Michio Kaku embarrasses himself, says that the laws of physics and the behavior of subatomic particles reflect “the mind of God.”

For some reason, respectable intellectual venues are constantly and loudly proclaiming the comity between science and religion. I don’t quite know why this is so—we’ll have another example tomorrow from Smithsonian Magazine, of all places—but here we see the well known science popularizer and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku touting God in a June piece in Intellectual Takeout: “World-famous scientist: God created the Universe.” Kaku, who specializes in string theory, holds a professorship in physics at the City University of New York. And the title clearly plays into the hands of those with an Abrahamic bent.

But seriously? God created the Universe? Well, let’s ask Dr. Kaku for his evidence—”evidence” that he initially gave in CNS News. And here, as far as I can see, is the entirety of his evidence: there are laws of physics.

Here’s the CNS piece in its entirety:

Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist at the City College of New York (CUNY) and co-founder of String Field Theory, says theoretical particles known as “primitive semi-radius tachyons” are physical evidence that the universe was created by a higher intelligence.

After analyzing the behavior of these sub-atomic particles – which can move faster than the speed of light and have the ability to “unstick” space and matter – using technology created in 2005, Kaku concluded that the universe is a “Matrix” governed by laws and principles that could only have been designed by an intelligent being.

“I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence. Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore,” Kaku said, according to an article published in the Geophilosophical Association of Anthropological and Cultural Studies.

“To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

“The final solution resolution could be that God is a mathematician,” Kaku, author of The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind, said in a 2013 Big Think video posted on YouTube. [JAC: see video below.]

“The mind of God, we believe, is cosmic music, the music of strings resonating through 11-dimensional hyperspace.”

But which physical laws are simply the brute facts of physics, like the inverse-square law, or the constancy of the speed of light in a vacuum, and which rules are evidence for “an intelligence”? Can Dr. Kaku tell us the difference? Or does he think that all physical laws are evidence for a higher intelligence? And why? What could there possibly be there about any law of physics that instantiates a higher intelligence? (I’m ignoring the mushbrained “Matrix” allusion here.)

Now, you can say that the combination of all physical laws and parameters as part of a Universe that harbors intelligent life is itself evidence for a god (that’s the Strong Anthropic Principle), but you can’t make that argument for individual laws. As Sean Carroll and others have observed, at bottom the answer of why laws are what they are, or that they’re often simple and often remarkable, could be just “That’s the way it is”

Since Kaku is a scientist and a popularizer, it should be his responsibility, when addressing the nature of unexplained physical laws, to say, “We don’t know” or “We don’t understand.” Instead, he says that “God is a mathematician.” Well, you might as well say “The Universe is a mathematician.” And that simply means that the laws of physics can be expressed mathematically.  But of course any regularity can be expressed mathematically, so that’s just saying that physical laws show regularities. One might as well say that the laws of fluid mechanics evince the mind of God.

If you want to make those regularities into a God, as did Einstein did, then you’re a pantheist. (I don’t think Kaku is one, since he mentions “an intelligence”, which surely isn’t pantheism!) But it’s intellectually dishonest to use the word “God”—which is freighted with all sorts of religious meanings for most folks—to do that.  I think that Kaku is in fact pandering to the religious in an effort to make himself more popular. He’s certainly not behaving as a scientist—one who is satisfied saying, “I don’t know.” Nor could I find any record of Kaku believing in a personal God.

Below is the 2013 video in which Kaku, at the end, expresses a belief in God, or at least uses the word “God” three times (start at 4:22). The rest of the video has nothing to do with God, but is a simple explication of the history of physics. Here’s the delusional bit:

All of a sudden we had super symmetric theories coming out of physics that then revolutionized mathematics, and so the goal of physics we believe is to find an equation perhaps no more than one inch long which will allow us to unify all the forces of nature and allow us to read the mind of God. And what is the key to that one inch equation? Super symmetry, a symmetry that comes out of physics, not mathematics, and has shocked the world of mathematics. But you see, all this is pure mathematics and so the final resolution could be that God is a mathematician. And when you read the mind of God, we actually have a candidate for the mind of God. The mind of God we believe is cosmic music, the music of strings resonating through 11 dimensional hyperspace. That is the mind of God.

