There were two items in the news that particularly struck me recently. One was the discovery of the gravitational waves proving Einstein to have been correct when he postulated their existence all those years ago. Not being a scientist myself, I’m not sure I appreciate the full importance of this discovery. Like so many reported scientific discoveries that cause great excitement, it seemed to open the door to more probable possibilities rather than anything definite. The most exciting one however is that it could help Physicists develop a theory of everything, a theory that would bring together the four forces of nature. That was Einstein’s last great endeavour. As it is we are still unsure of how these four forces of nature interact; to discover it would be a great increase in understanding the universe. Perhaps though it is a bit grandiose to refer to it as the theory of everything. That would suggest once we understood how these forces interact we would understand how everything works. Which brings me to the second news story that caught my attention. It was the announcement that world powers had agreed to push for a cease fire in Syria. This was the great offer of hope for peace from the worlds major powers and certainly there is a desperate need for peace in Syria. However, the Syrian government will continue to fight and Russia will continue to bomb and the most violent of the fundamentalist groups will still promote their ideology through violence and terror. What strikes me is the progress that science seeks, as if it would explain everything doesn’t touch what really needs explaining; the violence within the human heart. Science may well one day be able to give a complete account of the laws of physics, but it will never be able to explain everything, because human nature is not something that it can explain or fulfil. Human nature is not something that science can define by saying it is the result of chemical reactions, or electric impulses in the brain. There is a freedom to act that goes beyond these physical constraints of who we are, and that freedom will always control anything science may discover and unfortunately it will often abuse what science discovers.
There will always be this danger; not so much in the science itself, but in what humanity does with it. However there will always be this greatness, not so much in science, but in what humanity does with it. The ogre is not science; the ogre is humanity. The blessing is not science; the blessing is humanity. But as science progresses, as it makes ever more possible new and wonderful events, new and terrible events, it becomes more important that we reflect on truth and goodness and evil. The “holy grail” of progress is not enough, the dream of a unified theory is not enough, because the future does not lie in the hands of science; it lies in the hands of human beings who manipulate reality by their actions.
Long before science began looking for a theory of everything, when theology and philosophy were one, it sought to understand the order of the cosmos. It too sought a way to understand an existence it experienced as alive, as something more than inanimate. The genius of the Judeo-Christian tradition was to see that the order in existence was to be explained by the existence of God; creation was an expression of his goodness, of who he was. If we want to understand our existence then science can show us many things, but only in the person we know as God, will we find the answer to our questions, only in him will we know how everything fits together.