Review of "The God Theory" by Bernard Haish
... for the Journal of Scientific Exploration by Professor Richard Conn HenryThe God Theory by Bernard Haisch. San Francisco Weiser Books, 2006. 157 pp.
$xx.xx / $xx.xx (hardcover). ISBN-10: 1-57863-374-5. ISBN-13: 978-1-57863-374-6.
Surely it is time for all of us scientists to consider returning to God?|
If reading that first line makes your blood boil, and you wonder how the Editor could possibly allow such a sentence to appear in what is, after all, the "Journal of Scientific Exploration," well, you need to read Bernie Haisch's excellent book. Your blood will quickly cool down, and you will become a happier person than you are at present. And you might even do better physics!
A few years ago I attended, at an American Astronomical Society meeting, an invited lecture on Evolution and the fight against Intelligent Design. The talk ran over, so instead of a question period, we were invited to cluster round. I asked the speaker, "why did you make no mention of quantum mechanics in your talk?" The speaker replied, "because I don't know boo about quantum mechanics."
To me, that is today's problem in a nutshell. What is presented as science is not science at all; it is a bunch of engineering approximations that have produced our technological plenty, but that have also produced spurious "explanations" for things; explanations that ultimately are incorrect, useful though they may be in a limited sphere. How can you fight something with nothing? The something is the spiritual feeling of purpose in human consciousness that makes so many susceptible to religions; the nothing is half-baked pseudoscience parading as Laws of Nature. No wonder religion is winning!
It does not have to continue so. The cure is for scientists to awaken to what real science is actually telling us. Bernie Haisch is an astronomer who has undergone such an awakening, and his thoughtful book can help you make that transition, if you have not done so already.
I have known Haisch for quite some years, because for a while we were both astronomers working in exactly the same field, chromospheric ultraviolet emissions from cool stars. We are also both astronomers who have become deeply interested in fundamental physics, and who, despite our limitations, insist on probing physics as best we can.
Much discussion of "religion v. science" today centers on the observed "fine-tuning" of the universe that allows human existence. This is supposed to prove something, which it does not. To some degree Haisch falls into this trap, particularly in mentioning more than once the Fred Hoyle prediction of a key nuclear level in carbon through noting his own existence. If the level were not there, there could be little carbon, hence no Hoyle. Ergo, the level exists. David Gross rightly points out that quantum chromodynamics is fixed, complete, and not tunable, and it just so happens that the level is there, Hoyle or no Hoyle.
But that kind of argument is not the essence of Haisch's case for God. Let me quote a single sentence from his book, which I have chosen because it so perfectly encapsulates my own understanding: "It is not matter that creates an illusion of consciousness, but consciousness that creates an illusion of matter." That is correct physics: it is not controversial in the slightest degree that there is no reality; this has been demonstrated in both theory and experiment (Gröblacher et al., Nature, 446, 871, 2007).
And yet in how many physics classes today are students made aware of this most fundamental discovery? In all of my classes, I assure you; but I am confident that this is not common. The illusion of matter, which is to say the illusion of a really-existing world, is so strong, that I think most scientists are unable to overcome it. It took me decades to finally realize that this is not a joke, and that the universe is purely mental: that mind is fundamental; matter merely an illusionand that this is physics, not philosophy (or religion).
And how, out of this, does God appear? Well, the only mind I know exists is my own. My choice is solipsism or God. A leap of faith is required, yes but it is an easy leap indeed! Haisch, too, says his is "a theory that looks promising, not scientific proof."
Haisch vividly points out the bloody history of organized religion that makes so many scientists happy to be freed from it, and makes them loath to come back to God. Haisch's early history is that of a Catholic seminarian; mine, that of a child raised in wishy-washy Protestantism, but never taking it seriously. You can read in the book what Haisch considers himself to be todayI would call it Unitarian. And as for me, I am now a theist. That is just an atheistbut without the a. All the difference in the universe!
So what is the practical effect? Take evolution. Like Haisch, I utterly reject Intelligent Design. But my view of evolution is drastically different from the conventional, supposedly scientific, view. We know from quantum mechanics that our observations create the past, as demonstrated by the famous delayed-choice experiment. Again, this is established physics, not philosophy. So evolution is simply not an issue for me: it is entirely correct, but of course backward. What is the result? Why none, except spiritually: the scientific investigation of the details of evolution must proceed apace! As with all of science! It is of immense valuebut do not abuse science by trying to use it to deny spirituality, which is in fact its source.
Haisch brings out the idea of subtraction as how God created the universe; it is a nice idea. Read the book! (I recall wondering myself whether, perhaps, on our first appearance as homo sapiens, we were not all Ramanujans-cum-Mozarts, and that evolution had damped this in most of us for the survival of the species.)
In his Introduction, Haisch says "I have arrived at a personal worldview that offers a satisfying and hopeful explanation of realitya worldview that is not only possible, rational, and compatible with modern science, but compelling and capable of resolving some of the most intransigent moral issues facing us today. It embodies a way out of our global dilemma and so I offer it for your consideration." I endorse this offer.
I am still personally uncomfortable mentioning God. When I made the transition (2004) I composed "Great omniscient Spirit" (GoS), to keep my notion pure, and free of the historical, often vicious, God. But I am coming to think that this is a mistake; that we scientists should be in the lead of the battle to reclaim God from the wrong-headed.
You will enjoy Bernard Haisch's occasional dry humor, and I think that you will be struck by the happy reasonableness of his proposal. I would like, please, every scientist, to give consideration to how much better off we would be, individually and collectively, if the God Theory could become, once again, just as it was for Newton, the working hypothesis of modern science. It beats hell out of reductionism!
RICHARD CONN HENRY
Professor of Physics and Astronomy
The Johns Hopkins University
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