We are familiar with three dimensional space. But our three dimensional world is travelling through time, so we call time the fourth dimension. This can be written down mathematically, and mathematicians can invent on paper any number of dimensions. The question is whether these extra mathematically postulated dimensions have any practical meaning.
It is on such questions that string theory has developed, to explain what is happening at the sub-atomic level. Current theorists think that there is a physical basis for such extra dimensions, and the theories have coalesced into M-theory in which 11 dimensions are thought to describe the laws of physics and may help towards the ‘grand theory of everything’.
The problem is that they do not explain all the observable features of the Universe. They do not even begin to explain human thought, consciousness, self-consciousness and their interaction upon the physical universe through our brains. This is accounted for by the spiritual dimension.
We cannot all be mathematicians, nor physicists, but we do know about our own thoughts, and we are self-conscious about our own consciousness. Some people even think that the physical universe is an illusion, which is not true but it highlights the important role of our perception of the universe. Further, mankind does not possess all the receptors to experience all the physics in the universe – our eyes cannot see gamma-rays, and bees see a different part of the ‘visible’ spectrum from us.
So if we are not all mathematicians and we don’t all possess the necessary apparatus to see the universe as it is, how can we make sense of it? Some say that we are not meant to make sense of it – just get on and enjoy life.
Step forward the spiritual dimension. We do possess a receptor that taps into the universe. It does not impact upon our three dimensional surroundings directly – we cannot levitate a plate with our thoughts – but we can do so indirectly by instructing our body to lift up the plate. This interaction between our thoughts and our brain is at a quantum level, and we can train various features of our body with our thoughts, much as a computer programmer can write a macro to perform a complex function at the press of a keyboard combination of buttons. Other features of our bodily activities take place at the sub-conscious level such as our heart continuing to beat without any conscious input.
Whether this spiritual dimension is the 11th dimension or a 12th dimension I leave to the mathematicians, physicists, chemists and astrophysicists to determine, for it will take all of them in combination to come up with an answer, but meanwhile lesser mortals can rest satisfied that God has not left us ignorant of what we do need to know in order to live. He has given us a self-conscious spirit, which interacts with the physical world, and bears testimony to there being more to this world ‘than meets the eye’.
Some superstring theorists think that M-theory will explain everything. It has not been decided whether M should stand for mystery, magic or membrane (for it involves two and five dimensional objects called ‘branes’, which some astrophysicists think explain the Big Bang*), but the ultimate solution is likely to come when we can explain what is happening in our own brains, where our personal spirit interacts with the known world.
This still leaves unaddressed by secular physics the relationship between two spirits – your spirit is reading what my spirit has composed, and it has an effect upon your spirit. If the explanation of the whole Universe will be at the micro rather than the macro level, this is another way of saying that the real explanation is at the spiritual level. Lo and behold! The ultimate explanation is the timeless and eternal Spirit, the Creator and Sustainer of all things – our God.
Acknowledgments to our local Highland Astronomical Society, which meets on the first Tuesday of every month in Inverness. This is the most scientific society in Inverness, which brings top speakers to address us on various exotic subjects, and where discussion can be very lively. Last night, Paul Jenkins gave us his seventh address since joining the Society, called A Scintilla of Cosmic Doubt, which discussed alternative hypotheses to the Big Bang, and we had the best and most wide-ranging discussion in the 18 years since I joined the Society on 5/5/1998, engaging the collective knowledge of the Society’s most interesting thinkers. Today, I decided to publish my thoughts in this blog.
*Professor Neil Turok, Director of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada, oversees studies into the Big Bang. There are about five different hypotheses, mainly moving in the direction of Big Bounces rather than a Big Bang and a Big Crunch. Turok’s own view is that the Big Bang was a collision between two universes like ours existing as parallel ‘membranes’ floating in a higher-dimensional space that we are not aware of. Even Roger Penrose has, in his old age, moved in the direction of endless bounces. I have said from my teenage years that it is either an eternal universe or an eternal God. If we can agree that the explanation of all things is likely to be at the quantum level, then an omnipresent, eternal Spirit interacting with the Universe at the quantum level is more intuitively understandable than an eternal inanimate universe that just happens to produce complexity, consciousness and self-consciousness. God has not left Himself without a witness in every one of us (the Acts of the Apostles 14:17).
Incidentally, time is the fourth discovered or identified dimension; it is not logically the fourth in the order of relationships – other dimensions intervene.