Notes and Voiceover for "Is There Room for God in the Cosmos?"

by Dr. Kenneth W. Regan

Title & Slide 2: With a title like that, you probably think this is another science-and-religion talk, figuratively asking "does science leave room for God in our lives?" And certainly such a question was posed to theoretical physicist Lisa Randall of Harvard, author of the popular books Warped Passages and now Knocking at Heaven's Door. However...

Slide 3: this talk my title means what it literally says, and addresses the technical side of Randall's work: What is the geometry of space? does it have more than what simply satisfies Albert Einstein's field equations? is it the kind of space that allows room for external beings? We can pose these questions even apart from asking about a God, and we can set up rules for translating observations into answers guided by simplicity and elegance of what Randall terms effective theories. Here, remarkably in response to a metaphysical question, Randall brings up most of the observational and theoretical concepts that we will be concerned with.

Slide 4: But first, how would this apply to our conception of God? Here also mathematical modeling is helpful to organize thought. Here are two theological buzzwords applied to God on a cosmological scale, and they are sometimes held to be in conflict. However, the mathematics of ordinary real numbers exemplifies both. The rational numbers are a space unto themselves since sums and minuses and products and ratios of them stay rational, but they are incomplete: a limit of rationals can be a transcendental number like pi. Indeed most numbers are transcendental: if you thought the rationals were the only real numbers you'd overlook most of reality.

Slide 5: Why care about these ideas? The first and last line on my slide are commonly given as reasons, but we can be even more particular. I hold it wrong for believers to disdain "the world" in-toto, because our account of God clearly hasn't. Our Scripture has God intimately, closely, embodied in creation. [Read from John 1] What these ideas carry down to our lives is the holiness, wholesomeness of creation. One benefit which I wrote in a missive---to someone who calls Richard Dawkins by firstname and associated [with him?] on the skeptics society based here in Buffalo---is that they confer training to see things beyond oneself, especially for children.

Slide 6: What these ideas are /not/ for, in my opinion... [Quote Alister McGrath on why I disagree with the intent of the Intelligent Design movement, not just the science.] Trying to prove the existence of God means trying to "stand in front of the Gospels". Hence I disclaim the two avenues that we regard as proof: mathematical proof and reproducible science. But is this a cop-out?

This falls in with my approach to knowledge, in regard to a concept called "fideism" for which Martin Luther is actually given credit (in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for instance) as a philosophical originator. Fideism standardly denies all possible knowledge of God, but I don't go that far, and I don't think Luther did either. I gave a longer treatment in my talk here in early 2008, but in brief I regard "grounds for assent" as progressing from logical proof through three kinds of knowledge "down" to human reasons. Now the point is, to what extent with each ground is the assent personal? With proof and reproducible science it is impersonal, disembodied. IMHO this matters more than the view that first surprised me in a politics course at Princeton, that "proof is a form of subjection." [I stopped short of describing Manfred Halpern's "Personal and Political Transformation" theory in detail.] But what I call K2 and K3, experience and modeling, stay personal. They also count as knowledge, and interface with hard science via reasoning-from-experience (called "Induction") and Ockham's Razor (do not compound entities beyond those needed, because the simplest model is most likely). Personal involvement is what God wants, and my own experience says K2 as well as K3 is possible, though not given all the time (I told of Mother Teresa).

I tried to find or make a word for my "partial fideist" position, but after reading Luther and more, I think it's just what G.K. Chesterton called "another rediscovery of orthodoxy."

Slide 7: So what then about the relationship between science and faith? People talk that they should "build bridges to each other"---the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences ( even has a bridge as its emblem. However, I think both should be building bridges to K2 and K3, because they embody the content of everyday life. This view also opposes in genteel fashion the Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) position of Stephen Jay Gould. My own experience is not "compartmentalization"---indeed my chess research has required both to a degree I did not imagine (tell some stories). When I wrote "doing science faithfully" on an early chess webpage appealing for helpers, I realized it as my dissent from NOMA. The American Scientific Affiliation (in whose "Statement of Faith" I corrected a wayward apostrophe:-) calls this "Whole-Person Education."

In any event, the bridge from religion should not interfere with K1 or Proof. This is what scientists mainly care about---there are terrible cases of it in the past. And hard science shall inform but not command our allocation of trust---which should be equally important to humanism as well as faith.

It may seem I've drawn my conclusions before even starting, but this is just setup---how to approach the question of the nature of the cosmos. And in that humanity received a major shock a decade ago. [Before my second lecture the Nobel Prize for it was announced!] So enough window-dressing, let's see what that is! We may not know whether God exists (IMHO this common way of phrasing the question begs itself by making "God" the subject), but we learned after decades of zero-belief that Lambda exists. [more to come...]