What the hell does Kaku think he’s doing when he’s talking about “the mind of God”? The “cosmic music” that is controversial string theory?

It’s time for us scientists, and for those who think the road to understanding reality is the road of naturalism, to start calling out the kind of nonsense espoused by Kaku.  There is no comity between science and religion, and there is no place for accommodationism in any venue that purports to advance science and reason.  It’s arrantly irresponsible to describe the wonders of reality—or, in the case of disputed string theory, the tenets of an unevidenced hypothesis—as evincing “the mind of God.”

Kaku knows what kind of country the U.S. is, and he knows full well that people will see his little lecture and his interview as science giving evidence for the Bearded Man in the Sky.  I’m surprised that Kaku hasn’t been snapped up by the Templeton Foundation!

This is science popularization at its worst: an “aren’t I a nice guy” pandering to religion, and an abandoment of our overriding tenet of doubt. This kind of bunk is happening all over, and it’s time we fought back.

We’ve seen recent examples of God-osculation in the journal Nature (shame on them!), in National Geographic, and tomorrow we’ll see one in Smithsonian Magazine.

h/t: Nicole Reggia, Paul Sommer

131 Comments

  1. bric
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Like god, there is no actual evidence that tachyons exist, or could exist. None for string theory either. So a portion of salt is called for

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Just what I was going to say. Never mind God; first show us the evidence for tachyons.

      • Gasper Sciacca
        Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        Tachyons and string theory are the pathetic pursuits of Physics today.

        • Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          The 1970s vintage bosonic string theory–the only version to which Kaku contributed–had a tachyon problem, but the later supersymmetric string does not. Unfortunately, supersymmetry is in trouble right now.

        • Lurker111
          Posted November 18, 2016 at 6:47 am | Permalink

          If we’re going to tout “theory” as having a special scientific meaning, as in “Theory of Evolution,” “Gravitational Theory,” etc., then “String Theory” should really be called “String Conjecture.”

          I’ve maintained this for years.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted November 18, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

            Perhaps it’s time then to stop touting that particular misconception of what “theory” means.

            A theory isn’t an empirically demonstrated body of facts about the natural world. It’s a (usually mathematical) model that attempts to explain facts about the world. It may be successful or unsuccessful at doing that, but even a failed model is still a theory (just not a very useful one).

            Nor are theories grown-up hypotheses. They don’t need to pass any empirical test to earn their name. Theory precedes prediction; a hypothesis is just a claim that some theoretical prediction will turn out to be true.

            String theory has not been shown to be an accurate model of reality. But it’s theory all the same.

          • Posted November 18, 2016 at 10:06 am | Permalink

            The same way the Will of God is interpreted, perhaps?

            • Posted November 18, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

              My previous comment
              (“The same way the Will of God is interpreted, perhaps?”)
              was addressed to #musical beef#, sorry.-

    • Posted November 17, 2016 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      I love how the article says “after analyzing these sub-atomic particles…” How does one analyze something not yet proved to exist?

      • darrelle
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 6:44 am | Permalink

        That stopped me in my tracks too. What? You’ve analyzed tachyons? Why have you been keeping it to yourself all this time!.

      • John Taylor
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        With a pencil and paper. Maybe a computer these days.

  2. GBJames
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Oh, FFS.

  3. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Which god? Just saying the word god is not an explanation, which one of the many thousands, if not millions, of gods is he referring to? If he means the Abrahamic god, then which version?

    • koseighty
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Which god?

      My god. Obviously.

      • BobTerrace
        Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        OMG. Oh, my god. Oh MY god. Oh! my! God!

        • Jeremy Tarone
          Posted November 18, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink

          I’ll have what he’s having.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 17, 2016 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

        Sithrak? (NB – while this number of the comic isn’t particularly NSFW, I wouldn’t tiptoe through the archives too far on the work’s monitored connection.)
        I was Twittering with the Blind Gibberer Itself a few days ago, and came to the conclusion that It was going to make absolutely nothing special in the way of spits for Trump (or for that matter, any Clinton). Which news would probably be rather more distressing for Trump than Clinton (either) than the news of an impending eternity in unimaginable torment.
        Personally, I’ll have the spaghetti.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912” — obvs.

  4. busterggi
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    The man is entitled to his opinion.

    That he pretends his opinion is a fact is what I object to.

