Zach, fictional though he is, is not the only one interested in cosmological theories. But what form do these theories take? A Theory of Everything or TOE is a theory that intends to explain the entire observable universe using a compact specification of equations and the conceptual arguments that support them. In the modern sense, a TOE is a physical explanation of the large-scale structure of the universe. Later, we can start to expand the TOE to look for “bridging laws” that help justify other phenomena that approach the human scale.
What are our alternatives? The previous post mentioned the Catholic Church’s embrace of Big Bang cosmology as justifying Genesis. Apologist and philosopher of religion William Lane Craig also elaborately evaluates Big Bang theories as substantiating theism by supporting creation at the singularity event.
But do these notions change the underlying TOEs? No, in general. The best that they can do is accept the TOE as an input and make a deductive argument based on assumptions that are not excluded by the TOE. For apologists, that means that the singularity event provides a divide between a non-temporal pre-universe and the current universe–effectively between non-existence and existence. But that is not the only TOE available to us. There are a range of TOEs that have been devised. The following is derived from Marcus Hutter’s A Complete Theory of Everything (Will Be Subjective):
- (G) Geocentric model: Ancient notion that the Earth is at the center of the known universe.
- (H) Heliocentric model: Evolution of the model to centralize on the Sun.
- (E) Effective theories: General relativity, quantum electrodynamics, and Newtonian mechanics, but without a unifying architecture.
- (P) Standard model of particle physics: Beginning of unification that contains numerous arbitrary parameters and has yet to unify gravity.
- (S) String theory: new theoretical framework that unifies gravitation and P.
- (C) Cosmological models: Standard inflationary Big bang stuff.
- (M) Multiverse theories: The notion that there are many possible universes and that they might overlay one another through black holes or just evolve in parallel with one another.
- (U) Universal ToE: We’ll get back to this in a future post, but this is just an extension of M where we live in one of the multiverses and that the multiverse is “computable” in that it can be characterized in a specific way that lets us argue about its properties.
- (R) Random universe: This is essentially the same argument that irrational numbers like Pi or e, in that they contain infinite, random digits, also contain all the known works of Shakespeare. Likewise, an infinite and random universe would contain low-entropy areas that might look like our universe and, perhaps, contain local information sufficient to deceive us about the properties of the universe.
- (A) Al-a-Carte models: This is like buffet-style religion, but we can simply claim that the universe is a subset of a random string of specifications and achieve similar results to R.
Do any of these theories have anything to do with religious notions, whether Western, abstractly New Age, or Eastern? I find no similarities. The defining difference is between an epistemological approach that reifies mystical abstractions derived from pure speculation versus one that attempts to harmonize empirical results with theorization.
Zach is justified in his enthusiasm for the latter.