Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Predictable Universe

Each day of our existence we trust the physical conditions of our environment to prove “predictable” and “as expected.” We do not propose that weather forecasters should never err or that our weather should always be to our personal liking. Nor do we expect that our daily selection of clothing should be cleaned, pressed, folded, and conditioned to perfection or that our food be prepared perfectly to our personal liking as if by magic. There is, however, a theoretically achievable ideal standard of perfection for each of these daily activities. Realistically, we are content with a high level of performance if not perfection.

Our hopes for the “predictable” and “as expected” extend to the operation of more serious physical laws--requirements of everyday reality. We function daily with the physical laws of energy flow, forces, and motion in continuous operation. In this sphere of existence we are constrained to rigidly obey all operative physical laws without question. The predictable physical laws governing energy, forces, and motion are divinely set in place for our physical welfare and comfort. We experience serious trouble or tragedy when we fail to conform.

What if the physical laws were not predictable? We ask readers to imagine the outcome of gravity randomly operating at half or double its usual force. What if the production and flow of heat from our home’s furnace, water heater, or cooking range should begin to function differently or unpredictably? Imagine that friction between our shoes and the ground or between our automobile tires and the highway would suddenly operate in a completely different manner or not at all? This would be tantamount to being immersed in a “twilight zone” of unreality. Predictability and expectance would cease to exist.

During my tenure as a classroom science teacher one of the most instructive albeit less than satisfying lessons occurred on occasions when the classroom demonstration or experiment did not “work.” Students were conditioned to having their experiments “work.” They were disappointed with their teacher’s explanation that the “non-working” experiment was actually working quite perfectly. Under the conditions operating at the lab table all physical laws were operating normally, we explained. But because our lab set-up did not possess necessary conditions due to unknown deficiencies in our procedure, the desired result was not achieved. The most serious science students were more challenged by such failures than those who viewed science as entertainment.

One entertaining but realistic statement we frequently make is, “In a perfect world…” In a perfect world no weather forecaster would ever err, no clothing would ever be mishandled, and no food would ever be prepared in any less than a perfect manner. Human free will, however, does not function within such a shield of perfection because humans were not created to operate within such a condition. Our free-will challenge of living and operating volitionally and creatively would vanish.

In our more serious responsibility to adhere to physical laws, defined and constrained by hundreds of physical constants, humans have less leeway for choice if we wish to ensure our physical safety. Physical laws such as the law of gravity must be obeyed to certain narrow tolerances. For example, stepping off a low stepstool may not result in a physical problem. Jumping down from a tall stepladder, however, could result in injury; falling from a ten story building would almost certainly result in death.

Our universe is founded upon constant and predictable physical laws and physical constants under which all physical phenomena must operate. In these terms, we live “in a perfect world.” Our sense of wonder at this universe should focus upon this perfection. Man makes poor choices related to personal preferences in weather gear, clothing, or food. He also makes poor choices with respect to water safety at the beach, avoiding gravity-related mountain climbing accidents, or sliding and falling on slippery surfaces. Harm or injury from the operation of majestic physical laws governing our daily lives should never be attributed to an imperfect or unpredictable set of universal laws.

A comprehensive study of the hundreds of physical laws and physical constants should focus on God as the author of those laws and constants. The physical laws are perfect as is the God who created them. Here is a link to my previous post on physical constants: