The Debate Of The Gaps

Can science explain faith? Perhaps, but ‘explaining’ must not be misinterpreted as ‘explaining away’. In the debate between science and religion the debaters are often separated into those discussing how we exist and those discussing why. Sometimes the religious argument is described as plugging holes that science has not yet explained – a retreating ‘God of the gaps’, but this is reversible. There are gaps on both sides. We can too easily treat the discussion as ‘either/or’.

There is a move away from the ‘God of the gaps’ to an equally erroneous ‘science of the gaps’ such as the apparent counter to Big Bang Creation theology by multiverse theories which avoid a single creation moment by postulating an infinite supply of them; or the infinite-finite source of Hartle-Hawking space which does the same by making the creation moment unattainable. It is easy to point out that neither answer the ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ question, but nor does religion. Both skate round an unknown centre.

There is neither a God of the gaps nor a science of the gaps. They are two views of the same whole.

Even if we could remove the need for God it would not necessarily remove our desire for Him. Lovers do not need each other, they want each other. Richard Leonard touches on this in ‘What Are We Doing on Earth for Christ’s Sake?’, describing a friend struggling with some religious work or duty suddenly feeling the peace of knowing God did not need him but simply loved him. If he died or did not finish, someone else could do it. Although God loved him doing it He did not need him.

Removing the need does not remove the love or the lover.

How Do I Love Thee?

Oceans roll across our turning Earth,
wave on wave on wave,
from shore to shining shore,
an echo of our turning universe,
a harmony of fluid time and space,
light-wave on light-wave,
from star to shining star.

When creation’s waves flowed in the deep,
like a dream new forming in a sleep,
the Spirit brooded on them,
found them good,
and God so loved the world.

As a child I stood upon the beach
waiting for the seventh wave,
‘That was a big one!
one, two, three,
four, five, six,
seven!
Wow!’

Truth to tell it was sometimes six or eight,
or more, or less.
But seven’s the one I’d wait.

Now I am older I see the waves on waves,
small upon larger,
large on larger still.
And the seventh, seventh wave,
that like some moving hill
comes with thrust and thunder
like the boom in sea caves yonder
that echo with the thrill
of rising, turning sea-storms
which pass, and all is still.

Oh, You who love the world:
How do I love thee?
Let me count the waves.

God’s Daydream

Last September I posted a scientific parallel of Genesis. Here it is again as a children’s story:

Some of God’s days are longer than others and some much shorter. Some are made up of lots and lots of our days. Peter, a very good friend of Jesus, said one of our days could be like a thousand years for God, and a thousand of our years could be like just one day for Him. He really doesn’t mind.

This story is about God’s days, his first special ones.

God’s First Day – Let there be light.

It is a story before all stories, the story of a daydream. It wasn’t a dream in the night because there was no night yet, and it wasn’t a dream in the day because there was no day yet. It was a daydream about a day that hadn’t happened. There was nothing, an emptiness with no people, no animals and no places for them to be. But the emptiness shimmered with little almost-waves like the surface of a calm sea just before the wind comes, but these were not almost-waves of water, they were almost-waves of light.

God knew His day needed light so he blew on the almost-waves and said ‘Let’s have light.’ They shimmered and shimmered until suddenly there it was, beautiful and dazzling and a little bit frightening. Well, actually, much more than a little bit – it was very frightening.  That is it would have been if we had been there to be frightened but luckily for us we weren’t and God liked it and there was no longer nothing. There were great, glorious waves of light.

It was the first day and it went by in a flash, which was quite long enough for God.

God’s Second Day – space.

The dancing light waves pushed and pressed at each other like children fighting for sweets. ‘All that light with nothing to do and nowhere to go.’ thought God. ‘I think there should be some order here.’

So he made a rule: some waves could not be in the same place at the same time but other than that they could do what they liked (actually he made some other rules we call the initial conditions but I don’t want to bore you with that).

The waves did as they were told. They flew here and there (which was of course the first ‘here and there’ – before that there was nowhere). As they flew they changed. They became red and green and blue, and strong and weak, and big and small – all the colours of the rainbow and many more things you and I could hardly understand and the space between them became bigger and bigger. It was the second day.

God’s Third Day – the Earth forms with land, seas and early life.

God said, ‘If they carry on like this they will fly away and disappear again. Let’s have a little bit of gravity here.’

And the waves came together in space and, wherever they did, they behaved as though they were tiny specks, smaller than the smallest piece of dust, but so many that they made galaxies and stars and planets and moons and all sorts of places – and one of them was our own home, Earth.

In the Earth, and other places too for all I know, some of them got together and made tiny almost-plants like the first almost-waves and these made more and more until they got together and began to build real plants. Each new plant could make more, bigger and bigger and bigger ones.

It was the third day, a very long one. For us it would have been millions of millions of years but to God it was just another day.

God’s Fourth Day – the seasons of the sun and moon, life in seas and land.

God said ‘Let’s have a few changes here.’

Now, if you remember, everything was made of waves of light, so the plants needed light to grow and change and they got most of it from the Sun and the Moon and the stars. The Moon is big like a small planet although it is not as big as our Earth. We are like two planets turning round and round each other as we go round the Sun together. This makes summer when it is brighter and hotter, and winter when it is colder and dimmer, and the in-between times, spring and autumn. It makes the sea tides rise and fall, and gives us bright days and dark nights.

All these changes caused changes in the plants. After millions of our years some of them changed a lot but to God it was just another day. The fourth one.

God’s Fifth Day – the spread of mammals.

God’s fifth day was even longer. Slowly the changing seasons and tides, and days and nights, and all the changes that the plants had to make to keep up, made the seas swarm with plant life and some of them became almost-animals. God liked that.

