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Advances are made by answering questions.
Discoveries are made by questioning answers. Bernard Haisch
|Bernard Haisch, Ph.D., is an astrophysicist and author of over 130
He served as a scientific editor of the Astrophysical Journal for ten years, and was Principal Investigator on several NASA research projects.
After earning his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Haisch did postdoctoral research at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands.
His professional positions include Staff Scientist at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory; Deputy Director of the Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley; and Visiting Scientist at the Max-Planck-Institute fuer Extraterrestrische Physik in Garching, Germany.
He was also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration. Prior to his career in astrophysics, Haisch attended the Latin School of Indianapolis and the St. Meinrad Seminary as a student for the Catholic priesthood.
The God Theory is his first solo book. He is married, with three children, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Marsha Sims.
Bestsellers by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have denounced the evils of religion and proclaimed that science has proven that there is no God. Their angry accusations are partially correct. Religions have been used to justify crimes against humanity: witness the Inquisition of centuries past or the sectarian slaughter in the Mideast today. Religions are indeed a problem. But the human misuse of religions and the existence of God are very different matters.
A remarkable discovery has emerged in astrophysics: that key properties of the Universe have just the right values to make life possible. Most scientists prefer to explain away this uniqueness, insisting that a huge, perhaps infinite, number of unseen universes must therefore exist, each randomly different from the other. That way ours only appears special because we could not exist in any of the other hypothetical universes.
I propose the alternative that the special properties of our universe reflect an underlying intelligence, one that is consistent with the Big Bang and Darwinian evolution. Both views are equally logical and beyond proof. However exceptional human experiences and accounts of mystics throughout the ages do suggest that we live in a purposeful universe. In The God Theory I speculate on what that purpose might be… what that purpose means for our lives… how it might explain the riddle of evil.
Readable and engaging… ways of reconciling science and religion.
— Patricia Monaghan, American Library Association
A delightful romp through the labyrinths of philosophy, theology, and
science.… This book is very smart, very literary, very thrilling — a fine
— Dr. Larry Dossey, author of Space, Time and Medicine
Whether one will agree or disagree, powerful arguments are presented
for one to consider.
— Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 Astronaut Lunar Module Pilot
Bernard Haisch, an astrophysicist whose work has been reported in this
magazine… also trained to be a priest, and this book is his attempt to
reconcile his scientific knowledge with the idea of a purposeful universe.…Whether
or not you agree, it's a compelling read.
— Marcus Chown, New Scientist magazine
Is there a God?
There are good reasons to think so. It is now accepted in astrophysics that several key properties of the Universe and the laws of physics have "just right" values that enable life to arise and evolve. This is essentially undisputed. The explanation for this fine-tuning that appeals to most scientists is that this means there must be a huge number of other Universes, perhaps even an infinite number, in which the laws of physics are different. Life as we know it could never arise in such universes. Our universe is just one of these, and we find ourselves here because we could not have originated anywhere else. All universes arise at random, probably from quantum fluctuations.
This implicitly assumes that some kinds of laws or fields preexist to allow quantum fluctuations to arise. No laws, no action. And of course this also implies that these universes, ours included, have no purpose because they arise out of random processes. I am simply proposing that rather than purposeless laws or fields preexisting, it is a supreme intelligence that preexists, and that the ideas of this intelligence gives rise to laws of physics that create universes, so call it God. Both origin explanations are equally logical and equally beyond proof at this time, but there is a purpose behind the God interpretation.
What is The God Theory?
The idea goes back to one of the founders of modern astrophysics, Sir James Jeans, who wrote that the universe seemed to him to be more like a great thought than like a great machine. Well, whose great thought might that be? So I start with the concept of a supreme intelligence that has to be completely consistent with the Big Bang, evolution and other scientific knowledge. The God Theory then includes a very logical and compelling reason for why such a supreme intelligence would create universes in the first place: to transform infinite potential into experience. The experiences of the life forms (such as human beings) possible in the many different universes become the experience of the supreme intelligence. We are all sparks of God, experiencing his/her creativity. This has nothing to do with intelligent design: God does not need to microengineer or micromanage the evolution of life forms. The ideas of God are the basic laws of physics and the associated physical constants.
