Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Science has answers - III: God is Not Necessary for the Creation of the Universe - Says Stephen Hawking

This entry is the continuation of an earlier entry on the genesis of the universe, and perspectives on that issue, both from scientific standpoint and theological standpoint. Here, the main focus will be on what then science says must have happened before our universe emerged, if as science says, that there is no need to look towards God as the agent responsible for getting the universe going . Read the 1st and 2nd parts of this topic: Here and here, respectively.


Herein the age old question surrounding the creation of the Universe, including our planet Earth of course, and God's role in this will be visited and analyzed in some detail, both from the physicists' and creationists' perspectives.


Any idea that science finally has the answers to how our universeand everything within it, including ourselvescame to be, which don't involve any divine or supernatural intervention, doesn't sit well with many observers who have become accustomed to generations of faith-based theological systems, in guiding them through the harsh and rough realities of human social life, as well as aiding them to psychologically come to grips with what sense to make of their very being. As a result, on the way forward, science has made quite a few enemies; some openly hostile to science, while others, less willing to openly to share their frustrations with science.

As such, there can be no doubt about the buzz created, particularly within theological circles, when physicists like Stephen Hawking, came out with the provocative announcement that science can now answer many of the mysteries of our universe, without once appealing to divine intervention. Modern science has long been run under the premise that, just because wehumansdon't always have answers to the mysteries of the universe, doesn't mean that such mysteries must then be the work of a supernatural being, which in essence, facilitates an easy way out of a puzzle. Rather, in science, the idea is to continue to press for and work our way through to attaining answers to difficult problems or questions, especially when they are difficult. This materialist approach is what has at times, driven science to clash with individuals of faith and guardians of theology.

We are going to rely heavily on Stephen Hawking's work in this blog entry, since the man is one of the most widely recognized personality in the field and to reiterate, is the one, in partnership with physicist Leonard Mlodinow, who published "The Grand Design", telling the world for the first time that science has progressed to the point where it now is sufficient to answer many of the mysteries of the natural world, and along with it, how our universe came to be, without once invoking the intervention of a conscious supernatural agent, which/whom many recognize as simply "God".

Recalling the earlier mention of the following (see the first entry of this topic):

Obviously we know what lies outside a black hole, precisely because we live in that existence (universe). Furthermore, because we live in an existence outside of black holes, we understand the processes and laws of physics that lead up to the formation of black holes. We see that these processes are not guided by a conscious manipulator (supernatural being). The only major difference here, being that we don't know the precise nature of the existence outside of the Big Bang phase of the infinitely dense singularity, simply put, because we don't live in that existence.

However, theoretically speaking, had we lived in the existence outside of said infinitely dense singularity, the corresponding familiarity with the processes outside of our universe would have then made the seemingly "sudden appearance" of our universe less "so sudden", and less "spontaneous". In that respect, our universe will simply appear as the outgrowth of processes of another existence outside of our universe, with its respective laws of physics, which too would have required no conscious guidance by a supernatural being. As such, our universe would have appeared as just another "component" or "element" of another existence, not as some observers figure, i.e. "separate" from that existence, which they make synonymous with the existence of a supernatural being.

Continuing on that theme, we will turn our attention to the potential existence outside of the infinitely dense singularity that our universe inflated from. What then is this existence? According to Mr. Hawking, while a first-hand observation of this existence is all but impossible, it can abstractly be thought of in terms of the so-called no boundary proposal of the Quantum Theory. The following quotation is pretty much saying the same thing just recited above from an earlier blog entry, more or less, but perhaps in more technical terms. First, however, we should understand what the "no boundary proposal" means, and it is as follows:

The no boundary condition, is the statement that the laws of physics hold everywhere.

Now that, that has been established, let's take a look at what the proposal actually entails, about the world outside of the infinitely dense singularity of the Big Bang:

It seems that Quantum theory, on the other hand, can predict how the universe will begin. Quantum theory introduces a new idea, that of imaginary time. Imaginary time may sound like science fiction, and it has been brought into Doctor Who. But nevertheless, it is a genuine scientific concept. One can picture it in the following way. One can think of ordinary, real, time as a horizontal line. On the left, one has the past, and on the right, the future. But there's another kind of time in the vertical direction. This is called imaginary time, because it is not the kind of time we normally experience. But in a sense, it is just as real, as what we call real time.

The three directions in space, and the one direction of imaginary time, make up what is called a Euclidean space-time. I don't think anyone can picture a four dimensional curve space. But it is not too difficult to visualise a two dimensional surface, like a saddle, or the surface of a football.

In fact, James Hartle of the University of California Santa Barbara, and I have proposed that space and imaginary time together, are indeed finite in extent, but without boundary. They would be like the surface of the Earth, but with two more dimensions. The surface of the Earth is finite in extent, but it doesn't have any boundaries or edges. I have been round the world, and I didn't fall off.

