the numinously divine mystery … of the laws of physics

The NYT is at it again, wondering about the origins of the laws of physics. They don’t have an answer, or rather offer a whole slew of them, ranging from platonism, firey mathematics (i kid you not), russian doll universes (my favourite), random dynamics, etc.

The basic problem all these solutions are trying (rather unconvincingly) to solve is basically:

that the traditional view of transcendent laws is just 17th-century monotheism without God. “Then God got killed off and the laws just free-floated in a conceptual vacuum but retained their theological properties,”

The theological question of who made the universe, the philosophical question of why is there something instead of nothing, is, in physics, that of why are there laws at all. It seems that physics is getting closer to answering the theological and philosophical questions with a good, solid scientific fact. Indeed, if they can explain to us why the laws of gravity etc. hold, how they appeared, etc. then we will be very close to “god”. And they might be able to modify our view of the world enough that we no longer need to thing in god-terms any longer. But, as any good scientific explanation, this will at best open up an entire new slew of problems.

As we are already seeing with Quantum explanations of the world, the ultimate answer the physicists are going to give us to this question might not help much to solve our more banal curiosity: it is unlikely that they, let alone we, understand the answer, however mathematically sound it will prove to be.


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