Three Books on the Intersection between Theology and Cosmology

As of January 2016 I have 3 books published for Amazon Kindle. These are “Kindle Only” books for now meaning you can’t get a paper copy. But if you are reading this then you have the technology to read these. The “Kindle App” is free and available on just about any phone, tablet, or computer on the market anywhere in the world today.

Below I briefly describe the three books. If anyone is interested in discussing them, please comment here and I will start up a book-specific category to continue the discussion. General discussion about all of them (they are related after all) can take place in the comment stream below. Each book title (below) serves as a link to the book on Amazon.

firstBookCover“Why This Universe: God, Cosmology, Consciousness, and Free-Will” ($3.99 Amazon Kindle June 2014)

This book was the outcome of some few years of readings by today’s physicists and philosophers on the broad subjects of cosmology, physics (quantum mechanics, relativity, especially the nature of time), and the puzzling nature of consciousness. It is also based on what might be called a theory of God found in “The Urantia Book” published in 1955 by The Urantia Foundation but now in the public domain. Some very good Kindle editions (click on the book title link above) of this book are only a few dollars on Amazon. My own book begins with a brief (and very over-simplified) sketch of the nature of God as presented in “The Urantia Book”. I use just enough of that book’s metaphysics of God to demonstrate that it properly accounts for the present physics we understand (relativity and quantum mechanics) and in addition it accounts for the presence and content of consciousness. With these in place I go on to discuss the “human experience” both personally (as a subjective individual) and historically (the human collective on Earth).

None of this discussion is taken to be any sort of “proof of God”. Rather, it is an attempt to show that by fitting all of what we experience under this particular sketch of God’s nature we can not only explain what we experience, but are justified in inferring something of what must occur in our (possibly very distant) future.

secondBookCover‘A Theological Reflection on “The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time” (Unger/Smolin 2015)’ ($2.99 Amazon Kindle April 2015)

In early 2015 Roberto M. Unger and Lee Smolin released a seminal book: “The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time”. In this book they argued (separately) that time was in fact the principle characteristic of the physical universe, even more so than space. They are both very articulate and make their case well. There is nothing theological about their view, indeed Smolin explicitly rejects any chain of explanation that points “outside the physical universe”. I wrote a review of this book that can be found on Amazon with this link. 

I thought the Unger/Smolin book deserved a more extended review than I could work-up for Amazon. That led to my second book: ‘A Theological Reflection on “The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time” (Unger/Smolin 2015)’ The extended review takes up the first half of my little book here while the second half is a commentary on something I noticed when reading the Unger/Smolin book. My own first book also afirms the “reality of time”. That is, in it, I conclude that one of the consequences of The Urantia Book’s theory of God as I sketch it is that time must be real and must more or less have the qualities that Unger and Smolin both believe it has.

More or less, but not entirely. In particular, I note that what is differs between us cannot be reliably tested. The idea that time begins with this universe and the big bang or that time retreates indefinately into a past beyond the beginning of our present universe are equally unmeasurable. If Unger and Smolin are right, then the conditions of the transitions from “one universe phase to another” as Unger puts it, are so severe as to preclude our ever having evidence that could only emerge from a past universe. In the second half of my book I discuss implications of this difficulty for Unger and Smolin. The bottom line is that whether you take a theological view of time’s beginning or a “time goes back indefinately” view there will be no way in principle of ever telling the difference observationally. Anything that might be taken as evidence of a “past before the present universe” might easily be a phenomenon resulting from the extreme conditions at the opening of the present universe.

thirdBookCover“God, Causal Closure, and Free Will” ($3.99 Amazon Kindle January 2016)

My third book is something of a combination of the first two. In the year and a half between the first and third books I read more books on the subject of quantum mechanics, cosmology (particularly the Unger/Smolin book), consciousness, and theology. As in my readings prior to the writing the first book, much of the discussion in these books came down to the relation between time, causal closure, the evolution of consciousness, and the nature (and possibility) of free will. Using the Unger/Smolin hypothesis of time’s fundamental reality and the evolution of cosmological constants and laws, the third book sets the sketch of The Urantia Book’s theory of God into a context of physical transformations in cosmological history. I distinguish two broad kinds of transformations called “small” or “little” and “large” or “big” emergences.

Small emergences are new qualities in the physical universe that appear automatically when physical conditions are right and all the necessary ingredients are present. A well known example are the qualities of liquid and solid (ice) water that are not to be found among the properties of hydrogen and oxygen alone nor their behavior as a gas.

Big emergences require something more than merely a combination of physical ingredients under the right conditions. They require additional information. No one disputes that additional information is necessary for the physical universe to have life and then consciousness. Rather the dispute is over from whence that information comes. Without something like God, it can only appear by accident and the issue then turns to whether that is likely or even possible. In the first book, information theory was addressed separately from other parts of the investigation. In this book, it is more central. There is less cosmology here but a greater emphasis on the distinction between our epistemological arena (what we can know in our experience) and what we must infer exists metaphysically thanks to certain qualities of human consciousness. In particular the phenomenon of self-consciousness, timeless identity of the person, and the scope of free will are examined in more detail. Free will of the human variety is more fully distinguished from that exercised by animals, and it is more extensively related to the purposelessness of physical mechanism under causal closure.

I know that most of those who follow my blogging so far (mostly about my other hobbies) are not as deeply interested in these subjects as I am. Those of you who might take an interest, and particularly those who come here seeking a discussion forum about these books are welcome to comment and start that discussion.