Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2006 Interview with Ted Mock...


I was curious about recent scientific news reported in Newsweek Magazine. So I consulted family friend, Dr. Ted Mock, who is a scientist. Dr. Mock has some interesting thoughts on science and God. I have his permission to share the note below.


With respect to your query pertaining to the origin of the universe, let me preface my remarks with the statement that many scientists like myself believe in a “world of reason” and a “world of faith,” and properly understood they shed light on each other, they are never in actual conflict with one another, and they simply must be accepted on the basis of their own terms.

Scientists and mathematicians – [think here of the well known Goedel's Theorem that proves the existence of meaningful mathematical statements that are neither provable nor disprovable, now or ever] – have accepted the fact that there are some statements that can neither be proven true nor false. To my way of thinking, scientists will never be able to “prove” nor “disprove” the existence of God. We can admire his handiwork and marvel at how he created the world and everything in it, but we will each have to accept his existence on the basis of our faith.

Scientists are constantly evoking new theories or improving on old ones as to how they believe our universe was created. One of the more popular concepts for the past half century has revolved around the theory of the “Big Bang”. But theoreticians go far beyond that concept to try to explain how the “Big Bang” was generated and how many other universes may have been created at the same time (or at any other period of time). Some theories postulate that we live in a multidimensional space of infinite membranes, and when any two parallel membranes touch at any point at any instant of time, there is a transfer of an immense amount of energy that would appear in the recipient membrane as a “Big Bang” with all the subsequent attributes we currently attribute to that phenomenon.

There are many other theories proposed for the creation of the universe. One of these is based on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle – which can be used to assert that even a pure vacuum contains a myriad of virtual particles that come into and out of existence -- with positive charges balancing negative charges, positive energy particles balancing negative energy particles, etc. Occasionally, over an infinity of time and space, some of these particles will appear with near infinite energy, thus creating universes such as the one we inhabit. (Somewhere another universe exists which is a “negative” of our universe, the exact “reflection” of our own.) There are other theories, such as those based on the fairly recent “string theory” as a starting point.

The message I wish to convey is that the farther back we penetrate into the origin of space and time, the more we understand how limited our knowledge really is, and how we merely move the frontier of our understanding farther and farther back as if we are receding into an infinity of mirrors in which we will never catch up to our own image.

I realize that this may seem a bit confusing – because it simply isn’t clear to anyone – including Einstein. Place your faith in God, and take time to marvel at the intricacies of his handiwork, as we slowly understand them with the growth in our scientific knowledge.


Dr. Ted Mock is a distinguished scientist and educator who holds graduate degrees in engineering, chemistry, international affairs, business administration, and a Doctorate in nuclear science. He also has a J.D. and L.L. M in intellectual property law. Dr. Mock has served as a professor of mathematics at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the George Washington University and the University of Virginia, and a Visiting Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has also contributed as a Senior Science Advisor to the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.


(Photos by Alidarbac (top) and Feuillu. See flickr.com for restrictions.)



12 comments:

Matt Montgomery said...

Sarah,

That is really cool that you have such a distinguished family friend! I enjoyed hearing his thoughts on the current theories for the origins of the universe. In particular I found his articulation of the limits of science useful, and his point is well taken.

I do have one comment on his view of the worlds of faith and reason. I agree with Dr. Mock that these worlds shed light on each other and that there is really no conflict between the worlds as long as their boundaries are understood in light of the scriptures. If biblical boundaries are ignored then these worlds can collide. One man’s reason can be another man’s faith. Only a biblically understood basis for each can ensure equilibrium between the two.

A properly struck balance between faith and reason will not be void of tension however. Our tendency to acquire answers to satisfy our inquiring minds can easily overstep the boundaries of biblical faith. Likewise our propensity for imposing our theology (faith-based perceptions of the bible and science) upon our culture often transgresses the boundaries of reason.

A final comment on the issue of origins may be appropriate here. From my view, the questions we have about the origins of the universe cannot be answered with the detail we desire from the Bible. The creation account in Genesis chapter 1 seems to indicate that God created the universe by starting with something, not nothing. Although other passages of scripture validate that all things came into existence through God it seems that the purpose of Genesis 1 was not to answer our scientific questions of origin. Creation (not “ex nihilo”) in Genesis 1 starts with a watery chaos and ends with an ordered universe. How the watery chaos got there is up for debate, but the biblical record elsewhere depicts God defeating a sea monster in the context of his creation of the world (Ps 74; Job 26). This parallels other creation accounts from the Ancient Near East that depict a great battle between the creator god and an evil sea monster that opposed the god’s act of creation. The purpose of the accounts is polemic, not scientific. God is the sovereign King of the created order and cannot be opposed in any realm in which he rules.

