Friday, July 20, 2007

Scientific Faith

The weather almost always puts a twist in our mundane everyday lives. Two days ago it was raining very hard when I woke up. Being in Singapore for about a year now, I knew the rain would stop in about half an hour or so, just enough time for me to fix up before I go to work. An hour later it was still raining. So I called up a cab and waited by the guard house.

Whenever I pass by the guard house I always greet the guard-on-duty "Good morning," or whatever the time of the day is. I never knew their names, but my housemates and I call them "Mario and Luigi." One guard being chubby, and the other a bit skinny. This morning it was Luigi who was on duty.

"Heeeyy, raining very hard eh?"

"Yeah", I replied. "I called up a cab."

"So where do you work?" asked Luigi.

At that point I found it funny that we knew very little about each other, as our conversations are usually limited to good morning and good night. I've been staying here for one year now.

I've been asked many times where I work, and you'd be surprised that not many people know what Microsoft is. For non-IT workers at least. So I just showed him my ID. I think the blue Microsoft logo helps.

"Oh Microsoft, the software company eh? I used to work in Apple a few years back."

Yeah I have the habit of underestimating people, kill me.

"Oh you're a Muslim? Isma-el?"

I've done this a million times before.

I replied, "Ah nope, not a Muslim. My name's Christian though, so it's kinda funny."

Someone once commented that my name's a complete contradiction. I think my parents didn't see that coming. They were very creative when they named me after the season of Christmas, since my birth date falls on December. They could've named me Claus for all I care. But I've come to like Christian. Anyway, my full name describes me very well. I'm a lukewarm practioner of my religion. I'm Catholic (not Christian, but I won't delve in the differences ok?).

I go to Church every Sunday (or at least I try to). But sadly I cannot describe myself as someone who's really deep into my faith. I believe there's a God, a higher being. Yes. But I think I lack the effort to be a good Catholic. Anyone can be a believer, but if you lack action your faith is almost as good as nil.

Some people may criticize me for being a hypocrite. How can you say that you believe there's a God and yet you do not act like a good Catholic should?

I do sin. We all sin. And we all feel guilty about it (I hope). And the idea that we can be forgiven just like that is sometimes very difficult for me to swallow. If I sin, I need to be punished. Confession will not release me from my sin. This is contradictory to what the Church teaches. So I guess I'm doomed. Or I really just want to punish myself.

You have to understand that I prefer to see things in black and white. It's either you are, or you aren't. In or out. No gray areas. And a lukewarm Catholic to me is a great sin. SO..

I want to know why I believe God. It's funny the other day my colleagues Stanley, Darren, and I were talking about religion. Stanley knew a lot about the stuff, so I just took a mental note of what he said, and I think it explains perfectly why I believe (and why he believes) there's a higher being out there.

He points out the idea of the First Mover. Everything in this world is moving, caused by some action, which in turn was caused by an action before that, and before that, and so on. Eventually you'll backtrack until you have a single source of all these movement, events, etc. I think most of us will relate to the Big Bang theory, where it all started (scientifically at least). Whatever started that Big Bang, or whatever was before it, we couldn't possibly know. And the fact that we cannot know is both a scary and comforting thought. Scary because humans in nature seek out answers. If we don't find answers, it's like humanity has failed in his existence. On the other hand, it's comforting that we don't know because we can take on "faith" that something out there is higher than us, and is in control.

I was able to relate this "take on faith" thing to a book I bought a few years back when I was in LA called "A Shortcut Through Time." No it's not a religious book, it's a very scientific book about quantum computers. I was bored ok? LA isn't really a place for me. Good thing man invented bookstores. Anyway, in a nutshell, quantum mechanics involves a lot of probability computations and taking on faith stuff. Einstein was heavily against quantum mechanics back then. He quipped that "God does not play dice" as a retaliation to quantum mechanics.

So what the hell is quantum mechanics? It's big stuff and I won't bother explaining to you (wikipedia duh). There is this one major theory in quantum mechanics though, that at a quantum level (that is, atomic level, very minute particles), normal rules of physics don't apply. In our normal world, when a basketball spins one way, it will only spin that way. If it's on the ground, it stays on the ground. However with quantum physics, when you go at an atomic level, atoms could be spinning clockwise and counterclockwise, AT THE SAME TIME. Or atoms could be at one place and the other, AT THE SAME TIME.

You might say that this is science fiction. Well it isn't. It's happening now. And what do our scientists say about this? They're clueless as to how this is happening. What they do have are equations that take into account this weird quantum behavior, and everything still falls into place. The equations hold. Formulas, after all, are man-made. They are simply ways by which man chose to describe the world around him. So it's malleable.

What I'm trying to say is, these scientists have taken on "faith" that these quantum particles behave in this way. It's just the way it is, and they have to accept it, else they would all go crazy trying to relate it in the usual physical world that we normally see.

I can understand Einstein when he criticized against this. We are, after all, humans. We should be able to explain how things work. It's scary if we just let things happen the way they are without proper scientific explanation.

But for cases such as these, quantum mechanics, or in whatever science, I believe that we'll all come to a point of the unknown, and there's no knowing beyond that. We could probably go beyond quantum mechanics a few years from now and understand fully what or how it works, but there will always be that stumbling block. At that point we just have to jump and take on faith that things will work out.

--

I was on the bookstore the other day (oh where else would I be anyway) and I saw this international bestseller called "The God Delusion". I think the book explains faith. At the back of the book I was horrified to see some suggested agencies that you can seek out to get help in getting out of your faith. I quickly put down the book and I swear it sent shivers down my spine.

It's good to know I'm still scared of such stuff.

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