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Posts Tagged ‘intelligent design’

The short answer is no, but he has said some interesting things about who God might be.

Michio Kaku

Michio Kaku. Credit: Cristiano Sant´Anna/indicefoto.com. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This question came to my attention this past week, when someone pointed me to articles on this topic, including “Top scientist claims proof that God exists, says humans live in a ‘world made by rules created by an intelligence’,” at the website Christian Today.  That article makes the claim:

A respected figure in the scientific community recently said he found evidence proving that there is a Higher Being, which he described as the action of a force “that governs everything.”

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, who is known as one of the developers of the revolutionary String Theory, said theoretical particles known as “primitive semi-radius tachyons” may be used to prove the existence of God.

However, nothing on this topic appears on Kaku’s official website, and a search of academic sources reveals nothing written by Kaku referring to “semi-radius tachyons.” According to Jay L. Wile, a nuclear chemist and textbook author,

Tachyons are theoretical particles. We have no idea whether or not they exist. If they exist, they travel faster than the speed of light, so it’s hard to know how in the world we could ever detect them, much less conduct tests on them. I have no idea how such particles can tell us something about the nature of the universe. I looked in vain for an article on the subject authored by Dr. Kaku himself. I then went to his Facebook page, which made no mention of this “monumental discovery.”

Since I couldn’t find anything written by Dr. Kaku, I decided to investigate these “primitive semi-radius tachyons” myself. I had never heard that term before, but then again, I am not a particle physicist. So today, I tried to find the term in my reference books. I could not. When I did an internet search on the term, the only hits I got were to articles about this supposed discovery. As a result, I seriously doubt that primitive semi-radius tachyons exist, even in the minds of theoretical physicists.

Wile, in fact, discovered that this assertion about Kaku’s “discovery” goes back to at least 2013, when it was apparently circulating on Spanish- and Portuguese-language websites.

So the claims that Michio Kaku has found God seem fabricated, or at least exaggerated. However, I do find that Kaku has made some interesting statements about the possibility of design in the universe. Wile characterizes Kaku as “a theoretical physicist who had done some cutting edge research a couple of decades ago, but is more of a ‘scilebrity’ today, promoting science and his ideas about the future on television shows, etc.” For that reason, it’s possible to find a number of video presentations by him. In some ways, Kaku seems to espouse a belief in the god of Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who believed not in a personal God, but in a god “who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists,” as Albert Einstein put it.

In a 2013 video program, Kaku said:

The goal of physics, we believe, is to find an equation perhaps no more than one inch long, which will allow us to unify all the forces of nature and allow us to read the mind of God.

And what is the key to that one-inch equation? Super-symmetry. A symmetry that comes out of physics, not mathematics, and has shocked the world of mathematics.

But you see, all this is pure mathematics, and so the final resolution could be that God is a mathematician. And when you read the mind of God, we actually have a candidate for the mind of God. The mind of God, we believe, is cosmic music, the music of strings resonating through eleven-dimensional hyperspace. That is the mind of God.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein in 1947. Photo by Orren Jack Turner.

And in a 2011 interview, he more specifically referenced Einstein and Spinoza:

Einstein was asked the big question, Is there a God? Is there a meaning to everything, right? And here’s how Einstein answered the question. He said there really are two kinds of gods. We have to be very scientific. We have to define what we mean by God. If God is the God of intervention, a personal God, a god of prayer, the God who parts the waters, then he had a hard time believing in that. Would God listen to all our prayers, for a bicycle for Christmas? Smite the Philistines for me, please.

He didn’t think so. However, he believed in the God of order, harmony, beauty, simplicity, and elegance, the God of Spinoza. That’s the God that he believed in, because he thought the universe was so gorgeous. It didn’t have to be that way. It could have been chaotic. It could have been ugly, messy. But here we have the fact that all the equations of physics can be placed on a simple sheet of paper. Einstein’s equation is only one inch long. And the quantum theory is about a yard long, but you can squeeze it onto a sheet of paper…

… And with string theory, you can even put those two equations together, and string theory can be squeezed into an equation one inch long. And that equation, but the way, is my equation. That’s String Field Theory. That’s my contribution.

But we want to know, where did that equation come from, you know. This is what Einstein asked. Did God have a choice? Was there any choice in building a universe? When he woke up in the morning, he would say, “I want to create a universe. I want to be God today. What kind of universe would I create?” This is how he created much of his theory.

