On deja vusSo I was watching Fringe, and there was an interesting explanation of deja vu, which I felt was flawed, but it set me to thinking. In Fringe, a character explains that we feel we have done things before because there is a parallel universe that is very similar to this one, in which we actually have done the things we deja vu. However, there was no explanation why these universes should be out of phase, and as far as I can make out, they are not, at least not significantly.
But I think there's a way deja vu can be real. I've never been terrifically convinced by the standard explanation, which is I believe that your brain effectively interprets the same information twice, with a very slight lag, so that you have a "memory" that is formed twice in rapid succession, and you confuse yourself into believing you had previously experienced the thing memorised. Given the haziness of memory, this does work, I suppose, and we're aware that we confuse ourselves in perception all the time. I have another way of explaining it though that I like.
The problem with time is that it is effectively a fourth dimension of space, not really something separate. Among other things, this should make it directionless (in the same way that up is relative to where your feet are, not an absolute direction, and your left is my right). Time should not be seen as "flowing" in any real sense. I won't go any further into discussing why this is true; let's just take it that it is.
The problem of time can be resolved somewhat by the notion of the block universe. In this conception, everything that is, was and will be in the universe exists at the same "time", an eternal present, and we experience time because our consciousness navigates through it, translating a static universe into a dynamic experience, in a similar way to a film, where static frames--pictures--are run one after the other to give the sensation of action. With a film, all the frames exist before you watch the first one. You could in principle reassemble them in any order, and the number of combinations of frames would be very high (I don't know how many ways you can assemble two hundred thousand frames, say, but it must be a very large number, and isn't that the number of frames in a movie of about a couple of hours?). Even though most of those combinations would not make sense, very many would, even though they aren't the "correct" combination.
It's plain that in the block universe, at least in principle, we could "foresee" events simply because they are already there to be seen. We have deja vu because we get a glimpse of another part of the block universe. I have no idea what the mechanism would be.
But wait, there's more. Quantum theory has led many scientists to believe that we live in a multiverse, that at each moment of "decision" for a particle, the particle takes both paths that are possible for it, and two new universes come into being. So there are infinite universes in which everything that could happen does happen. So your deja vu does not need to be quite accurate, because you may be able to see a "wrong" part of the block multiverse.
One reason I like the block universe concept is that it makes a lot of sense in connection with the concept of God. God is supposed to be omniscient and transcendent. The latter means that he is not contained within space and time, which implies that all of time exists for him simultaneously. If God was positioned outside a block multiverse, he would be able to "see" everything in this way. (This does not imply that God must only be outside the multiverse. He may also be immanent; in other words, he can be within the multiverse too--being transcendent does not necessitate only being outside the multiverse, only that one must be outside it in some sense--however, my understanding is that Muslim theology struggles with this notion and has held that Allah is only transcendental, because he is not material: this gives him the problem that he cannot create anything because he has no means of engaging with the material--a technical problem because of course he can create by his will, he just cannot physically perform the creation.)
I say multiverse because if the universe were unitary, we could not have free will. I have been thinking about how human beings could have free will when God is omniscient. He clearly would know what choices you would make at the moment of creation, so could not fairly punish you for choosing wrongly. I am not sure how having a multiverse makes a difference, but it at least has potential.
Here's a possibility. See what you think. God chose not to know what his creation would be like and limited his ability to see the multiverse. Now he only permits himself to see his own creation through our consciousness, which is why he created us. Maybe he likes surprises? This makes humans satisfyingly central to God's plan.
It also allows him to make moral judgements, which are otherwise rather difficult. Fundamentally, God made us the way we are, with full knowledge of what we consist in, so he can hardly blame us for being "bad". We are doomed to be. But if he chose to limit his ability to see how we would be, he can then disapprove.
On that note, this gets me to thinking about Stephen Hawking. In his most recent book, Hawking embraces the multiple worlds interpretation of quantum theory and then handwaves that into an explanation of how the universe is the way it is. But here's the thing. A multiverse contains every possible universe. Hawking likes this hypothesis because he believes that we no longer need a god to have created the finely balanced universe we see, which is incredibly improbable, because with approaching infinite universes, even the incredibly improbable is inevitable.
But wait, what arrogance does Prof Hawking display here! If everything, even the incredibly improbable, is inevitable, then surely within the multiverse, there must be universes with God? Hawking must be saying that not only is there no God, but that God is literally impossible. But somewhere in the multiverse will be talking fish, right? Because fish could have evolved the ability to speak, they just didn't, at least not on this planet in this universe. It's very close to impossible, definitely incredibly improbable, but not absolutely inconceivable. So Hawking will have us believe that God is less likely than a talking fish?
If God is possible in some universes, of course, he can be possible in any of them. We couldn't know which he was in and which not a priori.
So there you have it. Not only did I just explain deja vus, but I proved that either God exists or he's less likely than a talking fish. If you're not convinced, don't blame me. I got it from Prof Hawking and apparently, he's a very smart guy.