Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2019-20/Truth in the Creation of the Universe
There have long been discussions across the disciplines about the origin of the universe. This is a multifaceted debate and although it's generally represented as a dispute between science and theology, an appreciation of how disciplines including Art, Literature, Computer Science and Philosophy contribute to the question is important. Each discipline conveys their own truth surrounding creation, providing different types of evidence to strengthen their argument. The issue of 'power' also plays into the debate due to historical biases surrounding the validity of contrasting evidence and the long-standing power of the Church.
Cross-Disciplinary Creation Truths
Cosmology and Philosophy
Examining the disciplines of cosmology and philosophy together, regarding creation, is integral. Modern cosmology originated in 1917 with Einstein's Static Model of the Universe, though evolved to incorporate physics, maths and astronomy. The practice of studying the cosmos originated in earlier societies; each establishing unique theories for understanding the heavens. Greek philosopher Aristotle argued there were four elements: fire, water, earth and air, and that all space was filled with one of the elements. Other theories include: the Brahmanda Cosmic Egg Theory (15th-12th century B.C) which depicted a cyclical universe containing a cosmic egg which continually expanded and collapsed, and the Einsteinian Theory (20th century) where the universe was identified as dynamically static. Today, cosmology is dominated by the Big Bang Theory (Edwin Hubble), which states the universe originated as a dense, hot mass around 14 billion years ago and from that point, it has been expanding. However, opposing theories such as the Steady State Theory and the Oscillating Theory currently coexist alongside the Big Bang Theory.
Cosmology is largely based on observation; it's impossible to run experiments on the entire universe. Thus, it requires philosophical debate. Cosmology is dealing with the concept of the beginning; the Big Bang is widely accepted as the prominent creation theory, but how do we conceptualise the "nothing" that preceded it? These are philosophical issues, therefore a combined understanding of philosophy and cosmology is necessary in addressing the origin of the universe.
In John 17:17 of the Bible, Jesus speaks to God on behalf of his disciples saying “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth”. Christianity teaches an absolute truth; truth is the word of God, as truth is the reality that God has created and defined. Truth in Christianity surrounding ‘the creation of the universe’ is presented through creationism.
Creationism states that “matter and all things were created... by an omnipotent Creator, and not gradually evolved or developed”. Many Christian denominations believe in biblical inerrancy; that the bible is “without error or fault in all its teaching”, meaning that the Genesis creation narrative, where God created the universe in six days, is interpreted as fact. Evidence for creationism has been argued through intelligent design theory: “that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection". Thomas Aquinas, an 11th century Catholic philosopher, argued that "wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer".
Contrastingly, there is also an argument for biblical allegory; a view that the bible should be interpreted rather than taken literally. This allows for belief in both a scientific and religious truth simultaneously, as they are no longer mutually exclusive.
Art and Literature
For over 6,000 years, man has been depicting the cosmos in art; illustrating versions of truth surrounding the creation of the universe. Michelangelo's depiction of the Book of Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel portrays God creating the Earth in six days, resting on the seventh. These pieces of artwork align with the creation story told in Christian theology. Commissioned by Pope Julius II, this artwork demonstrates the power of the Church in representation of truth.
In Literature, the creation stories have been frequently retold within both fiction and non-fiction writing. Milton's Paradise Lost portrays a universe where Heaven is at the top, Hell at the bottom, and chaos in-between. However, several scholars have commented on the parallels between science and religion within Milton's work. Paul Nurse draws on the relationship between Milton and Galileo, with Milton citing sunspots and other cosmological phenomena observed through Galileo's telescope within Paradise Lost; 'Milton slips seamlessly between the traditional religious views of the time and the modern 17th century thinking on science'. Karl Popper examines the similarities between science and faith, expressing the fact that 'Science avoids un-testable theories, unlike religion which takes matters on faith. However... science itself depends upon assumptions that come close to matters of faith'. Art and Literature have become spaces of discussion and innovation which are imperative to a more comprehensive and inclusive truth surrounding the question of creation.
Computer science has a positivist philosophy towards truth as it looks for an empirical truth that is rational, objective and derived from scientific methodology.
Nick Bostrom suggested that either “(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any post-human civilisation is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history... ; (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation” concluding the likelihood of the latter was greatest. The theory of the universe being created as a computer simulation evolved from the idea of exponential human advancement. In 1972, the ‘Pong’ game was created which involved only basic pixelated shapes. In 2000 ‘The Sims’, a life simulation video game, was released, and now virtual reality games are gaming’s newest innovation. The prospect of a ‘posthuman’ civilisation existing who have created a computer-simulated universe is not so preposterous as first thought and this idea of a 'higher power' draws parallels with theological creationism.
There are numerous claims of supporting evidence. Firstly, the universe behaves mathematically (e.g. the Fibonacci sequence in nature), thus reflecting the computer code from which it was written. Furthermore, everything in the universe can be broken up into subatomic particles which imitates a pixilated video game. A simulation hypothesis also accounts for inconsistencies in quantum mechanics, such as the ‘measurement problem’, which is a paradox where measurements supporting quantum mechanics are theoretically impossible.
Many disciplines examined within this chapter are single-minded in regard to their version of truth surrounding creation, and the "absolute truths" of cosmology, theology and computer science produce significant tension. This is a prominent example of how the issue of truth prevents interdisciplinary research, which would inevitably lead to an enhanced understanding of creation. There are individuals within disciplines who acknowledge the potential role of numerous factors culminating in the creation of the universe; Scientists who believe in God and writers who portray both sides to the debate. However, as this specific case study is entrenched in power struggles and historical viewpoints, prominence for these academics is difficult. We have concluded that truth surrounding this question should not be categorised into one discipline, and that it's imperative not to prioritise scientific truth because it is quantifiable, but to recognise the potential role of many different versions of truth when examining the creation of the universe.
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