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A Voyage into Stephen Hawking’s Godless Universe: With Javed Ghamidi, John Lennox, Alan Guth, Paul Davies, John Polkinghorne, Wolfgang Smith, David Albert, Stephen Mumford & other experts on-board (2)
Dr. Junaid Hassan



2. Do fixed laws leave any room for human free will & God’s Intervention (miracles) in the Universe?


‘It is extremely dangerous to fit physical theories to a priori concepts, or to deduce too highly extrapolated philosophical consequences from them. Any scientists have tried to make determinism and complementarity the basis of conclusions that seem to me weak and dangerous; for instance, they have used Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to bolster up human free will, though his principle, which applies exclusively to the behavior of electrons and is the direct result of microphysical measurement techniques, has nothing to do with human freedom of choice. It is far safer and wiser that the physicist remain on the solid ground of theoretical physics itself and eschew the shifting sands of philosophic extrapolations.’

Louis Victor de Broglie, Nobel Laureate in Physics (1929)

New Perspectives in Physics (1962), viii

‘For we say that all portents (i.e., miracles) are contrary to nature; but they are not so.  For how is that contrary to nature which happens by the will of God, since the will of so mighty a Creator is certainly the nature of each created thing?  A portent, therefore, happens not contrary to nature, but contrary to what we know as nature.’

St. Augustine (Parentheses mine.)

The City of God (2009), 700


Chapter 2 of TGD is devoted to the discussion whether fixed laws can be suspended through miracles and whether these laws leave any room for free will. Here, after presenting TGD’s view, we shall first discuss the problem of free will and then move on to miracles.


TGD’s Position


Scientific determinism and free will

From laws to scientific determinism

TGD (30-34 & 171) assumes scientific determinism[1]: Since science has discovered laws that hold without any exception, ‘there must be a complete set of laws’ that fully determines how the universe would behave in the future from any time onwards. This implies that there is no room for miracles – God’s intervention in the universe – and free will.

As for free will, our bodies and brains (with all their thoughts) are governed by biological processes. These processes, ultimately, are governed by fixed laws of chemistry and physics, compelling us to adhere to them. Therefore, it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion’ (ibid., 32). As evidence against Descartes’ (1596–1650) idea of a volitional agency (mind or soul) within us which is not subjected to any physical law, TGD (ibid.) refers to modern experiments in neuroscience. In one such experiment, brain regions of patients going through awake brain-surgery were electrically stimulated. This produced ‘desire’ in them to move various parts of their bodies, including lips, and encouraged them to talk. Such experiments indicate that ‘it is our physical brain, following the known laws of science, that determines our (thoughts and) actions, and not some agency (having free will) that exists outside those laws’ (Parentheses mine). Furthermore, if there is anything like free will, TGD (31) asks its proponents to show where it developed in the evolutionary tree.

Quantum physics (due to its probabilistic nature) seems to weaken the idea that the universe is governed by laws with fixed outcomes, hence challenging scientific determinism. Regarding that, however, TGD (72) maintains that it leads us to accept a new form of determinism: Given the state of a system at some time, the laws of nature determine the probabilities of various futures and pasts rather than determining the future and past with certainty’.



No human being or society can function without a firm belief in free will.

If there is no free will, courts of law have no right to punish criminals, employers cannot hold their employees responsible for their actions, a student cannot be admonished for bad grades, Hitler cannot be blamed, and Martin Luther King, Jr. does not deserve any appreciation.

The Quran (75:14-15) proclaims that man (upon doing something wrong) himself is a witness against his own soul, no matter how many lame-excuses he may invent’. This claim implies that we are well aware of what right/wrong is, and we very well know that we can make choices with so much freedom that we can be held responsible for them; there is a ‘judge’ within each of us, who appreciates us whenever we do good and testifies against us whenever we choose to be evil (Islahi 2009a, 75-84). However, religion as well as human societies do generally acknowledge that, sometimes, a person’s will is impeded by circumstances beyond her control, is not employed in her unintended actions, or produces results other than that intended. Hence, the Quran (24:33), for example, does not consider blameworthy (but sympathises with) the bondwomen who were forced to prostitution in the Arabian Peninsula. The Quran (5:89 & 33:5) also explicates that man will only be held answerable for his wilful actions, not unintentional mistakes. Similarly, our law-makers do not prescribe any punishment for crimes committed by, for instance, minors and mentally disabled persons. This is our collective wisdom regarding free will, which all of us employ with full confidence in our daily lives.

