This I Believe

James - Williamsburg, Kentucky
Entered on June 6, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: question

I believe in antinomies. What is an antinomy? An antinomy is a contradiction between two reasonable principles. Both principles are true. They contradict each other. They both cannot logically coexist in the same universe; nevertheless, they do.

I got interested in antinomies in college. Through the haze that was college, I studied physics and mathematics. In introductory physics, I was told that if you divide light into its smallest bits, the bits behave as a fluid waves, but also as a series of particles. Light cannot be both; but nevertheless it is. Physical light illustrates an antinomy.

A brilliant physicist named Heisenburg showed to a certainty that in this physical universe there will be uncertainty. His principle, the Heisenburg principle, is one of the bases of quantum mechanics – that we never can be quite sure of where anything tangible really, really is.

This posed a real problem on Star Trek. During college, I watched a lot of late night reruns of Star Trek. I remember that the transporter caused a lot of consternation, because it presented an antinomy. In theory, the transporter is a good idea: divide up, say, Mr. Spock, into tiny bits and then beam him aboard another starship. Since we can touch Mr. Spock; we should be able to beam him around space. But, apparently, this just can’t be done. As the transporter starts dividing up Mr. Spock, the energy generated causes the remaining bits of his body to jump out of the way, ever prohibiting loading him into the transporter. Apparently, some physics student somewhere pointed out this shortcoming. Later episodes equipped the transporter with a “Heisenburg compensator” to correct the problem. When asked how it all worked, the lead engineer replied, “Very well, thank you.”

I remember one episode of Star Trek, or maybe it was The Truman Show, dealt with an antinomy in the metaphysical universe. I guess it was The Truman Show. The theme was that if there were a god who is omniscient, and all of our lives were preprogrammed, how could we have any freedom? All of human history would be nothing more than a television program that the god, like a television producer, ordained for his viewing pleasure. Ed Harris is tremendous in his portrayal of the god named – not Christ – but Christof. Christof is so malevolent, so vile, that I would never have believed in God, were it not for my belief in antinomies.

I am certain that I live in a universe where I have absolute freedom. My existence and all of human history has meaning far beyond providing entertainment for some cosmic audience. While God foreknows human existence because He is omniscient, He also loves us. He illustrates His love by exercising His sovereignty without impinging upon our free will. Can His omnipotence and human freedom be logically reconciled? No, it’s an antinomy. This, I know to a certainty.

But I am still curious. I recently asked how it all worked. He answered, “Very well, thank you.”