Friday, June 19, 2009

"The God Theory" by Bernard Haisch. Does this theory work?

The book "The God Theory" from a scientist appears to be a promising introduction to a new science where God has a role. Haisch has written about the Freeing the Scientific Imagination from Fundamentalist Scientism, and he also manages a thoughtful website about phenomena beyond current science. It is clear that he is trying to formulate some new ways of thinking about science, and also, though less clearly, about theology and spirituality. I am glad to see he avoids some of the reductive pitfalls that others suffer from who consider some of these topics.

Any science with a role for God, however, ought to say how God exercises that role. And if God is active, and not meant to be a passive bystander to the universe, a science should say how it is possible for God to have an influence on the universe. For, without such an influence, it makes no difference to us what God thinks of us and our actions. Note that even communicating with us is an influence of some kind. Analogous to this question, is the second issue whether our minds have some influence on atoms on the world without themselves being made of atoms. It seems as if we do, and every day (every time we act) we collect enormous quantities of empirical evidence in favour of that hypothesis.

What does Haisch have to say about the influence of God and/or our minds on the physical universe? More specifically for science, we can ask whether his God Theory has empirical consequences? He replies that there might be a basis for understanding certain paranormal phenomena.

But is this true? For it seems to contradict what he says in his book. On pages 42 and 67, for example, he says that consciousness is not able to shape matter now, but only at the beginning of the universe. He therefore implies that the universe then evolves according to fixed physical laws, and so he has a kind of Liebnizian preestablished correspondence. Thus it only appears that eg our minds now have causal influences, even though (in strict reality) they do not.

This seems to me to be a rather weak way for consciousness to have an effect, requiring as it does some kind of predestination. Furthermore, this view is difficult to sustain when he also believes that there is inherent novelty & indeterminism in the evolution of the universe (p43). If we are able to be 'tuning our personal consciousness to a universal consciousness not limited by space and time', then presumably the words we speak physically are influenced now by this perception now. This is indeed a 'novelty' in evolution, so how can he insist that the universal consciousness can only have effects by arranging in advance the laws of physics? Is that what happens in paranormal experiments?

There is thus a problem here!

This is the problem of the closure of the physical universe, which all physicists believe theoretically, but disbelieve in practice every time they decide to move their arms. We see that, despite advocating a "God Theory", Haisch is unwilling to deny the closure. This is in order to stay within physics, and not upsetting other physicists too much. He wants to explain only that closure appears to be false.

I'm a physicist, and I do not believe in the closure of the physical universe. There is a challenge: to understand how this is systematically possible! To understand how it could be that most physical processes are described by natural laws, but not all. What decides even that? Why are parapsychological events rare when we look most for them?

This lack of closure is the way I think we will have to go. For more ideas on this subject see my collection of online articles. And in denying closure, we must not be afraid: either of other physicists being alarmed, or of the intelligent designers being ecstatic. I don't think either group has anywhere near the whole story: we have therefore to understand and describe the truth as best we can.

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