As soon as anyone tries to challenge this wisdom verbally, he necessarily creates a contradiction between his words and actions. Thus, on the one hand, he denies free will but, on the other, shows no hesitation whatsoever in blaming people for their misconduct. Hawking, of course, was no exception to this; hence, the Guardian (2017) reported that ‘Stephen Hawking blames Tory politicians for damaging NHS’ (National Health Service, the UK). But if the free will of these politicians was just an illusion, how could they be blamed for the choices they had made? The same goes for all murderers, terrorists, rapists, child abusers, and other horrendous criminals. In real life, however, no sane person will be ready to accept the justification that it is not their fault, for just like robots all of them were forced to ‘dance to their DNA’s music’, as Dawkins[2] (1995, 155) puts it. Thus, scepticism regarding morality or free will has no place whatsoever in real life, but only in philosophical wanderings or narratives against religion (Ghamidi 2013).

Furthermore, the proposition that we have no control over our thoughts and behaviours tends to take away what we humans cherish the most: the will to take control of our evil temptations and bad habits to evolve ourselves into better individuals. But does this idea, after all, have sound arguments and scientific evidence at its back? Let us have a closer look.

Naturalism and religion on evolution and free will

TGD (31) is justified in asking where free will developed in the evolutionary tree for, in a naturalistic/materialistic worldview, it seems rather difficult to argue for free will. That is because whether we are purely a physical product of the so-called fixed laws of physics or probabilistic (lawless) events, neither case makes us free in our decision-making (Mumford and Anjum 2013, 45). For example, regardless if pumping of adrenalin is an outcome of strict laws or certain probabilistic processes, once pumped, it may incline us to be violent. To overrule that inclination and act civilly, we need willpower. But if our willpower, again, is at the mercy of fixed laws or probabilistic behaviour of molecules that make us up, then one has to wonder whether there really is any room for free will! Such a view is called ‘reductive physicalism’ wherein ‘every mental property is identical with some physical property’ or activity in the brain (Plantinga 2011, 18). Francis Crick[3] (1995, 3) put it this way: ‘”You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve-cells and their associated molecules.’ Thus, all subjective perception in this view (including free will, as TGD indicates) is an illusionary, inconsequential by-product of physical events in the brain (See Ward 2008, 142-145).

Compatible with naturalism, however, there is a view which supports free will. In this view, called ‘non-reductive physicalism’, ‘humans are purely physical beings, but thoughts, feelings, and perceptions are higher-level emergent properties of brains that have causal effects on the complex physical systems that are human beings’ (Ward 2008, 156). Quoting a proponent of this view, Warren Brown[4] (2004), Ward (156-157) further writes, ‘“Conscious decisions and will are real phenomena that are effective in exerting a top–down (or whole–part) causal influence on the neuro-physiological processes of the brain”. The patterns that emerge from complex physical systems have genuine causal powers. There are no new “entities” or physical forces involved, but there are new “levels of causal efficacy”.’ In this view, the higher-level properties of the brain (thoughts, perceptions, and feelings) emerge naturally, with the evolving complexity of the brain and integration of its physical processes.

Religion’s viewpoint, by contrast, is as follows (Quran 32:7-9, 37:11 & 91:7-8): Human creation was initiated from the constituents of sticky clay; thereafter, it went through various evolutionary stages until a to-be-human animal was accomplished, capable of reproduction. Like other animals, this animal was conscious (aware of its existence) and possessed instincts, emotions, will, and so on (Quran 32:8, Ghamidi, pers. comm). Into two such animals (Adam/Eve), God blew His subtle breath[5], thereby, bestowing upon them capacities which distinguished them from other animals. These capacities include intellect, aesthetic sense, moral sense, and the willpower to choose between right and wrong  (Islahi 2009b, 161). This willpower (equipped with reason and aesthetic/moral awareness) is such that it makes humans responsible for their deeds and answerable to God for the choices they make. The same divine breath is blown into every human foetus, i.e., animal-form, in the mother’s womb, which transforms it into a totally new creation i.e., a human being (Quran 15:29 & 23:14, Ghamidi, pers. comm. & Al-Bukhari 1997, no. 3208).[6] (For details, see Hassan 2018b)

According to religion, a human being, therefore, is a combination of a 1) physical body, 2) basic animal-like consciousness, and 3) mentally and spiritually-rich divinely-infused consciousness. We do not know what 2, as such, is[7] and how it is produced. Regarding 3, it is not explicated whether it is infused as a distinct, non-physical being/person, which overlays 2 and very much takes control of 1 & 2 (as in Cartesian dualism). In this worldly life, such a mind would be dependent upon the brain as much as, say, a driver is dependent upon the car she must drive. At the time of death (but not before that), the driver will be able to leave the car, taking away all the experiences and memories of the drive with her.

