Thursday, April 05, 2007

String Theory resolves nothing


Lee Smolin, in his excellent pysmatic “The Trouble with Physics” [Houghton Mifflin Co., NY, 2006], excoriates the ubiquity of string theory in academic departments of physics, and rightfully so.

String theory, which as you know, posits (in simple terms) infinitesimal vibrating strings as the absolute basic elements or structures of all things; the constructs that make up reality.

Dr. Smolin (he’s a Ph.D.) takes to task the emphasis on string theory which, to his mind, hasn’t gone anywhere since promulgated and will very likely not go anywhere in the near or far future.

But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Smolin is wrong (we don’t think he is) and that string theory is the answer to the physics Holy Grail: a “theory of everything.”

What does the theory tell humans about the most significant questions of existence?

What preceded the Big Bang? Is the Universe infinite or not? Is there a First Cause, a Prime Mover? Does consciousness cease when one dies? And if not, where does consciousness go upon death?

String theory, like relativity or quantum, gets us nowhere.

Theorizing about strings, or any physical adjunct, is interesting, enthralling even, but it takes individuals, society, and civilization – mankind – nowhere.

Strings, multiple universes, parallel universes, building blocks of existence don’t answer the question of why humans exist – the purpose or meaning of life.

Meister Eckhart, the 14th Century mystic, theologian, and alchemist, about whom Carl Jung was often panegyrical, proclaimed that God was “naught” – in alchemical terms, beyond comprehension; the same view as Augustine, Saint Dionysius, et al.

If string theory is valid, does it provide a clue as to the nature of God, or no God?

Patterns in physics, logical properties of matter, were flummoxed by quantum mechanics. String theory could reassert Newtonian or even Einsteinian sense to physical laws. And even if it did, is the result one of clarification, in the metaphysical or cosmological scheme of things?

The escape from or even into reality (both psychological maladies) by way of string theory by physicists is tantamount to transcendental denial – but a denial of what? God? Immortality? Nivana? A total cessation of life, consciousness, at death?

For us it not true that all things die? Even God?


Andrew Daw said...

The question is could there be a theory of everything that resolves everything - or everything that matters anyway?

And it could be thought that this would need to be an account that:

a) is empirically valid

b) is based on the experimental
evidence of quantum physics.

c) is a theory of natural cause and effect

d) develops a hypothesis that is justified from the quantum evidence where details are represented of a cause that can only be described from its effects as it acts in addition to the forces. This hypotheis being consistent with an existing systematic interpretation of quantum physics.

e) is supported by a range of available large scale natural evidence of where the cause is also considered to act.

f) the evidence includes astronomical observation and cosmogical theory based on these observations

g) also included is evidence of living organisms and where certain problems of mind and consciousness are resolved.

h) makes unique predictions that can be confirmed by experiment and/or observation.

See my web page

RRRGroup said...

And Andrew, that web page would be found where?

Sunstrand said...

Is the universe infinite? No. Latest calculations are that the finite size from one edge of the universe to the other, in any direction, edge to edge, is roughly 156 billion light years across.


Hope that helps.

RRRGroup said...

Thanks, Sunstrand.

Any indication of what lies beyond the "edge" of the universe?

Rich said...

"Does consciousness cease when one dies? And if not, where does consciousness go upon death?"

I absolutely think that this should be the greatest area of research (or amongst the greatest)! Simple reason. If we could actually find the answer to these questions, it would certainly go a long way towards helping us understand EVERYTHING. Unfortunately, our culture just doesn't seem able to greatly support research of this kind. Most unfortunately, of course, is that we even have to bother thinking about any of this stuff at all!