Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seeing the Light

“We don’t really see each other in this classroom. Instead, we only see the light that is reflected from each other.” This riddle-like proposition has always baffled science students when proposed in the classroom. Light is a type of energy which streams toward us from objects as close as the page you are now reading, or as far away as a galaxy a billion light years distant. When our eyes are open, information from billions of light data points streams into our eyes each millisecond. Each time we redirect our line of vision, our eyes receive information from a different set of light data points. Billions of retinal cells then spring into action, instantly transmitting billions of individual electrical messages to vision centers in our brain. The interpretation and meaning of the visual message is then riveted into our consciousness. The term “instant recognition” acquires a more noble meaning when we describe such wondrous events in this way.

Our knowledge of the nature of light has expanded enormously in the past century. Isaac Newton concluded in the 17th century that light was composed of particles. In the next centruies, scientific thinking wavered between two beliefs: either light is composed of particles or light is a wave. Many famous scientists weighed in on the question. Modern thinking endorses a wave/particle duality. Light behaves as if it were a wave and a particle. The discrete particles are called photons--massless packets of energy on a high speed journey.

The expression “seeing the light” means that we now understand what we formerly did not understand. Light is symbolic of knowledge and understanding. Light from the objects in our physical vision is saturated with information about the objects we are observing. We are able to perceive size, shape, color, and motion. These perceptions may help us make predictions and adjust our actions to our advantage. The Bible often uses the term LIGHT to communicate spiritual concepts. For example, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105) and, “The unfolding of your words gives light” (Psalm 119:130 NIV). God’s word is light, a communicator of vital information about Himself, just as physical light streaming into our eyes from physical objects around us carries with it vital information about those objects.

As we study details of light, sound, or any other type of energy, we discover a world of intricacy and order. Research scientists in specialized fields are able to describe light and sound with the precision of mathematical equations. For the non-scientist, skilled professionals are able to communicate the apparent consistency and beauty of facts about these energy types, how they work, how they impact us, and how we apply knowledge of them. It is the opinion of many scientists who are Christians that nature’s orderliness speaks not only of the care God used when He created, but also of His very existence.