This Week’s Hype

Today’s Newsday has a long article by Michael Guillen about the significance of the new Simons Center at Stony Brook. Guillen is a theoretical physicist who was the science editor at ABC-TV for fourteen years, and now is the host of “Where Did it Come From?” a science and technology show on the History Channel. According to Guillen:

Once upon a time, physics likened the tiniest imaginable whit of matter to a geometrical point that, strange as it sounds, theoretically has no dimension: no width, length or depth. But experimental research into protons, neutrons and other elementary particles led physicists in the late 1960s to argue that a subatomic particle behaves not like a point, but a string – a geometrical line segment, with length but no width or depth.

This stupendous hypothesis was followed by another in the 1990s, when physicists discerned in string theory resemblances to an 11-dimensional version of Einstein’s hallowed theory of gravity.

All of this and more has left scientists deliriously optimistic that in string theory – the latest, greatest offspring of geometry and physics – lies the makings of the long sought-after “theory of everything.”

Besides promoting the current delirious optimism about string theory among physicists, Guillen also makes a living as a motivational speaker and promoter of religious faith. His most recent book, Can a Smart Person Believe in God? tell us that

After the recent, unexpected appearance of something called string theory, science appears to be in the midst of changing its mind yet again. It’s not proposing we live in a universe that has ten or more dimensions!…

As we’ve seen, all the evidence indicates that science is not converging smoothly and consensually upon one firm, reliable understanding of the way our world began or how it operates.

As a guest on the 700 Club, Guillen explained that one of the three things that led him to his religious faith was

2. That if a person can believe in black holes and multiple universes, then it would be no big deal to believe in God.

This entry was posted in This Week's Hype. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to This Week’s Hype

  1. Big Vlad says:

    This is utterly depressing.

  2. nigel cook says:

    Guillen’s claim that the widespread belief in multiple universes justifies religion is one that Leonard Susskind intelligently tried to forestall by attacking religion, as indicated by the title of Susskind’s book: The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design. Susskind argues that string theory is justified because the string theory landscape of 10^500 metastable vacua explains the surprising features of our particular world by using the anthropic selection principle, and this theory is totally incompatible with that of intelligent design by God.

    Susskind’s use of string theory against religion should be one of the major selling points for string theory, and it makes intelligent design skeptics like Richard Dawkins pay close attention to the use of the stringy cosmic landscape as being ‘scientific evidence’ that intelligent design is junk. An early Dawkin argument (that the accuracy of quantum theory is evidence for multiple universes) is on video:

    The real question is whether there is any way of getting proof for the existence of a string landscape so that it can disprove religion?

  3. mike harney says:

    I think that although Susskind draws more attention to the argument (which may or may not be helpful), he doesn’t give strong evidence for his claim based on the landscape model. With little or no predictive capabilities, the current string landscape model is likely to be compared more and more to mystical concepts like the multiverse, which climbed into science fiction many decades ago, before this debate is over. Sadly, the public yearns for this fantasy as well so the tide is not likely to turn soon.

  4. Val Wanginstein says:

    How could anyone who went through UCLA, Cornell and ended up teaching at Harvard (according to his personal website, no 2nd. ref.), going through grad. level quantum mechanics, grad. level classical mechanics, and undergrad. labs, and then a Ph.D thesis defense, mix “belief” into science? (“That if a person can believe in black holes and multiple universes, then it would be no big deal to believe in God.”)

    It is a big deal. What does faith or some subset of supernatural tales about old dead Jewish men factor into, say, solving a dispersion relation and testing its predictions?

    At the very least, I’m glad that, from a quick and google lookup, Guillen hasn’t really contributed much to science or shown himself to be a competent scientist, other than passing his classes. Otherwise, my world would be shaken.

  5. srp says:

    It’s only fair to point out that many of the greatest physicists of the Scientific Revolution were partly motivated by discovering “the mind of God.” There is a school of historical thought that argues one reason British science was so empirically minded was because their theology was more voluntaristic, i.e. they thought God was not constrained by logic and could therefore have put things together any way he wanted, unlike the French, who tried to reason things out more from first principles.

Comments are closed.