However, 3 might not be such a separate person, but only a part (although an integral one) necessarily requiring 1 & 2 to form a human person. If so, then 3 would basically be awareness/knowledge necessary to produce moral, aesthetic, and intellectual capacities in the to-be-human animal, already possessing 1 & 2. We cannot say with certainty if this knowledge exists in physical or spiritual form and how 1 & 2 relate to it. The ‘soul’, ‘spirit’, ‘self’, or the ‘real human being’ in this case is, practically speaking, the total continuous, conscious experience of spiritually and intellectually-rich human life in such an integrated form. This experience is basically information, which we know can be stored, transferred, expressed, and embodied in many ways. So, resurrection or life after death – an important tenet of religious worldview – does not pose a problem for this view. To facilitate further discussion, we can refer to this view as ‘divinely-integrated dualism’[8].

As for TGD’s question where free will developed in the evolutionary tree, its answer according to both these views will be that free will, at least as experienced by humans, is not a product of evolution or any other natural process. Considering the other products of evolution, i.e. animals[9], this answer seems plausible because the mental/spiritual difference between animals and humans is so huge that something additional and unique must take place to produce humans.

Rejection or acceptance of free will depends on one’s worldview, not science.

Dualism and divinely-integrated dualism are not in conflict with science per se. It is not science alone, but science done with or interpreted under naturalistic/materialistic worldview that, by definition, makes any immaterial reality unacceptable.

However, if dualism is true, science will have to deal with a non-physical, subjective, immeasurable decision-maker (mind) enclosed in our physical body. And if integrative or divinely-integrated dualism is true, science will have to deal with subjective spiritual/mental experience (mind), for example, that of liking/disliking someone. But science can only deal with observable, objective, measurable, and testable phenomena. This implies that mind in both these senses can hardly be the topic of scientific inquiry, just like many other questions pertaining to, say, music, art, literature, or even the very philosophical assumptions on which the scientific method is based (Ward 2008, 142). This, however, does not imply that dualism is unnecessary or false, or that mind in the sense of integrated consciousness is an illusion.

Because it is inherently difficult for science-proper to deal with subjective mental-experience, psychology – starting as introspective psychology – turned out to be a futile exercise. It had to be replaced by behavioural psychology because behaviour can be publicly observed and tested, at least to some extent. More recent fields, like cognitive psychology and neuroscience, correlate the behaviour as well as conscious experience (e.g., that of pain) to brain functionality. Here, rather than publicly inaccessible experience of pain itself, its corresponding observable and measurable brain activity becomes the primary subject of scientific inquiry (Ward 2008, 142-143 & 160).

Since scientists (because of the very nature of science) are predisposed to explain things in physical terms, physicalism naturally becomes the default position for most of them. However, neuroscience, biological psychology, evolutionary psychology, and related fields turn out to be intrinsically difficult and highly controversial when it comes to the problem of consciousness and free will.[10] Firstly, it is a daunting task to design an appropriate experiment to confirm or falsify hypotheses regarding these. Secondly, for some experiments, it becomes necessary to rely on subjective statements/reports of the subjects, which compromises objectivity. Thirdly, the experimental results are prone to many interpretations, depending upon the philosophical presumptions or perspective with which they are viewed (i.e., naturalism, physicalism, dualism, and so on). The evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne (2000), a Jewish-born atheist, thus writes:

‘The problem is that evolutionary psychology suffers from the scientific equivalent of megalomania. Most of its adherents are convinced that virtually every human action or feeling, including depression, homosexuality, religion, and consciousness, was put directly into our brains by natural selection. In this view, evolution becomes the key – the only key – that can unlock our humanity.

Unfortunately, evolutionary psychologists routinely confuse theory and speculation. Unlike bones, behavior does not fossilize, and understanding its evolution often involves concocting stories that sound plausible but are hard to test. Depression, for example, is seen as a trait favored by natural selection to enable us to solve our problems by withdrawing, reflecting, and hence enhancing our future reproduction. Plausible? Maybe. Scientifically testable? Absolutely not. If evolutionary biology is a soft science, then evolutionary psychology is its flabby underbelly.

But the public can be forgiven for thinking that evolutionary biology is equivalent to evolutionary psychology. Books by Daniel Dennett, E. O. Wilson, and Steven Pinker have sold briskly, and evolutionary psychology dominates the media coverage of research on evolution. […] In view of the scientific shakiness of much of the work, its popularity must rest partly on some desire for a comprehensive "scientific" explanation of human behavior. Evolutionary psychology satisfies the postideological hunger for a totalistic explanation of human life, for a theory of inevitability that will remove many of the ambiguities and the uncertainties of emotional and moral life.’

Next, we shall look into some typical science-based criticisms that can be levelled against divinely-integrated dualism and dualism, respectively. We shall also look at some new empirical findings that support these views and go against reductive physicalism.

