Reality can be proof enough

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 7, 2006

This past weekend I had the privilege of watching a program on the Science Channel – no, no, not the SciFi Channel, since we save that exclusively for Friday nights.

This was THE Science Channel.

You know, the one which take seriously the questions about the relationships between celestial bodies, gravity, and the development of life in atmospheres other than on terra firma.

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This program had to do with the intricacies of how of some of the world’s greatest physics geniuses reached their conclusions about our understanding of the universe as we know it.

Now, this particular program piqued my curiosity since I came very close to majoring in physics and its topic was the evolution of the major works of Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and Hawking.

Most readers know the first three – Galileo posited that the sun and not the earth was the center of our solar system, Newton codified such mundane forces at work daily like gravity, and Einstein proved that time is relative to motion.

But few today know Stephen Hawking, who since 1979 has held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University in England – the very same post held by Newton.

Hawking is brilliant beyond verbal expression and more so because he suffers from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and has for many years.

His contribution was to seek to combine Einstein’s theory of relativity with the more contemporary view of our physical world in terms of quantum mechanics – that is, the motion and relationships between sub-atomic particles which make our world function as is it does and allows the SciFi imaginations to do such things as “fold” space to allow time travel.

Enough of the foreign abstractions.

The point is that these thinkers all possessed

certain qualities which not only allowed them to think more than “outside the box”, as the common expression is effused by executives seeking to inspire their subordinates to evolve some dynamic new notion which will revolutionize their product, process, or agency.

No, these thinkers did not think “outside” the box.

They thought “beyond” the box!

The television narrators made the point that these four physicists all shared at least two common traits – they were rebels within their disciplines and they had uncanny powers of concentration.

It is said that each of them would reach a point of concentration in dealing with a complex formula which would factually remove them from immediate awareness of the world which was functioning around them.

It was as if they had built an impenetrable wall around themselves so that they could isolate the machinations of their concentration from such mundane personal things as nutrition, sleep, and even awareness of violent weather storms.

Another common trait was that they were the “nerds” of their day – hence, thinking “outside” the box.

None of them was particularly handsome or attractive in the traditional genetic attraction sense.

But every one of them possessed the sense that if they worked at a problem long enough, they could solve it.

Each of them also was a slow talker, that is to say, they did not blurt out at early ages those magical utterances so many of us parents are far too quick to put on display for our friends just as soon as our “baby Einsteins” gurgle an unintelligible spat to our guests, but which we are quick to interpret as a full sentence.

Einstein’s parents even thought he might be a bit “slow” in any form of cognitive

development since he spoke so little as a toddler.

Alas, perhaps he just had nothing to say at the time, so he kept quiet – a trait which might just be deemed admirable in many circles today.

Some were products of public education and some were products of private, highly specialized educational cadres of their day.

But the point is this – they were listening, they were observing, they were forming assessment processes, and they were reaching

far beyond what they found around their immediate environs to reach conclusions about a universe which fascinated them.

They not only “saw” beyond the box; they formulated equations about what they found beyond the box which ultimately were so pure in their simplicity that it makes many of us today who appreciate theoretical physics bow our heads in humble recognition of true gifts from God.

Because through them God permitted us to se His immensely vast Creation in a minute, finite formula.

In other words, through these great physicists He allows us to see the finitude, the beauty, the symmetry, and the infinite in each of those elements.

And for me, that is evidence enough for the existence of God.

-Dr. Arthur Ogden is the Campus Director for Alabama Southern’s Demopolis Campus and holds all his degrees in philosophy.

He can be reached at