Why We Need a Unified Theory of Everything

Lee asks:

Read a review of Marcelo Gleiser's book (American Scientist) in which he argues that the belief that the universe is governed by beautiful equations is a residue of monotheism. Wow! Maybe also the search for "ultimate" particle. Other problems will probably limit that search, already the particle accelerators require multi-national resources. Gleiser claims our reasoning has been subverted by metaphysical hopes and fantasies. Why is there the drive for a unified theory or theory of everything? Physics itself does not seem to require it, this seems to be an outside goal. From where?


The universe is not governed by equations. It is governed by univironmental determinism (UD), in which the motions of each portion of the universe are determined by the infinite matter in motion within (the microcosm) and without (the macrocosm). That generalization amounts to a “unified theory of everything” without the math. The classical mechanists notwithstanding, no one will ever devise a universal equation that will provide perfectly precise predictions for even one transformation.

In science we use equations to describe observations and experimental results. The equations may be perfectly beautiful, but the experimental results never are. This is because every microcosm is influenced by an infinite number of submicrocosms within and an infinite number of supermicrocosms without (see the neomechanics chapter in TSW). All equations, however, must necessarily be finite. The belief, particularly of modern mathematical physicists, that equations are primary and that the universe is secondary is a throwback to the indeterministic views of Plato. Perfect, ideal spheres, for example, can only exist in the heads of rank idealists. One could view this as a residue of monotheism or any other kind of theism—I like to call it indeterminism, because the residue is found today in most folks who call themselves atheists as well.

The search for the “ultimate” particle is futile, as no such thing can exist, just as neither empty space nor solid matter can exist. Will we find smaller particles until we run out of money? Of course. Will any of them be “ultimate”? No. The belief in the “ultimate” particle is based on the indeterministic assumption of finity¸ which, as you know from reading TTAOS (or Chapter 3 in TSW), runs straight from the dregs of religion to the grand foundation of the Big Bang Theory. Gleiser is surely right about being subverted by (indeterministic) metaphysical hopes and fantasy!

The drive for the theory of everything (UD) was based upon our curiosity about the world around us. Modern physics does not require it so much because modern physics, like other forms of indeterminism, has become accustomed to contradiction, paradox, and fantasy. Mathematical physicists are used to the “Twin Paradox,” “Wave-Particle Duality,” and the “SLT-Order Paradox,” just as many of their supporters are used to claims of virgin birth and living after dying. Their belief in the indeterministic assumption of disconnection (the foundation of positivism) allows these contradicitons to continue.  Above all, few of them will even have heard of consupponibility, Collingwood's claim that if you hold more than one assumption it must not contradict any others that you hold.

Naturally, thinkers with a deterministic bent are bothered by contradictions manufactured by modern physics. They have the vague feeling that something is not right, that maybe we could do better. Specialists in science know this well. The frontier in a specialty often is exactly at the point where interpretations are in conflict. Much “ordinary science” is uninteresting because it stimulates little argument. On the contrary, the most important research problems often may be found where discussion turns to argument—where the contradictions are the greatest. Of course, in addition to curiosity, we have the desire to be at peace with our surroundings, to eliminate contradiction and paradox wherever we find it. When we expand this to generalizations about the entire universe, we end up with “The Scientific Worldview.”

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