String Theory And Miracles

DiA compares the outer bounds of science to religion:

One source of strength for the scientific side, in the centuries-long clash of scientific and theistic worldviews, has always been that science didn't involve anything supernatural or untestable. But string theorists have been going around for decades talking about an 11-dimensional universe where we can only directly perceive four of the dimensions, and the multiverse hypothesis seems to involve positing an infinite variety of universes that no one could ever perceive, even in theory.

It's not always readily apparent to non-physicists why this kind of talk is less supernatural than a belief in the persistence of the soul after death. During the course of the Reformation, much of Christianity abandoned its belief in miracles, in favour of a vision of a purely moral and spiritual God who did not physically influence events. Science and church could be reconciled through such a worldview; but atheists might still ask, if you believe in a deity that has no physical impact on or presence in our universe, in what sense does that entity exist? These days, it seems to the average non-scientist that the same question could be posed to a lot of physicists.

Obviously, there's a huge difference between hypothesising extra dimensions which might only be testable through prohibitively expensive high-energy experiments in order to potentially arrive at a mathematically complete version of quantum physics, and hypothesising a vague supernatural being in order to solve a host of unrelated "problems" so fuzzily described that it's not clear whether they are problems at all. But strictly in terms of how the argument between theists and atheists plays out in the public domain, there is a different quality to the tenets that are emerging on the atheistic, particle-physics side of things these days.