Where This Meets That
Adam and Eve in France?
Film pioneer Louis Daguerre is thought to have created the above photograph (or “daguerreotype”) of Boulevard du Temple in Paris as early as 1838. In the bottom left is the image of a person apparently getting his boots shined by another. Though this was undoubtedly a busy street at the time the photo was taken, only subjects remaining still for several minutes registered because of the long exposure time required by this earliest of cameras.
What makes this so cool is that these two anonymous individuals are the first ever captured on film. This image is the first ever photographic evidence of our species. Before this, it’s all fossils, traditions, and written words that bridge us from the murk of prehistory to the modern day. If seeing is believing, then our history before this photo is all trust. In this way, the people captured here are almost like the biblical “Adam and Eve”.
It seems monumental, and yet in my post “Is Seeing Believing Anymore?”, I discussed how photography and video are at best questionable evidence of what is real. But we still buy it without question. Just ask the brothers Tsarnaev, who were nailed for the Boston Marathon bombing the instant their images were linked to the event by big media. By no means am I pleading their innocence, but I am pointing out the swiftness of their public condemnation based simply on a sensationalist media’s interpretation of images.
The Path of Least Resistance
Of course, we continually do this in life. The path of least resistance is a natural flow that applies to the evolution of the universe as readily as to a river. It’s not necessarily the path of justice, but it is the natural order of things.
The same can be argued for belief systems. Natural skeptics might side with more atheistic reaches of the scientific community, relying on pure empiricism to shape their belief system, rather than religious faith and theology. “Science snobs” tend to scoff at religious belief as being an extension of this natural order, declaring belief in God simply the path of least resistance for simpleminded masses, a way to explain things that lie beyond easy grasp. The German economist Karl Marx identified this as a weakness exploited by religion, which he called “the opium of the people”.
But at its core, isn’t everything beyond easy comprehension? There is simply no way for the human mind, no matter how brilliant the scientist or how pious the Saint, to understand it all. Faith always plays a role.
Our respective worldviews are a blend of what we experience firsthand and what we trust from others. In turn, what we trust from others is compounded by whatever they gained by trusting yet others, and so on. By this truth, empirical reality is diluted, leaving us largely educated by theory not fact, and as long as those theories check out in our day to day lives, we have little reason to empirically assess them firsthand.
Take the digital revolution as an example. It makes this blog, even today’s world in general, possible. The pictures, videos, and music I post here for consumption across the globe are each nothing more than a rudimentary arrangement of 1’s and 0’s, yet I have no understanding of how those digits of 1’s and 0’s can convey so much of the human experience. I know there is encoding, and I know there is decoding, but that’s about it. Except that, somehow, through the “magic” of electronics it works.
A religious skeptic might turn this around and say the universe itself is nothing more than a vast network of code. The line is indeed blurring between existence and technology, for we are entering a new era when biological, DNA-based computing technologies will supersede traditional, silicon-based ones. No doubt, technology rides empirical validation to the marketplace, but from where did it all come?
Theory of Everything
Philosophers and scientists have long sought a single truth, a “theory of everything” that clarifies causality throughout the universe. Einstein wrestled to find that truth to his death, only to kick open an ant pile of quantum mechanics that perplexed his whole brilliant understanding of Creation.
Quantum mechanics, in a nutshell, observes that very tiny objects do not adhere to the same laws as very large objects. Whereas “large” objects (from atoms to galaxies) are subject to physical laws, subatomic objects are governed by probability alone. This frustrated Einstein, because it meant that everything is fundamentally disordered and unpredictable. That quantum mechanics is governed by probability and not certainty is known as the “uncertainty principle”.
As such, the uncertainty principle would appear to represent a fundamental limitation of science, a scientific spinoff of what theologians might call a “sacred mystery”.
Circling back to the start, the people captured in Daguerre’s photograph above are assuredly not the biblical Adam and Eve. Some have pointed out other potential persons captured in the photo, including a suspected child staring from the top left window of the nearest building; here’s only guessing he’s not some garçon named Cain. Clearly, these few people populate a city built by hands presumed not their own. By whose hands, however, we must fundamentally obey a trust, a sacred faith in a trail of words first breathed then scribed.
Socrates is often quoted as having said (some variant of), “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.” Headlines, almost daily, inform us of a revised scientific understanding of the universe, be it that people, language, or the universe itself evolved differently than previously understood. Make no mistake, the scientific method is invaluable to understanding how the universe works, but in the end, I am incapable of personally validating each finding; I place faith in the findings of science, much as I do in my faith that there must be a God behind it all.
Science insists that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Current scientific research also indicates that ordinary matter makes up less than five percent of the universe; that leaves quite a lot of room for uncertainty concerning our scientific understanding of existence.
For me, it is clear that God must be. Some prime mover, for here we are! But this God is not content to simply ride the bench after kick-off; he loves to be studied and learned, and he engages those who seek to know him, for look around us! What an incredible vastness for our curiosity to explore, and every answer leads to more questions, each seeking to draw the seeker closer!
Indeed, how can we not be in utter awe of him, at peace with his ways, and be in love with him who loves to be so loved? And where lies ground to say I’m wrong?