This I Believe

David - Zionsville, Indiana
Entered on February 17, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: science
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This I Believe Essay

I believe in the undiscovered. I never cease to be amazed at the overpowering arrogance of prominent, well-educated citizens as to the state of their omnipotence. If I spend much time listening to the media or academics, it seems easy to come away with the impression that current civilization knows just about all the important stuff; that no significant mysteries remain. The current laws of nature and logic explain all, reveal all.

Except they don’t.

Science still struggles to explain the absence of a “Grand Unification Theory.” Such a theory would harmonize our scientific laws for very small objects with the apparently inconsistent laws for very large objects. As Stephen Hawking still searches, he notes in A Brief History of Time that there seems too little matter in the universe to prevent it from flying apart. This missing “dark matter” remains a theoretical mystery. At the other end of the spectrum, quantum mechanics tells us that there is a one in a billion chance that you could walk through a solid wall. How magnificent!

Shakespeare spoke of the “undiscovered country” as the future. Yet, we today live in an “undiscovered country.” While popular culture leads us to conclude that anyone clinging to any spiritual notion qualifies as a rube or wishful thinker, one of the world’s top molecular biologists, Francis Collins, the leader of the U.S. genome project, finds the “Language of God” in the DNA code of the human genome. He fully embraces both the science of evolution and the scientific possibility of God. C.S. Lewis speculated over 50 years ago that Jesus Christ represented a new direction in evolution, a curious mix of science and spirituality.

Physics now shares with us that according to “String Theory” there may be as many as 14 dimensions to reality, even though we perceive only three (height, width, depth) in addition to the passing of time. Gravity may only “partially” be in our reality, and this explains why it is such a weak force compared to, say, electromagnetism. What might exist in dimensions we can’t perceive? How fanciful!! Yet, is this any stranger than the binary number system which has now evolved into the coursing streams of billions of bytes of “on-off” signals that make up the wonders of the Internet? Those who worked with computers in the early 1960’s surely didn’t imagine what would ultimately be discovered in computer science by the early part of the 21st Century.

Because so much remains to be discovered, I retain both my sense of awe, and my realization that wild claims and beliefs remain potentially realized as tomorrow’s scientific fact, and logically inescapable reality. This makes me humble, but it also makes me supremely joyful.