June 1, 2015
A growing cohort of modern-day scientists are either agnostics or atheists.
Most believe that the Universe sprang like the proverbial “rabbit out of the hat” in what must be viewed as the most astonishing magic trick imaginable.
Known as the Big Bang, the “hat” that gave rise to all things was a singularity.
A nice scenario, except that it leaves unanswered one vital, unavoidable question: Who was the Magician?
And the corollary question: What, exactly, is a singularity?
Yes, “The Bigger Bang” is about a proof of God. It is the answer to the ultimate existential question, in rational* but not mathematical terms, for some things must be regarded as axiomatic. Do you really believe that you are not experiencing what you are experiencing in this instant? Whether or not you can even convince someone else?
Yet “The Bigger Bang” does not purport to characterize God, as religions all do to one degree or another. Nor does it claim certain knowledge of God’s plan for life in the Universe, including, but not limited to, human life. These are all interesting questions, but they must be left to other forums of exploration.
Details of the Grand Design, however, are in the purview of science, which, in its best practices, actually does reveal the seminal details.
Lastly, it is worthwhile remembering that Sir Isaac Newton, one of history’s greatest scientists and the creator of calculus, had a life-long commitment to answering these questions. Hope you will give “The Bigger Bang” a careful and well-considered read. --CWA
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. -- T. S. Eliot
The Bigger Bang
Answering the Ultimate Existential Question
By Carlton W. Austin
Look up at the clear night sky, alive with its fabulous incandescent array. Is there any doubt that the universe is ineffably beautiful? And full of mystery? Mysteries that disguise a beguiling grandeur, unspeakable power and the ultimate question. It’s the same question that Dorothy and her companions—the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion—had as they entered the Emerald City at the end of their journey in the movie The Wizard of Oz: Is there anyone—or anything—behind the curtain? Or is the voice they hear just some cruel trick?
The curtain before us today is the Big Bang1, which is rightly accepted as the beginning of the universe, now thought to be about 13.8 billion years old. This beginning of the space-time/matter existence we all now experience arose from a singularity, which has several definitions but is most commonly described by modern physics as a point of infinite density. When it suddenly expanded at an unimaginably rapid speed—what physicists refer to as inflation—it resulted in the aforementioned Big Bang, thus creating the universe.
Nevertheless, the nagging question that remains is what, if anything, came before the singularity? Most of the highly revered scientists of our day, mainly but not exclusively physicists and cosmologists, will exclaim that nothing existed before the singularity, as the brilliant and immensely admirable Stephen Hawking2 did in his 2010 book with Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design.
The universe came out of nothing.
Nothing. (Not just “no thing” but nothing, for as you will see, the distinction is important.) A narrative that, ironically, has the same veneer of sorcery that many would attribute to past—or even some present—religions.
But is this true?
This article will attempt to play Toto, Dorothy’s little dog that finally exposed the Wizard by teasing back the curtain that hid him. In so doing, the reader will be left to decide what, if anything, is behind the curtain. Or, in the present case, what, if anything, existed before the Big Bang.
John Keats wrote “beauty is truth, truth beauty.” But most often powerful truths are also powerfully simple. As it turns out, the answer to Dorothy’s question is even more elegantly simple than Einstein’s greatest formulation, E=mc2, for it all depends on the definition of a singularity—and its deceptively simple numerical property.
The online Wiktionary provides the following definitions (less the one having to do with Artificial Intelligence and one referencing religion):
1.The state of being singular, distinct, peculiar, uncommon or unusual
2.A point where all parallel lines meet
3.A point where a measured variable reaches unmeasurable or infinite value
4.(Mathematics) the value or range of values of a function for which a derivative does not exist
5.(Physics) a point or region in space-time in which gravitational forces cause matter to have an infinite density; associated with Black Holes
Notice that 2-4 all, in one way or another, make reference to measurement. Even the one from physics uses density, a measurable, dimensional entity, though it also uses the term infinity (another term with several meanings, some of which involve real numbers, or at least in some instances the singularity-violating idea that you can always “add one more”3 ). Critically, 2-4 can be said to be Dimensional definitions.
