July 3, 2011 Leave a comment
by Quirino Sugon Jr.
A. Science and words
Science is rooted in the Latin word scientia meaning “knowledge”. Many sciences ends in “logy” which is rooted in the Greek word logos meaning “word”. The act of naming something is to give a word for it, and in doing so we know it. But in order to do this, one has to distinguish that something from another. In the Book of Genesis (Gen 1), for example, we read the account of Creation. Notice how things are created out of formlessness by separation, by distinguishing one from the other. Here is the process of separation by day of Creation:
- Light from darkness, day from night
- Sea from sky
- Sea from land; fruit-bearing trees from non-fruit bearing trees
- Sun for day; moon and stars for night
- Swimming creatures from flying creatures
- Land animals: creeping things, cattle, and wild animals. Male and female
- Sabbath: rest from work
Once the objects are distinguished and named, the next step in science is to find their relationships to one another. One way is to arrange them into groups and subgroups according to structural similarity. This is the method used by Carolus Linnaeus in his taxonomy system. He grouped all living things into a hierarchy: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, specie. So if the genus and specie the living thing is known, then its family, order, class, phylum, and kingdom is known. For example, we are animals (kingdom Animalia) with backbones (phylum Chordata). Our females have breasts that produce milk (class Mamalia). We belong to the first among animals (order Primata) and we look like humans (Family Hominidae). We are indeed humans (genus Homo), but we distinguish ourselves from other humans because we think–or so we thought (specie Sapiens).
Thus, a single word is not enough. We have to clarify and clarify by adding additional words. Treebeard in Lord of the Rings says it best:
For one thing, it would take a long while: my name is growing all the time, and I’ve lived a very long, long time; so my name is like a story. Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to in my language, in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a verly long time to say anything in it, because we dop not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to. (Two Towers, p. 66)
B. Relationships between words
Another way to arrange living things is to construct a food chain by drawing an arrow from the eater and the food. As stated by Charles Elton (1927):
The herbivores are usually preyed upon by carnivores, which get the energy of the sunlight at third-hand, and these again may be preyed upon by other carnivores, and so on, until we reach an animal which has no enemies, and which forms, as it were, a terminus on this food cycle. There are, in fact, chains of animals linked together by food, and all dependent in the long run upon plants. We refer to these as ‘food-chains’, and to all the food chains in a community as the ‘food-cycle. (Wikipedia)
The relationship between different animals in a food chain is an abstraction. The animals are visible; their relationships are not. It is like looking at your wrist watch. You only see the hour, minute, and second hands. But you guess there is something inside the watch that you cannot see which relates these three hands of a clock.
In the Bible, matter (visible) is distinguished from spirit (invisible). Matter, according to our grade school definition, is anything that occupies space and has mass. Spirit, on the other hand, is the binding force of matter that once removed, the living thing dies and disintegrates. Man was made from dust. And once his spirit is removed from man, man goes back to dust.
In Physics, matter (visible) is distinguished from fields (invisible–except for visible light in the rainbow). Particles are the protons, electrons, neutrons, etc. These are the building blocks of matter. Fields are the forces that bind particles: gravitational force, electromagnetic force, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force. Gravitational force is responsible for the fall of Newton’s apple and the never-ending fall of the moon towards the earth in circular motion. Electromagnetic force is displayed by lightning strikes, global positioning systems, auroras, and cellular phones. Strong force binds the nucleus together, preventing protons from flying out. And weak force is responsible for the decay of subatomic particles.
Naming fields into gravitational, electromagnetic, strong, and weak, makes them objects that may be represented mathematical quantities governed by equations. For example, gravitational force is represented by the symbol F and is governed by Newton’s law of gravitation. The electric and magnetic fields are represented by the symbols E and H and their interaction are governed by the four Maxwell’s equations. There are also similar symbols and equations for the strong and weak nuclear forces.
C. In the beginning was the Word
The Holy Grail of Physics is to find the single relationship between the four forces in the universe, this one relation that shall rule them all. This relation is called GUT (Grand Unified Theory) that shall explain everything there is to know about the universe and everything that shall ever be. This requires more and more powerful mathematical concepts. For example, Maxwell’s equations are originally expressed in terms of 8 scalar equations. Then the mathematical concept of a vector as an ordered triple of numbers interpreted as a ray was invented. Using vectors, the Maxwell’s equations was reduced to 4. With the invention of geometric algebra which combines imaginary numbers and vectors, the 4 Maxwell’s equations can be reduced into one: the Maxwell equation, which states that “the space-time derivative of the electromagnetic field is proportional to the charge-current density”.
Physicists may succeed in finding the GUT equation, but there are still so many things that cannot be unified in the GUT: metaphysics. What is goodness? What is truth? What is beauty? Physicists see beauty in a single equation that describes so many things yet one and unchanging. Physicists see also truth in this equation because it describes the physical world. Physicists may also good in this equation, for the universe may not exist without this equation. Yet these are but glimpses of things that transcends the physical order. What is a good man? How do you know that I am not lying? Why is a rose beautiful? The answers to these questions cannot be expressed as an equation with the predictive power of Newton’s laws or Maxwell’s equations. Between physics and metaphysics lies an insurmountable barrier, a chasm as deep as the abyss. Who shall bridge this abyss?
The Christians proposes the following answer: Christ. Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (c.f. Jn 14:6) is also the Word of God who created all things, visible and invisible:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God. 33 All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be 4 through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; 54 the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (Jn 1:1-5)
Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (c.f. Rev 22:13). Science began in the Creation of the universe. Science shall end in the destruction of the universe. Science began when the Logos ordered all things. Science shall end when the Logos puts everything under His feet (c.f. Heb 2:8). As Christ said: And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. (Jn 12:32). And that includes scientists.