    • Wunold
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 12:22 am | Permalink

      Does he? He uses “I have concluded”, “to me it is clear”, and “could be”. He is quite sure, but he phrases it subjectively.

      I wonder, however, who he means besides himself by “we beliefe”.

  5. Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I had sort of hoped that your title was a misrepresentation of what he actually said. No luck though, it does appear to be exactly what he means.

    Although, I do think my lower back pain is evidence of the universe being created by a lesser intelligence.

    • chris moffatt
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Well if it isn’t, the design an implementation of the prostate gland and the epiglottis are certainly evidence of it.

      • sensorrhea
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        Not every angel had the privilege of going to some “elite” engineering program. Sheesh.

  6. BobTerrace
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    A lot of what he says he is now in a lot of doubt. Supersymmetry and 11 dimensions now seem very doubtful to exist; string theory has not really proven anything.

    I guess when the world one lives in begins to unravel, some turn to superstitious mumbo jumbo. Yet another big mind turned to mush.

    • eric
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Yes that was my thought too. Kaku appears to be sincerely religious and yes he’s linking religion to his physics. But I also get the feeling that he’s fighting a desperate rearguard action to defend string theory and supersymmetry. After 35+ years of not panning out, a lot of physicists and cosmologists are looking for other potential concepts. Kaku is trying to rope the public in on his side with “don’t by their ideas, my product comes with extra God!”

  7. Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Kaku is a tireless self-promoter, and this latest nonsense is getting him lots of attention but all outside the science community. The religious are eating it up.

    • Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Just what I was going to say. This isn’t the first time he’s pandered like this. He strikes me as the P. T. Barnum of physics.

      • grasshopper
        Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        “This way to the regress.”

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 3:11 am | Permalink

        “… according to an article published in the Geophilosophical Association of Anthropological and Cultural Studies.”

        Is it just me, or does a physicist posting in a journal like that set off alarm bells?

        cr

        • Posted November 18, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          Never mind that he’s a physicist for the moment: what the heck is “geophilosophical”?

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted November 18, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

            Reflections on the ultimate meaning of earthquakes?

            cr

      • sensorrhea
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        Absolutely. He’s always shilling science fiction like time travel and faster than light travel on his shows as if they are possible and maybe even right around the corner, making America dumber.

    • somer
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 3:50 am | Permalink

      Yes, especially given string theory still has no proof whatsoever, it comes across that he has fallen into self delusion and is trying to get support for his theories from new quarters. It galls me, too when any physicist proclaims everything that is and has been can be summarised in an inch long equation. Who says creationists aren’t arrogant

  8. Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I happen to be a pantheist, but one who firml believes that evolution is true. I am also a creationist, however, though this claim must be qualified by the fact that I’m a poet, and therefore have a poet’s prejudice about how things get created. This qualification is an important one because many people (including Michio Kaku apparently) have come to associate creationism with “intelligent design,” a mistake no poet—no artist of any kind—would ever make. Creating has little to do with design and even less to do with intelligence. One’s intelligence may inform the thing created—that is, render it of a different quality than a thing created by someone with less intelligence—but it can never make the act of creation happen. I suspect that many poets would agree that intelligence should, as far as is possible, be banished from the equation altogether. Be that as it may, intelligent design is not creation. Engineers design—sometimes intelligently, sometimes not; poets, artists of any kind, create. The process is not one of adhering to a preconceived intention or design, but of starting out, responding to what’s given in the moment, and adapting as you go. Creation is, in a word, evolution; and why these two terms have ended up on opposite sides of a long-standing and ongoing debate totally escapes me.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      “I suspect that many poets would agree that intelligence should, as far as is possible, be banished from the equation altogether.”

      So we should look to rocks for the very best poetry?

      I suspect what you mean to say is that conscious artifice should be banished from the process, and creativity should be allowed to flow from the subconscious. But to claim that has nothing to do with intelligence is to misunderstand what intelligence is.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 17, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know about poetry from rocks – I’ve never listened to my rock-pile, nor indeed left them alone in a room full of typewriters (*). I’ll pencil it in for the second test flight of the Infinite Improbability Drive.
        However, some of my rocks are excellent Freudian psychoanalysts. They can sit there and listen to your stream of consciousness until you run out of breath without batting an eyelid at the depths of your perverse imagination.
        (*) does everyone know the one about h psychologist who wanted to see what chimps did when not observed?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 18, 2016 at 2:44 am | Permalink

          Whassat?
          You rang?

