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Science and Religion, version 3.0

25 February 2014, 12:31

My previous two articles concerning science and religion have largely focused on giving God a chance in a world driving forward through science. As I complete this trilogy, the one thing that I keep getting reminded about is that my God seems to be a God of the scientific “gaps”. And that as science progresses, there will be fewer and fewer gaps that God can hide in, and eventually they won’t be any gaps for him to hide. And by gaps I mean the areas that science is currently unable to explain, or things that a religious man can point out to and say “only God could have done that”! Even I am forced to admit, this is quite a compelling argument.

In spite of this, one of the biggest remaining gaps for scientists is that if there is a no God or creator, then how can the universe have existed out of nothing? If it indeed existed out of nothing as some scientists suggest, then this existence is a massive violation of the Law of Conservation of Energy. One of the promising areas that might help answer this question for science is the area of quantum fluctuations and virtual particles. Now, a virtual particle is a temporary fluctuation that exhibits many of the characteristics of ordinary particles like electrons and neutrons. These virtual particles (or particle pairs) have been observed to randomly pop in and out of existence in vacuum space. They appear to “borrow“ energy from the vacuum, exist briefly, then annihilate each other. And in the act of annihilating each other, they return the borrowed energy back to the vacuum. Could the energy needed to kick-start the Big Bang have been borrowed from nothing? This brief existence by these virtual particles appears at first sight to be a violation of the Law of Conservation of Energy, but because the energies involved are extremely small, the overall energy change in the vacuum is considered to be sufficiently negligible;

?E ˜ h/2p?T

So the Law of Conservation of Energy is not violated. It almost appears as if these particles exist out of “nothing” and for no cost at all. If our universe formed in a similar manner, then the implications could easily mean that several, quantum universes may exist. Ours just being one of many. The current problem with this theory however, is that these virtual particles have only been observed in a vacuum. Since we currently cannot recreate “nothing”, scientists are uncertain if these virtual particles can indeed still pop into existence if there is no space, that is, can they still exists if there is “nothing” to pop in and out from? A “vacuum” and “nothing” are comparable, but not quite the same thing. A vacuum has no matter within it, but it still has space and several other measurable properties like temperature. Whereas nothing is, well, nothing!

Either way, the atheist is still convinced that this and other “gaps” in Science will soon be filled. With this confidence, the only way the atheist will allow his views to be swayed is if concrete and irrefutable proof of “God" is provided. I think about this, and I wonder what I would do if I was “God”, and I was asked to provide proof for my existence? In a scenario like this where there is no conclusive evidence for or against God’s existence, I feel its quite reasonable to empathize, and come up with guesses as to what God might say or do when presented with such a question. Of course, none of this is scientific, but it might be a worthwhile exercise in the absence of concrete evidence. Therefore, for the sake of progress in this endeavour, let us for now make the assumption that God in fact exists. With this assumption, I think the only way we can properly empathize is to put ourselves into genuinely “divine” shoes. Now, the beauty of software is that you can pretty much model or recreate anything in the real world, and run it as an application on a computer. So, with this in mind, let us create a scenario in which we can recreate the universe as an application running in software, and in which you or I can play “God”!

Now this “virtual” universe might be unreal to us, but to the inhabitants of that universe, it will be as real as our own universe is to us. And since the only scientific model to creating a universe I know is the Big Bang, I intend to use that approach. So I sit and stare at my computer, but nothing is happening. This virtual universe I envisage seems to need a push in order to create itself! So, I return to the big bang, which tells me I need a large body of energy lying around. So I “create” this large body of energy in memory. I add a property to the Energy that allows it to spontaneously switch to and from matter as governed by the energy/mass equivalence.

So I sit and wait for the fireworks to begin. Well, sure enough, the energy seems to be changing to matter, but the matter immediately turns back to energy; no thanks to antimatter which destroys normal matter. To overcome this problem, I come up with a process I call baryogenesis, which ensures that more matter is created than antimatter. Through this process, the little antimatter that is created will eventually be destroyed over time. So the early universe starts to form. I add laws like gravity, the electro-weak and the strong nuclear forces in the order depicted by the Big Bang. The universe starts expanding. I add the more laws. To speed this up, I alter the time variable within this largely random system so that its internal time is about 5.5 million times faster than our current earth time. This might appear unrealistic, but everything will seem normal to anyone existing within this virtual universe. And that's it, this little experiment might need some inputs now and then, but it’s largely done. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you “The Virtual Universe”, version 1.0!

As time rapidly passes in this virtual universe, I observe the birth of stars and planets, constellations and galaxies. I occasionally run an algorithm to scan the various galaxies for signs of life, but so far, nothing. But at least through stellar nucleosythesis, we've began forming the heavier elements like Carbon and Oxygen on which life depends upon. I find a small planet in one of the galaxies where I can “encourage” the emergence of life because it’s just not happening. Sure enough, simple life forms emerge from the sea, and over time I begin to see more complex forms. I perform some genetic manipulation on these more complex forms to create early “primates”. Again over time, I observe these primates get smarter and their bodies adjust to the changing global climate. The early primate is far from human, but there are several adaptations I need built into his genes that his more advanced offspring will need to survive. In time, I see these primates evolve into “man”.

