The Science of Religion
Some reviewers (religious and not) have noted my novel CRISTOFORI’S DREAM for its “new-age metaphysics.” Magical icons are everywhere on the cover and in the story: the glowing dwarf evergreen, a "Bethlehem Star," the sparkling-tip pen, the glittering white butterfly, the Sacred Purple Orb, a dazzling maiden, glowing paint canvasses and books, and luminous snowflakes. Though I won’t argue that speculating in a work of fiction about the existence of Heaven, the afterlife, and the mechanisms—how God "does it"—that make them all possible can be interpreted this way, I want to make clear the current scientific theories (touched upon below) that have helped inspire the "magic." The faithful may bristle at the thought of using science to illustrate and defend religious tenets, but as the following column argues, science and religion are not the foes many perceive. If anything, secularism has co-opted science in an (unwitting?) attempt to disconnect man from God. So here’s my novel’s theory of everything. Perhaps there's a hint of truth in all of this science and speculation. You decide. That’s your Christmas gift from our Creator.
God’s Blessed Hologram
According to Leonard Susskind—Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University, Director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Physics, and former plumber—the universe is a hologram; that is, a two-dimensional film encoded with scrambled information particles and projected by an energy flow into a three-dimensional space. (He’s also an advocate of the Anthropic Principle, which one variation states that the universe was made for conscious beings. I like the fact that Dr. Susskind was a plumber. He has hands-on experience, and understands how things are put together. My money’s on him.)
The universe as a grand hologram is a fascinating theory, and one that is taking hold (and your tax dollars) in the scientific community—not only because it helps make common sense of the insanity that is our “universe,” but also because it blends into other scientific theories so sanely and eloquently. According to today’s science gods, simplicity is a telltale sign of the truth, in an Occam’s Razor way (the simplest explanation being the right one).
The Big Bang, Inflation &
The God Particle
There are those who say that the holographic universe came from the Big Bang which happened on its own, with no thought behind it, and no proof of or need of a creator; that the world in which we live is the result of inflation and one truly amazing set of incredibly happy circumstances; that the mass of substance, dimension, and reality is granted by an arbiter particle (the God Particle) within an energy field (the Higgs Field) through which all particles pass. (And yet here we stand—the grandest of all creations in the universe, the purpose of this universe—in His image and likeness, with no proof of others anywhere else in the immense and rapidly expanding cosmos.)
So where does the information about you and me and everything else come from? According to the religious community, that information comes from God. But how (in “scientific” terms)? How does God “do it”?
Dr. Carl Sagan coined the term “star stuff”; exploding stars created the elements we are made of. If God is the creator, then certainly the elements are “God stuff”. But what exactly is this stuff? What are the stars that make up the galaxies that make up the holographic universe? What are we really looking at when we gaze upon them? What are they part of? What is this?
A section of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III (SDSS-III) showing filaments of galaxies visible from the southern hemisphere. The galaxies, stars, planets—and us—are part of something energetic and grand. Photo courtesy of SDSS-III/PA.
There’s more to the holographic universe than meets the eye. Besides the stars (and the invisible gravity that holds them and the planets in place), there’s another invisible player that dominates the
holographic universe. For lack of a more precise term (the science gods don’t know what this stuff is because it can’t be directly seen or measured), it’s been conveniently dubbed “dark matter.” And it’s everywhere. The gravitational force from dark matter holds the galaxies together. Otherwise, stars in spiral galaxies like ours would fly off into space. Even more, dark matter seems to connect the stars in each galaxy. The stars on the outer edge of the Milky Way are rotating around the galaxy center at the same speed as the stars near the center (see Vera Rubin and the Galaxy Rotation Problem), where a giant black hole—scrambler of all holographic universes—resides. It’s as if the Milky Way were a phonographic record. And the Milky Way? It’s connected to other nearby galaxies, which, as a group, are connected to other galaxy groups. All that vast dark space in-between the stars and galaxies isn’t so “dark.” That’s the point: it’s all connected. Everything. All of it. To make a hologram.
Consider the atom, which makes all matter. Like the galaxies in our universe, atoms at their level are mostly empty space. Yet they make things that appear solid at a much higher level (ours). Perhaps the atom’s empty space, like our universe’s, isn’t so empty. Perhaps that empty space is dark matter that connects everything. Perhaps the atomic and subatomic levels are existences unto their own.
