The Christian as Author: What Neutrinos Can Teach Us

This is great–even if it isn’t spell-checked!

Author’s Note:  The following article turns out to have indeed been completely hypothetical.  Further testing has apparently shot down the idea of faster than light neutrinos for a very human reason–the data was skewed by a loose connection.  Assuming that is confirmed, I hope you enjoy this post for the insights on authors.

_________

The scientific world was recently turned upside down–almost literally.  If you’re paying any attention to the various headlines, you probably know something of what I’m talking about:  A group of scientists apparently have found a particle that moves faster than the speed of light.  Neutrinos fired from one location (Cern, in Geneva) to another laboratory in Italy appeared to arrive at their destination before they were sent from their point of origin.  That means, of course, that if all is as it seems to be, they were traveling backward through time!  Subsequent experiments have only muddied the waters, with one upholding the results and another denying them.

Of course, the possibilities are both tremendous and fascinating.  If true, this would seriously undermine the prevailing theory of physics put forward by Einstein, and open the door to who knows what.  It would also be the first clear evidence of time travel, and would in fact make it possible to send simple messages back in time with the use of neutrinos as the medium.

I’ll leave the technical details to Erik, but after my post on predestination last week and David’s excellent rejoinder on Advent and our view of time, I thought I might expand on an idea that has occurred to me and what I think it reveals to us about ourselves as Christians who create worlds.  What we may see in the new discovery is a reminder, perhaps, of just how closely we are mirroring God as authors.  (I know it sounds like a stretch, but hear me out!)

Most observers in the neutrino debate are quick to point out that the situation is also violating one of our foundational principles of science and life in general: Cause and Effect.  It has been pretty well established by overwhelming experience and experimentation that a cause must precede its effect.  If the neutrinos are indeed traveling backward through time, then they are blowing that basic standard out of the water.  Here we have a future cause producing a past effect. It should not be long before various philosophers are claiming to have “disproved” cause and effect entirely.  That is, after all, what the postmodernists have been saying for years now–that we’re simply observing the appearance of order in a pointless and chaotic universe.  That in turn has theological implications, particularly toward the existence of God.  If they’re right then this certainly isn’t the sort of universe where the Christian God is likely to be found.

That isn’t the necessary conclusion, but the fact that we resort to is so quickly has to do with our presuppositions.  We are assuming a priori  (somewhat sensibly) that time is the absolute that controls cause and effect.  We have taken for granted for centuries, indeed since the beginning of the human race, that the regular, fixed progression of time is what gives cause and effect its meaning.  What if, however, we have things inverted?  What if cause and effect is in fact the more primal of the two?  If that is so, then cause and effect would transcend our single dimension of time, and what we are observing here could be a manifestation of that fact:  A cause working outside of the normal, natural constraints of time.  From the perspective of traditional science, it would be, in fact, “supernatural.” [1]

This seems to be a small thing, but it has a tremendous impact on how we look at the universe.  Time itself would become less than dictatorial, and since all of our observations are locked up in time, much of what we take for granted must be reconsidered.  I’m also intrigued by the possibility of applying this concept in apologetics.  While many people would see the neutrinos as a proof against the existence of God, I think the opposite is true.  If cause and effect transcends time and (as other experiments imply) space, then what else might?  If the Christian God exists, He must by definition surpass the limitations of the natural world, including time and space, and He may well choose to act in ways that we cannot comprehend. [2]    By itself, that doesn’t “prove” God’s existence, but it would seem to imply that in fact we actually do live in just right sort of universe where a transcendent God makes perfect sense.

I’m no scientist and I haven’t even read most of the popular literature on this topic, so I’ve no intention to try to “prove” my idea is right.  Whether or not it is true of our own real universe (or multiverse, if you prefer), it is definitely true of our personal, fictional worlds.  As authors we enjoy a broader, higher perspective, relating to our creations as God Himself might well relate to His.  The cause and effect we experience has no direct correlation to the timestream of the worlds we create.  What to them seems to be one constant progression of experience, we know to be a hodgepodge of separate moments of inspiration that can take place out of all order.  We connect points across fictional time and space by affecting our chosen characters in certain ways, “predestining” them to certain ends.  If we share our knowledge of what is coming with one of the actual characters in the story, it becomes “prophetic.”  In fact, in that sense most authors live out the very time paradox in which God Himself exists (from our perspective).  Most of us will tell you that our characters have a will of their own–they make their own decisions–and at the same time, their lives are certainly proscribed by our metaphorical pens.

A further question:  What might our own activity as authors look like to our characters?  How much of ourselves do we reveal to them?  We know them so well and we feel that they know us in return, and yet we’ve never spoken face-to-face, rarely intervened directly and openly in their lives.  Without us, they cease to exist or would never have come into existence at all.  We are not only the source of their own being, but of the very fabric of their reality, and in most cases, we’ve never even been properly introduced. 

This could go on for quite some time.  Maybe there’s a book in here somewhere….  🙂  We do for our personal creations in microcosm what God does for a very real Universe.  The neutrino, if it is indeed doing what some people think it is, gives us a glimpse into a much larger world that is still surprisingly familiar.  It brings home, to me at least, what a blessing it is worship God through our imagination.  We are granted the privilege, perhaps, of a glimpse into His own mind.

Merry Christmas!

[1]  Until they change the definition of “natural science” to include this too and then suddenly it will cease to be “supernatural.”  In practice, I find that most secular-humanists define “science” as “that which humanity can prove or control.”  Anything that we can’t doesn’t exist.  Given the vast scale of the Universe, I’ve personally never been swayed by the idea that humanity must approve of a thing before it can exist.  I tend to think that things exist whether we want them to or not.

[2]  Of course, when God does just such a thing, humanity has thus far had no choice but to call it “miracle.” Secular humanists then have no end of fun ridiculing it as “ridiculous” and “impossible” and trumpet it as proof that God doesn’t exist.  When, ironically, science accomplishes the same thing, rather than re-examine the original premise in a new light, it is simply written off as “natural” and therefore taken as further proof against God’s existence in support of their own a priori believe in naturalism.  There’s no arguing with blind faith.

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About Brian

I am a history professor and author living with my family in the Virginia Mountains. It's hard to improve on a life like this!

Posted on December 22, 2011, in Brian Melton, Christianity, Fantasy, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Lewis thought of this long ago. Whether neutrinos can operate outside of time or not, God can, because he has the same relationship to us as Shakespeare to Hamlet. Lewis used this idea to explain how God can listen to thousands of prayers at once. Because Shakespeare is not in Elsinore’s time, he can give all his attention to any given moment in Hamlet’s story for as long as he wants, and when he turns to any other moment in that timeline it will still be there waiting for him. God transcends His creation of course by an even greater factor. I do like the way Brian expands Lewis’s analogy by relating it to predestination and prophecy.

    So neutrinos may or may not turn out to be helpful in understanding how God relates to the timeline. But we are not dependent on them, because transcendence is already there in the concept of Creation itself. The books are Mere Christianity, Miracles, and Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Mind of the Maker.

    • Well, its not entirely old hat. 😉 What we MAY see in the neutrinos is the first evidence exterior to Lewis’s analogy that the the analogy itself may be true. I think it is, of course, but an analogy can’t prove itself, no matter how much sense it seems to make. If, indeed, we have finally demonstrated something that transcends time, Lewis’s philosophy carries even more weight that before–and IMHO–that’s saying something!

  1. Pingback: Christmas Eve: Naughty much? | Lantern Hollow Press

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