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?