Tuesday, May 25, 2004
I just finished reading an article on Slate written by Jim Holt. Entitled "The Big Lab Experiment: Was Our Universe Created By Design?" it seeks to (surprisingly enough) explore the idea that our universe could be created as a kind of lab experiment. Artist, acrobat, and physicist Andrei Linde theorizes what he calls "chaotic inflation theory" to show how an entire universe could be created from relatively little matter in a laboratory.
Of course, though the theory may be new, it runs smack dab into some of the same old philosophical problems that have plagued atheists for centuries. Holt writes "Linde's theory gives scientific muscle to the notion of a universe created by an intelligent being. It might be congenial to Gnostics, who believe that the material world was fashioned not by a benevolent supreme being but by an evil demiurge. More orthodox believers, on the other hand, will seek refuge in the question, 'But who created the physicist hacker?' Let's hope it's not hackers all the way up."
And therein lies the problem - if this universe was created by a someone in another universe, then who created that universe? You can see that with this theory one can quickly falls into what is known as an infinite regress. An infinite regress is where this event was caused by the previous event, which was caused by an even more previous event. It goes back and back like a chain of dominoes, with each fallen domino caused by the one before it. The problem is there's never a beginning. In order for the dominoes to fall at all, there had to be a first one that got knocked down. This is why an infinite regress doesn't explain anything. It just pushes the problem back a step, then chooses to ignore it. Any chain of events has to start somewhere, and so this theory really answers nothing about if the universe is created or not.
Although I'm interested to see Slate take a theory demonstrating the universe could be created by design and giving it some press, the Intelligent Design movement has many far more convincing theories and arguments than this one. Let's hope that Slate will choose to cover one of those instead.