Saturday, November 5, 2011

The genre of the universe

You get a book, with the title page and covers missing, and you start to read. After a while, you realize it's a book of fiction. Some time later, you realize it's a book of science fiction. Then you realize it's a book of hard science fiction. The more you learn about the genre of the book, the better you can make predictions about what is to come in the book. Prior to learning it's a book of science fiction, you thought you could make inferences based on the present limits of technology, but after you learned that it was science fiction, these inferences became bad. And once you've learned that it's hard science fiction, you become able to make inferences on the basis of most if not all of the laws of nature that we know of.

The physical universe is God's book. It took us a while—namely, until around the late middle ages—to figure out the genre, namely that the genre is deeply mathematical. Once we figured out the genre, it became very easy to make fast progress understanding the book and making predictions.

A good work of art tends to have a deep unity of genre in it (which is compatible with all sorts of complexity). There is, thus, good reason to suppose that once we've identified the genre of the parts of the work we have seen, something generically similar will follow.

Modern science, thus, grasped an important aspect of God's artistic plan for the universe, as in Galileo's remark about the book of nature being written in the language of mathematics. It is a difficult question whether the practice of science can rationally stand without such theistic underpinnings.

1 comment:

syphax said...

Without theistic underpinnings, it just seems like a coincidence why mathematics describe the universe so well. Nobody complains about an "interaction problem" there.