So, Kaku doesn’t really claim to have proven the existence of God through physics. However, he does acknowledge that the physical universe implies that there is something more going on than just a big random mess.

ARK — 19 June 2016

 

 

 

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This question occurred to me a few days ago, and it is really still just a question (comments welcome below). It came up a few days ago when I was looking at the Facebook profile of an old friend, and under the “Religion” field he had written “Agnostic.”

Supposedly an agnostic is someone who admits to the possibility of God but just hasn’t seen evidence. But really, for most people who identify themselves that way, could there possibly be enough evidence?

In reality, the evidence is freely available to people who are humble enough to consider it, so that, to me agnosticism seems like willing ignorance (see Romans 1:20, 21).

ARK — 28 June 2010

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[Updated 18 June 2010]

This post is always going to be a work in progress, as there is a lot to say about it and there seems to be no end to the lunacy of those who adhere to Evolutionist ideology.

Normally I steer away from the design-evolution debate, but I think it will be useful for public discourse — and also for the Edhai project — to articulate some thoughts about what I call “knee-jerk evolutionism.”

I use the term “evolutionism” because for many writers, researchers, and commentators, a belief in evolution rises to the level of ideology — 10 percent science and 90 percent disingenuous credulity.

I use the descriptor “knee-jerk” because for many people evolution has become an unquestionable underlying assumption and is often trotted out for the skimpiest of reasons as an explanation for human behavior or phenomena in nature.

When I use the word “evolution,” I use it in its fullest sense, as in this definition:

Organic evolution is the theory that the first living organism developed from lifeless matter. Then, as it reproduced, it is said, it changed into different kinds of living things, ultimately producing all forms of plant and animal life that have ever existed on this earth. All of this is said to have been accomplished without the supernatural intervention of a Creator. Some persons endeavor to blend belief in God with evolution, saying that God created by means of evolution, that he brought into existence the first primitive life forms and that then higher life forms, including man, were produced by means of evolution.

(Source: Reasoning From the Scriptures. Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1985).

Recent examples of the Evolutionist ideology can be seen in the otherwise-excellent books The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan and Bright-Sided, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Both authors fall back on evolutionary psychology and sociobiology and the requisite just-so stories as explanatory tools for phenomena in nature and human psychology.

A post on BoingBoing from Andrea James on 11 January 2010 makes some great points about knee-jerk Evolutionism — see “What’s wrong with evolutionary psychology?” James provides this excellent list of “often-believed tenets of evolutionary psychology”:

  • Computational mind (the brain is more like a computer than a biological organ)
  • Determinism (biology is destiny)
  • Fatalism (free will/choice is an illusion)
  • Consciousness (subjective awareness deludes us into thinking we have free will)
  • Reductionism or essentialism (race and gender are concrete, not socially constructed, can be reduced to their genetic essence, and are quantifiable)
  • Intelligence is definable and measurable
  • Sexual selection should focus on benefits for the individual organism
  • The “function” or “purpose” of life is to make more life
  • The __ gene: The gay gene, the god gene, etc.

James also quotes a hilarious (but not untypical) example from one paper that maintains that “women’s brains developed to prefer pink because their brains specialized with trichromacy for gathering fruits”:

… these underpin the female preference for objects ‘redder’ than the background. As a gatherer, the female would also need to be more aware of color information than the hunter. This requirement would emerge as greater certainty and more stability in female color preference, which we find. An alternative explanation for the evolution of trichromacy is the need to discriminate subtle changes in skin color due to emotional states and social-sexual signals; again, females may have honed these adaptations for their roles as care-givers and ’empathizers.’

Another particular silly example of sociobiology attempts to explain why middle-aged men embarrass their kids by dancing awkwardly at weddings (see “‘Dad dancing’ may be the result of evolution, scientists claim,” Matthew Moore, Telegraph):

The cringeworthy “dad dancing” witnessed at wedding receptions every weekend may be an unconscious way in which ageing males repel the attention of young women, leaving the field clear for men at their sexual peak.

“The message their dancing sends out is ‘stay away, I’m not fertile’,” said Dr Peter Lovatt, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire who has compared the dancing styles and confidence levels of nearly 14,000 people.

I expect to update and expand this entry from time to time, as the silliness in this area of fringe science is never-ending.

ARK — 10 December 2009

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I recently finished reading The Origin of Speeches: Intelligent Design in Language, a fascinating book by Edenics scholar Isaac E. Mozeson.

Edenics is a linguistics project undertaken to study the original human mother tongue called Edenic, the language given to Adam in the garden of Eden. Mozeson is the leader of a group of scholars working on Edenics.