          How do you know your rocks are Freudians? Do they appear to be obsessed with sex? I think from your description they’d more likely be Rogerians.

          cr
          … psychoanalysing rocks

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted November 18, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

            [looks for picture of Fred, my psychoanalytic rock]

            • Diane G.
              Posted November 19, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

              Sometimes a stalagmite is just a stalagmite.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted November 19, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

                Heretic! Burn the heretic with fire!

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 19, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

                🙂

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      I’m sorry, but you’ve touched a nerve. I write poetry, too, and using poetry or any other artistic endeavor to try to justify woo is something I categorically reject. And what’s “a poet’s prejudice about how things get created”? There is no universal poetic or general artistic conceptualization or rubric about how things get created. This is just flapdoodle to me. I know that many writers like to get together and go into collective ecstasy about “higher truths” found and expressed through art, and how creativity itself is evidence of some spiritual something-or-other, but just because some people love to indulge in airy-fairy conceits doesn’t make them true; and just because some (hopefully) intelligent person creates a poem or some other work of art, that says nothing about some supernatural ‘intelligence’ and how the universe came to be. Writing poetry, of course, used to be considered divine madness — to be a great poet, one had to be touched by the gods. Then some believe that in order to be a ‘true’ artist, one must be a spiritual person — that really makes my socks roll up and down.

      Perhaps I don’t understand, but is this a plea for a non-overlapping magesterium re the arts and science? If so, I reject that, too.

      Am I too harsh? Should I temper my words? I’m admittedly shooting from the hip and if I took the time, I could express myself with more elegance and less vitriol; but the message would still be the same. Perhaps I am misreading you completely.

      • BobTerrace
        Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        I’m glad you gave this response. What he wrote was wrong in so many ways about creation and evolution and poetry and engineering and artistry.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 17, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

          You might like to put the phrase “not even wrong” into your day-to-day lexicon.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted November 17, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

            And as long as we’re adding to our day-to-day lexicons, why not add “idiolect” to our idiolects?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 17, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

          Or as that renown poet Frank Zappa said:

          <blockquoteLook here brother
          Who you jiving with that cosmik debris?

      • Posted November 17, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        “There is no universal poetic or general artistic conceptualization or rubric about how things get created.”

        This is certainly true. And you would be right to point out that the notion of creation I describe is one inherited from the Romantics and applies exclusively to lyric poetry. Milton, presumably, did not write Paradise Lost because the line “Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit” popped into his head and he thought, “That’s pretty good; let’s see where it will take me.”

        So there is some validity to this objection. But I would contend, somewhat tautologically, that those parts of Paradise Lost that are poetry were created in the way I allude to. The rest is intelligent design. And great craft. True creation, I would contend, can’t be sustained for great lengths—certainly not for the length of Paradise Lost. The longest duration of the creative act in poetry that I know of can be found in Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies, which I happen to have translated, but I am open to considering other contenders.

    • Posted November 17, 2016 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

      This argument has been had here at WEIT a few times, but really? The best creativity is a result of no deliberation? No foresight? No intelligence? No weighing of options according to a well thought-out set of guidelines? I can assure you Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, et al, did not share your attitude toward the creation of art.

      • darrelle
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:15 am | Permalink

        Yes indeed, I agree. I’m thinking mirandaga perhaps means something like that creation comes from the emotional aspect of our minds and that to the extent that we also engage our intellect in the creative process we are diluting or interfering with the creative process.

        I don’t agree. I do agree that emotions play a large and significant role in creating and experiencing art. It would be ridiculous to dispute that. But I think it is just as ridiculous to claim that intellect is not an important part of the process, let alone that it is detrimental to it.

        For one, art is communication and communication damn sure does benefit from intellect. Unless you are satisfied with nothing but short bursts of rawly expressed emotion (which does have its place but would quickly become deadly boring all by itself) then you will by necessity need to engage your intellect in the process.

    • Rubicon Ferry
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 5:52 am | Permalink

      “We used to think that one million monkeys
      pounding on one million typewriters would
      eventually produce the works of Shakespeare. Thanks to the internets we now know this to not be true. Thanks for your participation.”
      –Jack Arnott

  9. Jenny Haniver
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    “The mind of God, we believe, is cosmic music, the music of strings resonating through 11-dimensional hyperspace.”

