious. Regardless of how briskly gentle travels, it finds the darkness has all the time acquired there first, and is ready for it.”

The Conversation


Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary and House Sciences, The Open University

This text is republished from The Conversation beneath a Artistic Commons license. Learn the original article.

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