Is the God you are proposing at odds with science?
Not at all. Whether our universe originated by some random process or out of the ideas of a supreme intelligence cannot be determined by present day science. Since both lead to the same "Big Bang" origin of our universe, it does not affect science one way or the other. Science very accurately describes the Universe as it is. But science has no special claim on the ultimate origin of our universe and the myriad others that may exist in the current view of astrophysics and its multiverse inflation theories. Science has no way of knowing the ultimate origin of our universe and whatever others may exist. I suggest however that spiritual human experiences do open a door to knowing.
How can you have spirituality without religion?
I propose that spirituality should be viewed as a branch of knowledge alongside biology, astronomy, chemistry, etc. It is a branch of knowledge concerning an essence of our being and our consciousness that transcends physical matter. Many scientists would simply deny that there is such a thing, but that is opinion and dogma masquerading as fact. Since present day science does not study anything other than the physical, it has nothing valid to say about whatever non-physical realities may exist which can be called spiritual.
One can study spirituality without religion, and indeed I propose that ultimately one will not need the "middleman" of religion to study the laws of spirituality (whatever they may be) any more than one needs a religion of physics to study physics. Both the historical legacy and the present day practice of religion have a mixed record. Religion has often been used to exploit, conquer and slaughter, which of course is grossly contradictory to genuine spirituality.
Why do most scientists reject the idea of a supreme intelligence?
Much of the hostility of science toward God is a reaction against religious dogmatism and outright persecution of rational thinkers in centuries past, such as Galileo and Giordano Bruno. But there is also a sense in science that understanding of the ways the world and the Universe work has been one of steady progress, systematically replacing mythology with genuine knowledge. It becomes tempting to extrapolate these successes to an ultimate understanding of everything using the tools and methods of science. Next time you read a science-oriented book for the general public, note how frequently "triumph" or "triumphantly" is used to describe a discovery. There is a degree of arrogance and hubris at work: we, the sophisticated scientists, are smarter than the less educated masses who cannot appreciate the complexity of science and have no need for the superstitions of the hoi polloi. Indeed, a mind set can arise in which it becomes virtually impossible to conceive of any reality other than the reductionist, materialist perspective. The community one is immersed in does determine and reinforce a consensus view, and that is true of the scientific community. One can easily find the view expressed that since science has found no evidence of God, there cannot be a God. This overlooks the fact that science has neither the tools nor even the concepts to actually search for evidence of a supreme intelligence. If you loose your keys in the dark, but look for them under the lamppost because that's where the light is, you won't find any evidence of your keys.
How does consciousness arise out of matter?
Well, actually, I don' believe it does. I think that ultimately it is the other way around: that the origin of this universe and all others that may exist lies in the will of a supreme consciousness, a consciousness that we all possess, in varying degrees. Somehow that consciousness created a physical universe. I think we will discover in this century that we shape our reality via consciousness to a much greater degree than is presently acknowledged. The study of consciousness will, I believe, take center stage in science in the decades ahead, and I do not mean simply neurobiology explaining, and thereby in effect explaining away, consciousness.
What are the biggest problems with organized religion?
There are several major problems that affect, or have affected, most religions to some degree or other. The worst is intolerance, denying the legitimacy of beliefs not in accord with a given religion, claiming sole authority and in the worst cases outright persecution and suppression of dissent. Just consider the Inquisition. Intolerance is unfortunately still a major problem in some branches of religion. The fairy tale nature of some of the beliefs is also a problem, teaching notions of heaven and hell that rational people cannot accept. If you actually try to imagine a never ending state of anything, that can become pretty horrifying. Something that truly never, ever ends, no matter how good it looks at the outset, would become a nightmare eventually. Remember, Woody Allen said "Eternity is very long, especially toward the end." Heaven cannot be what most religions teach. Then there is the depiction of a God who is capable of hate and anger, as if he were a petty tyrant out to judge and punish. This is a dreadfully limiting view of a benevolent supreme consciousness. Lastly there is the frequent misuse of religion for political and economic ends.