    Sounds kinda Pythagorean to me, gussied up in postmodern math, and I don’t think I need to understand string theory to say that. And declaring that the wonders of nature constitute a priori ‘evidence’ for God or some higher ‘intelligence’ is a very hoary post hoc fallacy, again gussied up in postmodern drag.

    • bric
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      ‘we’ suggests there’s a gang of them. Or is it mere hyperbole?
      “After analyzing the behavior of these sub-atomic particles – which can move faster than the speed of light and have the ability to “unstick” space and matter” Again, these are classed as ‘putative’ particles, their putative properties result in putative behaviour, and analyzing speculation is pretty weak stuff.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        If Kaku is referring to himself, I think that’s called the “majestic plural,” something like that, and I’m suspicious of those who use that locution to refer to themselves (themself? what?). Ben Carson used it frequently.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 17, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

          The “royal we” — as the Dude put it to the other Lebowski.

          Or, as Her Majesty might say about Kaku, “we are not amused.”

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted November 17, 2016 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

            Or, as the say in more prosaic literary circles, “the editorial we.”🙂

          • Posted November 17, 2016 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

            Love me some Dude. I think that’s my favorite movie, and I don’t even like movies.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted November 17, 2016 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

              It’s one of my favorite movies, and I’m a movie lover. We hardcore Lebowski-lovers are a self-selecting family.

      • darrelle
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:16 am | Permalink

        Perhaps it is the royal “we.”

        • darrelle
          Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:18 am | Permalink

          Oops. Duuuuuudde. That was already extensively covered.

      • Posted November 18, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        I think it is a misuse of the “scientific we”.

  10. Peter N
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    So, um, now that we know that God created the universe, who created God?

    But when you endeavor to explain the mystery of the universe by the mystery of God, you do not even exchange mysteries—you simply make one more. Nothing can be mysterious enough to become an explanation.

    ― Robert G. Ingersoll, Letter to Rev. Henry M. Field

    • harrync
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      It’s turtles all the way down, of course.

    • Carl
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Great quote.

  11. Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Poetic unfalsifiability.

  12. Roger
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    God is a mathematician and very fond of beetles, which means him/her can count beetles all day freaking long. Lucky deity.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      Beats oiling spits all day, everyday. Pity poor Sithrak (not that your pity would save you one moment of eternal torment) with over a hundred billion of the damned things to oil!

  13. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Since math is strongly analogous to language, I bet if I did math 100% of the time then I’d be under the illusion that I’m communicating with someone too. I think Kaku’s claim shows how everyone can fall victim to religion.

  14. Wunold
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    “I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence.”

    And who created that intelligence? If it “just is”, “uncreated” and/or “eternal” as many apologists answer to this question, than why can’t the universe just be, uncreated, and eternal?

    • BobTerrace
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Let it be, let it be,
      Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

      – sir Paul

  15. Carl
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    When someone talks as Kaku does in the video, the first thing to notice is he is using the word “God” very differently than you may be understand it, and with a very different purpose than is common. I don’t know enough about Kaku or string theory to say more in the precise case at hand, particularly his motivation.

    In the past, using the word “God” in a non-standard way has been a very useful and world changing device in the service of atheism. Spinoza used the concept of “God” continuously, and even proved God exists. Yet, Spinoza may be the most important and influential atheist in history. His God turns out to be just another way of talking about Nature, which is the entire universe. Spinoza’s God does not care about people, does not perform miracles, does not write books (which Spinoza so forcefully demonstrated that no serious Biblical scholar today will dispute it), has no will, no desires, and no purposes.

    Spinoza died in 1677. His work has been so effective that for many of us, his Deus sive Natura (God, or what is the same thing, Nature) is no longer needed camouflage. But for the rest of us, I wonder, has the rhetorical device outlived it’s usefulness?

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      I was initially thinking his comments were intended as you describe — that ‘God’ is the laws of nature, much like how Einstein had put it, but the problem is that he inserts into these vagaries very specific things like: “To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

      And that is not the only time he has done this. What are we to make of that? I will take him at his word, and so can only conclude he has gone to the dark side, or wants the dark side to believe he has.

