Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The God of Black Holes

For years my wife drove an SUV as a step up from our previous minivan. This was our family vehicle which became well known for its conveniences and its comical analogies. One such analogy was the dreaded space between the driver’s seat and the center console. Being a mid-sized SUV, this space was both deep and narrow. This meant that whatever fell between that crack was probably lost forever. Therefore, this crack became famously known in our family universe as “the black hole.” The reason for this humorous label in our family universe is due to what science understands about the nature of black holes in the actual universe.

A black hole is believed to occur when a massive star collapses at the end of its life cycle. The gravitational force believed to result is estimated to be so strong that even light is unable to escape. After a black hole has theoretically formed it can continue to grow by absorbing the mass from objects that are pulled into it. Consistent with General Relativity, objects within the gravitational influence of the black hole swirl towards it like water going down a drain. For example, it is believed that a massive black hole might even be the cause for gravitational pull at the center of our Milky Way galaxy – which might explain its swirling shape.

All of the dominant theories regarding black holes sound reasonable enough. But, there is one huge problem (among others). We have never observed a black hole. They exist in theory alone. This lack of tangible evidence leads to ever changing beliefs about the existence and nature of black holes. For example, up until recently, it was believed that the matter and energy absorbed into a black hole was permanently destroyed. However, this belief has always been in direct conflict with the Laws of Thermodynamics, which dictate that matter, energy and information can never be destroyed. They can only change forms. This conflict has become known as “the black hole information paradox.”

This paradox between black hole cosmology and Thermodynamics even stumped the famous physicist, Stephen Hawking. Recently, he openly admitted that his own first published ideas founded in fundamental black hole cosmology were the “biggest blunder” of his career. He was forced to recently modify his theories to allow for the possibility for light and information to actually survive black holes. But, this was not enough to fully resolve the conflict.

In contrast, last month, Professor Laura Mersini-Houghton from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published her research surrounding mathematical proof that it is impossible for black holes (and a resulting “singularity”) to exist.  If true, her research could force physicists to scrap their theories of how the universe began, even calling into question the veracity of the Big Bang Theory (also not observed). Her research suggests that as a star dies, it also sheds mass so much so that it no longer has the density to become a black hole. Before a black hole can form, the dying star swells and explodes. “I’m still not over the shock,” said Professor Mersini-Houghton. “We’ve been studying this problem for more than 50 years and this solution gives us a lot to think about…the mathematics are conclusive.” Professor Mersini-Houghton’s new conclusions do manage to mathematically harmonize what was previously in conflict.

Isn’t it interesting that we can believe something for so long even to the point of swearing to its factuality as established science only to learn that it is probably not true? What does it suggest when we believed this as established science for so long without proper skepticism? What other “facts” of science are we blindly exalting to the status of undeniable truth? What else should we be questioning? 2 Peter 3:5 says, “For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God.” It is this form of biased ignorance that prohibits our ability to fully discover.

While we may never totally understand what naturally holds galaxies in tow, the Bible, as always, gives us the ultimate supernatural insight. For example, regarding Jesus’ role in the Milky Way, Colossians 1:15-20 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

Also regarding Jesus Hebrews 1:2-3 says, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Regardless of what God uses in nature, it is God’s word that determines all natural order. And, if there are black holes, He spoke them to be and they obey His every command.

In conclusion, while science claims to limit understanding to evidence, they ironically practice a much broader and ever-changing faith. Even so, reducing the vastness of that which we don’t understand to strictly what we can prove, is destructively reductionist thinking. The exclusion of possibilities that might persistently transcend human understanding is the worst form of bias you can possible employ. While we may never understand what naturally sways galaxies, we certainly have clues that point to what supernaturally sways them. There may not be a black hole at the center of our Milky Way, but our God is there. And, He holds us all together by His word. In fact, He holds everything together. His light from His loving gospel will shine through and beyond our world’s darkness. He will always triumph over any natural or supernatural force. Our God reigns over all. He always has. After all, He formed all creation.

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