Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The More Things Change...

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” A French journalist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr penned this epigram in 1849. It has become a well-known proverb, speaking of realities in theology and science as well as many other human endeavors.

In science there are many examples of apparent change which are not really changes in an ultimate sense. An everyday example is the burning of fuel for heating our homes. We may burn eight gallons of liquefied gas at home on a winter day, or our wilderness cabin may consume a half-cord of firewood during a ski weekend getaway. In each case the fuel seems to disappear, but it really does not. It still exists in the air as a gas such as carbon dioxide. Likewise, the heat energy generated by the burning fuels does not cease to exist. Rather, it becomes widely dispersed over the landscape, causing the air in the neighborhood to become perhaps a thousandth of a degree warmer.

The previous examples illustrate the laws of conservation of mass and energy. In the big picture, mass and energy are conserved even though they are not useful to us any longer. Other examples of conservation laws involve momentum and electric charge, as some may recall from their physics courses. These situations are more generally described as “symmetries” in nature. Symmetries are illustrated mathematically by transformations in nature which leave some related quantity unchanged. One author has termed the phenomenon “sameness under altered scrutiny.” For example, the total heat energy in a pot of boiling water is identical to the total heat energy distributed throughout the entire room after the water boils away. The mass of the water is also unchanged.

Symmetry is commonly perceived in simpler visual terms such as nature’s mirror images—a butterfly’s bilateral wing structure or a snowflake’s mathematical balance. In broader terms, however, laws of nature are full of symmetry--“sameness under altered scrutiny.”

Many creationist Christian authors promote reality of the many design features in our universe as evidence for the existence of the Designer. But the idea of nature’s symmetry, or “sameness,” may also promote awareness of the reality of the cosmic Designer and His characteristics. On a deeper level, nature’s symmetry points to God’s immutability, or changelessness. If God is changeless, it stands to reason that His created order would mirror a similar trait.

God’s immutability is an important Christian doctrine expressed in Scripture implicitly and explicitly: “I the Lord do not change…” (Mal. 3:6); “…the Father…does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). The concept that the creation mirrors the traits of the Creator is a spiritually satisfying truth, but is rationally affirmed as well. You may access our previous post on “Nature’s Symmetry” with this link: