Intelligent design was invented in a situation in which Christians were unable to cope with Darwin’s theory of natural selection. They could no longer explain man’s origin as created according to the Image and Likeness of God (Genesis 1: 27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them). They had to find another reason, and since the nineteenth century was almost as proud of science as the twentieth century, the reason had to be scientific.   Since I read the God Delusion, I have been puzzled about the passions that permitted and even moved Christian fundamentalists to deny the evidence for evolution. To give a concrete example from my own experience in Congregational Church, the theory of Evolution is understood not surprisingly against the background of a misinterpretation of Einstein’s theory of relativity. The operative logic is that Einstein has proved Newton’s equations to be “wrong.” By the same token, somebody is, in the near future, going to prove evolution wrong too.   Although Newton discovered his law of gravity more than 300 years ago, his equations describing this force made such accurate predictions, that we still make use of them today. In fact, scientists needed nothing more than Newton’s equations to plot the course of a rocket that landed men on the moon. Yet, there was a problem. While his laws described the strength of gravity with great accuracy, Newton was harboring an embarrassing secret: He had no idea how gravity actually works.   At the age of 26 Albert Einstein made a startling discovery. That the velocity of light is a kind of cosmic speed limit, a speed that nothing in the universe can exceed. But the idea that nothing can go faster than the speed of light flew in the face of Newton’s picture of gravity.   To understand this conflict, we have to run a few experiments. Imagine that all of a sudden and without any warning, the sun vaporizes and completely disappears. Newton’s theory predicts that with the destruction of the sun, the planets would immediately fly out of their orbits careening off into space. In other words, Newton thought that gravity was a force that acts instantaneously across any distance and so we would immediately feel the effect of the sun’s destruction. But Einstein saw a big problem with Newton’s theory.   The triumph of Newton’s equations come from the quest to understand the planets and the stars; in particular the problem of why do the planets have the orbits that they do. And with Newton’s equations you can calculate the way that planets will move; Einstein’s got to resolve this dilemma.   Einstein came to think of the three dimensions of space and the single dimension of time as bound together in a single fabric of space-time. It was his hope that by understanding the geometry of this four dimensional fabric of space-time, that he could simply talk about things moving along surfaces in this space-time fabric.   Einstein’s imagination then supplied the missing details. Like the surface of a trampoline, this unified fabric is warped and stretched by heavy objects like planets and starts. And it’s this warping or curving of space-time that creates what we feel as gravity. A planet like the earth is kept in orbit not because the sun reaches our and instantaneously brags hold of it as in Newton’s theory, but simply because it follows curves in the spatial fabric caused by the sun’s presence.   So with this new understanding of gravity, let’s rerun the cosmic catastrophe. Let’s see what happens now if the sun disappears. The gravitational disturbance that results will form a wave that travels across the spatial fabric in much the same way that a pebble dropped into a pond makes ripples that travel across the surface of water.   So we would not tell a change in our orbit around the sun until this wave reached the earth. What’s more, Einstein calculated that these ripples of gravity travel at exactly the speed of light. And so, with this new approach, Einstein resolved the conflict with Newton over how fast gravity travels. And more than that, Einstein gave the world a new picture for what the force of gravity actually is. It is warps and curves in the fabric of space and time. Einstein called this new picture of gravity, General Relativity.   The major difference between the scientific and religious mind lies in the differing perspectives of reality. Where the later sees contradiction, the former sees harmony. And where there is an apparent conflict between two views, science seeks for uniformity. A friend of mine, who is a mathematician at London University, helped me see these things, perhaps in part because I myself have seen in the religious mind something of what it was that permitted Christianity to be split in so many denominations each one as a world apart.   The religious mind does not understand that it is possible for a scientist to develop future intellectual pursuits by understanding the research and works created by notable thinkers of the past.  

Tags: Einstein, Evolution, Newton, Religion, Science

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