Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Love of God And The Law of Gravity?

Science Mike just put out a special episode of his Ask Science Mike podcast specifically about the recently confirmed existence of gravity waves. 

Listen to it here.

Being that this may be the closest thing to “Gravity Waves for Dummies” that I'm going to find, it's a bit disheartening that the majority of it is still well beyond my comprehension.  But maybe that's as it should be.  

Beyond any confusion and wonder at the weird, freaky, science-fictionish nature of our cosmos, there's one particular string of thoughts from Science Mike that stuck with me in terms of theological parallel:

"Gravity is very weak when compared to other forces in physics.  Now I know that sounds strange.  Here on Earth where you feel the intense pull of gravity every time you climb a flight of stairs, for example.  You clim enough stairs and you become very aware of Earth's gravity well.  But just think about how small a magnet is needed to pull a nail off a table.  And when you do that, that magnet is attracting that nail, is pulling that nail more powerfully than an entire planets gravity.  Gravity is weak compared to other forces in physics, and because of that, gravity waves are very, very small."

But at the same time, we have this:

"Why doesn't the moon crash into the earth?  Because the moon is traveling fast enough to be in free fall that's equal to the curvature of spacetime.  So the moon is constantly falling around the earth.  And the earth is constantly falling around the sun.  And the sun is constantly falling around the center of the Milky Way galaxy."

On the one hand gravity is weak.  While the laws of physics say that a nail will be inexorably pulled towards the mass of the earth, all it takes is a tiny, tiny magnet to pull it away.  The gravitational force of an entire planet submits to this tiny magnet.

On the other hand, gravity is the force that keeps planets and stars of unfathomable size from crashing into one another.  It allows the cosmos to dance.  And, scientifically speaking, the cosmos are indeed always dancing - spinning, twirling, falling.

Weak, yet unimaginably strong.  Dynamic, not static. It's "perfection" creating ceaseless relational movement.  In what seems to us as infinite nothingness and outer darkness, gravity is working to pull things together, to put each created object dance it it's rightful place.  Constant.  Invisible.  Light, dark, warm, cold - doesn't matter.  Nothing is beyond it's reach.  Though we drift, we drift within it.  Inescapable.  

As Radiohead sings "Gravity always wins".

Gravity is a symbol of the weakness of God, the weakness that is yet stronger than the strength of men.  It causes the cosmos to dance.  Love.  The gentle yet providential love of God that pervades the cosmos, down to the tiniest subatomic substance.

Do I dare believe this?  Or is this poetic nonsense?  A delusional assignment of meaning to a cold universe of arbitrary power or chance?

Who is this God, this God who speaks through the consent yet inevitability and inescapability of gravity?

I won't take the metaphor too far.  Gravity, after all, also causes the heaviness of cement walls that crash upon children in Haitian earthquakes.  Rather than lift them, it pulls floundering refugee mothers clinging desperately to capsized boats down to the depths.

Such is the nature of our existence.

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