Although the early man’s DNA and mine are identical, I find him to be a brutal savage and utterly devoid of all law. Something inherited from the earlier primates perhaps? Violence, greed and hatred are rife. To help solve this problem, I find a “reasonable” man who I appear to in virtual form. I tell him who I am and give him some laws on “good and evil” to take to the rest of his kind. This is the birth of early religion, and I teach them how to pray. I respond to some of these prayers whenever I can. But I quickly realise that the virtual man is now attempting to use prayer as a means to further his selfish ambitions, and to avoid living responsibly. Therefore I decide to only intervene on occasion; this effectively makes causality the “god” of this virtual world. I continue to watch religion take root across the various races and cultures of man. I also observe several interpretations of the law of “good and evil”.

More time passes, and lo and behold, the year in this virtual universe is now 2014! And for me it has been 7 long years since I kicked off this “experiment” with “The Big Bang”. Life continues to thrive and man has indeed conquered this world. Within this virtual world, I have also created for myself a small paradise according to my tastes. From time to time, I go there to relax. None of the “virtual” humans are aware of the location of this virtual paradise, and I have made it virtually impossible for any of them to enter it. At this juncture, I decide to slow down the time in this virtual universe, making it equal to ours. I am somewhat impressed by man, he has already mastered flight and even dreams of travelling to the stars. In spite of his successes, war rages in various places, and man has damaged the ecosystem. Some still hold on to the law of “good and evil” I gave them in the past, but the majority think it’s all nonsense.

The one Sunday afternoon I decide to take a break from my normal chores, and I enter the virtual paradise I created for myself. As I enter it, I am both surprised and shocked to see one of the virtual humans in it! Is this the result of some unforeseen imperfection in my design? Equally perplexed is the man in front of me. He then, with fear in his eyes, asks me if I am the creator? I cautiously nod my head, and tell him to see me more as an architect, than a creator. He tells me his name is Kai, and then asks me what mine is. I tell him in all honesty; I am The XFactor, or simply X. I then proceed to tell Kai that he can ask me any two questions, and I will answer both as best I can, that is, if he has any questions at all. Kai stares at me, yet almost through me, and for a full minute I could see a million questions race through him. The two questions he asks me followed by my answers are as follows;

1.What natural proof is there that you exist?” - To answer this I first consider my experience building this world, and subsequently my experiences dealing with the virtual human race. I also consider the odds of how likely this world would have existed by chance on my computer, without my input. I tell him, “The supernatural and the ordinary are sometimes not that far apart. Are they now? Therefore those who choose to believe in a creator choose to see him in the ordinary things of life, like the rising of the morning sun, or its setting at night, and even more so when seeing the extraordinary. For your creator is indeed in those things. Yet those who choose not to believe do so even when presented with breath-taking evidence; I have performed miraculous healings in your time in response to prayers, yet the unbeliever looks at these and prefers rather to seek an alternative medical explanation on what may have caused the healing, than chose to believe. So in the end, it comes down to what you chose to see! And yes, your world could have existed out of nothing, but the odds of that are, well, laughable. So your very existence and all you see around you, should be proof enough! “

2.For what purpose do I exist?” – I am somewhat surprised at his question, yet at the same time, I can relate to it. The sad reality is that he and his entire race is an “experiment”. He’s world is not even real, though to him it is as real as my own. Yet I hide my surprise and this sad truth, and tell him to love his family make the world a better place if he can. He smiles at me, and that’s the last I ever see Kai. One of the utility programs I have running in the background must have found him, and returned him to his usual “reality”.

In the light of this “close encounter”, I decide to make my way back to reality sooner than I planned, but my mind is filled with many things. I light a cigarette as I stand on the balcony of my flat. I haven’t smoked in years. I can see waves crashing into the nearby beach; I breathe in deep, and think about my conversation with Kai. I find it sad that he only exists out of the whims of his creator, yet his pain and suffering are real to him as my own. Little does he know that should anything unfortunate happen to him, the garbage collector is waiting to de-allocate his memory space, and re-assign it for something else. I suddenly find the burden of playing “God” overwhelming and unbearable; as a smorgasbord of emotions and confusion streams through my mind. I conclude that my time playing “God” is at an end; therefore I pull the plug on my computer. At the same time, I decide to NEVER, EVER, EVER, play “God” again.

As the sun sets in the distance, I think about purpose a bit more. Do all men really “live and die in vain”? And is that the whole point of religion then; To identify a maker who can perhaps give meaning to an otherwise mundane existence, and in effect, give humanity some form of purpose?

Whether we exist out of a creator or not, “purpose” is one we all need to hash out.

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