PS: I was intrigued by the title of a book on display in the DTS book center: “A Biblical Case for an Old Earth.” I’m sure this author would agree that there is plenty of room for give and take on the front between faith and reason.

Guy said...

Sarah,

You keep very interesting company. Dinner at your house must be entertaining.

One thought I had in reading Dr. Mock's comments was in regards to the method of "proving." I would submit that many Christians believe (me as one for example) that they have "proved" God exists. The question seems to be one of the method or manner of "proving." Science needs one method/manner, faith another, and never the two shall meet. And why should we expect otherwise.

I am enjoying your blog. Are you happy with the results you have received to date? I love the concept of a blog to discuss biblical theology in contemprary terms, but fear I would be the only one to read what I wrote.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Hi, Matt!

Dr. Mock is a close friend of my Dad and the "go to" expert for all the burning questions I am shamefully ill-equipped to field from my 10 year old! My science acumen extends to "Mix 1/4 cup of flour with 1/2 cup butter." Even here, it gets a little tricky...

I liked the way Dr. Mock put science and theology on "parallel" tracks recognizing, as you point out, the need for boundaries. Science is designed to investigate and explain natural phenomena, while theology can use natural phenomena to explore the divine. Both employ methodology... both are rife with mystery... and neither can be fully understood by the finite mind of man.

What I loved about Dr. Mock's note was the way in which he described a compatability between the two fields of study. Science fundamentally is not the enemy. We can learn about Christian history through science and we see a glimmer of infinity as our knowledge of the universe grows.

As for origins, I agree that the Bible only tells us so much. And beyond the origins of the universe, how about the origins of God? The idea of a self-existent, self-sustaining Creator who is, perhaps, both inside and outside the dimension of time.

I'm going to click on your book link as soon as I say "hi" to Guy.

Thank you, Matt! Really good post!

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Oh yes, Guy. We have wild theological debates at our dinner table. Usually it's about my cooking which has been likened to the "abomination and desolation"...

Do you mean "proved" on the basis of our conviction of faith? The case for the authenticity of Scripture? What do you think is the most compelling proof?

Guy, I would read your blog! Set one up! You can throw some hard-edged analytics out there... and I'll respond with a poem or something! It'll be great! You'll be, like, WHAT did she just SAY?

A friend from DTS encouraged me to do this blog. I'm going to give it a couple more weeks and see where we go. It's been running for two months now and I think the "hits" are pretty consistent. There's more activity, it seems, when there's something funny posted. I'd really like to see more comments going forward... more dialogue. I think that's probably the best indicator of overall health.

(By the way, if anyone wants to post a comment, you can do so anonymously without setting up a blog account.)

I always appreciate your feedback, Guy.

Thanks!

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Guy... are you going to put some Pinnock books on your Christmas list?

Todd said...

Interesting guest blog. I thought Ted's conclusion was sound in that the more we learn, the more we realize what we don't know. I seem to recall seeing some stat that the sum of all knowledge in the world is doubling about every 15-18 months now. I guess that means we're finding out how ignorant we are at a faster pace than ever before.

As for origins, without reading too much into it, Genesis 1:1 indicates that God created the heavens and the earth. He is the Creator, they are His creation. It seems illogical that He created the heavens and the earth out of some preexisting "something." For where would this something have come from? If before this something, there was nothing, then did nothing cause something? That's impossible.

But, God can bring something to be that was not before. The universe did not exist, and then it did. And the cause of that was God. I doubt the scientists will have enough time to figure out exactly how He did that. In the meantime, we'll have to rely upon God's Word which is not a bad place to be.

Amy Fanning said...

You know, all that's well and good, but how much fun is this Dr. Mock during a Pictionary game? Can he draw a sonic boom? ;)

XO Amy

Sarah Onderdonk said...

ames... i now know what happened to my sense of humor. you stole it! give it back!

reminds me of the jokes "back in the day..."

mushroom walks into a "church"(note the adjustment)... goes wild with joy in worship... pastor says... "you seem like a fungi!"

oooh... i don't know... does that work? probably not...

:)

Sarah Onderdonk said...

todd... i would guess that the sum of your knowledge increases every hour or so :)

thanks for the wonderful post and for all the support and encouragement as i try and figure out where God might be leading.

JohnO said...

hi

JohnO said...

It takes 8 minutes for the sun's light to reach earth. If God had created the Earth all at once the sun's light wouldn't have time to reach Earth and we,plants,and animals would all die.

God did everything perfect. He created the right amount of atmosphere and He put the Earth the right distance away from the sun. With God you can't go wrong!

Sarah Onderdonk said...

johno... wow! i'm impressed! great insight. wonderful typing! you now have your own blog?? what's with that?

love, mommy