Touching The Limits Of Knowledge:
Cosmology and our View of the World

Theory of Everything
Lead: Matt Embrey
Summary by Adam Walsh:

The theory of everything seems to be an attempt at unifying certain elemental principles of physics in the hopes of providing a comprehensive explanation of how our universe works. It attempts to show how the four fundamental forces of the universe (gravity, strong and weak nuclear forces, and electromagnetic force) all interrelate, and are in fact different aspects of the same phenomenon. It is not enough to simply call them all gravity, as each one displays characteristics which are fundamentally their own. What this does do however is attempt to show how these forces, existing as separate entities, combine to form one larger holistic force, thus placing the laws of nature and of the universe just one step closer to the grasp of scientific deduction.

One common problem with such an attempt is that physicists are hailing this as a potential discovery of enormous significance, yet when asked what the implications of such a discovery are, it would seem that they cannot really explain them in any terms other than their own professional terminology. What we from the outside can know however is that the Theory of Everything is attempting to bridge the gap between the discoveries of general relativity and quantum mechanics. It is looking at the symmetry that exists within the universe and noticing that forces often actually act asymmetrically, tying into the possibility of new forces arising.

What seems to be suggested however is that by tracing back our knowledge of the universe, we can recognize that before each of these four forces emerged as separate entities, they must have existed undifferentiated from one another. And from this emergence of novelty and newness, many scientists would like to contend that it is possible to extend this reverse conceptualization in the opposite direction. That is to say that, if we could conceive of all of the processes, which caused this original creation force to be differentiated into all its presently varied forms, perhaps it is possible to predict, based upon our knowledge of these present forces, any new or emergent forces, which might arise in the future. Some have even taken it so far as to say that technically it might be possible, given enough computing power, to predict all future events based upon our knowledge of the past and present. Many chaos theorists, I think, would disagree with such a proposition.

The question I find myself asking however, and I think that this might apply for many others as well, is that if we actually were to prove the unified theory as being true, how would this affect our thinking in general? And given that we had grasped the ultimate nature of the universe, what would the implications of this be upon our conceptions of the universe, God, or even our relationships to one another? Until we take time to answer these questions, it would seem that the entire search for knowledge itself is utterly meaningless.

May 8, 2000