The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Science and Religion: A fair fight?

Explanation of Hiatus
I have been on hiatus for a number of reasons. We bought a house, moved, and discovered that Ashley is pregnant for the third (and final) time! In addition the boys are home for the summer. This means that I am expected to be more entertaining than usual. 

But I've been studying and reading a lot this summer- and I have several blog posts in the writing stage. Most of my work has been trying to understand the world of science. Specifically I'm exploring the fields of particle physics and dabbling a bit in Neurobiology and human consciousness. While I'm nothing of an expert in these fields, in talking to experts I find a great deal of wealth that they have in the conversation.

You know what I love about science? With every theory or discovery- the big bang, evolution, the God particle- what we now know is always outweighed by our new questions. 

One year ago the so called "God particle" was discovered in Switzerland. Since then, we haven't heard much about it. Why? Two reasons- one, the Large Hardon Collider is offline for repairs; and two, this one proof of the Higgs Boson particle proves the existence of the Higgs Field, which will change the way we look at physics. And thus; we have more questions than answers.

Something I didn't know was that lots of Scientists hate that anyone has called it the "God Particle" because while the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle is really cool, the bigger find is the Higgs field, the (until now) theory that everything in the universe moves through and is effected by this field. The particle known as the "God particle" is a basic building block of the universe that has properties unlike anything else known to humanity. If you speak particle physics you'd say that it is boson with no spinelectric charge, or color charge. It is also very unstable, decaying into other particles almost immediately.  

So, rather than being limitless and universal, the 'God particle' is obscure and freakishly weak. Hmmmm. I'm not sure I'd name it after God. 

The scientist who is credited with calling the Higgs-Boson particle the 'God particle' is Leon M. Lederman who had this to say about it:
This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname: the God Particle. Why God Particle? Two reasons. One, the publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing. And two, there is a connection, of sorts, to another book, a much older one...
—p. 22[5]
That other book is the one that I know something about. We all love to talk about what the book of Genesis talks about and what it doesn't. I feel compelled to point out that Genesis deals with the foundations of our world- but not the universe. The passing attention Genesis gives to the "lights in the sky" was so that humans could chart seasons and cardinal directions. Genesis chapter one is a poem, a prayer honoring Yahweh, who is the God of all that we know. All the Hebrews know was that God created the world. They had no idea that the earth was round, and that the moon was not a star, and that stars were distant suns. They only knew about their world, the small patch of dessert between Egypt and the Far East. 
What they didn't know could fill a warehouse. 
They didn't know that there were different types of blood, that rain forests held cures, that diseases come from bacteria and genetic chromosomes.  
They couldn't tell you how to harness energy or predict the weather (although I'm still not convinced we can do that!). 

But they weren't afraid to write poetry. They weren't afraid to give order and meaning to their lives. They weren't afraid to believe.

So often we lose our place in history. We champion our own time over the past without humbling ourselves before the future. 

Lederman (the 'God-particle' guy) points to the Higgs Boson as crucial to the future of physics. Think of it this way; radio waves were once considered "only interesting in the lab" with no practical function. Now they run everything from satellites, to wireless internet, to cell phones, and let's not forget, NPR. This Higgs Boson could change everything we know about physics over the next 100 years. 

But we still won't know it all. We will still look like unevolved monkeys to future people. Our knowledge will seem so trivial, our science so basic, and our discoveries so unsatisfying. 

Theology will rage on. We will be no closer to appreciating what exists and why it exists, no further in our quest for human perfection, and no longer able to deny that grace alone is practically the only good answer to life's mysteries. 

If there is one thing I don't like about science it is the perception among many that religion is an out-dated waste of time. Many within science portray their best minds against religions dumbest. 

A newspaper headline could read, "Local pastor thinks baby born with third nipple is possessed by Satan; Local doctor disagrees."

This is not a fair fight, and certainly not one that would pass a scientific test. 

Another common misconception is that all Christians- or even most- believe the bible in the inerrant word of God, true to the last drop, and wholly against science/evolution/big bang/higgs boson. 

We ain't all that way. 

We have evolved in our theology, just as others have in science. 

My doctor doesn't use the same medical practices from 1517, and neither do I use all the same theological ones. It saddens me that many intellectuals still compare modern science to ancient theology- but not because they underestimate me or others like me: It saddens me because they underestimate the value of modern theology in the conversation with modern science. 

The next book I'm reading comes from a Theologian and Physics teacher named Phillip Clayton, who is the Dean at Claremont School of Theology in Southern CA. I have met Clayton several times and each time I've been entranced with his work. He is continually searching for a conversation among intellectual equals in both science and religion. 
The truth is that it is easy to look down one's nose at others. It's much harder to ask them what they know/think/believe.

Like the ancient Hebrews, I'm looking for God in the unknown, not because I don't believe in science, but because there will always be mystery, and that's just the way I like it.


  1. Have you read John Polkinghorne's Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity?

  2. No but it sounds like I need to. What does it focus on?

  3. The blurb says: Theoritical physicist and Anglican priest JP explores the gap btw science and religion...QCC reveals how both science and faith point to something greater than ourselves.

    I liked this book very much, and will probably read it again. It's only 118 pages, and not a hard read for a non-physicist.

  4. Greetings! I'm Heather and I was hoping you could answer my question about your blog! Please email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)