‘Let’s have more.’ He said.

So just as the almost-waves had become light, and the almost-plants became real plants, so the almost-animals became real animals. It took a very long time, fifty million of our years, until the seas became the home of millions of tiny creatures. Fifty million years is a very long time but it took a hundred million years before a very different animal grew called Trigonotarbids. It was different because it lived out of the water. It was the first land animal.

Have you been counting? I have. So far God’s fifth day has been a hundred and fifty million of our years but it wasn’t over yet! It was another two hundred million years before much larger animals grew. You will have heard of these, they were Dinosaurs.

And still God’s fifth day was not over!

The Dinosaurs roamed the Earth for another hundred and seventy million years. There were lots of them: small ones, large ones, very, very large ones, even some that could fly, but eventually they came to an end and the only ones left were some of the ones that could fly. They became birds. I expect you guessed that. And that was the end of God’s fifth day.

If you have been counting it took five hundred and twenty million of our years, and if you weren’t counting it still took five hundred and twenty million.

God’s Sixth Day – the coming of Mankind.

Once the big dinosaurs were gone the world was safer for smaller animals. God’s dream was getting better and better.

‘I like them.’ Said God, ‘Let’s have some more.’

So monkeys and pigs and songbirds and horses and camels and little shrews and all sorts of creatures spread far and wide but God’s daydream was still not finished.

God said, ‘There’s no-one else here quite like me. I want someone to share it with.’

He didn’t mind what they looked like because he had made many different creatures, but he wanted someone who would be pleased with this world and love it like he did – friends who could look after it all. Once the animals had spread all over the Earth, which took nearly sixty million of our years, God breathed his spirit into one of the creatures and it loved the world he had made. After many more millions of our years it became us. That was the end of God’s sixth day.

God’s Seventh Day – He rests.

So the heavens and the earth were finished and everything in them, and on the seventh day of God’s daydream he blessed it because it was the day that he rested from all the work that he had done. The seventh day went by in a flash just like the first.

Then the serious work began.

First Causes

I threw a pebble in the pond,
The ripples spread so gay
And bouncing back from bank and frond
I heard the ripples say,

‘Before the pebble there was nought,
No ripple, nor no flood,
And had we not the pebble caught
The world would be but mud.’

I laughed aloud and heard the air
Call echoes from the wood,
‘No life ‘till we, the echoes fair,
Took flight and found life good.’

The stars go round and men grow old,
And many say that we
Arose from chaos long ago,
Self-willing and so free.

‘And there is nothing more we need;
Before us there was none,
And only to ourselves we heed,
Until our time is done.’

But yet an echo in my heart,
A ripple in my blood,
Tells of a whole of which I’m part,
And bears the name of GOD.

Dark & Light

Dark within darkness, cloud within a cloud,
when every way is hidden and comfort is a shroud,
when shadows deepen blackly
in the byways of the night
and thoughts flow slow and thickly
and truth hides out of sight.

As sun can blind the eyes with a burst of umbral pain;
a central spot so dark and an image that remains
blotting earth and sky – all loss, and nothing gain.

Darkest in the cloud within the darkest cloud
where shadows deepen blackly
when thoughts flow slow and sickly
and every way is hidden and comfort is a shroud
in the byways of the night when truth is out of sight.

I see you in the shadow by the love you cannot see
by the tears of love and grief that nailed me to the tree.
What blinds you to me?

See the glad giver who gave so much for love,
who, for all Man, died at your hand
that you might see and understand.

See and understand, believe I am.
I so loved the world that all that I have done
is so you may believe that you and I are one.

Dark with excess of light, my love,
as by a naked sun,
then know that I am here, my love;
and in my darkest hour, my love,
my glad gift lit my heart, my love
and eased my pain.
I saw you by that light, and all my loss was gain

And though you cannot see I hold you in my sight,
your darkest hour and mine both glow in one bright light.

Sea Waves

How shall we describe the world?
With what shall we compare it?

The world is like a sea
over which the wind blows.
Its ripples chase the wind and one another,
‘I am a standing wave!’
‘I am a running wave!’
‘This sparkling expanse is our world!’

None know of the depth beneath,
and little of the wind above,
or unbounded space and time
where other waveforms speed.
All fear the shore where they will die.

They are each a focus of the whole:
the depth below, the wind above,
the sea, the shore, the great beyond;
that symphony in which their echoes carry,
which makes the world ring,
where their souls sing
in harmony.

Depth

You say I think too deeply while the sun is on the sand
and sparkles in the shallows and spreads across the land,
and little fish come darting and nibble at our toes.

You say I think too deeply, but here out in the bay
the sea shelves blue and deeper, and larger fishes play,
and sun comes thin and slanting, and darkens as it goes.

How can I think too deeply when all around is deep?
and echoes as though Heaven is waking after sleep;
or like the night-bird, chanting to incarnadine the rose.

Are the stars still shining faintly in these shadowed ocean deeps,
where the sea as dark as wine has been given for a sign
of the deep that calls to deep in the human and Divine?

Does the wave-sound filtered finely from the sunlight and the foam
carry echoes touched with starlight and a distant call of home?
Though clouded with a doubt is there yet an Avalon
that calls across the waters and forever draws me on?

Are the sunlight in the shallows,
.      and the sand between our toes,
.and the sunlight faintly filtered
.       that darkens as it goes,
and the chanting nightingale
.       with the rose thorn at his breast
at one with all who labour that shall be given rest?

There is a tale that once all roses were white until, one night, a nightingale fell in love with a rose and, singing his love but getting no response, sang ever more sweetly, closer and closer, until, pressing his heart against her stem, he died upon a thorn, staining her with his own spilled blood; since when, all roses of love have been red.