Wikipedia entries related to this idea include “Adamic Language‘” “Proto-World Language,” and “Monogenesis.”

Whereas Mozeson is an independent scholar, Merritt Ruhlen is a more credentialed linguist, a Stanford professor who advocates a monogenetic view of human language. I previously reviewed his book The Origin of Languages: Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue — also a fascinating book — see my previous entry, “Ruhlen’s ‘The Origin of Language’ Points to Common Source for All Tongues.”

Mozeson is one of those investigators unlikely to receive much credence from mainstream academia. For one thing, the use of the phrase “intelligent design” in his title is likely to turn away all but the most open-minded of academics.

However, on a more substantive level, one of Mozeson’s key premises flies in the face of conventional linguistic theory, which maintains that words are for the most part arbitrary. Most linguists recognize that humans are innately programmed for language, but they maintain that the words themselves are essentially arbitrary sounds that have arisen and developed over time.

Mozeson, however, asserts that the Edenic program in the human brain naturally inclines humans to assign certain meanings to certain sounds. Humans now speak different languages because of the confusion and dispersion that took place at Babel as describe at Genesis 11:1-9 — go here to see those verses in the King James Version; here you can look them up in the modern New World Translation.

Another departure from mainstream linguistics — although a more subtle departure — is Mozeson’s reconstruction of Edenics by comparison of cognates (similar word forms found in different languages) in many languages at once. Such a method is not unknown in linguistics — this is the kind of method Ruhlen uses, as did his predecessor Joseph Greenberg, also of Stanford.

On page 50, Mozeson points to the obvious cognation of English eye with Hebrew ayin, supported by Chinese yan and Eskimo iye. However, to mainstream scholars any relation between Hebrew and non-semitic languages is anathema. Mozeson writes about such words,

They ought to be called cognates, but linguists would never concede that the English and Hebrew words share a common ancestry.

Admitting such a relationship would take academics in an uncomfortably non-atheistic direction.

Mozeson’s book provides many interesting examples of global cognates and shows their potential relationship to Biblical Hebrew, which he believes is the surviving language closest to the original Edenic. That makes sense, as Noah’s son Shem and other faithful descendants would not have joined in the rebellion at Babel and would not have had their languages confused.

On page 108, Mozeson makes a good case for an Edenic source for the English word market and its cognates in other modern languages: commerce, market, mart, mercantile, mercenary, mercer, merchant, mercury, and merchandise.

Mozeson connects all these cognates with Edenic Mem-Khaf-Resh, meaning to sell.

As another example, he asserts that

The Edenic SHOR (bull) became the Aramaic TOR (bull). This is how Latin and Spanish got words like TAURUS and toro.

While Mozeson’s ideas are interesting and worth considering, I wonder if he is too liberal in defining cognates. Is he cherry-picking?

Mozeson often connects words as cognates even if their consonants appear in a different order.

So, for example, the Edenic for word, Da[V]aR, (Daled-Bhet-Resh in Hebrew), is a permissible cognate to English WORD. Consonants have shifted through a process called metathesis so that D-V-R has become V-R-D (or WoRD).

Maybe calling on metathesis in this manner is not outside the bounds of accepted linguistic methods, but I suspect that Mozeson will be subject to criticism on this front. Critics will say he is playing fast-and-loose with the methods of comparative linguistics.

Regardless of his potential vulnerabilities, Mozeson’s work is intriguing and worthy of consideration. I do have one larger criticism, though — or perhaps it’s more of a question for consideration:

Is Edenics as currently practiced too narrow in scope?

Mozeson’s arguments seem limited to lexical issues — the words themselves and how they were changed among the different human families present at Babel and their descendants.

But should we assume that, when human languages were confused during the late third millennium BCE, only the human lexicon was involved? Could other aspects of human speech have been affected as well — grammar, modality, semantics?

ARK — 24 Oct. 2009

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The Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company of Houston, Texas, is premiering (May 14-30, 2009) a controversial play, The Third Side, written and directed by playwright and screenwriter Tom Vaughan.

The play centers on an untenured university biology professor, Henry Darden, who stirs up a hornet’s nest by admitting that he thinks Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection is not a sufficient explanation for all the diversity of life. Henry believes in evolution and thinks natural selection is part of the story, but, he says in the opening scene,

…. in my humble opinion, when the last chapter on evolution is finally written, natural selection will prove to be a small part of a much larger story and yet another example of the scientific consensus getting it seriously wrong.

