My limited vision.

September 25, 2006 | By | 2 Replies More

A Young Earth Creationist with whom I often discourse pities me my small view of the universe. You see, I apparently cannot see the vast immensity and perfection of a 7,000 year old universe created and micromanaged by a spoiled-child-like deity. He is sure that I cannot conceive of how time might mean different things to God than to man. Or how mutually exclusive states of being (God and Man) might have existed simultaneously and yet separately in a single organism here on Earth about 2,000 years ago, and never anywhere else.

My tiny universe is about 15,000,000,000 years old, and I watch it unfurl from a curdled cloud of mesons and quarks to chill and congeal into lumpy proton soup in a quark broth. As it cools it further clumps into first generation stars that are huge, bright, and short-lived: On the order of 10 million years from ignition (when fusion begins) until explosion (when the Hydrogen-Helium cycle breaks down, and gravity collapses it into a mild nova that creates more Helium, and a few of the other light elements. Much of the residue clouds of these stars collect into clusters of smaller stars , galaxies. When they burn out and die, they form and expel the whole periodic table in the hotter, tighter crucibles of their bright supernovae. Then these clouds condense and we get third generation stars, like our sun. The remnants around it also cluster into smaller chunks that are not heavy enough to sustain fusion, although some of the heavier elements are doing the fission thing down in the core of even the smaller planets, like the Earth.

In the recent and local view, I can see one planetoid bump our planet and splash off the divot that we call the moon. The exit wound of this event is probably what we call Gondwanaland or Pangaea. The currents started then in the Earths fluids kept rising in the center of this slight rise on the horizon, causing the single continent to break and split, and to keep spreading for billions of years. I can see them drift.

I can watch as the surface weathers and mountains become layers of sediment become rocks become mountains become sediment become rocks become canyons, and so on. It’s a fascinating process, and so easy to observe with the right lens.

My universe is limited to what can be directly explained by observable processes. Atoms and isotopes and molecules and cells and societies are just levels of abstraction. Information can be stored in bits of charge, or in chains of proteins, growth rings of trees or mountains, or patterns of craters or galaxies.

In my universe, everything evolves. Stars, isotopes, galaxies, rivers, biota, intellectual frameworks. Everything. The laws of thermodynamics are humorlessly enforced by a universe that doesn’t care how we look at it. Disorder is a lazy name for something too complex to map, and complexity always increases.

In my limited view, I use whatever time scale is appropriate to what I’m considering. A million years is a very short time in cosmology, but a reasonable interval to use in geology. A millennium is a long time for a civilization, but a short time for changes to macroscopic species. A nanosecond is 3 full clock cycles on my computer, each of which is barely enough time for a memory request signal from the microprocessor to creep along a wire at the speed of light to a memory chip a few dozen millimeters away. But a nanosecond is also 1,000,000 femtoseconds, the duration of laser pulses used in certain experiments and industries.

My sense of time also depends on speed and the curvature of space that we call gravity. If my view goes fast enough or deep enough, time slows down. Different observers have different chronological frames of reference. No problem.

Perception is limited by the lens we use. I choose the telescope, the microscope, the chemistry lab, nuclear accelerators, mathematics, geological surveys, the galactic survey, taxonomic surveys, satellite imagery and interplanetary explorers, history, archaeology, information processing, library science, and above all the Scientific Method to make sure that all the observations thus gathered are consistent, repeatable, reliable, and (for want of a better term) true. This compound lens is a bit cumbersome to learn to use, but it combines a huge depth of field with enormous resolving power (an optical contradiction).

My friend, who pities me my limited outlook, views the world and the universe through the lens of the Bible, a few hundred pages written entirely by (well meaning and presumably very smart) men who viewed the world without even that lens to clarify things.

Can I get a handicap hanger for this disability?

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Category: Communication, Education, Evolution, History, Psychology Cognition, Religion, Science

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (2)

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  1. Skblllzzzz says:

    He finds your lack of faith disturbing ;-).

    Thanks for this post.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Did the moon break off of from Earth before or after Noah’s Ark was built?

    Just kidding, of course. I really enjoyed your post. I chuckled when I read your comment about the handicap hanger—I have this image of fundamentalists walking around with little handicap hangers (I’m not sure exactly where to hang them). These little signs would warn those who speak with fundamentalists (people like that YEC you mention) that the fundamentalist is not able (or willing) to use available and necessary tools for understanding his or her world. Why not warn curious skeptical folks of the existence of intellectually myopic people who refuse to wear glasses. Let’s see . . . what does this Bible say about tectonic plates? Oh, it’s not in here, so they must not exist. End of story. For goodness sake, don’t actually dare to make a carefully calibrated measurement! That might show not only that the continents move, but the rate at which they more, which might suggest that (gasp!) more than 7,000 years passed from Pangaea to the present.

    The point about time meaning different things to God than to humans intrigues me. If You knew everything all the time (Christians claim that God is omniscient), there would be no flow of new information from Your perspective. There would not be any need to create anything, because You already know exactly how everything’s going to turn out. Every day and every year is the same to a God who is omniscient. He would be eternally stuck in all-knowingness. The incredible Boredom would be enough to drive even a God insane. Maybe such insanity could explain the desperation and viciousness of God (e.g., His felt need to wipe out almost every living thing just prior to Noah’s flood—despite knowing that everything that happened was going to happen).

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