Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Can anyone explain gravity to me?

I was listening to the radio and heard Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist at Harvard, talk about gravity. She has a new book, “Warped Passages,” in which she explores the mystery of gravity. This mystery really fascinates me. Many of you reading this must be thinking: what mystery? Gravity seems so banal, stuff falls from “up” to “down.” We see this effect every day. Only a dolt would be mystified by this concept. True enough, but only if one remained unconvinced of the effects of gravity. In other words, in contravention of everything you had ever seen or experienced in your life, you sincerely imagined that you could throw a ball right up into the stars. Or that you could leap from building to building. Pondering the effects of gravity is banal. But the interesting thing about gravity is that even though we live the effect of gravity, we cannot see or detect gravity itself.

Other forces in nature can be detected. Light can be deflected or interrupted and observed down to the wavelength. The same is true with electromagnetism. But gravity? Gravity cannot be deflected, cannot be interrupted, cannot be detected at all. The effects of gravity are instantaneous, in effect, it is always on, and does not require a chemical or electrical reaction. However, gravity’s effect become more pronounced the closer one gets to the center of a large body. So a huge body hurtling towards you would start to exert an undeniable pull on you, the closer it approaches. On the other hand, light travels at the same speed regardless of the body giving off the light.

“So what Ken,” you say, “I can see gravity in action everyday, so gravity exists, even if I can’t see it.” Undeniably, gravity exists, but if the examination of gravity stops at examining the effects of gravity, that is akin to examining baseball by observing the movement of the ball. Imagine for a moment, being able to watch a baseball moving in three dimensions, without seeing how the ball is being propelled. We know it is moving within an observable range, but why the ball is moving would remain a mystery. Would we not speculate or offer conjecture? Of course we would. However, with gravity, no one, except theoretical physicists like Lisa Randall, stops to think of where gravity comes from.

Randall thinks that gravity exists outside our human ability to perceive or understand. For her, proof lies in the fact that at the sub-atomic level, light, electromagnetism and strong molecular force, weak molecular force and gravity cannot be reconciled. If we listen to Einstein, all these forces should be vectors proportionate to their force in the universe, but, observation tells us that they are not. However, the only odd bird among these forces is gravity. To Randall, the odd and unobservable force of gravity that seemingly does not behave as other observed forces in the universe suggests that gravity exists or at least originates in a dimension of its own. She leaves her examination right there but promises to keep thinking about it and looking for it. She goes even so far as to suggest that someday, we may be able to use gravity to communicate with this other dimension.

Allow me to offer her a suggestion. It is not only theoretical physicists who suspect there are other dimensions we cannot perceive with our own senses that nonetheless effect this world. Christians believe exactly the same thing. Gravity is a mystery that effects us every day, tangibly, in myriad ways. For believers, the same can be said of the holy spirit. And we already have a way to communicate with that other-dimensional power, it is called prayer.

If theoretical physicists are ready to accept that there are processes outside our perception and experience, why do Darwinists have such a hard time accepting the idea of Intelligent Design? I will examine that one another time.