Science and faith agree: we are not the center of the universe.

June 17, 2018

I have good news, and I have bad news for you today. Which would you like to hear first?

You are not the center of the universe.

You are not the center of the universe.

Of this both science and religion agree.

However, it hasn’t always been that way.

We used to think we were literally center of the universe and that the sun and everything rotated around us. That’s what we thought, that’s what the church thought the bible taught. Of course, some people disagreed; a few ancient Greek philosophers figured out that we weren’t the center of the universe. But it wasn’t until Copernicus in about 1543 that the idea started to gain some traction. Hopefully, you learned in school that the church (Roman Catholic Church) did not accept new fangled math and science and in deed tried Gaileo Galilei in 1633. His heresy was for suggesting that the earth was not the center of the universe, and that the earth revolved around the sun. Unlike others charged with heresy, Galileo was not burned at the stake, but died in 1642 while serving his life sentence of house arrest. 1992 the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope John Paul II, investigated the case against Galileo and acquitted him, that’s just about 25 years, if you do the math.

So, now we can agree we are not the center of the universe. Of course, science has gone so much beyond that revelation with telescopes that can peer deep into space and time. With calculations and measurements that tell us that the universe is billions and billions of years old, that the universe is expanding, that dark matter actually makes up a majority (about 96% of the stuff) of the universe. Science, if not in our schools (especially some of our charter private schools may give a different picture) scientific knowledge and theory is awesome. That is, unless you fear these theories, worrying that these discoveries explain God out of the picture, that God as godself, the divine one may also not be the center of the universe.

And if you think that the bible is a history and scientific text book filled with infallible divine information, that fear may feel very real. However, that is not what we teach. I feel like I can never say/preach/proclaim this enough. The bible is not infallible; it does not teach history or science. The earth is more than several thousand years old. Humans like our planet have evolved over time. This knowledge does not threaten faith or belief in God. Science seeks to unravel, to plumb to solve the mysteries of reality.

The cosmic perspective of science, however, reveals that with every discovery, with every mystery solved new ones appear. With every question answered new questions arise. It is for that reason that Neil deGrasse Tyson admits that in his exploration of the cosmos as an astrophysicist he feels humbled, he feels in awe, he feels what so many people of faith describe as a “religious” experience. However for him this is not God. Tyson has said, “

If God is the mystery of the universe, these mysteries, we’re tackling these mysteries one by one. If you’re going to stay religious at the end of the conversation, God has to mean more to you than just where science has yet to tread. So to the person who says, “Maybe dark matter is God,” if the only reason why you’re saying it is because it’s a mystery, then get ready to have that undone.

Let’s think about it this way, through the advances of science, Job could and may soon be able to say to God. Why yes, with our space telescopes, with our super computers, with our spectrometers, technology, why yes God we weren’t there when you flung the suns and stars, when you began creation, but we can still see it today. We can look back, and we can measure particles and the space between them. We can see galaxies and black holes. Not only that, without loosing our faith we know we are not the center of the universe, and hypothesize that we are just one of many in a multi-verse.

We can use the bright immensities and complexities as language within our faith, but they can not be the basis of our faith. Or as Galileo purportedly said, faith, religion, spirituality, God is about how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.

A cosmic scientific perspective can humble us and fill us with awe, but faith gifts us with the cosmic perspective of love. Of course, we may not see love at play in the atmosphere; we may not see love at work in the geological forces causing eruptions in Hawaii and Guatemala. It is hard, I would even see impossible to see love at work in the survival of the fittest. And contrary to members of this administration, may think, their words, their policy of separating and warehousing children from away from parents is more contradictory to the God we read in the bible than modern science, or evolution. Caging children whether in warehouses or in underfunded schools, poverty and prisons contradicts and threatens faith; using the bible to justify abuse and to prop up illegitimate policies and practices does.

Science with it’s cosmic perspective has and will continue to tell us we are not the center of the universe. Faith in it’s best form, love, inspires us to put others (especially the weak, the struggling, the oppressed). We pray for those who have been preyed upon. We partner with the persecuted. God’s cosmic perspective pushes us to a humility that bends not just before exploding super novas but also bends before refugees, bends to hold the hand of the sick and dying, bends to listen to those like Job grieving, angry, and lonely. The bible, the church, Jesus/God’s cosmic perspective is not obedience to injustice; it is not quietism in the face of danger; Our cosmic perspective is love—divine love that defies the laws of nature, the laws of nations and governments, even the laws of religiosity. The good news is we are not the center of the universe, love is. Amen.

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