You can’t see God. But don’t worry. You can’t see most of physical reality, either.
I’ve been reading a book called “The Elegant Universe” by Brian Greene about relativity, superstring theory and quantum physics. The first few chapters deal with Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity. Like most people, I have heard the many analogies about how to conceptualize the speed of light and how it warps time—the baseballs being thrown on a train, the spaceships flying past one another, etc.
I get the analogies well enough, but when it comes down to it, part of me just doesn’t buy it. The rational part of me understands that the theory’s logic and math are sound and have been proven experimentally. But the idea of gravity and speed warping time and space is just so far outside my everyday perceptions that the dumb skeptic in me can’t get on board.
The “smaller me” wants to live only in a Newtonian universe where objects move through time and space like clockwork. I can grasp that. I can sense the movement and inertia of objects. I can feel the gravity and visualize how a rocket needs speed to enter orbit. But tell me about a universe invisible to my perceptions where Newtonian physics no longer apply, and I’ll nod my head in wonder and be fascinated. But the “seeing is believing” part of me says, “Yeah, but…it can’t really be like that. You’re just playing with math.”
And yet, the evidence is conclusive. The universe is a far more complex and strange and beautiful place than our little minds can grasp.
Why, then, is it deemed irrational when believers claim the same thing, that this universe is far more beautiful and strange and wonderful than our everyday perceptions allow us to see? Why should it be so far fetched to have faith in God and hidden dimensions when it’s a scientific fact that more is going on here than any of us comprehend?
Another stunning fact of science: The matter that we can see and detect with our instrumentation only amounts to 4% of the universe. The other 96% is mysterious stuff called “dark matter” and “dark energy”–“dark” simply because we know it’s there but can’t see it but can only detect its gravitational influence. It doesn’t reveal itself like normal matter.
I love science, but it takes more faith than I can muster to believe that the three pounds of meat in our skull is capable of comprehending Reality as it truly is. Paul tells us “for now we see through a glass, darkly”(1 Cor. 13:12). It takes humility to remember our minds are in a dimmed and darkened state compared to the perceptions we will enjoy someday.
The book I’m reading has reminded me, just like the Bible, that there is a stark difference between what I see and what is really there. It’s an important lesson. I hope the scientists doing their important work remember the same thing.
Sheldon Lawrence is an award winning essayist and author of the recent novel “Hearts of the Fathers: A story of Heaven, Hell, and the hope of new life after life,” available here.