Science “vs.” Religion

by on May.26, 2009, under thoughts

Woah. Here’s a scary topic. Talking about science and religion in the same blog post. That’s dangerous. Look, I even put them next to each other in the title! I must really be crazy. Or, more hopefully, I have some interesting thoughts. Let me start out with a quote from the book (and movie) Angels and Demons:

Science and religion are not at odds. Science is just to young to understand.

In preparation for going to Fermilab, my AP Physics C class has been learning about quantum physics and string theory. I find all of this rediculously fascinating. Yet, when I start hearing dates, it sounds like all of this was figured out so long ago. Then, I look at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), and realize that the greatest discoveries are yet to come, and are even within my lifetime.

For those unaware, I’ll start off with quantum physics (which we know to be true). The scale of things in quantum physics goes like this: an object is made of atoms. These atoms contain electrons orbiting a neucleus. This neucleus contains protons and neutrons. And (this is where quantum mechanics comes in), protons are made of smaller pieces called quarks. Without going into too much detail, there are six types of quarks, but we only need two of them to make up protons and neutrons. So, to make up everything we normally see, we only need two quarks and an electron. This sounds nice, but it leaves some mathematical gaps.

This is where string theory comes in. String theory says that these quarks are made up of tiny, vibrating bits of energy called strings. Now, when I say tiny, I mean MINISCULE. These strings are going to remain invisible to us for quite some time. Also, there’s another problem. In order for this to make sense, there needs to be not three or four dimensions, but eleven dimensions (one of time, three of space, and seven additional spatial dimensions). Assuming that all of this is true, the math works out beautifully, and everything seems to make sense.

But, this isn’t really science unless we can test it. Since we already ruled out seeing these strings, what do we do? We look at what isn’t there. But, for that, we need the LHC. String theory says that gravity is created by particles called “gravitons”, which “escape” into the eleventh dimension, so we don’t feel much of their influence. This is where the LHC comes in. When we turn it on and look at a collision, if the energy we put in, and the energy we get out doesn’t match, it must have “escaped” somewhere. This could be a graiton escaping into the eleventh dimension, beyon our reach.

If you’re still reading, and understand all of that, let me first take this time to congratulate you. But, there’s more confusion to come. One of the things the LHC hopes to solve is how the big bang happened. With conventional physics, it seems that there’s just no way the big bang could have taken place so suddenly. Well, string theory has an explaination for this. It says that our universe exists on a “membrane” in the eleventh dimension. Of course, there are other membranes “parallel” to our universe in the eleventh dimension. If another membrane touched ours, that could have created enough energy for the big bang to have happened.

OK, now I’ve gotten past most of the mucky technical details. On to the point. I was explaining this to, of all people, my mother. She was, naturally and as I am, confused and perplexed by this prospect. String theory is a very outlandish and strange-sounding claim. So, she responded simply:

I have an explaination for you. God.

Which reminded me that I truly don’t believe that science is “at odds” or “against” religion. In fact, I think science and religion go hand-in-hand.

Let’s look at the whole prospect of some greater being, and intelligent design, without getting into too many mucky details. Intelligent design has exactly my point in its title: intelligent design. This implies that there was some “thought” process that went into creating humans, and we are as we are for a reason. Doesn’t that directly say that God gave us brains so we can use them?

God didn’t mean for us to be wandering blindly in an unknown world. He lets us learn about how the world around us works, and lets us explore. He gave us brains so that we could be hit in the head with an apple and go “Hmm… gravity!” He gave us brains so that we could build machines like Fermilab and the LHC, in order to further our understanding of what’s actually going on around us.

And, maybe, God fits right into string theory. Of course, we have to go a bit away from religious norms, but that’s why I’m not Catholic. What if there were eleven dimensions? We know that any action in a higher dimension directly affects the lower dimensions. Who’s to say that God isn’t an eleventh-dimensional being that is able to orchestrate the membrane that our universe sits on in the eleventh dimension? Please, take this claim at face value. I am not a religious scholar, just a person with thoughts.

The Catholic church has long been against science. They have just recently made a formal apology to Galeleio, saying that he wasn’t crazy and that their actions were inappropriate. It’s time for a more radical change in the way science and religion interact. We need religion that supports science (no, not scientology), and science that supports religion. The crazy thing is, that while we don’t see the former, we are starting to see the latter.

Our universe is amazing. Really, just ful of beautiful… stuff. If we look at the mathematical equations for how we can describe different events in our universe, we find about twenty different constants that are required to make these calculations. Among these are a number that describes the strength of gravity, the mass and charge of an electron, etc. Here’s where it gets crazy again. If we change, even very slightly, one of these twenty constants… the universe falls apart. It just doesn’t seem to work.