Only the first definition comes close to the original definition by use of the word singular, which according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has as its earliest etymology the Latin word singulus, meaning only one. Therefore, a true Singularity is unique and has the unique property of Non-Dimensionality4. In this regard, the only number that can be used to describe the Singularity is the first of the Natural Numbers5, the number “1.” Which, it should be noted, is also unique in that it is the only number that can be multiplied by and divided by itself with no change in value. All of the other numbers of the various groups (Integers, Rationals, Irrationals, Reals, etc.) are generated from this unique starting point. As a consequence, this definition of the Singularity, or the Non-Dimensional Realm (NDR), leads to an undivided, immaterial and timeless domain that cannot be addressed with the scientific method, which is dependent upon data collection (counting) and the logical inter-relationships in the dimensional world described by mathematics.
By contrast the universe as we experience it is a Dimensional Realm (DR), where the scientific method is supreme for understanding its mechanisms. Numbers are required to build, to maintain and to explain the workings of the universe, making mathematics a requirement for understanding. (It is, perhaps, a good place to mention that not all mathematical constructs, no matter how imaginative, detailed and elegant necessarily represent a DR reality.)
Here it is necessary to remark that language itself is not knowledge but a container and transmitter of knowledge, and it is imperfect. Beautiful packaging can sometimes convey empty containers, while some of the greatest truths can come in plain brown wrapping paper. All of which compels us to be careful with our use of this great gift. So for our purposes, it is crucial to differentiate between the words “nothing” and “no thing,” as hinted at earlier. The word nothing would imply not only that no dimensional entity existed but that no non-dimensional entity existed either; whereas no thing simply means that no dimensional-property entities exist. Not accidentally, then, there are no things in the universe (DR) that have the required characteristics of the Singularity. There is always the possibility for more than one of any thing, for all things display the properties of dimensionality.
What we have so far suggests that the universe did, indeed, spring forth from the Singularity, though one quite different, it seems, from the common template, establishing the dictum that out of the One spring the many. From the NDR to the DR.
But what on Earth—or in the universe as we know it for that matter—resembles the Singularity? How do we know that it exists? As you might have surmised, the Singularity, having no relationship to time, cannot cease to exist; it is truly eternal, having no beginning and no end. Only one thing in the DR, our universe, has the required—and unique—characteristics of the Singularity: Consciousness.6
As British novelist Joseph Conrad once said, “The mind of man is capable of anything—because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future.”
He is correct.
But how could the Singularity account for the many “mind[s] of man”? And what about the endless other levels of Consciousness that inhabit the equally endless variety of forms of the DR generated by the brilliant evolutionary process? The word “many” implies dimensionality, does it not?
Consider an admittedly crude analogy. Imagine a glass half full of sand, into which water is poured to fill the glass. What appears is a seeming dichotomy: clear water in the top half, water-soaked individual pieces of sand in the bottom half. But the division is illusory. Actually the water remains intact; its singularity of form is preserved even as it interacts with each grain of sand. Take the analogy one step further. Imagine some pure conscious awareness suffusing each grain. Now take each grain and shrink it to a molecule, then an atom, then an atomic nuclei, then a quark, then, perhaps, a Higgs Boson. Or maybe even a string? Since the Singularity is all that is, the created DR has to remain a part of the Singularity in some respect.
We humans are the best proof of the nature of Consciousness. In our minds there is no scale, no limits. When we imagine a thing we would like to create, whether it be a nano-particle or a skyscraper or a subdivision with thousands of homes, it doesn’t matter. Ponder the complexities and the surreal imaginings that are displayed in today’s movie theaters and video games. All came from Consciousness. Scale doesn’t matter. Numbers do not matter. Our mental realm is the NDR, the Non-Dimensional Realm. We are creating out of the Singularity of Consciousness.
