Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

STUFF 2013 science and . . .stuff

Given my current touring schedule, it will be some time before I am in a pulpit again.  Thus, it seems a good opportunity to reprint a few pieces I've written for various publications over the past few years.  
The theme for the Fall 2013 Issue of Connect Journal was "Science," and my regular column is called "A View from Elsewhere."
Herewith my submission, with apologies for violations of contractual contracts etc . . . 

Science and . . .  Stuff.

“You don’t see something until you have the metaphor to perceive it.”
--Robert Shaw, Chaos: Making a New Science, 1987

There was a time, a long time in fact, when people honored the God of the Gaps.  In simple terms, when something could not be explained, it was Because God.  Anything one could think of that could not be explained was Because God.  Obviously, as people started to figure out that natural forces created things like rain clouds, the need for praying to a God to bring rain seemed unnecessary on some level and--to some people--downright silly.  And thus, the more we learned about our environment, the less we needed God as an explanation for the gaps.  Hence, the God of the Gaps began to die a slow and quiet death with the advent of the Filler of Gaps: Science.

There was also a time when religious folks (i.e. nearly everybody) accepted that God was in everything.  (You know, the One in whom we live and move and have our being?)  But over time we kind of confused being in everything with being in charge of everything.  We lost the notion that God was everywhere to the steady advance of knowledge.  The more we learned, the less we needed God to fill in the gaps.  And if God wasn’t everywhere, and was only where we needed an explanation, well, explanations crowded God out of the picture.

Sadly, to many people, this means God must be defended form the encroachments of science, lest God be banished entirely.  If God isn’t everywhere, then the God of the Gaps gets smaller every year.  Sure, people still have their personal gaps they can fill in with a #2 pencil in a pinch.  God saved me this parking spot.  God beat back the incurable cancer.  God let the Cubs win the World Series.  (Okay, that one really would have to be God.)  But on the whole, a God of the Gaps is headed for retirement, plain and simple.  We only need that god until we can explain things.  And science is racking up points in the game of explanation, that’s for sure.

Enter, the relief pitcher named Quantum Physics.  On the smallest most intimate level, the rules are completely different, right?  An object can be two places at once.  A cat can be both dead and alive.  An object can move from one place to another without actually traveling the distance in between the two points.  And suddenly, all that explaining stuff doesn’t explain things at their most basic level.  On the subatomic level, things are not made up of matter; they’re made up of forces holding matter together.  And with all that craziness, maybe we can get back to thinking about God being in everything rather than being in charge of everything.  And the reason I can say that is because of this:  It’s all about relationships.

Quarks, are the things that make up protons and neutrons; they live inside bubbles called hadrons.  And the really interesting thing about quarks--or, I should say, the most significant thing to me about quarks--is that there is no such thing as one quark.  They always come in groups of two or three.  Protons and neutrons consist of a little trinity of three quarks.  They live in that little bubble of life and make up everything you see.  On the absolute most intimate level, everything is made up of relationships.  There is no individual.  There is no lone gun, loose cannon, or self-made atom.  It’s all about community.  It’s all about interaction.  It’s all about what God has been telling us all along . . . A dance of life where two or three are gathered.

Turns out, it seems you don’t have a metaphor until you can’t see something to perceive it.

George Baum is exactly one half of the band, Lost And Found (, an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Ohio, the father of two, and the husband of one.

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