The Science Channel is starting up yet another show on physics tonight, with Michio Kaku’s Sci-Fi Science and Into the Universe with Steven Hawking being joined by Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. The topics being covered by Freeman are the usual ones: Black Holes, Aliens, Is Time Travel Possible? What Happened Before the Big Bang? etc.
The series unfortunately first starts out by bringing religion into it, with an episode called Is There a Creator?
Did our Universe just come into being by random chance, or was it created by a God who nurtures and sustains all life?
I gather that the episode begins with speculative physics elements that include Alan Guth on the multiverse and Garrett Lisi on E8 unification, but then moves on to speculative God stuff, with a neurophysiologist followed by the “maybe we’re just a simulation” business. The New York Times today has a depressing review, by a writer who wants more of the God part and less physics:
…this opening installment, which is supposed to be about whether there’s a Creator, almost immediately degenerates into theoretical yakking by scientists about unified theories of this and missing particles of that.
Especially with recent news coverage of that particle accelerator near Geneva, it seems as if we’d been hearing about this type of physics for a long time, and the discussion never does go anywhere or have much practical relevance. Anybody got a particle big enough to plug that busted oil pipe in the Gulf of Mexico?
Anyway, after about half an hour, Mr. Freeman’s show does get intermittently interesting because it turns itself more directly to the Creator question. (Questions are pivotal to this series; future episodes include “How Did We Get Here?” and “Are We Alone?”) Doesn’t answer it, of course, but does check in on an assortment of scientists who have an assortment of theories.
One thinks our idea of God is a kind of neuropsychological tic and plunks a ridiculous-looking contraption he calls a God helmet on research subjects’ heads to try to prove it. Another suggests that we’re nothing but a computer simulation created by our own descendants. If this program can stay away from same-old science and work this territory — theories that sound a little bit crackpotish, a little bit geniusy — it might set itself apart in an increasingly crowded genre.
Update: Chad Orzel weighs in here.