Our separation from the one Singularity is both functionally real and illusory. We are in effect “segregated”: in a real (experiential) sense isolated and separate, but we are not truly disconnected. As John Donne famously said in his poem, “No man is an island, entire of itself...” Neither, it turns out, is anything else in the universe.
One difference results from this segregation, from our experiential involvement with the DR. Whereas the Singularity of Consciousness can create by imagination and intention—or will—alone, we must add a third step to achieve any new creation: Action. We have been de-tuned, as it were; we don’t have the power of the Singularity in its primordial state (realizing that this is a crude way of describing it).
Action in space-time must be taken for creation in the DR to become reality. Imagination and intention, or will, is necessary but not sufficient. The created Universal Laws, the laws that science reveals, must be obeyed, and as an important corollary, there is nothing that can be referred to as the supernatural.
Think about your own conscious experience and ask yourself, Don’t we all, in the privacy of our own thoughts, experience the idea and the feeling that we are—or should be—the Emperor of our own universe? The one and only power? The dictator of what is and what will be? Isn’t this why we are so annoyed when we can’t instantaneously get our way? We somehow “know” that we should be able to do it; that we should be able to create out of intention/will alone, and it is a difficult restriction for most of us to come to terms with during our lives.
At this point, if you are willing to accept that our conscious state truly exhibits the characteristics of the NDR, the Singularity, then the issue of time is settled by definition: there is no time in the NDR because time is a dimensional feature of the division of matter. The issue should be resolved without further need for discussion.
Nevertheless, for some this will seem strange and untrue upon first reflection. Yet consider that many of us have experienced “times” of being completely absorbed by our thoughts. Usually this is when trying to solve some interesting but difficult problem or when we are simply immersed in an activity that is totally riveting. During these episodes we achieve a state popularly called the “Zone,” wherein our dimensional time-keeping mechanisms—our heartbeat, noise from blood flow though our inner ears, movements in our gut, sensations from our skin and the like—are overwhelmed by our experience of Non-Dimensionality, which is the equivalent of being withdrawn from experiencing its DR creation. We are brought out of these experiences by some dimensional stimulus. A loud noise. An irresistible itch. Or some other demanding bodily function. Sometimes it’s our own created dimensional devices, such as a ringing phone, that breaks us out of our zone. If you have experienced this, you will not be surprise by what follows. Your complete unawareness of the passage of time could as easily have been a million years as a few hours, i.e., until your mind is drawn back to interacting with the DR and quickly, a matter of only a second or two, reconstructs the narrative of its experiential existence—its ego identity.
Meditative states create similar experiences, as do sensory deprivation experiments, though, ironically, they aren’t as effective as the first too examples, probably because of the already mentioned internal biological functions that we may be even more sensitive to in sensory-deprived situations. Here’s one small slice on sensory deprivation from Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Relatively complete sensory deprivation (such as may be experienced, for example, by persons undergoing prolonged stays in experimental isolation chambers) compresses the experience of time to the point that short or long intervals (from about a minute to a day) seem to pass about twice as fast as usual. Time spent under these unpleasant conditions paradoxically seems shorter than normal time. Thus, the 58 objective days of a subject’s first stay in a cave were underestimated as 33 days.”
For confirmation of the current proposition, two things must be proven satisfactorily: 1) Consciousness is the only DR entity that shares the characteristics of the Singularity, of which, if you accept the definition, there can be only one. 2) Only the Non-Dimensional—Consciousness—can create the Dimensional, not the other way around.
As for number one, the answer is clear, and with a simple journey into the NDR through thought, the reader will no doubt be convinced. It is, as is still the case in some instances with mathematics, an axiomatic proposition: no further proof is required. Our existence is real, our experiences are real, and we all know it.
The second proposition is more problematic because science, through rigorous application of its methods, can only seek proof from investigations of the DR (recall the Singularity cannot be approached by mathematics or, therefore, the scientific method).
Neuroscience, in particular, continues to believe that the more minute the level of detail at which it can describe the structure of and interrelationships between components of the brain, the closer we will be to showing how the brain creates Consciousness. (This is the same approach—material reductionism—as the physical sciences pursue, particularly in quantum theory7/8.)