Divinely-integrated dualism

Some philosophers and neuroscientists claim that nothing else is required to produce human consciousness except the nervous system. Divinely integrated dualism would agree because, in this view, our nervous system comes already equipped with the spiritual/intellectual element. This element is experienced, whereas its corresponding physical element can be observed in the functional nervous system.

Here, one may claim that it is superfluous to believe that, to achieve a person with moral/intellectual element, God equips our physical being with some potential awareness/knowledge (by means of divine breath). If this claim were true, then human-like morality and reasoning should have been there or could have been taught to, at least, some animals, too. The non-existence of human-like consciousness in animals with seemingly equally sophisticated nervous systems points to the need of something additional to achieve a human being – something which is not an outcome of evolution that both humans and animals have gone through (See Ghamidi 2012b).  

More radically, reductive physicalists claim, like TGD, that our consciousness is nothing more than physical events in the brain and, thus, personal spiritual-experience (including that of free will) is just an illusion. No matter how confidently such assertions are made and how credible the asserter is, they are at best hypotheses, which may not even be verifiable or falsifiable. The brain is still very much a black-box, but such melodramatic claims give an impression as if the brain is an open book, science has unravelled what consciousness really is, and how it is produced in the dead matter. None of this is even remotely true. We, scientists, do not hesitate to label others arrogant, but we should not forget to be a little humble ourselves, too.

When TGD (32) says that it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion’, it assumes that causation only goes one way, i.e., from the brain (governed by fixed physical laws) to fixed thought and behaviour. But there is ample evidence that causation goes in the opposite direction too, i.e., from behaviour as well as mental element to physical changes in the brain (See Ward 2008, 153-158). An example of this is the placebo effect, known for ages. Recent studies have shown that it works because ‘non-physical mental expectations’, encouragement, or subjective meanings ‘translate into bodily responses via real physical changes in the brain’ activity (See Andrews 2012, 257-259 and references therein).[11]

Not only this, but the brain can be physically altered by subjective mental activity. Mason et al. (2017), for example, indicate that talk therapy, a thought-involving process used to help manage various psychological disorders, works because it alters the brain wiring. Similarly, evidence accumulated over the past two decades shows that meditation increases the brain’s grey-matter volume (E.g., see Hölzel et al. 2011).[12] Such studies show that mental activities are not merely an illusionary, inconsequential by-product of physical events in the brain; on the contrary, these activities can not only influence the brain but are capable of taking control of it. Therefore, the experiment TGD has alluded to wherein the electrical stimulation of brain regions produced ‘desire’ in the subjects to move their body parts is half the story. In the full version, a conscious brain may choose to reject that desire by manipulating the brain activity.

Cartesian dualism

The empirical evidence discussed in the preceding paragraph is compatible with both divinely-integrated dualism as well as dualism. Although it does not necessarily imply that dualism is true, it clearly wards off a common criticism against it that ‘there’s no possibility of something non-physical like a soul affecting what happens at the physical level’ (Law 2006, 69).

TGD’s (32) allusion to the electrical stimulation of brain regions, producing ‘desire’ in the subjects to move certain body-parts, does not have any implications for the Cartesian mind or free will. That is simply because such a mind, if not rejected a priori, can easily choose to follow or reject that desire.

Rather than a mere desire, however, our brain is also known to compel us to behave or act in a certain manner. For example, consider obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): A psychological illness wherein the patients experience persistent, unwanted, and uncontrollable thoughts (obsessions). To cope with them and relieve the anxiety caused therefrom, the patients are compelled to repetitively perform certain mental/physical rituals or actions, for instance, handwashing, double-checking things, or habitual tics. According to biological theories (backed by evidence), OCD is caused by imbalances in certain brain chemicals, other physical abnormalities, or damage to the brain. Thus, all we see is the physical brain at work, obstructing the free will of OCD patients. Does this mean that mind is unnecessary or, more so, non-existent? Not necessarily. That is because the brain can be thought of as a screen on which mind’s ‘sight’ depends. As dirt, damage, too much sunlight, scratches, or other issues with a vehicle’s windscreen may seriously hinder the driver’s ability to see the road ahead, mind’s functions can also be seriously hindered by problems with the brain and its functions.

Some argue that after a brain injury, tumour, or the like, people have been repeatedly observed to lose their mental abilities, like memory or even moral awareness/control (See Choi 2002), suggesting that the brain is all there is. A similar analogy to that of a screen may help here as well, where we can think of the brain as the information source for mind, just like a computer serves as the source through which information on the web becomes available to us. A damaged or malfunctioning hardware or the software may make such information inaccessible to us, but that obviously does not negate our existence – the recipients of that information and controllers of the computer. Similarly, damage to some brain region making it impossible to, say, recollect a thought or maintain moral sense, does not negate the existence of mind.

