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Searching for God in the Space/Time Continuum

Speaker Notes

How the idea arose:

Watching meteor show & looking into space/time

(No one had ever seen it, or will ever see it, as I did, because no one had ever or will ever be at the same point in space-time as I was.)

Star Trek:The Next Generation episode with the character Q
As a pursuing hostile, Q achieved Warp 9.9 --- although that might have been designed to tease the humans; he has since showed capability for instantaneous travel within both space and time within this dimension and perhaps others. The subject Q claims to have an Intelligence Quotient of 2,005 and to be ageless.

What do we mean by God

Creator, first source, many gods, personal god, etc. Some people have views of God that are so broad and flexible that it is inevitable that they will find God wherever they look for him. One hears it said that 'God is the ultimate' or 'God is our better nature' or God is the universe'. Of course, like any other word, the word 'God' can be given any meaning we like. If you want to say that God is energy, then you find God in a lump of coal.

- Steven Weinberg, Nobel prize-winning physicist

The fundamental belief of Sikhism is that God exists, not merely as an idea or concept, but as a Real Entity, indescribable yet knowable and perceivable to anyone who is prepared to dedicate the time and energy to become perceptive to His/Her persona. He/She created the spatial-temporal universe not from some pre-existing physical element, but from His/Her own Self. What is the Creator's purpose in creating the universe? It is not for man to enquire or judge the purpose of His Creator.
- Source: Wikipedia

The Jewish notion of God is not really explicit, perhaps because we do not believe that God ever took human form or walked the earth. When I try to speak about God, I think it is often to share my perplexity, and I often cite the parable from a children's textbook about a little fish.

One day he is swimming close to the surface when he hears somebody talking about the water - only he doesn't know what is meant by water. He wonders: `Where is the water?' So he swims around and asks all the different fish, `Where is the water?' but they don't know. Finally he finds the wisest fish in the ocean, who says, `The water is all around you. The water is inside you. The water travels through you.' But the little fish just laughs and swims off. To this day he is still asking, `Where is the water'

Along with being the All-powerful, the Living, Allah possesses limitless knowledge that encompasses everything. He is aware of the tiniest of particles. Nothing escapes His knowledge. He knows the numbers of the whirling stars and planets in the heavens, the grains of sand in the deserts of Earth, and the droplets of water in the oceans, rivers, and rain. He sees the worlds of life and things. His knowledge penetrates the past, the unknowns of the present, and the future, unbound by time or space or visibility. Knowing, the near and far, the big and small, is equal to Him. He knows what the hearts conceal and the truth of what people reveal.

To me, the concept of God is an obstacle to rational thinking. Since there is no real evidence on how the universe came about, it's easy to say God created the heavens and the earth (and in seen days!). Let's face it, God is the universal symbol for ignorance to those who can't or won't think for themselves.

Quotes from What Do We Mean When We Say God? ISBN 0-385-41132-4

Suppose God exists, but is totally oblivious to the existence of humans? .... (Maybe) God is something not very different from the sum total of the physical laws of the universe; that is, gravitation plus quantum mechanics plus grand unified field theories plus a few other things. If by 'God' one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. (But) This God is emotionally does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity"

Carl Sagan, Varieties of Scientific Experience

And, so ending our thoughts on what God is, the last word goes to:

If the word God is not to become completely useless, it should be used in a way people have generally understood it: to denote a supernatural creator that is 'appropriate for us to worship' .

- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
In a 1959 survey, two-thirds of leading American scientists believed that the universe had no beginning --- that it always was. Then, in 1965, came the discovery of the cosmic microwave echo of the Big Bang. Previous scientific thought was wrong - there was a beginning; And now there are theories that there is an end of time, when the universe will start to shrink and eventually implode.

