quantum physics all the way down?


Physics can account not only for how the universe works but for why it is there at all. No divine help required. It is quantum physics all the way down—accompanied by just the right lot of elementary particle physics and string theory. The archbishop of Canterbury, with the concurrence of eminent colleagues across the religious spectrum, begs to differ with Hawking. “Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the universe,” he announced. But tell that to Pope Pius XII, who half a century ago proclaimed support for the “fiat lux” in the early glimmers of a big-bang cosmology. Or tell it to the group of Cambridge physicists around the same time who were pushing for a no-first-moment account: a steady-state cosmology that would wipe out the big bang, undermining an overly religious moment of creation. Once you start reading God’s presence—or his absence—into the ever-evolving equations of physics, it is hard to keep him from coming and going, creating a stir in the process. Hawking, who briefly left the door open for the mind of God two decades ago, surely knew he would stir an outcry by slamming it shut. In fact, it was no doubt part of his grand design.

more from Peter Galison at Slate here.