Black Holes/White Holes
Our holographic universe shows us quite dramatically how information can be scrambled, consumed, and perhaps even transported. Those giant black holes, so necessary for galaxy creation, have an amazing talent: they can scatter holographic information into single bits and swallow it all into an ever-narrowing stream the science gods call a “wormhole.” But that information, the famous paradox says, can never be destroyed. Some gods say it vanishes into an inevitable white-hot end called the “singularity.” Others say, on the other end of the wormhole, there’s a white hole, where that swallowed information is ejected into a “baby universe,” or perhaps into one on a much smaller level where the laws allow that information to survive and thrive as it passes through the Higgs Field, then reprojected into a new hologram that has “evolved” from the old one.
There are dimensions to this holographic universe that exist but cannot be seen—“curled up” is the trendy expression. Could the holograms that we have created with our minds be part of a curled up dimension? Another universe? Near-death experiences sometimes describe life images flashing in rapid succession, and the presence of a comforting light. Could all of our thoughts and memories, beliefs and dreams pour from this hologram into another, through a white hole, at this or a much smaller level? (Maybe they have been throughout our life.) Is that white hole made possible by the laws of faith for those who truly believe? Like thoughts and memories, beliefs are very real. They exist. Like thoughts and memories and our holographic universe, they have mass and “structure,” as philosopher Daniel Dennett likes to say. And they are malleable. Think of thoughts, dreams, and beliefs as artworks that you paint or books that you write with God stuff.
Superposition & the Holonomic Brain
The quantum world of the very small makes up our world. Funny thing about that quantum world: atoms and particles can exist in more than one place at a time (quantum superposition), only to assume a place when they interact with a conscious observer—us. That’s quite a gift, and a power.
Our brains, according to Dr. Karl Pribram and his holonomic brain theory, create unique holograms to store and retrieve great amounts of information in a simple but supremely effective way: in pictures, of course. These new holograms can and do evolve from the universal one we’re in—and exist nowhere else within that vastness. Here’s an added bonus: we have the ability to rearrange what we take in. One fashionable term is “thought.” Another is “dream.” It comes in two basic types: day and night.
“Infinite Regression” is a famous painting by Emmy-winning science artist Jon Lomberg featured in Sagan’s bestseller COSMOS (and on this site). It shows that an elementary particle in our universe may be a universe in its own right at a much smaller level, just as our universe may be an elementary particle in some universe at a much larger level. At all levels, the worlds of the very large and the very small look very much alike, as the electrons that orbit the protons and neutrons of all atoms make every object we see. (I think it is very interesting that Dr. Sagan, a fierce skeptic, took the effort and precious book space to present this theory, one that he called “religious.”) What takes billions of years to occur here in our tiny holographic universe is seen as a flash in the very large holographic universe we are an elementary particle of.
Physicists and science fiction writers often fantasize about the fiery end of the world, and how technology can save us by moving holographic information through a wormhole to other parts of the universe—or other universes—and reassembling it. Perhaps the mind is the great machine that, like a black hole, can scramble holographic information and send it into another dimension, another universe, through the Higgs Field—the Gates of Heaven—which grants that information substance, and recreates a new, improved hologram à la Sagan, Lomberg, Penrose, and Susskind, featuring all it takes for the likes of you and me to exist within.
The Theory of Everything
Today’s top theoretical physicists are obsessed with finding “the theory of everything.” The formula that expresses this theory, they say, will be short and sweet and elegant—E=MC2 simple. Perhaps, in the end, all of God’s laws and words and thoughts and His story of salvation—The Greatest Story Ever Told—come into play. We’re part of that still exploding story. Perhaps, in the end, it really does matter what you do or don’t believe.
If there is an afterlife, then there should be a mechanism and a formula that explain how it can happen, in that Occam’s Razor /E=MC2 way. (Maybe in a Quantum Consciousness way.) If the attainability of Heaven exists, as our faith tells us, then we truly have been granted a tremendous gift, being part of God’s Blessed Hologram—no matter the circumstances we were born into.
The universe, this hologram, is God’s dream of us and for us—then given substance, so we can dream.
Send me a comment or question here.