Illustration of how much time has passed since creation of the universe:

 14-15billion years, age of universe
4.5billion years, creation of our solar system/earth
1billion years ago evolution of the first oxygen breathing creatures
250million years ago, dinosaurs walked on the Bay of Fundy, which was near the equator
40million years ago first evidence of monkey & ape like primates
1million years ago, first evidence of homo erectus

Lifetime compared to age of earth scaled to one year
Age of earth 4.6 billion years
a human life 70 Years
one year=age of earth:  
human life/age of earth 0.5 Seconds

This scales up to

  • About 15 seconds since Jesus was born
  • All of recorded human history (approx 8,000 years) is represented in less than a minute
  • A million years scales up to about 4 hours
  • 40 days ago the Bay of Fundy was dry land near the equator!
  • 1 billion years is equal to about 3 months!

And that's just our solar system which is about 4.5 billion years, the universe is some 14.6 billion years old!

Big Space:

Following Illustration of Big Space, the size of the known universe.
Orientation of Church -- North/South
Extend an imaginary line southward, it would pass through the city, Bay of Fundy and through N.S.

Scale: 100m = 100,000km
Width of property about 100m

  • distance to moon: a little past Regent Street
  • distance to Mars: about the northern coast of the Bay of Fundy
  • distance to sun: the southern coast of BoF, near Digby, NS
  • 8.4 light minutes from sun to earth
  • 4.2 light years from sun to the nearest star
a light year is equivalent to 236 million times around the equator of the earth (9,500 billion kms)

A typical galaxy has a few hundred billion stars. The observable universe is estimated to have around a hundred billion galaxies. So the number of stars in the observable universe is on the order of 10^23, give or take a few powers of 10.

Poem, `A Jest of God', Page 52 from Voices From The Edge of The Milky Way.

Small Space:

Particles, atoms, sub-atomic, etc.

For 2,000 years atoms were believed to be tiny solid balls -- a model clearly drawn from everyday experience. As physicist discovered that atoms were composed of more elementary, sub atomic particles (electrons protons, neutrons) the model shifted to one of a central nucleus surrounded by orbiting electrons -- again, a model based on experience.

An atom may be small, a mere billionth of an inch across, but subatomic particles are a hundred thousand times smaller.

Imagine the nucleus of an atom magnified to the size of a grain of rice. The whole atom would then be the size of a football stadium, and the electrons would be other grains of rice flying round the stands. As early 20th century British physicist Sir Arthur Eddington put it, matter is mostly ghostly empty space. To be more precise, it is 99.999999 percent empty space.

If the physical reality is mostly empty space, why does the world seem so substantial and unyielding? Why doesn't the 99.9 percent empty space of my hand simply pass straight through the 99.9 percent empty space of the table it is resting on? The simplest way of explaining this is that the electrons spin so fast around the nucleus, they create an impenetrable shell through which other particles cannot normally pass. And more recently, science is trying to determine the character of Dark Matter,

On Wednesday, Septermber 10th at 10:28AM local time, the most complicated scientific experiment ever, took place 100 metres below the earth's surface in a tunnel, 27 kilometres in circumference, in an area bordering France and Switzerland.

The Large Hadron Collilider (LHC) operated by CERN, sent protons in opposite directions, to collide at nearly the speed of light.

The purpose was to smash very small particles of matter (protons) together to see what very, VERY small particles fly off in the collision. These tiny pieces can be measured, weighed and evaluated, letting us know with greater accuracy the conditions following the Big Bang itself.

It will also greatly increase the understanding of Quantum effects such as supersymmetry and perhaps validate string theory. Even more interesting, it may give us clues as to whether time travel through relativistic spaceflight or via structures such as wormholes is technically possible, whether there are hidden dimensions or if it's possible to go faster than the speed of light.

And they're hoping that somewhere in this dizzying amount of data - they'll find something called Higgs boson otherwise known as the God particle, a subatomic particle that would help to explain why Matter has weight and not just energy.

Not only do scientists look to the Higgs to explain how things have mass but they also think it could help unify the fundamental forces of the universe into one coherent theoretical package. That's a lot of weight to place on an incredibly tiny particle - whose existence isn't even certain. But you don't get called the god particle for nothing.

