You Shall Pursue

June 20, 2012

God in the Details: In Which I Encounter Quantum Physics

Filed under: Choosing Life, Spirituality — Tags: , , , — marleyweiner @ 2:57 am

Two weeks ago, the incomparable Mr. M and I went to a lecture/ theatrical presentation about the development of quantum physics. As a humanities nerd, the idea of quantum physics (namely, that at the subatomic level, things exist as both particles and waves, and that everything at the subatomic level basically exists on a spectrum of probability rather than having definite, permanent qualities) hurts my brain. But while I do not understand the math involved, the general principle that, at the micro-micro-cosmic level, the universe is waaaaay weirder than anyone could have imagined is endlessly appealing to me.

And now, the religious rant. I am exceptionally frustrated with creationists, and other people who decide to use the Bible as a legitimate source for science. The idea that the Biblical account of the creation of the world is literally, scientifically testably true, it ticks me off. The Bible is a text written by a bunch of dudes in the Middle East about 2500 years ago (some parts earlier, some parts later). We don’t trust anything else from that period as scientific fact, except that the Earth is round and some stuff about astronomy. Why should we take our cues in the latest scientific hypotheses from a text that has no idea about germ theory, dinosaurs, or the heliocentric model? Because it is holy? Dude, religion should never be judged by the standards of the scientific method. That is not the point, and the Bible is always going to lose that fight (see above about germ theory and dinosaurs).

Here’s the thing. The universe is amazing, endlessly thrilling, and exquisite in its complexity. I mean, the symbiosis of humans and the bacteria that live in our gut is enough to provoke religious marvel in some people (like me. I am weird). As I learn about science, I personally see it as a testament to the glory and ingenuity of the Creator. And part of that is opening up and exploring and learning more about how God’s creation works. I find the Newtonian model neat and handy; I find the quantum model exquisite and drop to your knees inspiring. If we shut our minds to particular scientific advancements because it might contradict some pre-concieved notion of how God manifests God’s self in the world, then we begin to operate out of a place of fear and closed-mindedness, rather than a place of openness and awe thereby, ironically, shutting ourselves off from the Divine.

I have heard the Dalai Lama say in interviews that if a particular scientific advancement directly contradicted a tenet of his religion, he would re-evaluate his dogma. I think this is wise. As a believer, I operate from an assumption that I can never fully know or understand God, but that the purpose of my life is to try. I could never admit to the supreme arrogance of ending my quest for knowledge, of purposely rejecting wisdom, for the sole reason that it contradicts what I believe I know about God. That is not how a robust and evolving faith works. If I want to maintain a relationship to the Divine, I have to keep myself open at all times to the possibility of insight. Sometimes that insight comes in a flash of religious truth after a day of fasting and prayer. Other times, it comes after a particularly brilliant lecture, or observing the night sky, or learning how atoms work.

The ancients understood that the way to a knowledge of God was through knowledge of God’s creation. Faith is not meant to be destroyed by science, but rather bolstered by it. To turn one’s back on God’s dice playing is to turn one’s back on God.

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