When I was young I was not particularly interested in science. There are any number of reasons for this, not least the fact that even though I was in high school long after the Einsteinian revolution, the science we were presented with was pretty much Newtonian and mechanistic. I was thus more inclined toward subjects like English and art and history and geography. In 1969, when men walked on the moon, I was utterly indifferent, other than thinking “We have messed this place up enough, why go to other worlds?”
Not that I was not interested in the created world, quite the contrary (and I wrote about this in the second issue of the journal Caelum et Terra). I have always been seeking clues to the meaning of things, always amazed at the beauty and order and magnitude of it all, with infinity stretching out both macrocosmically and microcosmicaly.
It was just that the cold science I was taught in school did not inspire wonder; that was reserved for personal encounter with creation.
Somewhere along the line I became aware that science has wandered into territory more akin to mysticism. I am completely unsophisticated about such matters, but I keep running into amazing things, science that is poetic.
I wrote recently of coming across the image at the top of this page, an example of a “higher order structure”, described by Nils A Baas. I asked the professor who received the journal with the image on the cover if I could read it when she was done, and she said yes, but was leaving the next day for a trip to Wyoming. I was disappointed, but googled around and found that the article was available online, though the link I had does not work (google “IAS Letter”, go to Spring ’13; it is on page 10; just scroll down).
When I first saw this image I was much taken with it; it seemed cosmic, with overtones of galaxies and Celtic knotwork.
But it is pure science.
As is this, a video of sand on an oscilating plate, making elaborate patterns:
And then there is something I read the other day, to the effect that our eyes perceive only about 1% of the visual spectrum, and our ears about the same small slice of audible vibration.
Now that can make you humble at being surrounded by infinitude, awed by the wonder of it all.
I cannot help but believe that the many scientists who call themselves atheists are really nothing of the sort, but rather mystics. After all, both Eastern and Western Christianity teach that the Way is apophatic, that anything one may say about God is more unlike the Truth than like it.
If God in Himself is ultimately beyond all human knowledge, many who deny “His” existence, but daily wander in the infinite order and beauty of even the created world are less atheists than those who believe in a small and tame god of their own creation.