God and the New Physics

St. Andrew's Trust 1995, pp.50

Reviewed by Noel Cheer, SOF NZ Newsletter #15, March 1996

Does the universe show signs that it was designed to produce human consciousness? Or did our thoughts, culture, artworks and spirituality all arise spontaneously out of matter in automatic processes that led inevitably from the hydrogen atom, through self organising systems to human consciousness? Lloyd Geering leaves us with the second option as the most likely in his God and the New Physics

In helping us to come to terms with the new physics (viz. what they started teaching after we left college) Lloyd takes us through the subatomic "micro-world" (right down to 36 orders of magnitude smaller than we are) and into the cosmological "mega-world" (24 orders greater) and then returns us to the only thing that we can know with certainty -- our own consciousness. But it is at that point that the "old" physics runs out of explanations -- it doesn't account for consciousness and, in fact, can proceed only by ignoring consciousness.

Lloyd deals with the physicists' new accomodation with God, one that arose inevitably out of the ambition to propose a "Theory of Everything" -- something that belief in the traditional God of the theists provided for the first 19 Christian centuries and for 10 or so Jewish centuries before.

He shows that new scientific knowledge requires us to acknowledge that "religion and science, faith and knowledge are no longer in isolated compartments."

On the way he tantalises us with a sort of cosmic geometric progression: it takes 10 billion atoms to make a bacterium, 10 billion cells to make a conscious brain, and maybe, just maybe, 10 billion people in efficient contact (he cites the Internet as a possible mechanism) to realise Teilhard de Chardin's global consciousness.

In the new view of what underlies "solid" matter, of what may have been the origin of the universe and what may be its ultimate fate, and how we account for human consciousness, Descarte is sent packing: after all it was he who provided the dualistic paradigm that nurtured Newton's meccano-set universe, Marx's deterministic view of history and the obsession with market forces exhibited by today's economists. But Lloyd welcomes (among a large cast of others) Heisenberg for giving us certainty from Uncertainty; the inventors of chaos theory for paving the way to complex systems; and Martin Buber for giving us the "I-Thou" model of the spirit between.

Though the traditional God of Jew, Christian and Muslim is "pitifully minute relative to the Einsteinian universe" (were you, dear reader, like this reviewer, seduced by J. B. Phillips' Your God Is Too Small?), even physicists are finding that "the most basic religious term in our culture, God, proves to be a useful starting point for discussing the interface between the new cosmology and the value and purpose of human existence."

In God and The New Physics, Lloyd Geering demonstrates that probably there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in any philosophy to date -- but, watch this space.