Physics and faith - and our connections


I take a week every January to write, with a Baltimore friend who has connections to a quiet little farmhouse on the Choptank River. As I type, we’re here, an hour east of DC (the District of Chaos), but here the world is at peace. The wood stove softly pings its heat over us. John’s sermon rises from the keyboard. Jenny occasionally stretches to nose us into a game of fetch.

Otherwise, almost within earshot of Capital Craziness, there’s rarified quiet.

Last night after dinner, we drove back across the Choptank and through the field opening to this little piece of heaven, and before the words could start rattling again the stars called. Oh my. This city boy almost forgot what they look like.

John knows I love music (no surprise) and physics (go figure), so he brought a gift: words to read when there weren’t words to write. The author of The Jazz of Physics speaks of connection. Einstein knew music. Coltrane knew physics. Stars sing. Notes vibrate, across the cosmos.

The stars and the music … It’s all connected.

There’s this ongoing argument between religion and science. It’s as silly as it is sad, but we may just be on the horizon of some détente. I read physics a bit like poetry – there’s much I don’t understand but I do love the words! And to my ears they both begin to sound like … theology. (Not like the God of a literal Genesis, mind you, but maybe like the God who’s bigger than any genesis.)

The science is mysterious. Physicists say electrons pop in and out of existence; one can disappear only to suddenly reappear all the way across the universe – and without traveling the space between. If that’s science, maybe the preacher in me isn’t so crazy to wonder what, or who might also just appear, unnoticed, until it’s too late. I wonder if Max Planck ever heard of Emmaus!?

And physicists say particles are waves and waves are particles (in other words energy and mass are actually, sort of the same thing). And they say there’s energy beneath it all, vibrating like little violin strings, animating a seamlessly interwoven field of… everything . Again, the preacher starts thinking: so if thoughts are just brain waves, then prayers are just more… energy!) Do you see where I’m going with this?

Particles… Energy… Prayer... It’s all connected.

A billion galaxies fill the night sky in a soup of infinity – which looks exactly like those diagrams of subatomic “quarks” and their infinitely small kin. So what if, in some cosmic, quantum paradox, the stars and the particles actually warp through space/time into one another –the big IS the small; the small IS the big? My quantum theory is that the huge and the teenintsy are actually, simultaneously, the same thing, which brings us to what this all means to me.

 What if the vulgarity from the highest halls of power is the cause of the disagreement across your dining room table (The big IS the small.), while simultaneously the peace you cannot find in your heart to welcome the stranger is why there is still no peace on earth (The small IS the big.)?

I wish the President understood – and you and I, too – that physics and faith are just trying to tell us the same thing: we are all connected.

Yes, it’s very complex, but it’s also so simple. Just like the night sky.


(Dr. Russ Dean is a graduate of Clinton High School. He co-pastors Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte with his wife, Rev. Amy Dean, a native of Clinton and also a graduate of CHS.)



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