A very troubling ramification of these current lines of neuroscience research is the growing willingness of researchers to draw conclusions about causality from evidence that is no more than correlative at best. One particularly dangerous idea is that we lack free will, as a recent research paper published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience attempts to show, claiming that choices could be predicted based on the pattern of brain activity immediately before a selection is made. Efforts to remove free will from the human experience will have profoundly destructive impacts on our collective future, for to remove free will is to entirely eliminate responsibility for our actions. Ironically, because so many individuals already deny accountability “willingly,” a world where all lack culpability would be orders of magnitude more chaotic than it already is.
This is not to say that neuroscience should cease its explorations. Far from it. We should continue to strive for its ultimate goal—to fully discover how the mechanisms of the brain create experiences for the Experiencer. For it is beyond mere noteworthiness that even quantum mechanics, in its simplest explanation, divides the world into two inextricably linked parts, commonly called the system and the observer. All experiences are real; they all have an experience and an experiencer, a system and an observer. One ineludible truth in quantum mechanics is the idea of uncertainty and the observer’s role in ultimate determination of experience. Without this part of the Design, free will would be impossible and every event/experience would be determined—fated. The universe—and life—would be a pointless, boring algorithm.
Still, some experiences are more pleasant and more productive than others. Some are not consonant with the narrative of a particular life-form experience, as in hallucinations. So further understanding of the structure and mechanisms of the brain is a worthy endeavor.
Nonetheless it remains true that the many come from one, not the one from the many. This is on exhibit everywhere in the universe, especially in the realm of the living. Again, we are the best example. We create out of our Non-Dimensional, segregated—though not disconnected—Consciousness to bring into being dimensional forms. When a child is born, his new body—a dimensional construct—is in effect an experiential machine, as we are finding is true of most, if not all, life forms. Actually, at least in the case of self-conscious forms, a better description might be vehicle. Each new vehicle is occupied by its segregated-yet-connected relationship to the Singularity: Consciousness.
Since the dimensional biological element—the brain—is replicated in any number, it cannot be creating a Singularity, because there is and can be only one, while there are limitless possible biological forms. Also, the brain and its supposed created singularity (small “s”) has an end, which means it is dimensional, as time is a dimensional feature that always exhibits a beginning and an end. Every brain has a beginning and an end; therefore, by definition, it would not be a singularity, of which there can ever be only a timeless one.
If you think it is odd that Consciousness can create, then occupy the brain so as to have a wide variety of experiences, yet be limited in any way, consider that we can also create dimensional-realm forms that give us new experiences that at same time delimit what we are used to experiencing in our biological form. For countless millennia humans have longed to know the thrill of flight, of the eagle’s majestic wanderings in the realm of the gods. But when we first achieved this goal in our DR-created flying machines, we met with some temporary restrictions on other normally ordinary activities: While in the air we could not go for a walk, do jumping jacks, talk to our friends on the ground or play chess. Our new experiential machine did provide novel experiences but at the cost of some restrictions elsewhere.
And so at last it’s time to draw back the curtain and reveal the truth. There is no Wizard. But there is not “nothing” either. Instead what Dorothy and her companions find is a large mirror with their startled, bright images shining back at them.
Ergo, the Singularity from which the universe arose—in the Big Bang—was Consciousness, popularly known as God. Stephen Hawking claims that nothing existed before the Big Bang. He is right if the meaning of nothing is “no thing.” Believers in the Ultimate Singularity, or God, are right, too, because “no thing” comes from nothing. As the sagacious Richard Rodgers fittingly wrote in his lyrics for the Sound of Music song “Something Good”:
Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could…
It is clear that Rodgers’s intended meaning supports the thesis of this article. Nothing, as in no “thing” (a dimensional artifact), exists without Consciousness. For it takes Consciousness to confirm the existence of any dimensional thing (the quantum mechanical observer). Without things, there is only Consciousness, which is why the number “0” is not a part of the Singularity; it is part of the DR and its language—mathematics. Therefore, nothing (the all-inclusive meaning) exists without Consciousness.