Doesn’t this seem to require some higher being. The odds of these numbers being in perfect harmony with each other by pure chance, the odds of planets and galaxies existing, and the odds of life exisiting on Earth are enormously against us. If everything were just random, I wouldn’t be here right now, writing this blog post. So, it seems that science requires religion.

But, religion keeps saying that they don’t need science. ”How does this work?”, you ask? ”God made it that way. Don’t ask stupid questions,” they say. Well, here’s what I say: there is no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid answers. And, it seems to me that “don’t ask stupid questions” is a stupid answer. If religion were to embrace and support science, we could still have God, we would just view him in a different way. As Angels and Demons puts it, scripture is never wrong. However, how we interpret scripture could be very wrong.

Ignoring all this, string theory seems to have an answer to my random perdicament. In the eleventh dimension, there are infinitely many universe membranes, so there are infinitely many universes. This would mean that the numbers are bound to line up somwhere or other, so, we exist. But, this doesn’t rule out the notion of an eleventh-dimensional being.

With all the evidence of beauty around us, I find it impossible to believe that there isn’t a God. If for no better reason than to give us hope and a purpose in life. I think that if we are to continue with scientific achievement, religion will eventually be forced to embrace science, and use scripture to fill in the details. Heck, we might even find that science needs to use God for things to make sense.

Disclaimer: I am not a religious or scientific scholar. These thoughts are purely my own, and I engourage you to post why you agree or disagree with the points that I have brought up here. All scientific details in this post are, to the best of my knowlege, true. However, I always welcome corrections if I’m wrong.

Curious about string theory? I would reccomend starting with Imaginging the Tenth Dimension (watch the video). From there, browse YouTube for other videos about string theory. Brian Greene has a good video or two explaining more. Still looking for more? Look for the “Elegant Universe” NOVA series.

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2 Comments for this entry

  • Ben

    There is a revolutionary theory in Intelligent Design message from the Designers.Essentially this is about the demystifying of the old understandings, including Darwin for the origins of our humanity. There have been many humanities on this very ancient planet, that have disappeared for the self-evident reasons we can see all around us today.Here we have a sensible explanation for all the world religions and at the same time a logical reason for the appearance of the ufo phenomenon over the millennia and especially since 1945 – The oh my god the kids have found the matches stage with our particular humanity. I feel it is of some importance to at least begin to consider this theory, particularly in the growing urgency of the predictions it makes.All the world’s religions contain traces of evidence,and of these Buddhism is the nearest the truthwithout the mysticism.That said the Bible could be said to contain the scientific key to understanding this theory and for that matter to the current ufo debate.This requires a multi-disciplinary approach where one has to look at both the many branches of modern science, History archaeology geology and the world religions, together with a useful knowledge of issues like the world population environment and the dangers of nuclear war, particularly today with the proliferation of nuclear weapons. So at last we have a framework where we can consider many issues at the same time. We can respect the old understandings without living in the past. I think there has to be made a distinction between these scientific creators and the concept of Infinity.Contrary to current understanding the universe is infinite.and always was and always will be. Human beings are like tiny pieces of infinity growing conscious of themselves. So we can elevate the concept of ‘God’ to that of the infinite, which through meditation we can seek to balance our infinite imaginations with our relatively small powers of perception, and thereby be in harmony with the infinite.As Einstein said ‘ imagination is more important than knowledge.One needs to couple a certain degree of both technical and spiritual humility to even begin to understand the implications of this enormous and all embracing theory.These scientists have proven that within the sub atomic particles of atoms are billions of galaxies with solar systems and people every bit as advanced as we are and likewise our galaxy is one of billions inside an enormous atom, which in turn is part of another being and so on.All that is above is below, as our scientists are gradually and progressively beginning to discover. As one famous person said, if this is science-fiction then it ranks alongside the most breath-taking of it’s kind, but if it is true it is earth-shaking’. I would add if this is science-fiction, then within the context of this theory, so are the dangers of nuclear war and over-popualtion and for that matter the subject of Ufos. What this amounts to is the demystification of the old understandings, an incorporation of the framework of Darwin’s theory and the spiritualisation of science. Our scientists are soon to become ‘creators’ of life through sythesis of DNA. They will through the progression of design create increasingly complicated organisms, and if our humanity is lucky enough to survive , eventually create ‘man in their own image.Scientists, will then become like those our ancestors, mistook for god/gods and the buckle will once again be closed. The sooner the scientific community wakes up to this theory the better, that is unless debating our origins is more important than the survival of our humanity. I believe our humanity will ultimately be wise enough to avoid an unfortuante out-come, providing we start to put aside our relatively trivial difference and start to behave as a family and understand this theory.

  • Ben

    Re your point on science and religion.Ligere in Latin to tie a knot – re-ligere-> linked understanding
    religere = religion
    So today’s religion or linked understanding should be ans is de facto Science – not just test-tubes but all knowledge.

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