Today’s blog is inspired by a bold book called The Trouble With Physics. Written by Lee Smolin, one of my favorite contemporary physicists, the text argues against the popularity of string theory. After years of focus and funding, the cutting-edge theory has yet to actually be made physically testable. And since good science requires experimental trial and verdict, the question inevitably comes: Is string theory science at all, or just wishful thinking?
Discussing the almost religious faith the theory has inspired in the scientific community, Smolin explains that its big temptation is its claim of unification. String theorists believe they’ve discovered a Theory of Everything—a mathematical and conceptual framework that fully explains our physical foundations, incorporating all the previously irreconcilable masses and forces in the universe.
A true TOE could be the sublime end of theoretical physics. A messianic age for science! Good stuff.
The most cherished goal in physics… is unification. To bring together two things previously understood as different and recognize them as aspects of a single entity—when we can do it‐is the biggest thrill in science.
This blog, of course, is dedicated to uniting seemingly dissimilar ideas and discoveries. And unexpectedly, this now stated goal of science turns out to also be the same as that of spirituality! All the world’s religious mysticisms teach us that the multiplicity of creation is an illusion: All the varied things we see are just passing, playful expressions of a singularity we call God. We’re called to recognize this reality, and live accordingly.
What Smolin calls unification, mystics call gnosis. What he refers to as a thrill, mystics call the sublime bliss of enlightenment.
Religion may inspire more poetic language, but the ideas are essentially the same: Both spirit and science seek the purity and simplicity of wholeness. It appeals to both our emotions and intellects in a primal and mysterious way, bespeaking truth. And the realization that we’re all entangled aspects of one totality leads to ethics of connection and compassion that can be world-changing!
Does it matter whether that realization comes by way of revelation or experimentation, intuition or cognition?
Ancient Kabbalists used the Hebrew word yehudim to describe the spiritual exercises and prayers used to reconcile self with God. The term translates literally into English as… unifications.
The synchronicity thrills me, and it leads me to ask: Are spirituality and science just neighboring paths up the same unitive mountain?
It must be a lovely view from the top.
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