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