“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” ~Hebrews 11:1
In today’s world faith can seem to be a hard thing to have. Because of this, it is no wonder that atheism has become increasingly popular with today’s youth. In 2012, a Pew poll1 revealed that 20% of adults in general now describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or unaffiliated. More troubling however was that among those under thirty, this number rose to one third.
So why is faith so difficult in today’s world? The writer of Hebrew goes on to say that:
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
The rest of the passage goes on to explain that this same faith can slay giants when no one else has the courage, translate people to heaven without dying, and build arks when there is no water.
The trouble is that people no longer have this same faith. Science has buried God, it has been said, and everything supernatural is explained away by material causes. So there is no reason to believe that the universe was created by the word of God. There is no longer God, no Logos or Word, only a clock work universe of matter chugging along with no mindful intent behind them. Or so it appears at first glance…
To be honest, growing up I had empathy with the sorts of questions some of my generation are asking. I never lost my faith, but I would have problems with it. Like many of my peers, I wanted a rational scientific explanation for everything. Faith by contrast seemed blind and irrational. Being interested in science I set out to study physics with an interest in theoretical physics, the quest for the much touted “Theory of Everything” or TOE.
But I quickly found that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the philosophy of average atheist. As it turns out, in searching for the TOE, completely secular scientists have stumbled upon evidence of things not seen.
In 2009, Bernard d’Espagnat, a famous French physicist, received the Templeton Prize2 for his work on a concept he refers to as “the veiled reality.” Motivating this was his work on Bell’s Inequalities, a piece of mathematics dealing with quantum entanglement, or what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” Experiments3,4 done on this have revealed that the physical world can not be explained from within itself. We had been looking in a mirror darkly the whole time.
And this is only the beginning. The false idol the physicalists had erected in place of God’s word has been undone. In the search for the TOE, physicists have begun to replace matter with something else entirely, words, or more precisely information.
This realization arose primarily from the study of quantum gravity, the quest to unify Einstein’s theory of gravity with quantum mechanics. According to Einstein, gravity is a bend in the fabric of space-time. But this does not make sense on the materialistic view of space as empty nothingness.
If one wishes to discover the explanation of space-time, one must necessarily explain it in terms of something more fundamental than space-time. But this is a problem if you are a physicalist. Everything we call physical exists within space-time. Thus whatever this explanation is, it must be non-physical.
According to our best quantum gravity theories, space-time is not physically real, but is rather a construct of information. This was first realized in the 90’s by the discovery that the contents of a black hole were in fact nothing more than a holographic projection of information from its surface. It was then quickly realized by physicists like Juan Maldacena and Leonard Susskind that this conclusion applies, not just to black holes, but to the universe at large5.
Others like Fotini Markopoulou of the Perimeter Institute have come to the conclusion that space simply flat out doesn’t exist, but is an emergent effect of a network of information6. As Hebrews 1:3 tells us, all things are upheld by the power of God’s word, not figuratively but literally.
Another prominent theoretical physicist, Lee Smolin, agrees. In his book Three Roads to Quantum Gravity7, he argues additionally that prior to the creation of the universe, there was no space, no energy, no matter, instead nothing but information. God spoke the universe into existence. The Word became flesh. In the beginning was the Word, not the matter.
“Is the fabric of space an emergent illusion?”
Lastly as an interesting note, is a quote from one of the founding fathers of digital physics, John Archibald Wheeler, a colleague of Albert Einstein:
“It from bit” symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom — a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation;”
Going back to Hebrews 11:3 we can see the obvious, one might say eerie, parallel:
“By faith we understand that the universe (it) was created by the word (bit) of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
Now the exact word for “created” in Greek is katartizo, and can also be translated as “framed.” It can carry the connotation of “fit” or “set in order,” or one might say in another sense, parameterized and programmed. This being the case, the passage of Hebrews 11 makes perfect sense. We don’t see God, but we live in His “computer game.” Nothing happens outside of His control. And once we realize that, what is there to fear?
1) “Nones” on the Rise, (October 2009): http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/
2) Concept of ‘hypercosmic God’ wins Templeton Prize, New Scientist (March 2009): http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16769-concept-of-hypercosmic-god-wins-templeton-prize.html#.UvKLj7RgZhk
3.) Nonlocality vs. many-worlds: The material world emerges from outside space-time, Antoine Suarez: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-YULI2WfBs
4.) Physicists bid farewell to reality?, Nature News: http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070416/full/news070416-9.html
5.) A Thin Sheet of Reality: The Universe as a Hologram, World Science Festival, (2011): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsbZT9bJ1s4
6.) Why is the Universe so Breathtaking? (Fotini Markopoulou) Closer to Truth: http://www.closertotruth.com/video-profile/Why-is-the-Universe-so-Breathtaking-Fotini-Markopoulou-/72
7.) Three Roads to Quantum Gravity, Chapter 4, pp 64-65 Lee Smolin (2001)
8.) Digital Physics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_physics#Wheeler.27s_.22it_from_bit.22