Rod Dreher

Physicist MIchio Kaku says that string theory is the closest thing we have to a Theory of Everything that “will in a sense summarize everything we know about the physical laws governing the universe we live in.” He goes on:

Most people ask what we would do with it if we had the answer. The first thing that we would do is we would begin to solve it. For example, picture a chess board and think about the rules that govern the game play. Just because you know how the pawns, bishops and knights move around the board doesn’t mean that you’re a grand master. But this also means that once you know the rules of the game, you can perfect your strategy over time. Personally, I believe that the theory of everything will essentially provide the rules of the chess game. The chess game is life, it is the universe and we will begin to know how the pawns, bishops and knights move. These are the rules by which universes evolve.
To be a Grand Master — That’s the Goal.

OK, but to what end? To be a Grand Master can also imply that there are those who are mastered — that is, slaves. That’s not the sense in which the chess world uses the term, obviously, but Kaku’s remarks are not as anodyne as they may appear. It is hard to improve on Francis Bacon’s definition of science’s purpose as “the conquest of nature for the relief of man’s estate.” This entails a sense that you see in Kaku that the point of discovering how the material world works is to figure out how we can harness it to man’s will. But you don’t have to be a religious believer to see that man’s will is corrupt; call it “original sin” if you like, but there is ample evidence — indeed, overwhelming evidence — from our history testifying that we are a race born to trouble. I’m not at all saying we shouldn’t continue scientific discovery, obviously, but I simply wish to raise an objection to the seemingly unquestioned idea that the point of science is to penetrate the mysteries of nature so that we can exploit them for our ends — and that this is something to be welcomed, and in no way feared.
A second, minor point: if we ever do come up with a Theory of Everything, how will it propose to explain consciousness? If one believes, as many scientists do, that consciousness is something that arises from purely material causes, then the Theory of Everything must account for consciousness at some level. What, then, of free will? If the Theory of Everything cannot explain consciousness, is it possible, then, that there can be no purely material explanation? In which case the Theory of Everything will have to be thought of as a Theory of Matter?

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