OK, don’t get me wrong: I love mathematics. It is a subject I hold near and dear, and in its poetry and its musical lyrics I see the telltale handwriting of the Master Poet and Musician. I really do like math. If you’ve read this blog at all in the past, you’ve probably figured that out.
That said, I didn’t know quite what to make of the interview I came across while doing some research on origin-of-the-universe topics. It was in an issue of Discover magazine from last year (online version published June 16, 2008), and had a title that certainly grabbed my attention: “Is the Universe Actually Made of Math?”
I am reminded of a #2 Spokesman Club speech I gave once in which I fantasized about looking over God’s shoulder as He created the world, only to find that He was writing mathematics in a book. However, the word picture I was attempting to paint was not meant to be a strictly literal one!
Those of you who don’t mind walks down somewhat esoteric alleys might give the link above a click. I just want to note here some thoughts that come to mind.
The attempts by scientists to come up with a universe that requires no divine origin — not an endeavor invented in our day, to be sure — have always struck me as humorous. And I try to stay rather up to date with them: infinite multiverses, branes & bulks, and all that good stuff. And Max Tegmark’s ideas about a mathematical universe — which he discusses in the interview — have been around for a few years.
Now, when I say humorous, I don’t mean that the concepts are without merit, and I do enjoy reading about them and adding my own meager speculations on their values and insights. But Mr. Tegmark’s “Level IV multiverse” mathematical universe hypothesis really takes the cake, methinks. It is hard to imagine a multiverse theory getting any “multi-er” than this one, in which all mathematically conceivable universes — the Ultimate Ensemble — actually do exist and in which mathematics, itself, is the ultimate and fundamental reality.
Don’t get me wrong (have I really said that twice?) — when it comes to mathematics, I am generally of the Platonist variety. Not that I’m a fan of Plato (Mickey’s dog?); rather, I believe that the truths of mathematics exist objectively and are discovered, explored, and studied by mathematicians (the contrary view being, essentially, that mathematics is an invention of mankind). Some might view the comments of Max Tegmark in the Discover article to be the ultimate, unavoidable conclusion of such a view, but I do not. I see mathematics as the creation of God and its existence (and it’s “unreasonable effectiveness” in describing the world) as an expression of the character of God — an orderly and logical God (cf. 1 Cor. 14:33a, 40) who invites us to look into His creation and see His signature there (Rom. 1:20, cf. Proverbs 25:2).
Most scientists these days seem determined to avoid seeing that signature, which is a pity though not to be unexpected in these end times (2 Peter 3:3, cf. Rom. 1:21, 25).
I do look forward to being on the other side of the veil to be pulled back for true Christians at the time of the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5) — finally knowing, just as I am now known (1 Cor. 13:12) — and seeing the real truth about the origin and nature of the physical universe. Until then, I will enjoy articles such as this one in Discover, watching smarter men than I am coming up with fascinating and fun-to-read-about ideas, all the while seeming to somehow avoid the ultimate conclusion to which their intellectual journeys should take them.