The LHC is an immensely powerful and complicated machine, but its goal is to observe some of the tiniest phenomena - the collision of individual protons traveling at immense speeds, and thus carrying huge energies. When the protons collide, the energy they liberate will, for just an instant, duplicate the high energy physical conditions that existed in the universe just after the Big Bang. What scientists hope is that this will lead to the creation of new particles that haven't existed since that time, and give us new insights into how the universe worked in its earliest epoch. With this new information, they may come just a little closer to understanding how, and perhaps even why, the universe came to be.

Scientists believe that the LHC could explain the nature of not only the God Particle, dark matter, and black holes, but could also possibly confirm supersymmetry.

Also known as SUSY, supersymmetry is an arcane concept of paired elementary particles that lies at the heart of the theory that all the forces of nature are united -- a Holy Grail pursued by Einstein for the latter third of his life.

The next Holy Grail for particle physics was the Higgs boson, which both CERN and U.S. researchers tried to find with a new generation of particle accelerators. They had tantalizing glimpses of something that could have been the Higgs, but the accelerators weren't powerful enough to be sure. Named after British theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, who first proposed its existence, the Higgs boson is believed to give mass to elementary particles. Since all matter is made up of these particles, that means a hockey puck has mass thanks to the Higgs boson.

Says Teuscher: It's very hard to describe the Higgs field, because we haven't seen it yet. It's something like swimming in water. It doesn't damage you, but you feel resistance as you move.

I had been following the LHC experiment on the internet, and it was interesting to read the CBC news release. Only 10 hours after the experiment, there were 430 comments on the CBC Radio Quarks and Quarks blog site -- but the interesting thing was that after the first dozen or so, the majority of them tended towards theology and the possibility of evidence of God, rather than the science itself.

Which makes one reflect, Are physicists the next theologians??

The Space/Time Continuum:

Connection of space/time.
The four-dimensional continuum, having three spatial coordinates and one time coordinate, that together completely specify the location of a particle or an event.

As far as this world is concerned, everything is structured in consciousness. Immanuel Kant argued that this was even true of space and time. To us, the reality of space and time seems undeniable. They appear to be fundamental dimensions of the physical world, entirely independent of our consciousness. This, said Kant, is because we cannot see the world in any other way. The human mind is so constituted that it is forced to construct its experience within the framework of space and time. Space and time are not, however, fundamental dimensions of the underlying reality. They are fundamental dimensions of consciousness.

120 years later, we find Einstein lending support to Kant. Time and Space are not absolutes. They are but two different appearances of a deeper reality, the space time continuum -- something beyond both space and time, but with the potential to manifest as both space and time. But the space time continuum itself is never directly known.

- From Science To God, Peter Russell

The Search for God

Through the experiments (i.e. CERN/LHC), you can surely see where this is going and what it signifies. Through our enhanced understanding of our universe, with every scientific experiment such as this, your god of the gaps becomes smaller and smaller.

- From CBC blogger, concerning the LHC

Old paradigms

Language of Father, Lord, etc. attribution of human qualities.

Former 'theories' based on old paradigms -- the paradigms of the unknown being unnatural or supernatural, and largely being unexplainable. They were matters of faith, as explained by a cadre of divine messengers, shamans, gurus and priests.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

- Arthur C. Clarke

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. Martin Luther

New paradigms

The new paradigm is reality checked, science based -- are physicists becoming the new theologians?

The word God is a human construct. The attributes we connect with the word God are human attributes. All of our creeds and doctrines of God are human creations. It could not be otherwise. We are human beings. We can only think with human minds. Vocabulary is a human creation.

Human beings can discuss our God experience, but that does not equip us to discuss who God is. When Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems, Jews and Christians meet together, they cannot debate the nature of God, since none of them is privy to God's true nature. All they can do is to debate the validity of their varied human experiences and the conclusions to which they have arrived based on that experience. If we realized just that, then interfaith disagreements would not be about who God is, but about how each believes he or she has experienced God. That would make for a radically different conversation. It would be more humble and less arrogant, more a search for truth than the claim of already possessing it. I yearn for that level of honesty.

- From the website of Bishop John Shelby Spong

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, `This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant'? Instead they say, `?No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.' A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.

- Carl Sagan

Reading from alison calvern's eulogy to her father.