Scientific Dogma

Posted on January 7, 2008 by


scisurfearth.jpgIn the medieval era most parishioners did not speak Latin. Mass, however, was delivered in Latin (sometimes, undoubtedly, by illiterate priests who were simply reciting by rote). In the highly organized structure of the Catholic Church the fact that the laity could not understand Latin did not matter. It was not their lot to truly understand, but to accept on faith. There were priests to act as intermediaries in absolving their sins. There were Bishops and Cardinals whose jobs were to pour over esoteric texts and pages filled with strange symbols and letters, to unravel and understand the workings of God’s Universe and to dole out that knowledge in spoonfuls and dollops as they saw fit.

Jump forward thirteen centuries and although the players have changed, the game has stayed pretty much the same. Today it isn’t God’s Universe but a universe ruled by laws of physics and complex mathematics that only professors (cum-priests) can decipher. As with the medieval parishioners and their Latin mass, the average person today doesn’t understand the mathematics used to calculate the redshift in a star, they simply take it on faith that the calculations are correct and that Star X is Y light years away.

It is with this in mind that I’ve been mulling over the work of Dr. Garrett Lisi for the past month. Especially fun for me have been the various sacred cows butting heads in the comments section over on the Daily Telegraph site. Change the players and the dates and you don’t need to bend the rules of quantum physics to reach into the past and see the sweat on the brows of early church fathers as they struggled with how best to deal with the seductive philosophies of pagan and gnostic disciplines. While Lisi’s work seems beautiful in its simplicity, especially when compared to the fantastic demands of string theory, I’m not the type to start gushing over work based around a mathematic proof that “if written out in tiny print, would cover an area the size of Manhattan.” Sorry Science. I’m not even going to pretend that I’d begin to understand all your esoteric squiggles. And my faith just isn’t that strong.