The analogy presented in the preceding paragraph is wrong in the sense that a malfunctioning computer does not make a person lose their mental abilities, but a problematic brain can and does sometimes takes away all mental experience. That is not surprising because in the dualistic view, as mentioned earlier, mind or soul is incarcerated in the physical body and cannot leave or function independent of the brain, at least, in this worldly life. Moreover, for mind to function properly and govern the body effectively, a healthy brain is required. As for free will, this means that it may be fully or partially impeded by an abnormal brain, as we saw in the case of OCD. Such an observation, however, does not falsify our collective wisdom regarding free will. That is because, as indicated earlier, it is already acknowledged therein that a person’s free will can, at times, be impeded or is not even employed in certain actions, e.g., involuntary ones. And, in such cases, our collective wisdom does not hold anyone responsible for their actions.

It seems that science may not be able to falsify dualism (or divinely-integrated dualism), but it can certainly show that the idea is superfluous. That can be done by, for example, achieving human-like consciousness in complex computers or machines, as an emergent property. More than half a century ago, practitioners of artificial intelligence thought that it was an easy task, but so far even animal-like consciousness has not been realised in machines.

To conclude, although neuroscience and related scientific disciplines are highly controversial (at least regarding the problem of consciousness and free will), modern science can certainly correct many of Descartes’ false ideas regarding the anatomy and physiology of the brain. But as for his principle distinction between the body and mind (latter being the bearer of free will), modern science as yet does not have a verdict to pass (See Ward 2008, 142-161).

Religious determinism

Before discussing miracles, we should, perhaps, also touch upon the idea referred to as religious determinism: because God is omniscient (having knowledge of all future events), everything is predetermined, and free will is just an illusion.

This argument does not hold water because knowing something in advance is one thing and to impose something on someone is another. If I somehow foresee a murder in, say, a dream, how could my advance knowledge of the murder impede the free will of the murderer? Similarly, what God knows in advance is that we, employing our free will, shall act in a certain way tomorrow.[13]

Why does God, then, not intervene and stop evil from happening? So that we can freely exercise our will in this fleeting world, such that the righteous can be separated from wrongdoers based on concrete evidence. Then, God will finally intervene and do justice between the two on the Judgement Day: wrongdoers will meet an ill-fate after they are left with no excuse to defend their crimes, and the righteous will reap God’s eternal Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, God is selecting individuals to inhabit His eternal Paradise, based on such criterion which is just, objective, and indisputable.[14]  Such is the grand scheme of God, disclosed by revealed religion.



Have regularities in nature rendered God’s intervention in the universe (miracles) impossible?

First, rather than adopting the misleading view of laws in nature, we should go back to Mumford’s (2004) view that regularities in nature are an outcome of inherent properties/causal powers of natural existents. When these existents exert their specific powers on one another, a fixed outcome (the so-called law) manifests. For instance, because the earth is heavy due to its mass and the spacetime fabric has the power to substantially, so to say, warp in the presence of heavy objects, the interaction of these powers necessitates a force (gravity)[15]. This force, in turn, causes an apple to fall (through warped space) towards the earth – a regularity which is said to have inspired Newton to discover his law of gravity. This implies that the space, the earth and the apple are predisposed to mutually produce a certain behaviour/phenomenon, ceteris paribus (a law or regularity – whatever we name it).

But how can such predisposition put any restriction whatsoever on an agent to intervene in the process and stop the apple from falling? It simply cannot (Lennox 2011, 86-87). Therefore, the idea that the so-called laws of nature can somehow restrict an agent like God to intervene in the universe is simply false. God should not only be able to intervene but exploit those powers of things, too, that are hidden or not yet obvious to our science.

Miracles and their purpose

The Quran (26:10-16, 28:30-32, & 54:3) refers to miracles as ‘clear signs (from God)’ and tells that they were performed by God or were given to His messengers to achieve some extraordinary purposes:

For example, they helped some messengers empirically establish their veracity (Ghamidi 2018, 135-138). That was necessary because through such messengers, God set up miniature days of judgement right in this world. This means that after each of them delivered truth with such arguments and evidence (including miracles) that none among its receivers was left with any excuse to deny it, God’s judgement came to pass. The enemies of God’s messenger – i.e., the enemies of reason, truth, and morality – received humiliating punishment. Conversely, the messenger and his righteous companions – no matter how few, weak, or oppressed – were bestowed with honour, salvation, and authority in the land (For details, see Ghamidi 2018, 49-51 & 169-178). Alluding to this, the Quran (10:47) says:

‘(According to God’s law,) there is a messenger for every community: when their messenger comes (before them), they are judged with fairness, and no injustice is shown to them.’