If space and imaginary time are indeed like the surface of the Earth, there wouldn't be any singularities in the imaginary time direction, at which the laws of physics would break down. And there wouldn't be any boundaries, to the imaginary time space-time, just as there aren't any boundaries to the surface of the Earth. This absence of boundaries means that the laws of physics would determine the state of the universe uniquely, in imaginary time. But if one knows the state of the universe in imaginary time, one can calculate the state of the universe in real time. One would still expect some sort of Big Bang singularity in real time. So real time would still have a beginning. But one wouldn't have to appeal to something outside the universe, to determine how the universe began. Instead, the way the universe started out at the Big Bang would be determined by the state of the universe in imaginary time. Thus, the universe would be a completely self-contained system. It would not be determined by anything outside the physical universe, that we observe. 

Note how Mr. Hawking uses the metaphor of the boundlessness of the Earth's surface to effect, in simplifying what could otherwise seem too technical for a layperson. All the same, to put the above into perspective in "English", here's the gist of the proposal:

The no boundary condition, is the statement that the laws of physics hold everywhere. Clearly, this is something that one would like to believe, but it is a hypothesis. One has to test it, by comparing the state of the universe that it would predict, with observations of what the universe is actually like. If the observations disagreed with the predictions of the no boundary hypothesis, we would have to conclude the hypothesis was false. There would have to be something outside the universe, to wind up the clockwork, and set the universe going. Of course, even if the observations do agree with the predictions, that does not prove that the no boundary proposal is correct. But one's confidence in it would be increased, particularly because there doesn't seem to be any other natural proposal, for the quantum state of the universe.

The no boundary proposal, predicts that the universe would start at a single point, like the North Pole of the Earth. But this point wouldn't be a singularity, like the Big Bang. Instead, it would be an ordinary point of space and time, like the North Pole is an ordinary point on the Earth, or so I'm told. I have not been there myself.

According to the no boundary proposal, the universe would have expanded in a smooth way from a single point. As it expanded, it would have borrowed energy from the gravitational field, to create matter. As any economist could have predicted, the result of all that borrowing, was inflation. The universe expanded and borrowed at an ever-increasing rate. Fortunately, the debt of gravitational energy will not have to be repaid until the end of the universe.

Eventually, the period of inflation would have ended, and the universe would have settled down to a stage of more moderate growth or expansion. However, inflation would have left its mark on the universe. The universe would have been almost completely smooth, but with very slight irregularities. These irregularities are so little, only one part in a hundred thousand, that for years people looked for them in vain. But in 1992, the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, COBE, found these irregularities in the microwave background radiation. It was an historic moment. We saw back to the origin of the universe. The form of the fluctuations in the microwave background agree closely with the predictions of the no boundary proposal. These very slight irregularities in the universe would have caused some regions to have expanded less fast than others. Eventually, they would have stopped expanding, and would have collapsed in on themselves, to form stars and galaxies. Thus the no boundary proposal can explain all the rich and varied structure, of the world we live in. What does the no boundary proposal predict for the future of the universe? Because it requires that the universe is finite in space, as well as in imaginary time, it implies that the universe will re-collapse eventually. However, it will not re-collapse for a very long time, much longer than the 15 billion years it has already been expanding.

Noteworthy, is the no boundary prediction that the universe will collapse onto itself eventually. The scientific community seem to have varying ideas about this. Mr. Hawking's language suggests something to the effect of the Big Crunch, whereas some camps predict a universe that continues to expandforeverwith ever-increasing disorder, thereby satisfying the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which all perspectives generally agree on about the future of the universe. The latter theory is generally known as the "Big Freeze". An interesting and good example of it, is provided below, courtesy of everythingforever.com (click on images for higher res)...

 Acceleration is how our unstable past and present becomes the perfect stability of the true vacuum. It will take many billions of years, but eventually all the curvature of matter and energy will be transformed into a perfectly stable zero space. A universe that was once all matter and no space will hence become all space and no matter. That final 'perfectly symmetrical' and 'seemingly empty' space will extend outward infinitely in all directions. It will exist everywhere, every when, and be everything.

What is this final state of the universe? Zero isn't a world like our world, where things exist separate from one another. Zero is the permanent background, a larger world that exists behind the finite world we experience. Zero is like a whole pie that can be cut into infinitely many different slices, yet is always whole. Zero is timelessness, it is the ultimate top-down viewpoint or omnipresent perspective. In the same way the mathematical zero can be seen as the combination or sum of all the positive real numbers and all the negative real numbers, the cosmological zero in our future is the sum of all possible matter universes combined with all possible anti-matter universes. This final state of our universe is the quantum superposition of all universes of the multiverse. It is a sum of all life, all knowledge, all information, all that we were, are, and become. It is the one great infinite sum, the implicate whole, the ultimate singularity, which is why it is so much larger than the past, infinitely expanded, stretching infinitely in all directions. The physically real zero in our future is literally everything forever.

