28 June 2010

On the nature of reality itself

It's a question we all ask ourselves from time to time: "Why is there anything at all?" What is the nature of reality? Why does our universe even exist in the first place?

A difficult and vexing one - it is perhaps not surprising that many people have plumped for the notion that there is a big old goddy thing who designed it all, and we're grubbing out its eternal plan. As anyone with half a brain immediately recognises, however, this does not address the question - it only moves it back a level, because then we're entitled to ask: "Well, then, why does GOD exist in the first place?"

Some theologians (a term I equate with charlatans, but hey) regard god as a "necessary being", in that there can't NOT be a god. I will not rehearse the arguments here (maybe some day), but suffice it to say that this is simply silly, and simply trying to define one's way around the problem. It's like saying there is a necessarily perfect cabbage from which all other cabbages derive their cabbageness. Forget it - it is not a fruitful line of enquiry.

So let's try another tack. What can exist without the need for gods? Well, mathematics can. God cannot change Pi - if anything, any hypothetical god must be constrained by Pi. There is a *true* answer for the gazillionth digit of Pi, and no way a god can know it except by calculating it.

And similarly, no way to know what the future holds, other than by calculating it, and comparing it against other contrasting options. BUT, if the universe is mathematical (as is very seriously being suggested by some, including me), there is no need for this silliness - god gets cancelled out of the equation altogether.

Confused? Yeah OK, you're forgiven. Try this paper by Max Tegmark, and leave any questions below in the comments.