May 11, 2013

Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics - Diarmuid O'Murchu

In order for what I am about to say to make sense, you have to know that I have a very strong aversion to writing in books.  I feel as though books are to be treasured, and making any marks in them decreases their value.  (Yes, I am familiar with the argument that writing in books increases their value - and in neither case does value refer to monetary value!)  I have very few books with any marks in them.

However, when I started reading this book, I found myself reaching for a pen within a couple of pages.  I kept a pen with this book right up until the end.  There was just too much in there that resonated with me.  I found myself underlining phrases and sentences and paragraphs that lingered with me and that I wanted to remember.  My brain was kept busy making connections and references and expanding on thoughts that I kept scribbling phrases and ideas and questions in the margins.  I rarely went more than a page or two in this book without making some sort of mark.

And then a few pages after I started making my marks in this book, I started posting quotes from this book on my Facebook page.  This book was just too good to keep to myself!

When I was in university, I started in the Pre-Physiotherapy program which meant essentially a year of pure sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus) and as long as my grade point average stayed above a certain point, I would then transfer straight into the Physiotherapy program.  There were several points in that year where I thought that if the whole Physiotherapy thing didn't work out, I could quite happily study Physics or Chemistry.  There were points in those classes (once we moved beyond the boring Newtonian Mechanics) when we would be presented with concepts that I found that I couldn't think about directly.  I could think around them, and maybe glance at them sideways through the corner of my eye, and occasionally get a glimpse of something big, something beautiful, something awe-inspiring.  I wanted to dig deeper into those ideas, but then I did get the marks to move into the Physiotherapy program and that was the end of my Physics and Chemistry career!

I think what I'm trying to say is that I have understood for many years - for much longer than I have identified as a Christian - that the world is bigger and more complex and more beautiful and more organized and more random that our puny little human brains will ever understand.  The world is full of mystery, lying just below the surface of what we can perceive.  And yet it is only in the past year or so that I have been able to acknowledge that "mystic" is a large part of my Christian identity.  I find myself getting more and more in touch with the Holy Mystery that is God.

And I suppose that is the main reason why I have never been able to accept that there is any sort of contradiction between science and religion.  The mysterious, the incomprehensible, the awe is a part of both of them.  And after all, if I can accept that light is both a particle and a wave at the same time - a quantum of energy - why can't I accept that Jesus is fully God and fully human at the same time?  Interestingly enough, the April edition of The United Church Observer included an article addressing this very same question, with very similar conclusions - Will Science Eventually Explain Everything?

I apologize - this post is straying very far from the book!

The most concise description of this book that I gave to a friend of mine is that it is like a non-fiction version of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series.  There is another writer who saw absolutely no false dichotomy between science and religion!

This book is a seamless melding of the world of Quantum Physics and Theology.  It looks at how science has expanded and developed and evolved over the past century, and how parallels can be drawn with our understanding of God.  Some of the parallels drawn include looking at quarks as a model for the Trinity; a re-telling of the Genesis 1 creation story melded with the big bang creation story; dark matter is as necessary for matter, just as Calvary is necessary for the resurrection; photosynthesis as a cosmic parable; the fundamental importance of light in both the quantum world view and the theological world view.

And now for a few of those quotes I was sharing on Facebook:
"No longer do we understand the earth to exist primarily for the benefit of us humans.  The earth exists to manifest the beauty and grandeur of the creator; it is an "alive" planet with a capacity to grow and survive, endowed with a resilience that we humans cannot match." (p 19)
"Reality is bigger than our ability to perceive and since it grows forever in complexity it will probably always outstretch our imaginations and outwit our intelligence." (p32)
"With two-thirds of humanity struggling to meet basic survival needs and the other third largely preoccupied with accumulating and hoarding wealth, the human capacity for reflection, intuition, and the development of the imagination is at an all-time low." (p126)
"Often it is our fears that cripple us - fear of the new, of letting go of the old, of being challenged, of taking risks, of broadening our visions and horizons.  The call to conversion is an invitation to outgrow our fears and trust ourselves to the unfolding process of life and meaning.  Once we realize that the unfolding process itself is fundamentally benign and benevolent, then we begin to realize the profound meaning of the words:  "Perfect love casts out fear" (1John 4:18)."  (p217)

OK - sorry for the long and rambling post.  I am just so excited to share this book with anyone who will listen!  I am going to celebrate this book by adding a re-read of the A Wrinkle in Time books to my summer reading list.  And possibly by purchasing this t-shirt.

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