The Quran, the Bible, and history reveal that God set up many such miniature days of judgement by directly interfering in this world and dealing with select communities according to their moral conduct. This was done to establish the central claim of religion, i.e., the existence of God and the advent of one such universal day – the Day of Judgement – promised for all humankind.[16]

Similarly, another function of miracles, for example, was to armour God’s messengers against their mighty and atrocious addressees, like Pharaoh in case of Moses. Miracles not only shielded messengers from such despots, who would have otherwise butchered them straightaway, but compelled them to attend to their message (Ghamidi 2016).

Miracles, by definition, are exceptions (rare events). The idea, however, is often misused by religious people. Francis Collins[17] (2007, 51-52) thus correctly warns that ‘the only thing that will kill the possibility of miracles more quickly than a committed materialism is the claiming of miracle status for everyday events for which natural explanations are readily at hand.’ Perhaps, it is this misuse to which many scientists rightly show antipathy; if miracles begin to take place daily, science would become difficult, if not impossible.[18] (For a detailed discussion on science and miracles, see Lennox 2009, 193-206 & 2011, 81-95.)

3. Where do laws come from?


‘It is a common rule in theoretical physics, one accepted by many physicists, that anything not forbidden by the basic laws of nature must take place.’

Isaac Asimov

“The ultimate speed limit.” Saturday Review of Sciences (8 Jul. 1972), 56

‘We have thus assigned to pure reason and experience their places in a theoretical system of physics. The structure of the system is the work of reason; the data of experience and their mutual relations are to correspond exactly to consequences in the theory[19]. In the possibility of such a representation lies the sole value and justification of the whole system, and especially of the concepts and fundamental principles which underlie it. These latter, by the way, are free inventions of the human intellect, which cannot be justified either by the nature of that intellect or in any other fashion a priori.’

Albert Einstein, Nobel Laureate in Physics (1921)

A lecture “On the Method of Theoretical Physics” at Oxford (10 Jun. 1933) Essays in Science (2011), 10


The question is raised in Chapter 2 of TGD (29), but the answer is deferred to later chapters. As for the idea of God being the law-giver, however, the question is followed by a quick comment that it is merely ‘substituting one mystery for another’.


TGD’s Position

Fundamental laws: a consequence of M-theory

In the famous CNN talk-show Larry King Live (10th Sept. 2012)[20] Stephen Hawking said, ‘Gravity and quantum theory cause universes to be created spontaneously out of nothing.’ When asked how the law of gravity came into existence, Hawking said, ‘Gravity is a consequence of M-theory, which is the only possible unified theory. It is like saying why is 2 + 2 = 4?’

M-theory, according to TGD (8), is a set of mutually coherent theories each of which can be successfully applied in limited range of scenarios; whenever two or more of these theories overlap to predict or describe the same phenomenon, they mutually agree. TGD (165 & 181) claims that M-theory is ‘the only candidate’ for the ‘theory of everything’: Einstein’s dream theory that would account for every detail of the matter and forces we observe in nature’.

TGD (140-142) tells that M-theory, along with the three dimensions of space, has seven additional space dimensions, plus one of time. These extra dimensions, however, are not visible because they are highly curled up on a scale too small to be observed. The shape of these curved dimensions ‘determines both the values of physical quantities, such as the charge on the electron, and the nature of the interactions between elementary particles, that is, the forces of nature’. In other words, laws of nature are determined by the shape of the seven curled-up dimensions of space, sometimes called the ‘internal space’ in contrast to the visible three-dimensional space. ‘M-theory,’ says TGD (116-118), ‘has solutions that allow for many different internal spaces, perhaps as many as 10500, which means it allows for 10500 different universes, each with its own laws.’

TGD (58-83 & 135-136) goes on to claim that these many universes actually exist. That is because, based on Richard Feynman’s[21] formulation and interpretation of quantum theory, anything that can possibly take place will necessarily take place in one of the parallelly existing universes (multiverse). So, if M-theory is correct and it allows for 10500 different internal spaces, it implies that 10500 parallel universes exist, each with a uniquely shaped internal space, resulting in a unique set of laws. We are compelled to believe this, no matter how outrageous it may sound, because it is an implication of quantum theory, which ‘has passed every experimental test to which it has ever been subjected’.



Despite being highly speculative and severely criticised by top-of-the-line physicists (See Lennox 2011, 51-56), let us accept M-theory at face value for the sake of discussion.

M-theory allowing for 10500 universes ≠ Presence of 10500 universes

As alluded to above, the idea of the multiverse is based on one interpretation of quantum mechanical observations, called ‘many-worlds interpretation’. Various other interpretations exist that do not support the multiverse, and which interpretation to choose seems like a matter of taste. Nothing could be more pertinent here than the following words of Richard Feynman (2017, 168):

‘[E]very theoretical physicist who is any good knows six or seven different theoretical representations for exactly the same physics. He knows that they are all equivalent, and that nobody is ever going to be able to decide which one is right at that level, but he keeps them in his head, hoping that they will give him different ideas for guessing.’

