I've heard the term, "God's eye view," before. But I haven't given it much thought. Maybe it was because I believed in God for so many years.
I never questioned the notion that there could be a way of looking upon reality that was godlike. After all, even scientists -- not just religious believers -- assume the cosmos can be viewed from some sort of detached objective transcendent perspective.
This is the way things are.
OK. But says who? And where is that entity?
If inside the cosmos (which I define as everything that exists), then this being with a supposed God's eye view isn't seeing everything, since it is within everything. It is a part of reality, of existence, of the cosmos.
Thus this being not only can't see itself, it has its own perspective. It is situated within some aspect of the cosmos. For us this means time and space. Or more accurately, the space-time continuum.
This isn't nowhere. It is somewhere.
When we imagine God being aware of everything, what does the vision consist of? For me, I either picture myself looking through God's consciousness (a fantasy, for sure) or see God as if from the outside, gazing upon everything (another fantasy).
In the latter case, I'm definitely taking a God's eye view of God.
Yet also in the first case, more subtly. Because I am picturing myself looking through God's consciousness, which is a perspective on God's perspective.
The Big Question is whether a God's eye view makes any sense.
Can any being really understand reality as it is -- detachedly objectified -- or is reality always a matter of subjective perspective? This subject-object problem is a key theme in Amanda Gefter's fascinating book, "Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn."
As I blogged about before, the notion of observer-dependent reality is brought up early and often in the book. Today I passed the halfway point in my reading, coming across these passages:
My mind was officially blown. Top-down cosmology had suggested that you violate the law of causality when you try to take a God's-eye view of the universe, leaving me to wonder if you would violate other laws too. Laws of physics intact only when viewed inside a single light cone?
Now horizon complementarity answered with a resounding yes. All the laws of physics --both relativity and quantum mechanics -- only hold true within a single light cone, finite and limited as it may be.
For years my father and I had talked about the impossibility of a God's-eye view. After all, that was Einstein's lesson: you can't talk about the universe without asking, from whose point of view? Reference frames make all the difference. There is nothing outside the universe.
Thanks to the finite speed of light, any given observer can see only a piece of it. But we had been talking about it as a philosophical point: if no one can ever see the universe from a God's-eye view, it makes good pragmatic sense to avoid using that view in your description of the universe.
...Horizon complementarity's message was clear: physics makes sense only within the reference frame of a single observer.
The idea was so radical it was hard to wrap my head around it. The situation with the elephant seemed so weird because intuition tells us that even if we can't be inside and outside the [black hole] horizon simultaneously, there's still some ultimate answer to where the elephant really is.
But "really" assumes a reality that can be described from a God's-eye view. There is no single "really." There's Safe's "really" and Screwed's "really." Nothing more.
Nothing is another recurring theme in Gefter's book. She and her father start off their search for ultimate reality in this fashion (page 7):
My father continued, his excitement mounting. "Usually people think that to get to nothing, you have to remove everything. But if nothing is defined as an infinite, unbounded homogeneous state, you don't have to remove everything to get to it -- you just have to put everything into a specific configuration.
"Think about it this way. You take a blender to the world -- you blend up every object, every chair and table and fortune cookie in this place, you blend it all until everything is just atoms and then you keep blending the atoms until any remaining structure is gone, until everything in the universe is spread out infinitely without bound.
"Everything will have disappeared into sameness. Everything becomes nothing. But in some sense it's still everything, because everything you started with is still in there. Nothing is just everything in a different configuration."
"Okay, that's pretty cool," I said. "Something and nothing aren't really opposites, they're just different patterns of the same thing."
I like this idea a lot.
But reading Gefter's words, I couldn't help thinking...
Who the heck is taking a blender to the world? Is this being able to blend itself into a state of nothingness after it does this to everything except itself and the blender? If so, who knows this has happened?