Elpee! Elpee! Elpee!

First, I am sorry it has taken so long to recover (if we have recovered!) from moving house; nevertheless the title above is not a whoop of celebration but clue to a concealed theme in this poem:

Elpee! Elpee! Elpee! the starlings cry
wheeling home in evening sky,
the folding flock outspread and high
seems beautiful and black.

Beauty yes, and black below,
but could we fly, then we would know
the colours that the sky can throw
on wings that throw them back.

And could we see with starling’s eye
the beauty of the fading sky
fall on each feather, wing and eye,
then would we learn, and would we sing,
Elpee! Elpee! Elpee!
and would we wheel and would we wing
the cosmic dance, the wheeling ring,
of birth and death and everything,
nor know the reason why?

A distant longing draws the flock
from city roof-tops where the clock
chimes evening hours.
A strong force binding mate to mate,
which narrows wider gaps;
a wary, weaker sense prevents,
when bird flies close to bird,
the flock’s collapse.

Each fluttering bird a wheeling heart –
a fundamental part – in one great family,
Elpee! Elpee! Elpee!

Sadly I can explain none of this today as I am sat at a fading computer far from home unable to recharge it. I will just say this, it is a picture which is better seen from another direction entirely: eddies in the stream (to follow).

A Quantum Genesis

Back again (although still with lots to do) it seems apt that with a new house and a new beginning, to return to the theme of genesis, so here goes!

I have written Genesis and Science creation posts before (view here) but here I try to put a modern quantum physics and evolutionary version in the language and form of the book of Genesis (Bereshith in the Hebrew Pentateuch). Genesis bears evidence of originally being a collection of prehistoric oral records put into writing sometime before the early bronze age, and brought together at the beginning of the iron age. There is evidence to show that such generation to generation passing on of oral racial memories maintains an accuracy that exceeds that of the written word. One reason may be that the spoken word depends far more upon accuracy than the written in that hearers’ criticism of error is more immediate than that of readers of written records, making the speaker more conscientious. The point here is how a very early world view, predating any modern scientific approach, comes so close to producing a thesis similar to modern physics and evolutionary theory – something much more than ‘truth dressed up as story’.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Creation was formless and void,
darkness was on the face of the deep
and the Spirit of God brooded over the waveforms.
God said, “Let there be light.”
and there were waves of light.

God saw the initial conditions were good,
dark gave way to light.
The first era dawned.

God said,
“Let a space spread in the waveforms,
to separate waves from waves.”
An expansion separated the waves
and it was so.
Fermions, unable to cling together,
flew apart;
baryons permeated space differently,
providing driving and drawing forces.
Spacetime and the heavens formed.
The second era dawned.

God said,
“Let waveforms condense in spacetime
let gravity draw them together
and let matter appear.”
It was so.

Baryon waveforms – distinct from fermions,
permeated one another,
permeated spacetime.
Fermion waveforms gathered in spacetime,
drawn by the forces of baryon waves:
weak forces,
strong forces,
gravity.
Here the Earth formed, with dry land and seas.

God saw it was good.

God said,
“Let the land produce vegetation:
plants yielding seeds according to their kinds,
trees bearing fruit with seed
according to their kinds.”

It was so.
Organic compounds forming a primordial ‘soup’,
organic compounds,
self replicating molecules,
primitive vegetal life,
single cells feeding on each other
until, some a single event,
the absorption of one cell by another,
formed a symbiosis,
both cells surviving as one,
reproducing as a single entity,
forming the first nucleated cells,
the cellular building blocks of the first plants
evolving into plants yielding seeds according to their kinds,
trees bearing fruit with seed
according to their kinds.

God saw it was good.
The third era dawned.

God said,
“Let the lights in the sky’s expanse
separate day from night,
drive seasons, days and evolution.
giving light on the earth.”
It was so.

The greater light ruling the day
the lesser light ruling the night,
the stars also,
shining on Earth,
driving tides, seasons, evolution.

God saw it was good.
The fourth era dawned.

God said,
“Let the water swarm with living creatures.
Let birds fly above the earth,
across the expanse of the sky.”

God created the great sea creatures,
every living, moving thing
with which the water swarmed.
Life spread to land.
Over millions of years, the time of the dinosaurs,
birds evolved.

God saw it was good.

God blessed them and said,
“Be fruitful, multiply,
fill the water in the seas,
let the birds multiply on the earth.”

The fifth era dawned.

God said,
“Let the land produce living creatures:
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals,
each according to its kind.”
It was so.

Wild animals evolved
cattle according to their kinds,
all creatures that creep along the ground.

God saw it was good.

Then God said,
“Let us make humanity in our image,
to rule over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air,
over cattle, and all the earth,
and all creatures that move on the earth.”

God created humankind in His own image,
in His image He created them,
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said,
“Be fruitful and multiply!
Fill the earth and subdue it!
Rule over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air
every creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said,
“I give you every seed-bearing plant
on the face of the entire earth;
every fruiting tree with seed.
They will be yours for food.
And to all the animals of the earth,
to every bird of the air,
to all creatures that move on the ground –
everything with the breath of life –
I give every green plant for food.”

It was so.

God saw all he had made –
and it was very good!
The sixth era dawned.

The seventh era lasted less than a millisecond, all was done.

Quark Flavours

There are six flavors of quarks: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom.
Up and down quarks have the lowest masses of all,
but heavier quarks can rapidly become lighter, changing to up and down.

A quark is a many flavoured thing,
with its ups and down, and a certain charm,
yet the strangest thing,
when it’s heavy, given time,
it will lighten and be fine.

Though stuck inside a shroud
of the proton – neutron crowd,
it’s position is uncertain,
as though hid behind a curtain,
part of the cosmic harmony,
dancing with its destiny.

We think of quarks as small,
almost not there at all,
but there is still a stranger thing to say.
Its unpinned-down position,
surely here but perhaps there,
gets more doubtful as we travel far away;
yet the chance that it is elsewhere
stretches faint and far forever,
this little shrouded entity
harmonic in eternity,
of limitless potential grace
throughout all time and space,
it is this that holds the universe together.

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.

A Hard World

The table pains the falling fist,
fragile glass resists the wind in the wind-eye.
The open sky bears birds on wings,
leaves blow, turning, overhead,
whirled under the cloud-race.
Air I cannot see cools my face,
warms my breath.

A million billion atoms,
particles beyond number,
each an uncertain focus,
a rippling point of action.
Their seeming infinite waveforms,
their flowing, ordered disorder,
are this cosmos.
Cosmos, an ancient word for order,
universe, uni-verse, one-Word,
with echoes rolling, calling,
from space-time’s first beginning.

But why are hard things hard
if made of shimmering space?
a mere focus of waves?

Why not?
The particles in the table
are focussed, no more, no less,
that those that jarred in my fist.
Can mere waves hit hard?
Ask a tsunami.

And when a tsunami dies, and the sea is calm,
where is it?
To every action there is a reaction.
The tsunami’s passage, its strike and fall,
the deaths it shares in its own,
echo and re-echo in the sea, the land.
The whole earth,
the whole cosmos,
rings with its toll.

Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.

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.