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---- meets Kirchliche Dogmatik
First of all, an announcement: Today I mailed out the new volume of the Journal of the International Society of Apologetics. Please note: I only sent it out to dues-paid members. If you have any questions concerning your status, please make contact with email@example.com., our secretary-treasurer. Also, I ran out of time, and hopefully tomorrow will be able to send it to a few people that I didn't get to today, viz. non-US members and the authors of articles, who get extra copies.
Here follow some thoughts that are connected in my mind, though the connection won't be discernible to too many people. Then a chip from the floor of my workshop, and finally some beginning thoughts on the relationship of Christian thought to modern physics.
So, the Tippy Ditch Singers have played Converse, Indiana. For me, the night was snake-bit, first with my bass's connector to the pick-up chord coming apart, just in time for our first number. I managed to fix it afterwards. Then there was the lack of a regular guitar for our last song when only Jim and I were left, and just a bass by itself doesn't work too well. The back-up group somehow couldn't get me into the correct key. Quite embarrassing, and I really felt sorry for Jim. After asking several times to borrow someone's guitar, one gentleman let me use his. I thanked him profusely. One chord, and I was into the key and took off, letting the song become a kind of catharsis after that frustration. "Why me Lord?" may never have been performed anywhere with as many gratuitous jazzy notes thrown in and with as much passion. With all due appreciation for his song and his performances of it, I'm including Kris K. in that assessment, just this once.-- One obvious thing I learned is: Always take a regular guitar or banjo along.
Chips from the Workshop: Among the Australian Aboriginal tribes, there is a pervasive duty to share what you have received, and this is a commandment that usually goes back directly to their supreme being. A. W. Howitt (The Native Tribes of Southeast Australia) mentioned this point particularly with regard to the Guain and the Kamilaroys, but it is true of almost all tribes. This does not mean that all property in a clan is communal, but that, if someone is successful in a hunt, for example, he is morally obligated to share the meat with those who were unsuccessful or unable to hunt. If you were a member of the tribe and found a large lizard, you could not just eat it alone; you would have to divide your bounty with others. At the time of first contact with Europeans, they were practicing this duty faithfully.
In fact, when Howitt observed the Gunai initiation ceremony, the elders added one ritual to the ceremony, a very rare thing in a traditional culture. They felt that it was necessary due to the fact that the young candidates had been in contact with a few white people. The headman went from boy to boy and with a symbolic gesture pulled something out of their chest. The thing that he removed symbolically, as it were, was the greed that they might have picked up from European-originated people.
Consistent readers of my blog know that I keep insisting that true Christianity stands out from other religions because so many Christians do serve selflessly, not just other Christians, but also people who do not believe as they do. And, I'm sure, some of the Christian missionaries to Australia in the nineteenth century displayed that attitude. However, I also think that this mind-set was hardly displayed by the colonizers.
Just another little chip that I didn't want to sweep away immediately.
I've been continuing to work on my math, and I've now figured out that the derivative of a line described by y = 3x2 is 6x, and that the integral of y = x3 is x4/4. So, I've made some progress, I hope. Furthermore, my friend Bill H. just sent me a link to a good article on an ongoing debate between scientists and philosophers concerning the limits of science; so, it appears that discussions on the nature of science are in the wind. Thus, it may be about time to start the promised series on a Christian view of the world and the remarkable ideas of modern physics. The two immediate causes for these ruminations are 1) a question asked of me by a wonderful Christian brother in Germany, and 2) coming across some material written by certain Christian apologists that showed a bit of confusion on the basic principles of quantum mechanics and, consequently provided some conspicuously inadequate responses. I haven't decided yet exactly what to call this series or made up a logo for it yet.
I promise you this: By the end of this series, you will not be able to solve Schroedinger's equation, unless you picked it up from somewhere else. But I also promise you another thing: By the end of this series you will understand the basic principles underlying quantum mechanics and relativity. Well, that is to say, if you read it.
God created the world. God did not create science. Science is a human attempt to understand the world that God created. Science discovers the laws of nature. Did God create the laws of nature? No, not in a straightforward sense. The "laws" are also human efforts of making sense of God's world. However, God created the world to which these laws apply, and the better our description of this world is, the closer we get to the nature of the world God has created. So, how good are our descriptions, and how close are we to understanding God's creation?
