Electric pickles, homemade snow and slime – just the stuff boyhood dreams were made of (at least my boyhood with the chemistry set mom gave me for my 9th birthday). I loved experimentation and discovery, the reduction of things to smaller things, getting to the “heart of heart,” as a one of my junior high science teachers once said.
Eventually (as with all things in my life) this experimentation and discovery journey led me back to God, the original source of all truth. I wish there had been a book like Tina Houser’s “Beakers, Bubbles & the Bible” back then! Nothing like experiments with magnets and paper clips to explain God’s love for us.
Which brings me to a recent post I made reflecting on a few thoughts around Good Friday. As usual, I ran the full social media spectrum spread including FB, Twitter, email, and other sources.
Apparently it got some traction, probably because I mentioned Brussels Sprouts in the title! Someone (not a follower of mine) saw it on Twitter and re-tweeted to their timeline. At some point, someone else makes a comment (including my Twitter name) ridiculing the post asking “Why the hell is there religious s%$t on my timeline?” Not to be outdone, someone else replied “They’ll probably follow up with a Bible verse,” followed by a third comment saying “They can’t help themselves, for them it’s faith over facts.”
Faith over facts…. Now, I’d normally ignore silly comments like these but hey, it was Good Friday. So I messaged all three individuals saying I’d be delighted to discuss facts and faith with them anytime. As is typical with what social media folk refer to as internet trolls, only one actually got back to me with a tired attempt at a pithy comment about not needing fairy tales but still gave me his email address with a comment something to the effect of “bring it on!”
This was my reply (if this gets a little eye-rollingly dense because I was attempting to speak to a guy professing an understanding of science, feel free to skip to the end):
“You know, @SokhavySheik” (not his real Twitter handle), “I was raised by an ardent atheist father and have had to defend my views on faith since I was in elementary school. I get the whole ‘I’m too smart to believe in mythology’ stuff, I really do. Heck, I did a stint during college in comparative world religions and even went through my staunch Deist phase. Perhaps you did, too.
“So let’s try this a different way, a way which might appeal to your need for facts versus Faith. I have no conflicts in believing the Universe came into existence some time around 13.8 billions years ago (we don’t really know, of course), and at just around the 10−43 seconds mark (that’s about one quintillionith of a second) into this new Creation quantum mechanics engages, generating dynamic cosmic inflation which in turn creates quark-gluon plasma, eventually (over the next 299 seconds) leading to the supremacy of matter over anti-matter, and then sometime around the first 300 seconds forms helium, lithium, and heavy hydrogen (deuterium and Helium 3) from nascent protons and neutrons by a process called nucleosynthesis. From there, nature sort of starts the chain reaction of laws balancing laws and matter reacting to matter and *boom* here we are debating the nature of reality (told you I was once a Deist).
“Yet I also have no conflict believing a creative life force (aka “God,” aka “El-Shaddai,” aka “Jehovah,” aka “Yahweh”) purposefully willed all of this into being and has been personally interacting with Creation over those same last 13.8 billion years. To believe that, I ascribe extra-natural causation. To wit: ‘In the beginning …’ and so forth. This approach doesn’t negate scientific law but rather allows for intent and design. If you’re a billiards guy, think of it as the pool cue striking the cue ball with just the right angle, velocity and trajectory to set the table in motion.
“You, on the other hand, believe in a science maintaining that for eternity there was nothing except, perhaps, an infinite expanse of quarks and leptons swimming in helium-4, helium-3 and deuterium which somehow spontaneously coalesced into what we refer to as this same Big Bang, combusting into everything we know today including that keyboard you spend so much time with. Your scientific basis for this (if you didn’t already know) is founded mostly on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, an essentially unsolved equation requiring the introduction of quantum potential (a sciency-like term basically saying ‘we don’t know but we think it could be this or that’) and a probabilistic explanation for the nature of reality. Your equations rely on unquestioning belief in String Theory (by definition unprovable and for which to-date there remain no predictions that can validate its truth) and hypothetical Planck-length particles. See all the conditionals here? Hoo-boy.
“Setting aside little questions like ‘where did the quarks, leptons, helium-4, helium-3, and deuterium come from?’ I’m struggling with your equation that ties it all together. Did your guys ever solve that inch-long ‘Theory of Everything’ equation Einstein couldn’t figure out?
“Better yet, let’s try something a little simpler, something your chemistry-set religion can surely solve. I believe God is the sole author of all Creation, existing uniquely outside the constraints of our 4-dimensional minds (and I’m including time here just to keep things interesting), yet capable of reaching into Creation at will. You believe in the intention-less superiority of science.
“So here’s my challenge: show me how your science can spontaneously grow a single strand of human hair using only the basic elements of 18 amino acids, lipids, sterols, fatty oils, sphingosine, triglycerides (yeah, that stuff your doctor probably told you was too high), squalene, melanin (you pick from eumelanin or phaeomelanin), some water (I won’t ask you to create Hydrogen or Oxygen – that’ll be a gimme between the two of us) and a few trace mineral elements. You know, kind of an ‘Iron Chef’ competition for Creation.
Ultimately, science resolves into the same “unknowns” as Faith
“And no, I’m not talking about duplicating Angela Christiano’s 2013 experiment of taking cells from the scalps of prematurely balding men and grafting them on the backs of mice to mimic hair growth. I’m talking the real deal – take some beakers of raw materials, work your sciency magic and grow me a strand of hair. Then we can talk about faith vs. facts.”
Yes, I know I threw a lot at @SokhavySheik. But as I mentioned, it was Good Friday, so there’s that. And the response to date? Crickets. Because ultimately, science simply resolves into the same “unknowns” as Faith. I just choose to believe there is a benevolent, loving, intentional God at the center of Creation rather than random noble gases and theoretical particles.
Here’s the thing. Believers need never fall into the faulty-logic trap of arguing God over Science. Our God is big enough to provide us brains to hypothesize any Universe we care to imagine. Or, in the words of Baylor University Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and proponent of intelligent design Robert J. Marks: “Saying the Bible is not a book about science is like saying a cookbook is not a book about chemistry.” They’re sort of the same things (at least certain parts, such as the entire first chapter of Genesis). And that God is patient enough to allow our ponderings and debate and arguments and science-ing until we find ourselves intellectually exhausted and right back where this story starts: “In the beginning…”
The events of Good Friday (and of the entire Biblical Story) are about an entirely different metaphysical currency: the currency of Redemption. There is simply no science, no hypothetical phantom bits, no equation, no String Theory, no Quantum Effect, no Multiplex Universe that will ever explain the circumstances and aftermath of Calvary, nor fully describe the simplicity and infinite complexity of John 3:16.
I kept my chemistry set a long time, along with the super cool physician-grade microscope by dad bought me when he still had hopes I’d grow up to be a doctor (sorry, Dad). I never forgot the lessons of wonder these instruments of man taught me. And the love for accepting the unknown universe around me, allowing room in my tiny brain for the greater recognition that God was, is, and will be all things.
Try sliming that, @SokhavySheik!