Thursday, June 08, 2006

thought experiment

these are my thoughts based on God & the New Sciences session led by Doug Pagitt

Let me know your enormity and my tininess and
Help me see your infinity and my finite-ness
– lyrics from His Truth is Marching On by Mike Doughty

I used to think inside the box. I thought I could use Kim’s scientific method to explain the world. My scientific method relied almost exclusively on my observations, which were limited to say the least. So using Kim’s limited scientific method, I did not observe God, therefore God did not exist. Then I discovered that I had kind of been forced into this box to exist peacefully in the modern world, where everything is explained or rationalized away.

When I learned about postmodernism and acknowledged the struggle of dealing with paradox and truth, I discovered that I had been limiting my thoughts and myself. I’m now thinking outside the box and it is a frightening and exhilarating and humbling experience. I don’t have a degree in theology or physics, so I’m going to be treading on thin ice here, but I had a thought.

We’ve been dividing the world up for a long time between the natural and the supernatural, mind and matter, humanity and God. We do this because it appears to us that these entities play by different rules. I just learned that this is called dualism. I love that I can learn new things at my age.

With advent of quantum mechanics, it appears that another duality exists between large objects and quantum particles. All the rules that we understand or take for granted to govern large objects, such as force, mass, acceleration don’t apply to quantum particles. In fact, out of our context of understanding and being able to predict large object behavior, quantum mechanics seems kind of unbelievable.

Here are just a few properties of quantum particles (from Quantum Mechanics for Beginners):
– Speed and location cannot be simultaneously known (The Uncertainty Principle of Heisenberg).
– Quanta move along according to the chance that they do, and can interfere with themselves.
– A large number of particles will display a pattern that is near equal to the initial possibilities of a single particle.
– A quantum particle can not be coerced. If it chooses to do so it will end up where only 1% of the particles ended up. It might even boldly go where no particle has gone before. Nothing is certain. Everything is possible.
– Below the energy level at which particles can exist, there is an ocean of chance (called quantum foam).

Human Quarkiness
On the one hand this is mind-boggling stuff. How can you make sense of something that can’t be predicted and leaves so much to chance? On the other hand, it sounds a lot like humans. Don’t we tend to be unpredictable, often moving by chance, choosing whether to interact or not. Isn’t this our God given gift of free will? Why is it so surprising that our most fundamental building blocks have this gift as well?

God’s Enormity
So we find ourselves living in a world where the small particles are behaving chaotically and the large objects are behaving more predictably. This got me thinking that maybe the largest object of all would be the most predictable, the most reliable, and the most stable. We often think of the vastness of space as a scary thing. We seem so small and insignificant. It is awe-inspiring, but now I think it should also be comforting. Growing up in Texas, I always heard that that bigger was better. Maybe it really is.

Let me know Your enormity because You are always there, You are steadfast. Let me know my tininess because my life is chaotic and unpredictable. Let the quantum particles of my being search and adhere to You.

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