PHYSICIST Freeman Dyson once said: “Science is not a monolithic body of doctrine. Science is a culture, constantly growing and changing. … Science has as many competing styles as painting or poetry. The diversity of science also finds a parallel in the diversity of religion.” This diversity Dyson talked about includes many scientists whose scientific ideas reflect their beliefs, not science. Two areas in particular that encapsulate many scientists’ unscientific beliefs are the origin of the universe and of life.

Many scientists believe that everything in the universe was created from ‘nothing’ in a process called ‘inflation’ just after the Big Bang. Physicist and science fiction writer Lawrence Krauss is one of them. Eminent physicist George Ellis once said about Krauss’s book, A Universe from Nothing, “What he is presenting is not tested science. It’s a philosophical speculation, which he apparently believes is so compelling he does not have to give any specification of evidence that would confirm it is true.”

Scientists have a very good idea of what happened just after the Big Bang. But science does not explain and quite possibly cannot explain what or who initiated the process that caused the creation of the universe.

Since the Big Bang theory does not answer a number of questions about the universe, the theory of inflation, formulated by MIT’s Alan Guth in 1982, has become a sort of religion for many cosmologists. Inflation refers to a brief period at the moment of creation during which the universe expanded faster than the speed of light. Inflation helps scientists answer a lot of questions, but still leaves many unanswered. Many leading scientists do not want to ‘believe’ in inflation without much scientific evidence to support it.

What or who initiated the creation of the universe?

Princeton’s Paul Steinhardt, who made significant contributions to the theory of inflation, is now a vocal critic of it. Steinhardt has claimed that most cosmologists are uncritical believers. In an article he co-wrote in 2017, he said, “Cosmologists appear to accept at face value the proponents’ assertion that we must believe the inflationary theory because it offers the only simple explanation of the observed features of the universe.” He added that inflationary cosmology “cannot be evaluated using the scientific method”.

The reality is that inflation attempts to solve only one ‘problem’: that the observable universe appears to be created with exquisite fine-tuning for life to exist. This is not really a problem of science. Physicist David Albert says that the fundamental laws of nature “have no bearing whatsoever on questions of where the elementary stuff came from”.

Along with inflation, many physicists have propagated the multiverse hypothesis with religious zeal in recent years. According to this hypothesis, the universe we live in is just one of an innumerably large number of universes, each with its own set of laws and characteristics. This helps scientists explain why our universe is so fine-tuned for life’s existence. In essence, its proponents argue that if ‘our universe’ is just one universe in a multiverse, there is a chance that more universes may have conditions suitable for life to exist. However, they still cannot explain what or who initiated the process that created the multiverse.

Many prominent physicists believe that, since it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of other universes besides our own, the idea of multiverse is not really science. Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder has argued that “Believing in the multiverse is logically equivalent to believing in god, therefore it’s religion, not science”.

Another issue that is embarrassing to atheists is how life began on Earth and the remarkable complexity of living organisms. Scientists know that the probability of life arising as a result of inanimate matter accidently combining in the right permutation to form the basic building blocks of life — such as amino acids, RNAs and DNA — is infinitesimally small and practically zero. Yet they continue to believe in this lucky accident.

This attitude is not very different from that of the Nobel Prize winning physiologist George Wald, who wrote candidly in 1954: “When it comes to the origin of life, we have only two possibilities as to how life arose. One is spontaneous generation arising to evolution; the other is a supernatural creative act of God. There is no third possibility. … Spontaneous generation was scientifically disproved 100 years ago by Louis Pasteur, Spelazani, Reddy and others. That leads us scientifically to only one possible conclusion — that life arose as a supernatural creative act of God. … I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God. Therefore, I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible, spontaneous generation arising to evolution.”

The writer is a finance professional based in the US.

iftikharuhyder@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2020

Opinion

Editorial

Population calamity
Updated 22 Jul, 2024

Population calamity

Pakistan can also control its growth rate by following the examples of its peers and implementing functional family planning programmes and campaigns.
Blow to occupation
22 Jul, 2024

Blow to occupation

THE International Court of Justice has delivered a legal blow to the decades-old Israeli occupation of Palestinian...
Seeking Priya Kumari
22 Jul, 2024

Seeking Priya Kumari

PRIYA Kumari — the minor girl who vanished on Ashura in 2021 while serving water at a sabeel in Sukkur district ...
Olympics contingent
21 Jul, 2024

Olympics contingent

FROM 10 in Tokyo the last time, it is now down to seven in Paris, and split across just three disciplines. When...
Grave concerns
21 Jul, 2024

Grave concerns

PUNJAB Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz’s open assault on the Supreme Court for ruling in favour of the PTI in the...
Civil unrest
Updated 21 Jul, 2024

Civil unrest

The government must start putting out fires instead of fanning more flames.