|ix or so centuries before Jesus, Thales of Miletus, speculating on the ultimate nature of reality, claimed that all things were made of water. Anaximenes declared air the primary substance from which all reality arose; Pythagoras thought that numbers were. Empedocles believed that earth, air, fire, and water were the eternal and changeless primary substances. According to Leucippus and Democritus, reality was composed of an infinite number of tiny and indivisible particles called “atoms.”
These archetypical natural philosophers were doing metaphysics, attempting to discover what R. B. Haldane called “the ultimate reality into which all can be resolved and which cannot itself be resolved into anything beyond, that in terms of which all else can be expressed and cannot itself be expressed in terms of anything outside itself.”
What’s fascinating, however, is that 2,600 years after Thales, scientists are still attempting the same thing, to find a Theory of Everything, the ultimate principle that defines reality, a principle that cannot be explained by anything deeper than the principle itself.
Physicists have today broken reality down into basic constituents: quarks, gravity, electromagnetism, and other forces and particles. But does something more fundamental than these exist, something into which they can all be broken down, and out of which they all arose? Some believe the answer is in superstring theory, an attempt to amalgamate all fundamental forces and particles, along with the structure of space and time, into a universal mathematical scheme. The problem, at least experimentally, is the lack of tools to test this theory. It would take, for example, a particle accelerator as large as the solar system to smash particles into the sizes they’d need to be in order to see if superstring theory were correct.
But a deeper problem, a philosophical one, exists with this idea that layers of reality can be peeled back until we unearth the prime one. Suppose, with mathematical theorizing backed by experimental confirmation, scientists declared they discovered the Theory of Everything, which is expressed in the formula R(x, 1)~[p(x,n)]; this was the bottom line, the true lining of the world.
If so, how did it get there to begin with? And why is the final theory that formula, instead of Q/y=(E~w2) or another one? A reason must exist for it being as it is, as opposed to it being something else, and wouldn’t that reason—whatever it was—be antecedent to it, and thus more fundamental, just as stone is antecedent to and more fundamental than a statue? Even if superstring theory proved true, and matter and energy could be explained in terms of vibrating 10-dimensional strings—why the vibrating, why the strings, why the 10 dimensions? Those answers would, of course, be more foundational than the strings themselves. Suppose the answer were found in one of our imaginary formulas? Again, what explains the formula? We’re peeling the layers back, but it’s impossible to get to the bottom, because whatever the bottom is, it needs to be explained by something prior to it, and whatever that was needs to be explained by something prior to it, and on forever.
Unless, though, there’s something that doesn’t need an explanation. And what else could that be other than the Creator, the God who transcends the universe, who is before it, and who explains it? Everything created needs explaining; only what’s uncreated and eternal doesn’t, such as God. The argument that because the natural world needs an explanation, then the God who created that world needs one too, is a false analogy. The whole point of an eternal God is that nothing is prior to Him or more fundamental. Unlike everything else in the universe, God can’t be explained in terms of anything other than Himself.
Talking about Jesus, Scripture says: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3, KJV). Anything “that was made,” anything that once didn’t exist but then did, came into being only through Jesus.
In short, scientists can speculate about everything from water to vibrating 10-dimensional superstrings, but logic alone suggests that any final theory of the natural realm can be found only in a supernatural one.