Science’s wonders point to Jesus’ wondrous work

This is my column in today’s Greenville News.  Happy Easter!  He is risen indeed!

atom

It is believed that with every breath, we inhale at least one atom inhaled by everyone who ever lived. Caesar, Gallileo, Lao Tze, Marie Curie, Luther, dead presidents and every single one of your ancestors. Not surprising. According to Jim Mueller, author of ‘Bit Sized Physics,’ a thimble of water contains some 1 x 10 23rd atoms. That’s pretty tiny. Of course, since everything is made of atoms, we’re sitting on them all the time. Well, we’re sitting on the even smaller electrons that surround the vast empty space of an atom. Although, the odd thing is, it’s believed they don’t really surround them. In fact, theorists believe electrons sort of pop in and out of existence in assorted places around the atom. So the wall, the chair, the bed, all of it is there, and not there, simultaneously. Even the hand of your true love. Weird, huh? Energy and matter interacting produce strange and wonderful results.

Well, how about this. When light from a distant star hits your eye, a tiny packet of light energy (which is somewhere between a wave and a particle) has traveled billions of miles, for perhaps millions of years, and has stimulated matter (the cells in your eye and brain), to recognize it. The star may well be long dead, but you see it in your incredibly complex and amazing brain. Oddly, whether you see your child or a galaxy, you always see it in the past. Because the light has to travel a distance, and hence a period of time, from the object (or person) to your eye. We are ever looking into the past, never looking into the future. At least not with our eyes.

What about the brain that sees the image? It does unimaginable computations each second, from predicting the trajectory of the car keys thrown to you, to finding exactly the right word to say as the conversation evolves. Even more amazing, the brain, that great glob of cells, nerve fibers, blood and goo, is self-aware. So there seems to be something other than brain. British neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield said ‘the brain is a computer programmed by the mind.’ So what is the mind? The energy that makes the neurologic matter function?

And what about other bits of wonder? The dirt, the rocks, the sand we walk upon are all of untold ages, and all made from elements formed (as far as we know) from the titanic machinery of stars. The rock we cast into the lake is not worried that it will spend ages in the lake. It has spent ages upon ages watching the mountains and lakes fall and rise.

Of course, theoretical physicists take the wonder further. Some believe we live in a universe that is constantly being created and destroyed. Some believe we live in a ‘multi-verse,’ in which all possible universes are in existence, but just outside the reach of one another. Some theorize 10, 11 or 40 dimensions.

It truly stretches the mind even consider what we can’t grasp. Sometimes it seems that our world, so tidy and simple, is unraveling into more complexity than we ever dreamed possible. That was, in actuality, one of the fruits of Einstein’s relativity equations, as quantum reality trumped older physics.

Which brings me to Easter. What has science to do with faith? Everything, it seems. Much of science is an act of faith, and a significant portion f faith can be empirically validated as useful, and frequently factual.

On Easter, Christians celebrate the man Jesus of Nazareth, whom scripture tells us was the Son of God, the culmination of millennia of hopes and dreams, suffering and prophecy, come to take away the sins and brokenness of mankind (and the universe) by His act of loving redemption. History suggests, and strongly, that He lived, died and was resurrected. The world has never been the same since.

In a way, Christ gave us a living metaphor to grasp our changing comprehension of the surreal, wondrous interplay of matter and energy. Christians believe that the ultimate mysterious energy of the universe is not impersonal or uncaring, but intimate and involved. That energy became matter to reach us in person. He was, and is, a historically celebrated incarnation of something every modern knows: E=MC2. Energy become matter, matter which contained unimaginable energy. And that energy can fill us, so that we are not lost, but are ultimately transformed and live forever as well.

When we remember those fantastic events of over 2000 years ago, we can look around the physical world and feel reassured that miracles and resurrections are really no more irrational, no less acceptable, than the strange things even non-believing scientists discover year after year. For in fact, the resurrection of one God-man to rescue all is merely the most wonderful of all the wonders that enfold, bathe and support us every single day that we live our complex lives as conscious matter and energy.

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