Once time reaches zero, all that remains is a perfect multidimensional space that extends outward infinitely in all directions, and yet such distances are suddenly meaningless from our perspective living in a world of many things, because we can only measure distances in relation to things in space. So that whole is suddenly everywhere at the same time. How should we imagine this final state? Is it physically real? The biggest step in appreciating zero is getting past our expectations and assumptions. First, we couldn't be more wrong in assuming that zero or empty space is nothingness. Zero is the ultimate singularity, but singularities are just the sum of many things combined together into a single whole, or many things combined into one thing. This is why the Alpha state of the big bang is a singularity. The point of the big bang is a singularity because all the density of stars and galaxies are crushed and melted together into one thing. Likewise, the zero in our future is a combination of many things; for example it is a combination of all the possible moments, and all such moments are unified together into a superspace. The superspace of zero looks like nothing at all to us because it is a uniform and smooth singularity, but it is actually simply oneness. All universes and all lives are all fragments of one great super whole.
- Gevin Giorbran, everythingforever.com,as of 2007.

Of course, such viewpoints treat the universe as "infinite", even though it still agreed upon that it has a beginning at the singularity of infinite density; whereas, as we had just extensively discussed, the "no boundary proposal" says that the universe is finite in extent but without boundary, analogous to the sense the Earth is finite in extent but without boundary. See, for instance, from the aforementioned author above...

Many cosmologists of the last century spoke of the universe being "finite yet without boundary." Here the proposal is that the universe is infinite but bounded by extremes, the Alpha in our past and the Omega in our future.

However, it is hard to imagine an expanding universe that continues to build energy to expand endlessly forever, rather than loosing some as it proceeds with expansion. One might expect it to loose steam at some point The aforementioned irregularities in the microwave background would seem to argue for some force weighing down the universe, even if just very slight and made almost insignificant by the acceleration/expansion of the universe. As for the Big Bounce scenario; we've already looked into that, and the scenario seems to ignore the Second Law of Thermodynamics, wherein the universe would have gone through a phase of complete disorder before collapsing on itself. As such, any regeneration from singularity, will have had to work with a disordered starting point, rather than the relatively more ordered singularity that the Big Bang emerged from.

Image caption: Left: The Big Crunch, the universe collapses back into a singularity, but it doesn't bounce back from this singularity thereafter. Right: Image on the left could either be the Big Crunch or Big Bounce, though it seems to lean towards the latter by way of symmetry between the ends, on the middle appears to be a decelerating and eventually stabilizing version of the Big Freeze, while on the right, is the constantly accelerating and ever-expanding scenario of the Big Freeze. Click on images for higher res.

As for organized religions, needless to say, they offer the least falsifiable explanations for the genesis of our universe. Many of these faith-based even downright ignore observable evidence in the universe, and simply present them as "mysteries" of a supernatural being.


We now conclude with the Quantum Theory of our universes character in a nutshell:

The conclusion of this lecture is that the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago. The beginning of real time, would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down. Nevertheless, the way the universe began would have been determined by the laws of physics, if the universe satisfied the no boundary condition. This says that in the imaginary time direction, space-time is finite in extent, but doesn't have any boundary or edge. The predictions of the no boundary proposal seem to agree with observation. The no boundary hypothesis also predicts that the universe will eventually collapse again. However, the contracting phase, will not have the opposite arrow of time, to the expanding phase. So we will keep on getting older, and we won't return to our youth. Because time is not going to go backwards, I think I better stop now. - Stephen Hawking.

Going by the Quantum Theory, we are essentially recycled byproducts of chemical reactions in stars! With this perspective, life does not have to have "meaning"; it just is...perhaps answering that age-old question of what is the meaning of life. We are merely a side effect of processes in a space-time system, wherein as put forth in the "no boundary proposal", time is expressed abstractly from an anthropic perspective as "imaginary time", but which is otherwise as real as the abstract time of our universe.

So, as the saying goes: All good things must come to an end. This seems to apply to our universe as well, even if the very laws of physics which helped to generate our universe have no time boundary themselves.

If life vanished in the universe, it will be almost like it never happened at all, as there would be no intelligent observer around to care if it ever did. In fact, given our planet's miniature size in relation to the greater universe, let alone our yet smaller size, we essentially cease to exist in the universe, in a manner almost analogous to how the microbes of our world seem to be invisible to our naked eye. We may be significant to ourselves, but in the greater universe, we essentially have no control over what goes on and are reduced to irrelevancy. Some may frown at that very idea, but it is the objective reality of the universe!

Perhaps visual aids will help drive this point home more easily. Take a look (click on all images for higher res):

*Content herein is subject to future updates or modifications where necessary, upon new information.

Appreciations go to Stephen Hawking for making information available from his presentations on; The Origin of the Universe, The Beginning of Time, and Life in the Universe.

Wired Science website.

Scientific American website.


Personal notes 2010 & 2011..

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