Saturday, April 2, 2011

Science fiction in Christianity Today

There is a really strange article Christ of the Klingons in Christianity Today which sympathetically discusses some wild claims about the theological significance of string theory by a theoretical physicist Gerald Cleaver [who works in M-theory (a version of string theory)] and a philosopher Robin Collins. Here are a few statements I found rather strange:
"To me [M-Theory] offers a Christian God whose creative ability is much larger than we ever could imagine before," Cleaver says.
To Cleaver, M-Theory's multiverse, with its dizzying variety, unending moments of new creation, and perhaps infinite scope, makes perfect sense as the work of "a God of the infinities, who creates eternally."
I've always had problems perceiving the infinite God that we believe in [as] creating life in just one spot," Cleaver says. "Over the entire past and future of humankind, there'll probably be no more than a few hundred billion humans to interact with God on this earth. That is a finite number that does not make consistent theological sense to me."
"The beauty of it suggests that this is the true picture of reality," Cleaver says. "The beauty of a theory is extremely important."
[He quotes Paul Dirac, a famous theoretical physicist who said in 1963]
"It is more important to have beauty in one's equations than to have them fit [an] experiment… . If one is working from the point of view of getting beauty in one's equations, and if one has really a sound insight, one is on a sure line of progress."
I think theology is silent on the merits of specific scientific theories. I would say that Dirac's view borders on being unscientific. Arguably, this obsession with "beauty" is why he did not make any significant contributions for the last 30 years of his career.
It does not matter what we think about the beauty of a theory. What matters is whether it can explain experimental data and predict the outcomes of new experiments. String theory is yet to do that and some physicists are skeptical whether it will ever be falsifiable. So is it science? Theology is grounded in reality and so I see no need for it to engage with such speculations.

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