      • Carl
        Posted November 17, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        That indeed sounds damning. I just don’t want to comment on Kaku or his motives without deeper study, and I don’t feel any need to do that at present.

      • Wunold
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 12:35 am | Permalink

        I’m consternated every time a scientist falls for the old, long-refuted argument from design.

      • bric
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 3:10 am | Permalink

        I agree, I thought at first, as above, ‘Spinoza’s God’, but that’s not what we have here.
        By coincidence this also appeared today, Rebecca Goldstein’s Five Best philosophical novels (Spinoza featuring heavily)
        http://fivebooks.com/interview/best-philosophical-novels/

  16. Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Michio Kaku must be careful to not confuse himself, as Richard Feynman would have suggested to him. Just naming something “God” doesn’t convey any knowledge, and is in fact misleading (God is an entity from the Bible, and obviously a fictional character).

    His use of metaphor also does a disservice and is far away from useful scientific metaphors like waves to describe properies of sound or light, or Tree of Life to describe how species emerge (“branching off”) from common ancestors, or even gene pools.

    Cosmic music played on strings is perhaps poetry and superficially helps understanding, but seems to confuse more since when the strings in string theory are like an instrument’s strings, then the the laws of nature are again pushed one level deeper away. Are the laws that make the strings in string theiry vibrate themselves also strings? Strings all the way down?! Further, instruments are being played by someone (which in his case suggests God) — which is a picture that is increasingly silly, skipping over Sophisticated Theology, or Huffington Post (“God is Music”) indeed into Bearded Old Man in the Sky territory, who this time plays the lute or some other appropriately old fashioned instrument.

  17. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    When Einstein engaged in this sort of talk, he also was careful to point out that he definitely did not believe in an anthropomorphic/personal God (Dinesh D’Souza notwithstanding).

    IF there is a sentient spirit underlying the creation of the cosmos, THEN she understands math blessedly well. The best a scientist can say, IMO.

    There are clear moral and scientific reasons for believing the God of Genesis does not exist.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, this mind-of-god talk seems endemic to some theoretical physicists. Even Hawking stooped to it in A Brief History of Time.

      But Kaku appears to be taking it a step or two further here.

      • Carl
        Posted November 17, 2016 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        Hawking and Einstein didn’t “stoop” to anything.

        “God does not play dice.”

        “… it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we should know the mind of God.”

        These are powerful and poetic metaphors. Objecting to them because they use the word “God” seems a little dogmatic.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 17, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          You’re right; I was being gratuitously arch in using “stoop” (although I do think it can confuse matters on occasion).

          I’m a fan of the figurative use of religious idiom. Lord knows, I do it myself.

          • Carl
            Posted November 17, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

            God only knows why I find “God damn it” indispensable.

            • darrelle
              Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:23 am | Permalink

              I don’t use that one too much. Jesus Fucking Christ is the one that seems to come most naturally to me.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 18, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

                Me too.

                I might as well mention here – one of my minor niggles (among 10,000) – if you ever watch Yuoboob videos of crashes, as soon as it becomes obvious the plane is going to crash, you can guarantee a monotonous monotonic voice starts up in the background, as if someone had started a tape machine, repeating “Oh my God…Oh my God…Oh my God…”

                cr

        • rickflick
          Posted November 17, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

          In Einstein’s time, the culture wars had not yet arrived. Poetic reference to the deity would have carried much less significance than in our day.

          • Carl
            Posted November 17, 2016 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

            I’ve encountered many people who take things Einstein said as “proof he was religious.” My favorite is when pressed on his religious views, Einstein answered, “I believe in the God of Spinoza” – when for the entire century after Spinoza’s death, “Spinozist” was used interchangeably with “atheist” among the educated public.

            Culture wars or not, I don’t see a need to worry about the use of “God” – metaphorically or otherwise.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted November 18, 2016 at 2:57 am | Permalink

              ‘“Spinozist” was used interchangeably with “atheist” among the educated public.’

              – a piece of information beyond the horizon of the faithful who like to pretend that Einstein was talking about their god. (To tell the truth, I didn’t know that either).

              I seem to recall that Einstein stated quite categorically that he did not believe in a ‘personal God’.

              cr

              • darrelle
                Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:24 am | Permalink

                He did. I’ll try and find a quote or two.