Apparently towards the end of the nineteenth century a popular opinion held that physics was basically done. Isaac Newton had laid down the ground rules, and, except for a few little matters, there was not much left to discover. If one wanted to explore new territory, one should probably go into another field other than physics. That sentiment seems so weird now, but it was real, among physicists as well as non-scientists. They were wrong. The world that God has created has turned out to be far more complex and interesting than Newtonian physics could possibly describe.
Let me tell you one reason why Newton's physics could not possibly be as self-contained as people thought. It was tied to some really bad philosophy. Towards the very end of the Middle Ages, philosophy went into a tailspin. The nominalists, leading off with William of Occam, led Western philosophy into a time of skepticism, and when philosophy reemerged, it was exceedingly primitive, showing none of the sophistication one had found in Aquinas, Scotus, or Bonaventure. Unfortunately, the naive concepts of modern philosophy (from the 17th century on) have stayed with us, and for many people they have become common sense, so that they immediately read these ideas into statements about the world. To return to the thought expressed above, God created the world, but he did not created the Newtonian world.
Now, here's my first major point. The usual statement in textbooks is that we really don't have to worry about quantum mechanics or relativity. On the level of our normal lives, they say, we can safely stick with a Newtonian conception of reality. This is poppycock. I don't know whether we need to get worried about quantum physics or Einstein, but the Newtonian view of the world is definitely inadequate, even on an everyday level--always has been and always will be. Let me illustrate what I'm trying to get at by citing from Amir D. Aczel, Entanglement: The Greatest Mystery of Physics (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2001), p. 12:
Newton, building on the foundations laid by Descartes, Galileo, Kepler, and Copernicus, gave the world classical mechanics, and, through it, the concept of causality. ... Newton's laws are a statement about causality. They deal with cause and effect. If we know the initial position and velocity of a massive body, and we know the force acting on it and the force's direction, then we should be able to determine a final outcome: where will the body be at a later point in time.  (Emphasis his)
I enjoy Dr. Aczel's books, including this one, and, for what it's worth, I highly recommend his Fermat's Last Theorem. Still, the assertion that Newton gave the world the concept of causality is a little overstated, but it's an assertion that has more truth to it that one may think at first. Obviously, other people, including philosophers and scientists had a concept of causality prior to Newton. But what Newton gave the world, or at least reinforced with his laws, was a particular notion of causality, one that was significantly narrower than it should have been. Newton's causality is purely one of pushing and pulling. In order for there to be causal interaction between two objects, they have to be in close enough contact with each other so that they can exercise force on each other, and that means either pulling or pushing. Apply a few measurements, and we can express the relationship between two objects by filling in the parameters of the appropriate formula.
My point is this: True enough, pushing and pulling, or the interaction of forces, such as gravity or electromagnetic attraction and repulsion, are instances of causality. But where we go wrong is if we limit causality to just that expression. Causality is broader than that. It is the actualization of a potential. I can cause my wife to smile by doing or saying certain things, and I beg you to please not interpret such an instance along the line of molecular interactions. Even if you could do so, it would be ludicrous to say that such things on an atomic level are what was really going on. That would be a goofy view of reality, one that we certainly don't live by. Or, when we say that the downturn in the economy caused a lot of unemployment, there's no pushing and pulling between objects going on.
So, as we begin to look at some things that don't seem to fit our everyday thinking about the world, a good way to start making sense of some strange phenomena is to realize that some of the concepts with which we approach the world may be too limited. That's not going to make all the strange stuff make perfect sense; it doesn't dissolve the paradoxes engendered by relativity or give us certainty where Heisenberg was uncertain. However, it should help us focus on the issues rather than on unnecessary limits that we place on ourselves by using concepts that are too restrictive. We'll get to those things as we move along and look at them more closely, but we can't look at them at all if we don't allow ourselves to break out of limits that we have set ourselves by tradition.
God caused the world to exist. God caused the world to contain entities that are themselves causes, producing further effects. God caused the world to contain effects that go beyond a Newtonian understanding of causality.
And were off . . .
 I'm not entirely sure what Aczel means by a "massive body." Perhaps he means to stress that a body has mass, which strikes me as redundant. Speaking of redundancy, some of us may remember, if we took a course in physics, that force and velocity are vectors, and thus have a direction intrinsically. I'm not quibbling so much as trying to show up front that I'm not just stringing together undigested pieces of information.