Sunday, October 9, 2011

Comedism and M-theory

In the beginning was the Joke, and the Joke was with God, and the Joke was God.

Steven Gimbel, author of the blog Philosophers' Playground, is the founder of Comedism — the philosophy qua theology of seeing the funny side of existence. Its revelation comes in a continuing series of posts.

Comedism -- The New Religion
That which is holy is that which is funny. Our God is funnier than their God.

Its central object of worship and study is the Joke.

Comedist Basics
Jokes have two parts, a set up in which a normal situation you think you understand is sketched (a chicken crosses a street or the pope, a rabbi, and a Viagra salesman walk into a bar) and then the punchline that forces you radically rethink how you understood the world of the set up (to get to the other side or at least the beer isn't flat anymore). The humor exists in that moment when your brain is split, trying unsuccessfully to resolve the tension between the two incompatible interpretations. The very possibility of a joke presupposes that reality may always be looked at in more than one way.

Its scripture is only beginning.

The Comedist Manefesto
In the beginning, there was the LORD. And He was funny.

On the first day, the LORD made light. He made light of everything. And the LORD sat back and said, "This is funny."

On the second day, the LORD created the Heavens and the Earth (in a way that is completely consistent with our best current geological theories). And He created the sun, and did moon the Earth. And the LORD sat back and said, "This is funny."

[and so on]

That Comedism is at odds with Fundamentalism is no joke.

Comedist Anti-Fundamentalism
For a joke to be a joke, there must be more than one way to look at the world.

And that is the central belief of Comedism. There are always different ways to look at reality. The world is a multifaceted place and it is the appreciation of these distinct perspectives, even ones that seem irreconcilable, that makes life rich, interesting, and most of all, funny.

[F]undamentalists ... think there is one truth and one truth only ... They do not even allow the possibility that there are multiple ways to understand reality.

A year ago, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow published The Grand Design, a book on all things M-theory. (M-theory is the most general supersymmetric theory of gravity.) The scientific point-of-view promoted in this book — which they name "model-dependent realism" — appears to be very much in the spirit of Comedism.

Wikipedia: Model-dependent realism
Model-dependent realism is a controversial philosophical approach to scientific inquiry, which accepts that reality can always be interpreted in a number of different ways, and focuses on how well our models of the world do at describing the observed phenomena. It claims that it is meaningless to talk about the "true reality" of the model. The only meaningful thing is the usefulness of the model.

A quote from their book:

It might be that to describe the universe, we have to employ different theories in different situations. Each theory may have its own version of reality, but according to model-dependent realism, that is acceptable so long as the theories agree in their predictions whenever they overlap, that is, whenever they can both be applied.

And what does Hawking say of M-theory?

Stephen Hawking - M-theory Makes God Unnecessary

M-theory is the theory of everything. It explains how the universe was created out of nothing in the Big Bang and how it behaves now. It governs everything we think and do.

Now it's a matter of debate what the "M" stands for.

Wikipedia: Introduction to M-theory
In 1994, a string theorist named Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study and other important researchers considered that the five different versions of string theory might be describing the same thing seen from different perspectives. They proposed a unifying theory called "M-theory", in which the "M" is not specifically defined, but is generally understood to stand for "membrane". The words "matrix", "mother", "monster", "mystery", "magic" have also been claimed. M-theory brought all of the string theories together. It did this by asserting that strings are really 1-dimensional slices of a 2-dimensional membrane vibrating in 11-dimensional space.

"M" for the many universes it can create? For the many ways to see it? With the holy alliance of Comedism and M-theory, I know what the "M" in "M-theory" could stand for.