I do not profess to understand it entirely -- heck, even partially -- but I feel excited about the simulation of the "Big Bang" yesterday.
Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) hurled proton beams at each other at unimaginable speeds in the Large Hadron Collider, an atom smasher in Geneva. [Click here to see how and where it works.]
PHOTO: An event display shows the activity Tuesday during a high-energy collision at the CMS control room of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, at its headquarters outside Geneva, Switzerland.(AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)
"This is a huge step toward unraveling Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1 -- what happened in the beginning," physicist Michio Kaku said.
"This is a Genesis machine. It'll help to recreate the most glorious event in the history of the universe."
When I first read these quotes, I thought of the movie "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn." Didn't you?
Part of the film's premise, besides showing off a chesty Ricardo Montalbon, is that scientists have developed a Genesis machine that can transform a lifeless planet into a rich ecosystem teaming with life.
Dr. Carol Marcus takes Captain Kirk into a test cave, complete with waterfalls and hanging vines, and purrs, "Can I cook, or can't I?"
The issue of humans being able to create something out of nothing, a task once reserved for God alone, has long captivated us.
The smashing success at CERN is exciting scientists because they are still on the data hunt. They want to find out more about particle physics, antimatter, dark matter, alternate universes, time travel. You know, Star Trek stuff.
They also are looking for the hypothetical Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle" that scientists theorize gives mass to other particles and thus to other objects and creatures in the universe.
These activities are often couched in a polarizing science vs. religion debate, as in author Dan Brown's book "Angels & Demons."
But I don't think the scientists really want to play God, to cook and create like the fictional Dr. Marcus. (Even in that case she had to have an existing base upon which she laid a matrix.) I think they just want to know how it works.
I don't feel very threatened by this. I recall my foundational teacher, Pastor Ray, preaching that science and religion do not have to be oppositional and can even be complementary, two wheels of the same axle. "Science can explain the what and the how, faith can explain the who and the why."
Mystery is a long-held and special part of most religions, so scientists lifting that veil obviously are making some faithful people quite nervous.
But would knowing exactly how God did something -- create the universe, burn a bush without consuming it, raise the dead -- lessen the event's meaning, purpose or consequence?
Does something cease to be miraculous if you know how it works?
You might be confusing "miraculous" for "magical." You might have superstition instead of faith. You might be imagining a spooky divinity whipping out plastic flowers from a coat sleeve rather than a powerful creator in love with creation.
I always thought it was a cop-out to define God as mysterious and insist that there are some things we are not meant to know.
Don't bother proof-texting me. I don't think Scripture is inerrant anyway, and I wouldn't put it past some very good and faithful and people to run out of answers for everything and simply write, "It's a mystery."
That's still OK. I don't feel I have to know everything. But even doubting Thomas got proof when he asked. How snarky would God be if creation asked, "Wow! How'd you do that!?" and hid the information forever?
One criticism is that modern science is endeavoring to replace religion, that people won't need to believe in God once the data is complete. There's also just a plain theological criticism that humans knowing the keys to creation might be the apple tree in the Garden of Eden, fruit of knowledge we are not supposed to pluck.
One, if you think Genesis is a literal and historical account, we can all stop reading right here.
Two, people who are swayed from faith have a faith problem, not a science problem.
Three, a collision that produces 7 trillion electron volts is still only scratching the surface. Kaku said it's about as powerful as two mosquitoes smashing into each other.
However, atom-for-atom, it is 7 million times more powerful than a nuclear reaction.
That gives me some pause. Humans don't have a good track record with having immense power of energy at their disposal.
We have very little problem with science exploring other keys of nature that we ascribe to a "first mover" -- think gravity, weather, tectonic plate movement, etc. We don't freak out when the mathematics to the perfect spiral are discovered. We just pick up a snail and exclaim, "Isn't God fascinating?"
But that is all stuff that is already there. We try to control it, certainly, which often feels futile. The best we can do is learn about it and try to make good decisions based upon the data. (Don't build resorts in the path of tsunamis.)
We can clone the snail, but it's still just a copy. We didn't create it.
Now we're at a point of real concern with humans harnessing the power of creation. We may trust God to do it, whereas we assume humans are more likely to screw up and create a black hole and undo us all. Or blow something up.
It will be interesting to watch how these discoveries impact humanity over the course of time. I feel grateful for the nose-bleed seats. (Yeah, I'm not going 330 feet underground to watch any damn thing, not even a mini Big Bang.)
I would like to think that God raised a glass of heavenly champagne and added a toast right along with the other celebrants in Geneva. "Well done, little ones. The universe is indeed really cool. I should know, I made it."
But what do you think? How do you think religion and science intersect? What consequences do you see in CERN's experiment? Is enlightenment incompatible with faith?
Inquiring minds want to know, on a sub-atomic level.