Sunday 30 October 2022

Mother and Child, Temple Gardens

 A couple of minutes walk from my new home, originally (I learn from the interpretation board) a Pleasure Garden, now (I knew already) a small public park within which sits the 1920s Usher Gallery: the general scene is taken from in front of the pseudo-temple with the land then rising sharply to the neighbouring Old Palace site.

Saturday 8 October 2022

On Black Holes



My time as a parish priest appears to have been book-ended by Stephen Hawking's reflections on Black Holes.  I was still a Curate when he published A Brief History of Time (subtitled From the Big Bang to Black Holes).  Almost the last issue of New Scientist published before I retired a couple of weeks ago ancipates Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw's forthcoming Black Holes: the key to understanding the universe, an article beginning with Stephen Hawking's discovery that Black Holes slowly give off radiation.

Now, of course, Hawking's book is famous for being widely sold but seldom read or understood, and, although I find I had marked a passage on page 115 (out of 175 pages), that puts me at a great disadvantage.  Hawking's book identifies the event horizon (the edge of the Black Hole beyond which we cannot observe) as the place at which quantum theory might predict that particle and anti-particle bonds split, one falling in and one radiating out.  Or something like that. 

Cox and Forshaw's book then builds on this, suggesting that such quantum entanglements of particles and anti-particles reveal something more fundamental than space-time itself, something from which space-time is 'woven', whereby it can be simulatneously true that information (what is) can both be lost in a Black Hole and radiate from it.  Or something like that.

I was mesmerised reading this.  I wouldn't want to fall into the 'God of the gaps' trap (placing God at the point at which current but passing scientific understanding identifies an opening).  Rather, it seemed to me to provide a parable.  Or to provide an illustrative framework in which to lay out for myself things Christian people have always been trying to say about God.

So Cox and Forshaw's conclusion that 'All that really exists is information.  Space and time emerge from a bunch or entangled quatum units... and the result of that is the universe we live in.  We really do seem to be saying that space and time emerge from something deeper which is absoluteky fundamental' has a poetic chime for me with the opening of St John''s Gospel where 'the Word' was with God, and was God, without whom nothing was made which is made.

And their wrestling with the way in which such information can be perceived being destroyed by the forces which have formed a Black Hole and be peceived as radiating from it has a poetic chime for me with 'the Word of God' both killed and detected in life.  Neither paradox lending itself to normal human understanding.

No claim here that this science gives us a short cut to a better understanding of God (notwithstanding Hawking's teasing conclusion to his book that an eventual understanding of why the universe exists would mean 'we would know the mind of God').  Perhaps rather simply wonder and comfort in the normality of scientific, theological (including language of pre-existing Word, Trinity and resurrection) and poetic understanding each has to operate with awareness that our immediate logic and perceptions are stretched to breaking point by real truth, and, in doing so, occasionally provide illustrative parallels.

Meanwhile, my new best friend is this lion in the small park (Arboretum) through which I divert most days now.