The Church of the Holy Cross, Avening

Monthly Letter to the Parish - August 2018

Faith & Physics

So often I find that when people discover I am both a priest and a physicist they comment that such a combination is very surprising if not impossible. The whole area of the relationship between religious faith and science is a most fascinating one, and has exercised the minds of many scientists and theologians - and it still does.

Science - it is often thought - consists of certain knowledge, whereas religious faith - it is often thought - requires belief in umpteen impossible things before breakfast.

The life scientific requires many steps of faith: for example, that the universe really is sensible and amenable to meaningful investigation; that experiments done some time ago would still give much the same results if repeated today. When Einstein came up with the idea of merging time and space it was a step of faith in his imagination rather than an obvious fact.

Modern science has also fed us with some intriguing questions. How is it that in the Big Bang some 14 billion years ago there was the potential for creating you and me, conscious of our own existence and able to make sense of the world around us? Why is it that if the strength of gravity, or other natural forces, were only very slighly diferent from their actual values then the universe would not exist? Why is it that the work of pure mathematicians creating new 'games' in their heads so often turns out to be exactly the language needed to describe the behaviour of the big wide world? Why does the world of very small particles defy our human intuition?

Such questions lead many to appreciate that there is more to things than we see on the surface - life, the universe, existence itself have 'depth'.

This does not directly lead to the Christian faith: that requires each individual to absorb the message and person of Jesus of Nazareth by reading what we know about him in the gospels and allowing this (some would say allowing him) to impact on our lives. Like riding a bike, that can only be done by trying it out - not to do so would be unscientific.

Gerald South