              • darrelle
                Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

                Here are a few:

                “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”(Albert Einstein, 1954, The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press)

                “A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”
                (Albert Einstein, “Religion and Science”, New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930)

                “I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.” (Albert Einstein, The World as I See It)

                “The idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I am unable to take seriously.” (Albert Einstein, Letter to Hoffman and Dukas, 1946)

              • derekw
                Posted November 18, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

                But was he a deist or could be classified as a pantheist? “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man.” “What I am really interested in knowing is whether God could have created the world in a different way.” “My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit, …That superior reasoning power forms my idea of God.”

              • Carl
                Posted November 18, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

                (To tell the truth, I didn’t know that either).

                As penance (or a reward for honesty) enjoy this, previously linked by bric:

                http://fivebooks.com/interview/best-philosophical-novels/

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 18, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

                @Carl
                Okay, I read the first half – about Spinoza, Moby Dick and Middlemarch – interesting. (I skimmed over the second half, about the three modern novels – it’s a looong article).

                Goldstein’s comments on the creative process somewhat echo Mirandaga’s comment above (without, I’d better add, going quite so far).

                cr

  18. rickflick
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I’ve noticed in the past Kaku’s language leans heavily toward a poetic manner – a bit like Einstein. Whenever he does it I figure it’s just his mode of expression. But this goes a little too far.

    • darrelle
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      Yes, I agree. I’ve always thought that he doesn’t pull it off very well, though, and to me he has always come across as a bit of a carny. The way Jerry has described how Bill Nye comes across to him? That’s pretty close to how Kaku comes across to me.

      But, I’ve never taken the time to learn more about him than watching many of his popular shows over the years. So I’ve reserved judgement. But this here doesn’t help things.

  19. Posted November 17, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been disgusted with Michio Kaku for a long time. He asserts speculation as if it were fact, and constantly claims “We physicists believe X”… as if all physicists agree with him.

    He’s an embarrassment to science and this should be the last straw. I hope one of the other famous physicists like Lawrence Krauss, Neil de Grasse Tyson or Stephen Hawking denounce this nonsense.

  20. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    What the hell does Kaku think he’s doing when he’s talking about “the mind of God”?

    Pimping his next pay-cheque from “Discovery Channel Ankle-depth Production Co.” (or whatever their trading name is). There are lots of people offering similar services on colourful cards in phone boxes in ant city centre you care to look. But Kaku sells his mouth and his credibility, not … other services.
    Sithrak has no special spits for them, or their egos.

    • darrelle
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      Yep. I think that’s probably the best explanation. Believers are a much bigger market than nons.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Cynical, nous?

        • darrelle
          Posted November 18, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

          Though I was certainly being cynical I didn’t intend to be philosophical!

  21. Posted November 17, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    God save us from Religion!

  22. KD
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    IMHO it doesn’t matter two figs if a physicist believes in God or not. That being said, that Mr. Newton sure was a dem fine physicist, and he had some very strange religious views.

    • Posted November 17, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

      It’s understandable for anyone, even a physicist, to have been religion s in Newton’s day. Now, not so much.

    • Posted November 18, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      On the other hand, some of Newton’s views on religion actually make better sense than the tradition: he denied the trinity, for example, saying (correctly, as it happens) that it was a later innovation in the form we have it today (or rather, his time).

  23. kieran
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    I’ll just leave this here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkuCtIko798

    He seems to suffer from expert in one area talking about another and having no idea of the basics

    • Posted November 17, 2016 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

      I’ve never seen such a pile of incoherent gibberish about evolution. He seems to have basically no idea what he’s talking about. My oponion of him has gone even lower; he does not have any credibility for me as a popularizer of science.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        I was going to say this:

        ‘I think – contra kieran – that he does have some idea of the general concepts but he’s trying so hard to simplify them into a ten-second sound bite that he overdoes it and ends up talking nonsense.’

        But I just watched the video again and I think PCC’s summary is about right. Like my knowledge of literature, he’s heard of a lot of it, misunderstood much of it, and has no real idea how it fits together.

        cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 3:06 am | Permalink

      “Australia is a continent that broke off from the other continents and it evolved very rapidly”

      Evolved? Really? Has he ever met an Australian?

