Surprise!!

There is a remarkable thing about scientific discoveries in all fields. They generally tend to be surprising. Nobody (meaning, no scientist) expected that the universe had a clear beginning – that space and time started at a particular moment, before which there was….. well, nothing. Not even time. How surprising was that?

The fact that the speed of light is a constant, whether you are moving toward it or away from it, was a big surprise, and a very disturbing one at that. It made no sense at all, until Einstein came up with special relativity. Which is pretty hard to understand. But even Einstein never quite liked quantum mechanics, with photons playing tricks and going in all possible directions at once until they are observed. What is that all about? Quantum entanglement, “spooky action at a distance”, makes relativity look simple.

And what’s the story with all these particles, and with spin and color, and those dimensions? I mean, what is matter, anyway?

Biology is worse than physics. Genes are made of huge DNA polymers, and there is a code (where did that come from?), but when you look at genes, they are interrupted. This is a surprise – why should genes be interrupted? We (biologists) were pretty sure there had to be around 100,000 human genes, in order to code for all the stuff we have and do, but surprise! There are only about 20,000, less than some plants and flies. How does that work? (We are getting there on that one).

So here is my point. Why is the universe so surprising? Why can’t we ever seem to predict what we are going to find out next? Doesn’t it seem that at some point we should get to a stage of knowledge where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and say “OK, just a few more discoveries, and that will be that, we will finally fully understand….something, anything”. Nobody thinks that is ever going to happen. The sum of our knowledge is a fractal: it just keeps going on and on from one scale to the next, never showing any sign of reaching an end point, or even a plateau.

Recently it was discovered that photosynthesis is based on the quantum coherence of photons acting in the plant pigment to try out all possible pathways simultaneously before settling on the one with the highest efficiency. So all of life on Earth is based on the strangest phenomenon of physics.

How does this all point to God? I think a universe without God would be much more boring and ordinary. The wondrous complexity of everything, from galaxies to protein synthesis, is a reflection of the immense majesty of the Creator. When we study molecular biology, we are doing theology. When we map the new exoplanets circling faraway stars, we are learning about God’s infinite power. When we look into the eyes of our beloved and see the love there, we are witness to the miraculous nature of God’s creative genius.

Evolution is a beautiful mechanism for the generation of millions of species, living creatures of every conceivable kind. But what was the agent that set evolution in motion? And Who is the Agent that produced us, an animal with this strange gift of being able to understand the world? As we learn more and more, as one discovery after the next surprises us, makes us wonder, forces us to think and work harder, we should grow closer to God, the source of  all of this beauty. There is nothing “mere” about our world, there is nothing ordinary about any of us: everything we do is an experimental confirmation of the great scientific finding that God made the world, and that we are loved by Him.

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7 Responses to Surprise!!

  1. resonate47 says:

    Wonderful post Sy. I’m gonna be thinking on this for days to come. It is truly an honor to live as and among God’s creation.
    Peace.

  2. It’s good to remember our true purpose and calling. We care about science because we care about our Creator, and about one another. Thanks, Sy!

  3. SheilaDeeth says:

    Yay! The joy and constant surprise of faith and science – like love!

  4. Jon Garvey says:

    The sum of our knowledge is a fractal: it just keeps going on and on from one scale to the next, never showing any sign of reaching an end point, or even a plateau.

    Despite all that, isn’t astonishing how relatively simple it is to get through life!

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Ethan, Chris, Sheila and Jon. As for getting through life, Jon, I guess your comment depends on what you mean by relatively and simple. And for whom you are speaking. I have felt quite the opposite at times, but these days, I am in agreement with you.

    • Jon Garvey says:

      Sy
      Most of our complications in life are of our own making – we don’t need to master quantum physics to eat, sleep and survive!

      • Yes, I see what you mean. It is actually remarkable that our bodies do what they do, all by themselves. I just went to a great lecture yesterday about a very rare genetic disorder, that destroys the ability of certain skin cells to respond to touch. These people are pretty normal, but they cannot walk, or remain upright if blindfolded. In other words they are lacking proprioception, and rely on vision to tell them where they are. We take so much for granted (until it goes wrong). I guess you have just a bit of experience with that, Dr. Garvey.

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