Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rethinking the universe?

Nobel award-winning scientists are frantically trying to disprove the results that shook the foundation of physics to their core.  Einstein may have been wrong.   If you haven't heard of this, don't be depressed at being out to touch.  Not many outlets gave it much coverage.  Those who did probably don't understand the significance of the report and those who do are desperately trying to disprove or mitigate its earthshaking damage.

On September 22, the geniuses at CERN supercollider in Europe released the findings of their OPERA experiment.  They sent neutrinos (a sub-atomic particle with mass but without charge) down a 454 mile supercollider.  Astonishingly, they were observed traveling faster than the speed of light.  In physics, this is an impossibility.  Despite what you may have seen in movies, physicists know the law Einstein discovered that no particle with mass can exceed the speed of light.  The faster-than-light travel that fills the pages and screens of science-fiction defies the laws of physics...or at least did.  As a particle with mass approaches the speed of light, its mass increases towards infinity, and time slows down.  Thus, the results of the OPERA experiment must be wrong.  If not, the principle upon which all physics of the last century operated falls with a resounding crash.  CERN spent months trying to disprove their finding and discover a fault in the methodology or measurement.  Yet the results stand, and the CERN scientists are desperately seeking others to replicate or disprove their findings.

In an editorial written by Charles Krauthammer on October 6, he discusses the implications of this discovery.  If things can go faster than light, the foundations of modern cosmology, physics, and astronomy crumble.  Krauthammer suggests that this will necessitate a change in theologies as well.  Certainly the "theology" of science will require rethought.  The age and size of the universe will need to be re-examined.  The very nature of observation will be reassessed since light-based measurement may be too slow for accurate observation.  All those theologies that have adopted scientific methodology, law, or theory also will face a radical reinterpretation.

There will be one theology that will not change...mine.  Beginning at Genesis, I (and those "cavemen" pastor/theologians like me) have persistently held that God created the world in six literal days.   A six-day creation necessitates a "young earth" understanding of the world's age.  Those who choose to adopt an interpretation that accommodates an evolutionary theory of origins have accused me of illogically refusing to accept the scientific law of the speed of light in the measurement of time.  The argument goes that since astronomic bodies exists billions of lightyears away, the light from those bodies cannot travel faster than the absolute speed of light.  Thus, we can conclude that the universe is billions of years old.   If speed of light now is not absolute, astronomic distances are up for grabs.  All "scientific" estimates of the age of the universe are completely up for grabs.

Whether or not the findings of CERN withstand global scrutiny, my adherence to six-day creation will continue.  To cater our interpretation of scripture according to the latest scientific research places man's reason over the text of scripture.  Others choose alternative views of Genesis for exegetical reasons.  I have no qualms with them.  My concern is that we always place God's revelation in scripture above man's science.  People regularly throw Galileo and Copernicus in the face of those who rely on the superiority of scripture.  These examples only prove that improper eisegesis cannot form a solid basis for understanding.  God's Word stands forever.  Man's reason in religion or science fails.

God is so much bigger than the speed of light.  His creation and providence regularly astonishes man.  While the whole world wrestles with the implications of the CERN scientists, God's purposes and power continue without hesitation.  The question I hope people address in the light of this physics lesson is, "Upon what have I placed my trust?"  Einstein can be wrong.  The speed of light may not be absolute.  The foundations of science regularly crumble. (See Thomas Kuhn's, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions)  Only one foundation remains resolute, infinite, and immoveable.  I Corinthians 3:11 "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

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