      (Sorry, couldn’t resist 🙂

      cr

  24. Gerard Thomas
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Personally I see this more as a metaphor for the mystery at the heart of science similar, perhaps, to Einstein’s use if the term, or Paul Davies.

  25. Kevin
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Kaku, Kaku what are you thinking? Also string theory is near dead:

    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=8933

    • John Nunes
      Posted November 17, 2016 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      Read Lee Smolin’s “The Trouble With Physics”, which gives a pretty good overview of the failures of string theory.

  26. Dale Franzwa
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    What ticks me off about Kaku is that I know he is aware of The Zero Energy Universe which is simply a theory of how the universe could have arisen from nothing without violating any of the laws of physics, especially the first law of thermodynamics: conservation of energy. In fact, if you Google the above, you’ll find a whole series of posts on the theory, including one by Kaku, if it is still up. I don’t think, however, his post is the best one up. The best one, in my opinion is by The Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

    The Zero Energy Universe is also known as “The Free Lunch” theory. Which implies that no god is required to pick up the lunch tab. Free is free, period. This is why I don’t understand Kaku’s latest posting.

  27. Tom
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    I am with Sean Carroll on this, since we have no evidence that the Universe can be any different “thats the way it is”
    The assumption that there were infinite possibilities needs evidence.
    Modelling the early Universe cannot be called evidence.
    As an analogy we can remodel the Battle of Hastings but the reality of the Norman victory wil never change.

    • derek
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Is there any evidence another universe could be ‘any different’ (multiverse)?

  28. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    “One might as well say that the laws of fluid mechanics evince the mind of God.”

    Speaking as a hydraulic engineer – the mind of Satan, more likely.
    😦

    cr

    • Posted November 18, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Can Satan create an equation so complicated he cannot solve it analytically?😉

      (I think this might be funnier if one is a Zoroastrian where the evil and good principles are almost equal in power.)

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 18, 2016 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know, but if he could, he would certainly pose it for some poor hydraulics engineer to ‘solve’.

        I seem to recall reading that one of the reasons the Manhattan Project needed so many top physicists and mathematicians was, not so much that it involved radioactivity, but that the mechanics of the radioactive core coming together involved fluid mechanics. Oh, and thermodynamics. Even better…

        cr

  29. Posted November 18, 2016 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    I guess sophisticated theologians have been queuing up to tell Kaku that scientists have business talking about God unless they’ve made a deep study of Scripture…. haven’t they?

  30. HaggisForBrains
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    …Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore,” Kaku said

    Why is it that I suddenly find it difficult to believe any man who starts a sentence with “Believe me…”?

    • Posted November 18, 2016 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      “Why is it that I suddenly find it difficult to believe any man who starts a sentence with “Believe me…”?”

      The appearance of Herr Drumpfenfuhrer on the political scene over the past 16 months has had this effect on every skeptic.

  31. Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    He got a glimpse of Chopra’s bank statement …

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 19, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      😀😀

  32. Mike
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Perhaps he’s short of Cash and looking for a bung from the Templeton lot.

  33. sensorrhea
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Kakuo is so full of baloney. His shows are unwatchable. He’s not a science popularizer, he’s a science hyper. He’s always talking about pie-in-the-sky crap like time travel and faster than light travel.

    One of the problems with this is that it makes actual science sound boring by comparison.

    • sensorrhea
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      I meant “Kaku” or perhaps “Caca.”

    • sensorrhea
      Posted November 18, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      There is now a 100% chance he’ll get a coveted interview spot on “Krista Tippett OnBeing.”

  34. Posted November 18, 2016 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    When you read bullshit about God, we actually have a candidate for bullshit about God. That is bullshit about God.

    This word salad game is pretty easy.

  35. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Kaku espouses nonsense, period. (Based on science, unfortunately.) But I see Jerry twigged on that as Kaku seems to have said something about biology. (I don’t read Kaku at all, too much garbage.)

    As I am working my way backwards in the posts I haven’t read, I note that I can simply adapt what I commented on Gates:

    Supersymmetry doesn’t seem to kick in at LHC scales as expected. [See dwrainwins comment above, say.] It can still be in “a hidden valley”, but that doesn’t save physics from multiverses as the simplest explanation for the finetuning of the particle fields.

    Sort of the antithesis of Kaku’s NOMA attitude.


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