Not surprisingly, many throughout history have heard the still, small voice that speaks from the shadowy inner knowing of who we are, where we came from and, perhaps most importantly, where we are headed. Very much like victims of amnesia, we are trying to rouse our dormant, soundly sleeping memory, the memory of the book of life. Meanwhile we will continue as William Shakespeare wrote in his play As You Like It,
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…
Everything in the DR has a beginning and an end. So science will press on until it recovers the lost blueprints of the Grand Design. And until evolutionary progress creates more advanced, more highly self-aware “vehicles” that will, in the end, return complete memory. When we will once again know full well who we are, and then the whole Grand Adventure will end. Perchance to begin again? (Multiverse Theory?)
As it turns out, Forrest Gump was only partly right when he declared that “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Life is, indeed, an endless potpourri of experience, of limitless surprises. Some good, some bad. Because without the possibility of both there could be no free will. But there is even more to the story, something to give comfort, serenity and ultimate assurance. For life is not just a box of chocolates. It is also a circle: no matter where you begin your journey and no matter which way you turn, you always end up home. So, as Dorothy did, tap your heels three times and repeat "There's no place like home."
(Or just the beginning?)
* In my old Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary, definition number 2 for rational is “Having full possession of one’s mental faculties; sane.” This is the intended meaning here. Rational is one of three key words in this thesis—the others being singularity and axiomatic--that provides a proof that consciousness is outside the Dimensional Realm, in which any attempt at “proof” would otherwise require mathematics. The real issue in the definition is self-delusion, a common human fault that results from selective perception. For who can credibly deny that every achievement of the human species, from the wheel to the entire panoply of science, architecture, music, and art arose like a butterfly from the chrysalis of consciousness.
1) Atheist-turned-agnostic astronomer Fred Hoyle coined the term “Big Bang.” Hoyle stated that “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics." Hoyle also viewed the Big Bang not just as a chaotic explosion, but rather a very highly ordered event – one that could not have occurred by random chance.
2) “What was God doing before the divine creation? Was he preparing hell for people who asked such questions?” Stephen Hawking said after explaining that that God wasn’t necessary for the creation of the universe in what is termed the “Big Bang.”
3) “Even though infinity is not a number, it is possible for one infinite set to contain more things than another infinite set. Mathematicians divide infinite sets into two categories, countable and uncountable sets. In a countably infinite set you can 'number' the things you are counting. You can think of the set of natural numbers (numbers like 1,2,3,4,5,...) as countably infinite. The other type of infinity is uncountable, which means there are so many you can't 'number' them. An example of something that is uncountably infinite would be all the real numbers (including numbers like 2.34.. and the square root of 2, as well as all the integers and rational numbers). In fact, there are more real numbers between 0 and 1 than there are natural numbers (1,2,3,4,...) in the whole number line! See One infinity larger than another? for more information. http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.large.numbers.html Math Forum @ Drexel
4) Wormholes, also known as Einstein–Rosen bridges, cannot themselves be singularities, because they violate the simple definition: there can’t be more than one. Speculatively, however, they may well be the route by which the dimensional universe is “reabsorbed” into the Singularity.
5) Some mathematicians use “0” as part of the Natural Numbers; some do not.
6) This leaves materialism open to the "hard problem" question that David Chalmers put forth in 1994: "How do physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience?" Blackmore considers this question unanswered, and unanswerable for materialists. --- paraphrased from a review of Consciousness an Introduction, by Susan Blackmore
7) To read a great debate between the materialist point of view and that of the dualist, read War of the World Views, Science vs. Spirituality, by Deepak Chopra and world-renowned theoretical physicist Leonard Mlodinow, co-author with Stephen Hawking on The Grand Design.
8) For absolutely the best summarization of the key arguments regarding the origin of consciousness read “Is Consciousness Primary,” by Michel Bitbol, NeuroQuantology, vol. 6, n°1, 53-72, 2008