So, hard quantum mechanical facts per se do not necessitate belief in the multiverse. This implies that M-theory’s allowance for 10500 universes can be treated like any other mathematical model, which may or may not correspond with the actual reality. The other day, for instance, I was solving a mathematical equation for calculating concentration of a gas in a liquid, and the equation predicted a positive as well as a negative concentration. Any concentration obviously has to be positive, and that was what I was looking for. But what about the negative concentration? That solution was meaningless. The same goes for M-theory’s solutions that allow for 10500 different universes: they are nothing more than science fiction unless backed by empirical evidence, which is not yet there. The evidence for quantum theory is not relevant to the multiverse hypothesis, for as mentioned earlier, it is not a necessary consequence of quantum theory. Let us listen to Einstein’s words once more (quoted in more detail at the opening of this chapter):

‘[T]he data of experience and their mutual relations are to correspond exactly to consequences in the theory. In the possibility of such a representation lies the sole value and justification of the whole system.’

When TGD (136) says that ‘many universes exist with many different sets of physical laws’, one needs to be careful not to take ‘existence’ in the literal sense. That is because TGD (45-59) assumes ‘model-dependent realism’, which simply means that our reality is at the mercy of models (world picture and theories) created by our brains. These models may or may not correspond with the actual reality, if any such exists. So, in the strict sense, model-dependent realism does not allow any ontological claims such as, ‘Universes exist!’ The correct statement, according to this view, would be somewhat like this: Many universes exist in the model (M-theory) of the model-reality created by our brains. (For more on model-dependent realism, see Chapter 5.)

The law of gravity – a consequence of M-theory?

As we have seen, according to TGD, all fundamental laws of our universe are a consequence of M-theory in that M-theory postulates seven additional, hidden/internal dimensions of space; the shape thereof determines behaviours/actions of particulars, described by laws. So, when Hawking says, ‘Gravity is a consequence of M-theory,’ he means to say that gravity is a consequence of the shape of the internal space. That is why he equates the question of the origin of the law of gravity to the arithmetic law 2 + 2 = 4. We cannot question this law because it accurately describes and predicts what happens in our universe if we add up a particular number of things of the same kind. However, if someone would ask about its origin, we can answer that it is a consequence of what happens in the world around us, given that such a world is there with things that can be added together.

To make matters clearer, imagine some animals locked up in a cage. We can say that their freedom of movement, level of happiness/sadness, or interaction with each other and the environment etc. depends upon the design of the cage (a causal power). But this is just a description of how things are set up, not an explanation of the presence of the cage or the animals with such behaviour that could be influenced by the design of the cage. The same goes for M-theory’s description of the shape of the internal space (a causal power) and its effects on the individual or collaborative actions of particulars, described by laws.

To take gravity specifically, it might be a consequence of the coaction of the shape of the internal space (as M-theory suggests) and other particulars (essentially, matter/energy) present in the universe. But this obviously begs the question where those particulars (space and matter/energy) came from in the first place. Let us recall Hawking’s (2012; parentheses mine) answer, Gravity and quantum theory cause universes (including the one like ours, with space and matter/energy) to be created spontaneously out of nothing.’ 

Gravity (circular)

Fig. 1. A sort of circular reasoning


Hawking’s reasoning here seems to be circular and contradicting what we have learnt so far about laws and theories comprising those laws that they are written or verbal descriptions of natural phenomena (See Fig. 1). This obviously means that they cannot cause anything on their own. ‘Newton's celebrated laws of motion,’ explains Lennox (2011, 41), ‘never caused a pool ball to race across the green baize table. That can only be done by people using a pool cue and the action of their own muscles. The laws enable us to analyse the motion, and to map the trajectory of the ball's movement in the future (providing nothing external interferes); but they are powerless to move the ball, let alone bring it into existence.’ This means that the so-called laws do not, in fact, exist in nature (Mumford 2004); what exist are particulars with specific dispositions or powers, causing regularities. These regularities can then be expressed as mathematical laws (such as E = m × c2), which can become part of theories (such as special relativity).

But this sequence of events is turned on its head by Hawking’s claim that the law of gravity and quantum theory cause spontaneous creation of universes, out of nothing. Is he simply wrong or are we missing something? To find the answer, let us see how TGD and other experts explain this interesting thesis.



[To be continued….]


[1] The idea is credited to the French mathematician and philosopher Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749–1827).


[2] Prof. Richard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist, often referred to as one of the ‘Four Horsemen of New Atheism’.


[3] Prof. Francis H. C. Crick (1916–2004) was a British physicist, molecular and neurobiologist; a joint Nobel Laureate (1962) for the identification of DNA’s structure.