In spite of the essential reasonableness of his views and their grounding in good science, Henry is swept up into a public controversy in which he is labeled an extremist and accused of being anti-science. His eligibility for tenure is threatened, and the controversy even affects his family life.

What’s interesting to me is that The Third Side itself has generated controversy that parallels in some ways the content of the play.

In his writer’s notes for The Third Side, Vaughan says that Henry’s character holds views that are “based on the ideas of well-qualified scientists” who “are not creationists” and “do not believe in Intelligent Design.”

Vaughan himself does not subscribe to creationism or intelligent design, admitting that he is “not qualified to have a worthwhile opinion on who exactly is right in this scientific debate.” But the play was inspired by what he calls “the blistering, often personal attacks on these [non-mainstream scientists] by their colleagues.”

Vaughan says that during the writing of the play he sought the views of scientists, academics, and researchers to make sure that his play would present an accurate and well-rounded view of the issues and the science involved. During that process, he himself encountered hostility when communicating with some experts who hold more mainstream views on evolution:

They were openly hostile to not just the play but the very notion that these minority views should be given a voice at all. The interviews with the notable scientists these ideas are based on were attacked without being read. One individual even suggested that the interviews were probably just made up and not worth reading in the first place.

While this hostility came from only a few, and only from the academics, it was enough to assure me that the basic thrust of the play was essentially correct.

In spite of this opposition from some quarters, Vaughan says that “many more people have helped tirelessly with this production who still disagree with the arguments presented by Henry Darden.”

He particularly expresses appreciation for intelligent-design advocate William A. Dembski for his assistance:

Knowing full well that I did not agree with his views, Dr. Dembski still took the time to read the play to help assure the accuracy of how the ideas behind ID were portrayed. He even suggested a fine story note that I used and I think the play is better for it. I am very grateful for his trust, his generosity, and most of all his open-mindedness.

As the drama progresses, it becomes evident that Henry’s opponents are motivated less by their commitment to scientific integrity, and more by fear — especially fear that if any one breaks ranks with orthodox darwinism, that could let the camel’s nose into the tent, so to speak — it could give religious forces a wedge to gain legitimacy.

After reading to a colleague some critical emails he has received, Henry says, “These are political complaints. The are not challenges to the work.”

At the end of Act 1, an exchange between Henry and William, an ID advocate, highlights an interesting point about certainty.

Henry tells William that he thinks ID proponents “commit the same error the Darwinists do. You assume what you’re trying to prove.” Both sides insist it is an either-or issue. “Either natural selection or design. And you’re using evidence against one as proof for the other.”

However, William tactfully makes the point that Henry, too, is assuming what he is trying to prove when he insists “there’s no evidence that God exists.”

At this point, both characters come to a useful realization about certainty. Henry says:
There is a feeling of knowing that a person has when they know something to be true. Your name, or two plus two equals four.
Both characters admit they have had that feeling of certainty about something that turned out to be wrong. William says,
So that feeling — that feeling of knowing — it feels the same when you’re correct or incorrect. The brain can’t really tell the difference.

At this point, both characters come to a useful realization about certainty. Henry says:

There is a feeling of knowing that a person has, when they know something to be true. Your name, or two plus two equals four.

Both characters admit, though, they have had that feeling of certainty about something that turned out to be wrong. William says,

So that feeling — that feeling of knowing — it feels the same when you’re correct or incorrect. The brain can’t really tell the difference.

To me, this conversation, while fictional, illustrates the value of dialogue — both parties can benefit from a free exchange of ideas, and general knowledge can be advanced. That kind of dialogue is most useful when it occurs on an individual level, which is less likely to happen when individuals feel compelled to join sides and resort to dirty politics.

Later, in Act 2, Henry confronts one of his colleagues about her dogmatic position on natural selection, and accuses her of following “a new religion that wants to usurp the old one.” The old religion “put God in the gaps. You just put natural selection in the gaps.” He continues:

Face it. We’re not special anymore. We don’t live up to the standards we claim to have. We’re just another group of people saying, “I know what I know” — claiming the intensity of our conviction is proof in itself.

Besides making interesting commentary on current issues in science, The Third Side is a good story of character and relationships. In the end, Henry’s sense of integrity saves him from compromise through a ‘deal with the Devil.’ At the same time, not everything works out perfectly for the protagonist, and Vaughan leaves Henry with a realistic mix of messiness and ambiguity in his life.

ARK — 20 May 2009

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