None of these things make any sense, and that is why many intelligent people have turned away from religion.
Is there a purpose for my life?
Definitely. Our purpose in life is to create God's experience of his own infinite potential. We are, each one of us, tiny mortal flames of an infinite benevolent immortal consciousness seeking experience. God comes into this world through each of us. Some people do bad things. How can they still be manifestations of God? The answer is that unlike some infinite perfect realm of bliss, a real world comprised of matter and living beings capable of novel experience requires polarity. You can't experience light without the contrast of darkness. Heat is only hot in comparison to cold. So there has to be the possibility of "not good" to allow good to exist in the created universe. Factor in that the key to having a genuinely novel experience is free will. Free will plus the necessity of having some "not good" alongside the good can lead to some individuals creating great evil. To reconcile that with justice takes us into the concept of karma. But all in all, life is quite an adventure and that is the purpose of it. God participates in our life adventure because we really are him made manifest. We just had to forget that to make a novel, free-will based life experience possible.
How can you be so sure of The God Theory?
I cannot be certain of it, but it is a sophisticated, rational and, perhaps, elegant explanation of otherwise intractable paradoxes and dilemmas. It does not in any way contradict science. It takes seriously the mystical and prayerful and sometimes just extraordinary spontaneous experiences that people have reported throughout the ages. Physicist Werner Heisenberg wrote:
"It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet. These lines may have their roots in quite different parts of human culture, in different times or different cultural environments or different religious traditions: hence if they actually meet, that is, if they are at least so much related to each other that a real interaction can take place, then one may hope that new and interesting developments may follow."
In The God Theory I am trying to bring about a convergence of the spiritual and the scientific perspectives.
Can science and spirituality be bridged?
Not only can they, they must if science is to evolve. I think that the major discovery of this century will be the recognition that consciousness is endowed with unknown (at least to reductionist, materialist science) creative potential. Our consciousness is tightly leashed when it comes to literally creative abilities, and by and large for good reason. If we could easily manipulate reality with pure conscious intent, the world would be in utter chaos. But ultimately I suspect that consciousness does have that capability and that the rigorous study of that will become a part of science and may in fact become the dominant concern of science. So I see science moving into the spiritual realm not to debunk it or explain it away, as tends to be the case today, but to open a new vista that extends much further into new territory than most scientists even imagine nowadays.
What is the zero-point field in physics?
The three fundamental forces other than gravity known to physics all possess minimum energy states according to quantum laws that are greater than zero. Specifically for the electromagnetic force, there is an electromagnetic zero-point field with zero-point energy even at a temperature of absolute zero. This zero-point energy is what keeps liquid helium from freezing to a solid even at zero temperature. However there is major disagreement in physics on whether to interpret this field as real or virtual. There are major problems with having a real field, but it is logically difficult to argue away the reality of the field.
Metaphorically this field may be described as an invisible, uniform sea of light underlying the Universe. Unfortunately a great deal of not well-informed speculation has become associated with such a field. I have heard people proclaim "God is the zero-point field." It's not that simple. What is possible is that the zero-point field might be the mechanism whereby matter acquires its property of inertia, of mass. My colleagues and I have published numerous papers on this in mainstream physics journal and have been funded by NASA and by Lockheed Martin. It remains to be seen whether or not this interpretation of the zero-point field is correct, In The God Theory I speculate, and let me emphasize speculate, about the possibility that this electromagnetic zero-point field might in some sense be related to a "light of creation" of the physical world concept that you find in spiritual traditions.
Science today is based on the premises of materialism, reductionism, and randomness. Materialism is the belief that reality consists solely of matter and energy, the things that can be measured in the laboratory or observed by a telescope. Everything else is illusion or imagination. Reductionism is the belief that complex things can be explained by examining the constituent pieces, such as the illusion of consciousness arising from elementary chemical processes in the brain. Randomness is the conviction that natural processes follow the laws of chance within their allowed range of behavior. Given those beliefs there is one and only one way to explain the fine-tuning of the universe. An infinite number of universes must exist, each with unique properties, each randomly different from the other, with ours only seemingly special because in a universe with different properties we would never have originated. Our existence is only possible in this particular universe, hence the tuning is an illusion.
