Because, hey — we believe in equal time:
Here’s how to build a universe. Step one: start at the beginning of time. Step two: apply the laws of physics. Step three: sit back and watch the universe evolve. Step four: cross your fingers and hope that it comes out looking something like the one we live in.
That’s the basic prescription for cosmology, the one physicists use to decipher the history of the universe. But according to Stephen Hawking of the University of Cambridge and Thomas Hertog of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the steps are all backward. According to these physicists, there is no history of the universe. There is no immutable past, no 13.7 billion years of evolution for cosmologists to retrace. Instead, there are many possible histories, and the universe has lived them all. And if that’s not strange enough, you and I get to play a role in determining the universe’s history. Like a reverse choose-your-own-adventure story, we, the observers, can choose the past.
Three things I like about this notion of the “flexiverse:”
1. It comes from Stephen Hawking
2. It suggests that time and space may be infinite. This is kind of a leap on my part; I don’t see Hawking addressing that issue directly. Of course, even if the flexiverse is infinite the model doesn’t necessarily make any provision for accessing space beyond the tiny playground with a diameter of 15-20 billion light years of which you can observe a small portion on any starry evening, nor does it provide any means of accessing time other than our plodding one-day-every-24-hours approach.
3. In this model, we get to be the turtles. High time, says Phil. High flippin’ time.
On the inevitable question of the theological implications, Hawking does his standard coy thing
SUE: To oversimplify your theories hugely, and I hope you’ll forgive me for this, Stephen, you once believed, as I understand it, that there was a point of creation, a big bang, but you no longer believe that to be the case. You believe that there was no beginning and there is no end, that the universe is self-contained. Does that mean that there was no act of creation and therefore that there’s no place for God?
STEPHEN: Yes, you have oversimplified. I still believe the universe has a beginning in real time, at the big bang. But there’s another kind of time, imaginary time, at right angles to real time, in which the universe has no beginning or end. This would mean that the way the universe began would be determined by the laws of physics. One wouldn’t have to say that God chose to set the universe going in some arbitrary way that we couldn’t understand. It says nothing about whether or not God exists – just that He isn’t arbitrary.
With all due respect to “Sue,” I think she’s asking the wrong question. As Stephen (Gordon) has pointed out more than once, there is no model of the universe that conclusively eliminates the role of the Creator. So asking whether a particular model does that is kind of a waste of time.
It would be better, IMHO, to ask whether there is a suggestion of infinity here, and what a demonstrably infinite (as distinct from “finite and boundless”) universe has to say about what is or is not possible. Wouldn’t the ontological argument for the existence of God — especially Goedel’s formulation thereof — get a boost from the assertion that the universe is infinite?
And I’m just asking. One thing the ontological argument and this flexiverse model have in common — they both give me a headache.