Generally speaking, physicists are divided between two alternate theories that explain the universe. How we understand these theories can shape our politics, and even our thinking about religion. The theory of general relativity (think Albert Einstein) explains the universe on a cosmological scale, showing that time-space is a constant, and predictable. General relativity allows us to understand the force of gravity, and the bending effect gravity has on light.
Source: Time Travel Research Center - www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/dates.html
This image illustrates how light is bent over the curvature of space.
Quantum field theory (think Max Planck), on the other hand, reveals a random, irrational, and unpredictable universe at the most submicroscopic levels. According to quantum physics, the tiniest elements of the universe are constantly changing and seemingly jump in and out of existence at random. Depending on the question a researcher asks, the same element may be a particle or a wave. This is best illustrated by Schrodinger’s cat:
According to Margaret Wertheim, both quantum mechanics and the theory of general relativity can be demonstrated to be true to 20 decimals of experimentation, aka “A mind blowing degree of success.” In other words, if we only had one of these theories that explains the universe, physicists could accept it with no questions asked. But we have both of them. And they contradict each other.
Problems like this extend beyond physics. Our political system is built on two alternative theories of government. And each claims to have the best blueprint for America. Yet at fundamental levels, they disagree. Generally speaking, Republicans believe in small government and low taxes. In theory, this allows entrepreneurial individuals to start small businesses that will maintain a flourishing national infrastructure, while lifting people out of poverty. Democrats tend towards larger government and higher taxes, with the understanding that the federal government is the only institution with the resources to maintain the national infrastructure and help people flourish. Both theories have evidence to support their claims, and we seem to swing back and forth between them with every election. But they are contradictory systems.
Or take religion (and non-religion): Whether it’s Christianity, atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Islam, every world system claims to have a comprehensive system that explains reality. Believers say, “This theory works, and I have the evidence to prove it.” But just like physics and politics, despite all the evidence in favor of each religion, the systems contradict.
What does this mean?
To quote Wertheim again, “We haven’t learned all we have to know about the world.” The problem is not with the universe; the problem is not with God. Reality is what it is, Truth is what it is. The problem is with us. We are the ones tasked with understanding, despite our finite minds.
I find this breathtaking.
Our freedom, our responsibility, is to discover. And discovery leads to wonder. In my tradition it is said, “The truth will set you free.” And “Seek and you will find.” The answers are out there. Never be afraid to ask questions. Never be afraid of the answers.
Russ and his soon-to-be-psychologist wife live in Los Angeles, U.S.A. He is fascinated by the intersections in life, where everything comes together into something meaningful that transcends expectations. Although he watches too many movies, he justifies it by writing about them. Russ is currently working on an MBA, has an MA in theology (emphasizing film, philosophy and culture), and a BA in ancient Greek/Hebrew. When the weather is nice (and it's always nice in L.A.), you'll find him surfing, running or backpacking up in the mountains.
See all previous articles by Russ Shumaker