Wednesday, 22 May 2024
WorldDo we really need God?

Do we really need God?

MEXICO CITY (–Those who believe in the existence of a supreme being allude too often that the world as we know it, with the complexity that characterizes it, cannot be the work of chance. “It takes a watchmaker to make a watch,” they point out insistently. For his part, Carl Sagan commented that there was no need for a god to explain the Universe. When they told him that God created everything around us, he counterattacked with the question: “And who created that being who made everything around us?” The answer used to be: “That’s a meaningless question,” so Sagan concluded: “Well, I think the same. We do not need to go one step further considering the presence of God. Simply asking who created the Universe is meaningless. I don’t see the problem then.”

The issue here is that Sagan knew mathematics, which ultimately, as Galileo said, is the language of nature. And in this branch of science many solutions are found to problems that apparently could have no other explanation than theological. Consider for example a tree. It is composed of a trunk which is divided into two or more branches, which are nothing more than subtrees. And so on. In this there is a self-similarity, which is the key word of what would later be inaugurated as a great science, the theory of fractals, the new geometry according to many. We know that what we call Euclidean geometry has already existed for more than 2000 years. Its usefulness lies in the fact that it explains the world that man has created, that of circles, spheres, straight lines and simple curves. Although such curves already represent an abstraction of reality, they cannot explain a rock formation or the shape of a cloud. So then, our scheme fails. In the words of the discoverer of fractals, Benoit Mandelbrot: “Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles and crusts are not smooth, nor do lightning move in straight lines.”

In a certain sense, a careful look at many natural phenomena makes us find that despite their convoluted shape, their apparent irregularity, clouds and mountains and trees are full of shapes that repeat themselves at different scales within each of these. objects. A fragment of rock, for example, closely resembles the mountain from which it was extracted. The branches of a tree usually have the same layout on its bark as on its trunk. This same scheme is repeated even when observing how the arteries and veins are distributed in the human body. These are all examples of self-similar phenomena (a term coined by Mandelbrot himself, the “father” of this new science).

In 1975, Mandelbrot introduced the term “fractal” to describe this self-similarity in many phenomena whose irregularities seem evident. Fractal objects contain structures embedded within each other. Each smaller structure is like a miniature, not necessarily identical, that is, a version of the larger format. The mathematics of fractals reflects the relationship between the models considered as a whole and the patterns found in the parts of that whole.

We then have many natural phenomena that behave like fractals. In the theoretical study, simplifications of these models are sought. One of them are cellular automata in one dimension, which represent complex dynamic natural systems, containing a large number of identical components where there is interaction between them. This can be represented as an array of sites or cells in one dimension, in a straight line. Each cell has the possibility of having a certain value in it. This set of possible values ​​is finite. The numbers in these cells unfold synchronously in discrete steps of time according to certain transition rules, which apply to each location of the one-dimensional array. The transition rule is given by the previous values ​​of a neighborhood of sites around the cell of interest. This rule is applied in parallel.

If one observes how each generation of one-dimensional cells unfolds, and we put them one below the other, we will discover a complex, self-similar pattern, generated through blind rules, that do not understand or flow, that only run in parallel in all the cells. cells or sites of the one-dimensional cellular automaton. Suddenly we find ourselves with a complex behavior, created literally “blindly”, but which shows a complexity that many believers in God would consider as the only explanation for this creation. This is like saying that the watchmaker is blind (as Richard Dawkins would exclaim), which makes us think that there is not necessarily a god behind who explains what we consider inexplicable (in fact, using God for these purposes is taking the easy way out. It doesn’t explain anything, it just justifies some facts). And this reminds me of when Napoleon commented to Lagrange that his masterful work, the Treatise on Celestial Mechanics, made no reference to God anywhere. The scientist replied: “I don’t need that hypothesis.” I think that this is a masterful response and that it reflects, in some way, the way science is done.

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