Recently, I have been spending some time watching the PBS NOVA special, The Elegant Universe narrated by Columbia physicist, Brian Greene. This series looks to explain the quest by physicists to formulate a single theory that unifies quantum mechanics and general relativity. In other words, they are seeking a grand unification theory (GUT) or a theory of everything (TOE). This is an important quest to many contemporary physicists because their field is currently split into various camps, those that study the small (quantum mechanics) and those that study the large (general relativity), because the way planets and galaxies behave is very different from the way that subatomic particles do, and in many respects, the theories describing both are contradictory.
As a result, some scientists have begun to work on a unifying theory known as “string theory” which states that all matter and energy is made of tiny bits of energy (known as strings) which vibrate at different rates, thus causing different effects, much like a single violin string can cause different notes. [on a side note, you may have heard of this theory if you are familiar with the infamous TV physicist, Sheldon Cooper]
I must say that it is extremely interesting to consider what string theorists propose – that there exists one, single theory that can unify all of physics and explain the universe. However, I propose that what science is seeking (unification), those of us who are Christ-followers already know.
Consider Pauls’ Letter to the Colossians:
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17 ESV)
The unifying force in the universe is Jesus. He created all things and holds all things together. Without Him, the universe would cease to be. Furthermore, one day, he will “unify” all of humanity under his reign.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV)
Now, although I do affirm and believe that Jesus is the GUT & TOE for which physicists are looking, I do not think this diminishes their quest for a scientific explanation. It is Jesus who hold the stars in the heavens, and the physical force which he uses is what we call gravity. For all we know, we may eventually see strings at the method by which Jesus holds the universe together.
It is necessary at this point to state that I do not think that science and religion must conflict. However, in some areas, they do. For example, I am not a theistic evolutionist. I affirm that God created, not that organisms evolved by simple chance. But, as I have stated here and in an earlier post, I do see great opportunities for collaboration between my beliefs and modern physics.
It is my great desire and prayer that as we study the universe, we would come to see its complexities as the fingerprints of our creator, and that all who study the heavens would proclaim with the psalmist,
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
(Psalm 19:1-6 ESV)