This view suffers from three problems.
First of all, quantum fluctuations are a key ingredient of inflation theories that attempt to address how our universe, and myriad others, came into being. The problem is that quantum fluctuations presuppose the existence of quantum laws. If there truly were no quantum laws or any other laws whatsoever, nothing could happen. No laws, no action. The origin of universes as a result of quantum laws, inflation fields, or other arcane properties of string theory depends upon the preexistence of those laws or fields. And so even the skeptical scientist cannot avoid taking that on faith.
The second problem is that none of the other universes can ever be observed, not even in principle, since trying to measure across universes with different fundamental laws would be like using a microphone to observe the moon or using a telescope to record a rock band. So yet a second article of faith is required of the modern scientist: the existence of an infinite number of unseen universes.
The final problem is more personal. If we are nothing but physical beings originating by chance in a random universe, then there really can be no ultimate purpose in our lives. This is not only bad news for us individually, it undermines the ethical and moral underpinnings of society and civilization.
I propose a theory in this book that does provide a purpose for our lives while at the same time being completely consistent with everything we have discovered about the universe and about life on earth, in particular the Big Bang, a 4.6 billion-year-old earth, and, of course, evolution. The single difference between the theory I propose and the ideas current in modern astrophysics is that I assume that an infinite conscious intelligence preexists. You cannot get away from the preexistence of something, and whether that is an ensemble of physical laws generating infinite random universes or an infinite conscious intelligence is something present-day science cannot resolve, and indeed one view is not more rational than the other.
One might argue that one view is supported by evidence and the other is not. I would agree one hundred percent. The evidence for the existence of an infinite conscious intelligence is abundant in the accounts of the mystics and the meditative, prayerful, and sometimes spontaneous exceptional experiences of human beings throughout history. The evidence for random universes is precisely zero. Most scientists will reject the former type of evidence as merely subjective, but that simply reduces the contest of views to a draw: zero on both sides.
What I propose is an infinite conscious intelligence -- so let's call it God -- who has infinite potential, whose ideas become the laws of physics of our universe and others, and whose purpose in so doing is the transformation of potential into experience. The difference between being able to do something and actually doing it is vast: making it happen, experiencing what it feels like, savoring the sensations are the tremendous difference between theory and practice. Playing the game is far more satisfying than reading the rules.
Astrophysicist Sir James Jeans wrote in the 1930s, "...the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine." So, too, I am proposing, in The God Theory, that ultimately it is consciousness that is the origin of matter, energy, and the laws of nature in this universe and all others that may exist. And the purpose is for God to experience his potential. God's ideas and abilities become God's experience in the life of every sentient being. What greater purpose could there be for each of us humans than that of creating God's experience? God experiences the richness of his potential through us because we are the incarnations of him in the physical realm.
That's what it's all about.
Dear Potential Reader,
I hope you might buy this book and wind up recommending it to your friends and family. If this book were as widely read as most of the fluff on the bestseller lists, the prospects for a more tolerant and peaceful world would improve, maybe ever so slightly, but improve nonetheless. That was truly my motivation for writing it.
In The God Theory I propose some answers to fundamental questions. They are logically defensible, consistent with science, and I think they are correct, but I'm not going to claim certitude nor that "the truth" has been revealed to me. I'm a scientist, not a prophet.
This is a very thought provoking book, deliberately short and, I hope, quite readable. I have tried to synthesize several decades of mainstream research as an astrophysicist and scientific editor with an equal amount of pondering the mysteries of life. I believe I have some ideas that you will find worthwhile and that will enhance the meaning and purpose of your life.
You will also find some stimulating and interesting speculation. It is clearly identified as such.
If you buy this book and spread the word, perhaps The God Theory can catch fire and thereby bring some light to a darkened world.
And if you have any ideas to share, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © Silesia Group Inc 1994