This article at Science and Theology News caught our eye for two reasons. First the article, then the reasons:
For Einstein, as for many contemporary physicists, the orderliness of nature was specifically grounded in a series of numbers known as the fundamental physical constants. The Newtonian constant of gravitation, for example, specifies how any massive object will be attracted to any other massive object. Indeed, Einstein built his magnum opus, General Relativity, around the recognition that the speed of light in a vacuum never changes: it is a true universal constant.
What then becomes of ... this sense of cosmic stability if not even the constants are constant?
Public confidence in the "constants" of nature may be at an all time low. Recent research has found evidence that the value of certain fundamental parameters, such as the speed of light or the invisible glue that holds nuclei together, may have been different in the past.
"There is absolutely no reason these constants should be constant," says astronomer Michael Murphy of the University of Cambridge. "These are famous numbers in physics, but we have no real reason for why they are what they are."
The observed differences are small -- roughly a few parts in a million -- but the implications are huge: The laws of physics would have to be rewritten, not to mention we might need to make room for six more spatial dimensions than the three that we are used to.
That mention of extra spatial dimensions is a reference to string theory, a contemporary attempt to understand how all the forces in nature fit together. String theory, so far, is without falsifiable predictions, so it isn't yet true science. But even the possibility that the so-called "universal constants" will be found to be in flux throws a significant curve at the search for stability in a world of change.
What's interesting about this is, first, if the constants of nature are not constant that means, among other things, that radiometric dating may be an unreliable procedure for determining vast ages. Radiometric dating is based upon the decay rate of radioactive atoms into more stable daughter products. This rate has been assumed to be constant over the age of the universe, but if it hasn't been, if rates are slower today than they were in the past, the values that they yield would show the earth and anything else whose age is being measured to be "older" than they really are. Thus the notion of a 4.5 billion year old earth would have to be revised. If it were in need of sufficient revision it could make the earth too young to have permitted a long, slow evolutionary process. This news would precipitate a real crisis in science.
Second, if string theory is not falsifiable and not "true science", then why is there no outrage over the fact that it's often discussed in public school physics classes? Why is it that there are lawsuits over the teaching of intelligent design in biology classes, ostensibly because ID is not "true science", but one never hears complaints about string theory being taught? Apparently, some non-science is more acceptable in public schools than other non-science. Or, more likely, string theory is not perceived to be a threat to the regnant naturalistic metaphysics that so many objectors to ID have embraced so they don't mind giving it a pass that is arbitrarily denied to other hypotheses that have more profound philosophical implications.
Perhaps, someone should inquire of the current Dover school board, the members of which were elected in part as a protest against the previous board's attempt to squeeze ID into the biology curriculum, whether they permit the teaching of string theory in their physics classes (or, say, the oscillating universe theory in their Earth-Space classes). If so, perhaps there might be grounds here for a lucrative lawsuit.