Note: I’ve only read 3 chapters so far so this is just initial thoughts that they sparked off (hence “Part 1″)
I’ve realised that I haven’t thought much about physics in the 4 years since I finished my degree. I’d forgotten just how ridiculously, mind-blowingly weird things get when you start delving into the sub-atomic world.
Who Made God starts with a few chapters that throw you straight in at the deep end of our current best model of the make-up of our physical world – quantum mechanics – and then gives very intelligible explanations of the completely counter-intuitive (i.e. crazy) results that have come out of the work that’s been done in those areas over the last hundred years – Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, collapsing wave functions, quantum entanglement, string theory, etc.
I don’t think I’ll go into those here but the book is probably worth a read, whatever else you think about it, just for managing to explain those things in a reasonably layman kind of way but basically I’d forgotten just how much of a mystery the universe is to us even when we just consider the behaviour of the most basic building blocks in isolation.
The title of this book comes from the classic question “If God made the universe then who made God?”, a question that isn’t really any different from “If the universe came from a big bang, what caused that and what was there before?”. Both deal with a situation beyond the physical universe that bounds our experience and any attempts to contend with either question tend to lead us into circular debates that don’t move us any further forward in our understanding.
Now, it’s a big step from “Everything’s a mystery” to Jesus but it’s good to remember, in a debate where science is often presented as having all the answers, that often the more we know, the more we know we don’t know. It makes me wonder how much any of us can ever know about anything when we don’t even understand the fundamental behaviour of the tiny building block of the universe (and our own bodies) or the mechanism of the process that causes things to fall down (in our best model everything that has mass distorts space in a way that draws other masses towards it – “distorts space”?! How can we begin to get our heads around that as a concept?!).
To be honest, I’ve never really been a fan of the whole Science/Religion debate from either side. So often one field ends up being shown to be inadequate when you try to apply elements of it to the other e.g. God of the gaps (that keep disappearing of shrinking as our understanding improves) and science being mistaken for explanation rather than description. We are all walking on thin ice when we debate these things and the famous proponents on both sides could do with a big dose of humility.
The world used to be flat, the Sun used to go round the Earth, atoms were unsplittable, etc. All we can really say is that large parts of what we think we know may turn out to be incomplete or completely wrong.
I’ll finish with a thought from Augustine. It’s interesting to consider it in the context of the level of science when he was writing (400ADish)…
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world … Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics … people outside of the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and … If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven …?”
(from this interesting article… Creationism, intelligent design and science education)