[4] Warren S. Brown is a Christian; Director of the Lee Edward Travis Research Institute (Clinical Psychology) and Professor of Psychology at the Fuller Theological Seminary, California.


[5] ‘Blowing of divine breath’ is a metaphor, used to communicate an event whose reality is beyond human knowledge, reason, and imagination (Ghamidi, pers. comm).


[6] Here, I find it necessary to mention that the aim of religion is to purify humans morally, so that they can render themselves eligible for an eternal life with God (Quran 87:14-17). With this aim in view, various scientific, philosophical, historical, and other topics are alluded to in the Quran to substantiate its argumentation. Examples of such topics include prominent events in human evolution and the means through which rich spiritual element is bestowed upon humans, as mentioned above.


Such information is not accepted as a matter of blind faith, but after establishing, through compelling evidence and reason, that there is an immensely intelligent/wise God (a), who has communicated with and guided His sentient creatures through revelation (b). (b can be falsified, for example, by pointing out contradictions within the Quran or between the Quran and scientific facts. a is difficult to falsify but can be seriously challenged by showing that our universe is self-explanatory and, thus, does not require God to explain its existence.)


[7] I.e., for example, a separate person (as in dualism) or an emergent property of the physical nervous system (as in non-reductive physicalism) etc.


[8] This view is similar to what is called ‘integrative dualism’, held by two popular Anglican priests, the senior theoretical physicist John Polkinghorne (2010, 41-43) and the Oxford theologian Keith Ward (2008, 134-161). However, they view all of human consciousness (i.e., 2 as well as 3) as an emergent reality, not a product of divine intervention.


In non-reductive physicalism, too, all of consciousness (including the experience of free will) is viewed as an emergent property of the physical brain-activity. The difference, however, is that herein this emergent property is not considered a ‘new entity or physical force’, but only ‘a new level of causal efficacy’, as Brown (2004, 65) puts it. In contrast, integrative dualism holds that ‘consciousness and its contents, though generated by the physical brain, are distinct kinds of existent entities’ (Ward 2008, 160). For divinely-integrated dualism, we shall assume this latter view.


[9] Regarding the consciousness of animals, however, it is only a speculation that it is a physical (reductive or non-reductive) outcome of evolution. In fact, no one knows what it really is and how it came/comes to be.


[10] For a quick overview of the controversies, see Wikipedia. “Neuroscience of free will.” 2018. Available from:


[11] For a reductive physicalist’s explanation of the placebo effect, see Yasushi 2013, 346-349. Like Yasushi, we also consider physical mechanisms, working in response to the mental/conscious element to produce results. However, what Yasushi does not and cannot deny is – and here is our point – the case of mind over matter, where subjective meaning or expectation (even if generated by physical brain activity) feeds back to cause a physical response. For an extremely interesting case clearly demonstrating this, see Mr. Wright’s story on p. 342 in Yasushi’s article.


[12] Comprehensive critical peer-evaluations of the positive studies are available, confirming that meditation does induce structural changes in the brain; see, e.g., Fox et al. 2016.


[13] The problem of religious determinism can also be dealt with by appealing to Boethian conception of God’s eternal (timeless) cognition, discussed in Chapter 5 (No boundary condition). In that view, it is denied that the past/future (or time) exists for God, hence rendering the question of foreknowledge of people’s future actions irrelevant. Here, we have not taken that route because even if this question is supposed to be valid, it has a pretty straightforward answer.


[14] Certain things in this world, however, seem to be predetermined, for instance, our time and place of birth, family, skin colour, natural aptitudes, and so on, but for these, religion does not hold anyone responsible (Ghamidi 2013).


[15] To visualise this idea based on Einstein's theory of general relativity, visit


[16] The last such miniature judgement took place on the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century AD, when the last messenger of God Muhammad came to this world. This event is the topic of the Quran, which unfolds its details before our eyes and invites us all to witness God through the pages of established history.


[17] A physician and geneticist, who led the Human Genome Project to completion; currently Director of the National Institutes of Health, USA


[18] In regard to miracles, TGD (29-30) refers to Newton’s belief (in what it calls a sort of miracle) that God had to periodically adjust the orbits of planets. If Newton were alive, I am sure he would have happily accepted naiveté of his assumption and would have been even more humbled to know that God works in much more sophisticated ways than he anticipated.

[19] The phrase is originally translated as ‘the empirical contents and their mutual relations must find their representation in the conclusions of the theory’. However, I have adopted a better translation from Philosophy of Science, vol. 1, pp. 163-169, 1934.


[20] Available from


[21] Prof. Richard P. Feynman (1918–1988) was an American theoretical physicist; a joint Nobel Laureate (1965) for his fundamental contributions to quantum electrodynamics.

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