The Anthropic Principle; and Steven Weinberg

>>back home

The Anthropic Principle addressed the fact that our Universe has very precise relationships between its fundamental physical constants, and that this has seemed a vital factor in the appearance of life. In its 'strong' form (discussed in chap. XI), this was early taken to mean that our Universe must have been intelligently designed for life. There are scientists who still believe this, but they are hardly the majority. Other views are logically possible. Common are the 'Many Worlds' hypotheses (see Steven Weinberg, DREAMS OF A FINAL THEORY, Hutchinson, 1993). These hold that a vast number of other universes also exist through 'statistical fluctuations' like that which produced ours, each having its own spacetime, matter, physical constants, and laws governing its evolution. But very few of these universes probably have the stringent inner congruities necessary for developing life and intelligence. The 'Many Worlds' views replace one designed Universe with a vast number of undesigned ones with Chance doing the rest, and man finally turning up. Ours might perhaps be the only case of this ever to have happened. All this seems to make a Creator unnecessary – at least to some.

At the start of his chap.11, What about God? Steven Weinberg writes:

"If there were anything we could discover in nature that would give us some special insight into the handiwork of God, it would have to be the final laws of nature. Knowing these laws, we would have in our possession the book of rules that governs stars and stones and everything else. So it is natural that Stephen Hawking should refer to the laws of nature as 'the mind of God.'"(p.193, italics his)

In the course of this chapter accordingly he seems to suggest that the Superconducting Super Collider 1 might be able to crack the secrets of the 'mind of God'. My reaction to this is to recall the words of Jesus Christ in a similar connection: Ithank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight (Matt. 11.25,26). Those words reflect the consistent testimony of the whole Bible; 1Sam.3.1‑10 and John 20.11‑18 exemplify this.

Consider man himself, man with a 'mind'. Isn't his mind an element of "the handiwork of God", in fact the one of whose existence he himself has the most direct knowledge and the most invincible certitude? (cf. Descartes' foundational Cogito ergo sum2). But Hawking and Weinberg seem surprisingly to have overlooked this! This cannot be right. "The final laws of nature" must surely include along with the quantum‑gravity laws and the physico‑chemical laws governing his body, the inescapable moral laws addressing his life and behaviour. Where is the logic of excluding these as mere 'religion'? For quite contrary to Weinberg (p.204), all the major religions of the world emphatically do here "point radically" in the samedirection. The great biblical command is typical, Youshall love your neighbour as yourself (Lev.19.18; Matt.19.17‑19). As C. S. Lewis once said, Moses wasn't sent to give the Israelites the moral law but to remind them of it; it is still in essence universally held by all honest people, and to exactly the same degree as agreed science is. But according to the Bible man chose to rebel, and a rebel he still is (Gen.2.17; 3.6; Rom.1.18ff). The fact that he was able to do so doesn't make moral law a lesser thing than physical; it was the profound accompaniment of the unique gift3 of a thinking mind. He had thereby the ability to be (or not to be) a fellow‑worker with God (1Cor.3.9); this is the high point of the biblical view, summarised in the great statement of Deut.29.29:

The secret things belong to the LORDour God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law

When we seek to explain the elemental source of the 'how' and 'why' behind this, religions do disagree; but things are quite similar in science. Einstein and Bohr disagreed at this level ‑ and Weinberg and Mayr still do (pp.41,42). Science and religion differ in that one judges what is, by the senses; the other judges what ought to be by the conscience. But the lines run parallel. In this connection, Weinberg's remark about "the lessons of religious experience" which "can be deeply satisfying" and which therefore are to him "indelibly marked with the stamp of wishful thinking" (p.204) is singularly inopportune. In genuine religion (especially biblical religion) experience never has meant a quick reward "deeply satisfying" and so "indelibly marked by wishful thinking". Has he never read John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, one of the most enduring of all books? Weren't many of the first Christians thrown to the lions? And still further back did not Stephen confront the synagogue leaders with the words "Which ofthe prophets did your fathers not persecute and kill?" (Acts 7.52). These things hardly support this Steven's thesis about the influence of "wishful thinking"! (see John 12.24‑27, and Acts 14.19‑22).

Weinberg suggests that "all our experience throughout the history of science has tended . . toward a chilling impersonality in the laws of nature". At the lowest level, is this how he understands Kepler, Newton, Clerk Maxwell, Faraday and many others today? Could he say what sort of observation would impress him as "a sign of the workings of an interested God"? It might make his search at once more rewarding if he did. Unlike mere physical sense experience, experience of persons is very dependant on our approach; and (in the Bible), God is a Person:

" you will seekthe LORD your God, and you will find him if youseek Him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deut.4.29).

This is the Bible's answer to his remarkable comment, "If there is a God that has special plans for humans, then He has taken very great pains to hide His concern for us" (p.200). The Bible puts it exactly the other way round; it is man who hides himself from God (Gen.3.8). I wonder how hard Steven Weinberg has ever tried to find Him? (I almost said 'put the matter to experimental test?'). He might be very surprised if he did (see note 4 below). But one thing I greatly admire him for is his attitude of "caring about such things" as these (p.205); many despise them. I truly wish him well.

NOTES

1    A vast and vastly expensive installation for which he was among those

      seeking Government funding

2    "I think, therefore I am" (Descartes).

3    A kind and wise ruler would never give his subjects fast automobiles

      for pleasure without imposing a highway code, as C S Lewis observed.

4    Paul's speech to the Stoics and Epicureans in the Areopagus at Athens

      is very apposite here (Acts 17.16‑34). See also Luke 24.