03 November 2014

A little help for my non scientist friends

I'm sure everyone was waiting for me to weigh in on the Pope's comments on the Big Bang Theory and Evolution.

The Holy Father is a trained chemist, so he gets a little bit of a slide on his comments. But of course as everyone knows the order or hierarchy in science is: physicist = mathematician > chemist > biologist > everyone else :p (And if you don't, this IS how we view the universe of science...(yes, it's tongue in cheek, but there's an element of truth to this, physics is HARD) But there are some important principles which are often forgotten which one needs to be reminded of.

a. Something can't come from nothing.

I feel that physics students would do better with either a semester or a year of philosophy under their belts because of the language of philosophy that penetrates physics often enough. Basic philosophy teaches that something can't come from nothing. This principle extends into physics. There can't be something without an atia (a cause)....Things do not appear out of thin air. In this sense, yes, God is not a magician...it's not a slight of hand or optical illusion, but His creation is real and True.

Understanding the laws of motion, there's a point that often gets confused about the first law. The first law deals with the absence of external (outside) forces. In this situation, a body is at rest or at constant velocity (but not both at the same time)...(The situation of the sum of outside forces being zero is not dealt with in the first law)

Likewise, any change in movement (whether it be a big bang, or even evolution) can't happen without a cause. To say that it happens by itself would be a heretical physics idea. More or less this is what I think the Holy Father was attempting to convey, but could have done so better (It's been a while since he's seen all this stuff, so I'm sure he's a bit rusty...I'm not allowed to get rusty, I have someone that's on my back for it)

b. Getting some things out the way

God is not the author of confusion or deception....that must be kept in mind when he is referring to God not being a magician. But there also things that we need to keep in mind.

Scripture reveals a few things about the order of the universe, that the earth was created first, light came before the stars and the sun, and man was formed from dirt, woman from the rib of Adam...

What it does not say is whether a model was used, where the earth was placed in the order of the universe. (It is not directly implicit that the earth would be in the center of the universe, many of the Church Fathers believed that the earth was at the center of the universe)....For God does not have to do so, but he could very well do so. God is all knowing and all present, and while not bound to our human limitations and our language, God is a God of order and reason, so He would not do things that'd violate order and reason.

A point I ought to mention about physics is that mathematics is a tool to assist us in the understanding of the universe. It is not, never has been, and never will be the end all be all of physics. There are times when math goes beyond physics and vise versa. So, I must say that this particular quote from Pat Archibald is not true at all. (Will  not let me link to the quote)

"Physics is the only profession where you can say stupid stuff like "Ummm, I think that 90% of the universe must be made up of unobserved and invisible stuff because otherwise my equations don't work" and people still think you are good at your job."

The vast majority of concepts in physics are NOT defined mathematically, but rather described mathematically. Y'all might think I'm being a nit picky person, but, it is a HUGE distinction which must be made. A great example is the equation for Gravitational Energy. We do not define force as a mathematical concept, but rather this is an approximation, what we've observed and shown through experiment to happen. To define something in stone, means that it can't be changed. And if you've noticed anything there have been lots of various discoveries, whether it be the Higgs Bosom, and pretty much everything post 1870. What beauty this universe is to be able to find out new things as we pursue the Order of Truth. Yes, I'm being picky, but it's because we do not wish to be limited by things we're not limited by.

But all my words being said, bear in mind that this is a weekday homily and has zero bearing on the Magisterium....but golly, it'd be nice if we at least can get some of these things right....I'm probably going to have to become the pontifical lecturer of physics just to keep his head on straight :p. Hopefully this relatively short post will help clear some things.

Pax Vobis

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