Reasons to Believe

"What’s All This Higher Dimensionality Stuff?", Part 2 of 7

For many years science fiction writers have used the so-called “fifth dimension” (a fourth spatial dimension) to serve as a platform for telling fascinating stories.

Last time I promised to give some short responses to various questions about dimensionality that have come up in the lunch discussions here at Reasons To Believe. Here are some of them:

  1. Is dimensionality merely an intriguing mathematical model, or can it be confirmed or supported by empirical observation? How would one, at least theoretically, “falsify” such a theory?
    Dr. Ross, in Beyond the Cosmos, 2nd ed., chapter 3, goes to some lengths to discuss the various evidences for the existence of higher dimensions in our universe. General relativity has proven to be remarkably accurate in its description of real phenomena that we observe. Superstring theory, while not yet properly tested, is intriguing in its ability to explain some difficult issues in quantum mechanics, and it is able to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity into a single theory. If these models that invoke multidimensionality make predictions that prove to be wrong, or if the models are unnecessarily complicated, they will be rejected in the normal course of scientific research.

  2. Is this speculative, theoretical math (“voodoo math”), or is it universally accepted by mainstream mathematicians?
    The mathematics being used to help people visualize what properties would be present in a higher-dimensional world are simple extensions of geometry. Mathematical systems of this kind have been investigated for many years, and first had their application in Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Non-Euclidian geometry has many different forms, depending on the assumptions made about the nature of the “space” that is being described.

  3. How would you respond to the criticism that Einstein’s theory undermines the objective categories of “time and space”?
    It would seem that the categories of “time” and “space” are defined, at least in part, by our experience of these categories. Investigation of our universe has shown that there is evidence that “time” must be treated as part of a “space-time” manifold rather than as something totally different from “space.” Of course, since no scientist would claim that his theories are “truth” but are simply models for reality, he would allow that some future theory may discover a way to treat “space” and “time” in a different way. It seems appropriate to ask: How does the philosopher determine that “time” and “space” are distinct categories?

  4. Wouldn’t it be appropriate to acknowledge that there exist theological and philosophical explanations for these issues that many find persuasive?
    Yes. On the other hand, some explanations are more powerful than others in giving insight and providing new avenues of research. We should examine and critique all possible arguments to see which, in which context, provide the best explanations.

  5. Is there any merit to the criticism that Hugh Ross’s dimensional theory seeks to artificially pry into undisclosed divine mysteries?
    Many in the past said mankind would never go to the moon because that idea was tantamount to entering into realms outside the bounds set by God. History declares the critics were wrong. There doesn’t appear to be any limitation placed on us in trying to understand the nature of reality or learning as much as we can about God and His creation.

To be continued…

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7


Subjects: Bible Difficulties, String Theory

Dr. David Rogstad

Dr. Dave Rogstad received his PhD in physics from Caltech and worked over 30 years for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Though now retired, Dave continues to serve as an RTB board member and participates regularly in several RTB podcasts.