In a talk I've given about my new book, The Value of Doubt, I have made the point that imagining we can understand God in any comprehensive way is just silly, given that we can't even understand close to everything about the physical universe we inhabit. I have put it this way:
"We cannot even come up with thorough, unchallenged explanations for the reality we can see and touch all around us — the puzzling subatomic world of quarks and fermions, of leptons and bosons, all the String Theory and M-Theory enigmas, to say nothing of a universe that astronomers now think is 93 billion light years in diameter and is expanding at an accelerating rate. So if that’s true, why do we think we can lock down God in a box? What makes us imagine that we are smart enough to chart heaven or even the human soul?"
New evidence of our colossal ignorance has just surfaced through the work of astronomers.
I know this will sound like a joke, but there actually are serious scientists collaborating internationally on figuring out the rate at which the universe is expanding (and other things), and their collaboration group is known as HOLiCOW. The name is a smash-up of HO Lenses in Cosmograil's Wellspring, if that means anything to you. The HO (the O should drop down half a line, like this: H0) refers to the Hubble Constant. If you want to know about the Hubble Constant, you may click on that link and not rely on me to mess up your thinking about it, but, in short, Hubble's Constant was the initial value for the expansion rate of the universe.
At any rate, yesterday the HOLiCOW folks released findings that show that the universe seems to be expanding at a rate that's even faster than previously thought.
These scientists reported that "the values obtained by the different groups of astronomers for the local universe are in disagreement with our accepted theoretical model of the universe." (Local universe? What? There are other distant universes? Well, not quite. One explanation is here.)
And "this," the astronomers reported, referring to their findings about the rate of expansion of the cosmos, "hints at a fundamental problem at the very heart of our understanding of the cosmos."
So they've made my point again. There is much that we can explain about the material universe, including some things about dark matter and dark energy. But there still is much that's a mystery to us.
From this position of ignorance (not stupidity, just ignorance) of the physical world, it seems like foolish hubris to think that we can say much of anything useful about the spiritual world and God, save, perhaps, what religion calls revelation, such as the idea that God is love.
When it comes to eternal, divine matters, we rely not on sight but on faith, as II Corinthians 5:7 tells us. Faith is not blind, not irrational. But it also is not seeing fully but through a mirror darkly, as the Apostle Paul reminds us. Remembering that should keep us humble.
(The image here today is from the Hubble Telescope and is called "Snow Angel S106 Nebula." You can find it and other Hubble images here.)
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THE JEWISHNESS OF MARY TYLER MOORE
Although the (now-late) Mary Tyler Moore wasn't Jewish, in some ways she really was, this intriguing piece asserts. Until I read this, I had been mostly unaware of the ways in which she tackled antisemitism and highlighted Jewish values.