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Ultimate Questions

Entry 412, on 2006-10-19 at 15:50:19 (Rating 2, Science)

In some of the web sites, podcast, and other sources of information I commonly reference I have often heard the idea that there are some "ultimate questions" which are so difficult that science cannot tackle them. Some people use this as a reason for the existence of theology. They say these are the questions that religion can tackle because it can take over where science cannot cope.

There are a couple of problems with this idea. First, there have been many questions of this type in the past but science has eventually found an answer, so its difficult to say what science might be able to cope with in the future. Second, does religion really give the sort of answers which are of any real value. In my opinion we are better off to accept that maybe the question is meaningless or that we simply don't know the answer right now instead of trying to create an answer of doubtful veracity using the type of "logic" employed by religion.

As an example of the first type consider the question "why are we here?" The question probably can't be answered by science because it just isn't a valid question. Asking for the reason we are here is not only imprecise but also pre-supposes there is a reason. We could either say something like "the reason is that god wants us here" or just say "evidence indicates there is no reason, so the question is meaningless".

Now consider religion's answer to the second type of question. Should we use religion to tell us what happened before the beginning of the Universe, or to investigate why the Universe has the form it does? In our Universe various physical constants are just the right value to make life possible, why is this? To say that god made it that way is just a waste of time, but many people have said that these questions cannot be answered by science.

But maybe they can. A recent scientific report described a theory which indicated that previous Universes might have existed. The theory of "loop quantum gravity" utilised in the report showed a mechanism where a collapsing earlier Universe with completely different parameters from ours might have existed before our Universe began in the Big Bang. Its highly speculatively, but it does show that science is capable of tackling the ultimate questions. Anyone who relies on gaps in scientific knowledge to support the purpose of theology is likely to find the reason for that belief rapidly disappearing!

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