Sometimes religion and science don’t clash at all.
[Update February 17, 2015: Real Live Preacher is a dead blog. Author Gordon Atkinson now writes here (and other places you can find from there); but most of these links won’t work. My apologies for the passage of time . . .]
Unlike the last time we visited this remarkable photograph, some people of faith look at it and see beauty, insted of seeing conflict between reality and their holy books.
I know of a Real Live Preacher who doesn’t abuse the science in finding a religious message in the photo.
So first vertigo, then panic, then longing. After that I generally calm down a bit. My tiny mind and delicate emotions cannot bear even my small thoughts of the universe for more than a few minutes. I relax. Sometimes a shrinking reality can be a comfort. My sins, the things that I have done wrong and the ways that I cannot be what I should be, also shrink. I feel I can forgive myself for them, small man that I am. Why the hell not? Look at the size of the universe!
This forgiveness is the Grace that Christians speak of. The main story of our faith tells us that we must be forgiven and can be. Funny how it takes science to bring that reality to my guts.
For some reason, this experience always ends with a crazy happiness that I cannot easily explain. I become giddy with the knowledge that ultimate reality is so far beyond our grasp. This lets me off the hook, to a certain extent. We’ll never know reality. We’ll never even map our solar system, you and I. We’re small people, but we have grasped the idea of existence. We know love, seek knowledge, and recognize goodness and evil.
Our saintly scientists, single-minded and incredibly committed to the search for truth, draw down amazing pictures from the ancient light in the sky. These pictures help me to know that it is okay to be nothing more or less than what we are.
One might visit Real Live Preacher just for the art, too (see sample above). A remarkable site.
Regarding the image from Hubble, people of faith may want to reread Romans 1:18-21, and then consider:
The Hubble observations detected objects as faint as 30th magnitude. The faintest objects the human eye can see are at sixth magnitude. Ground-based telescopes also can detect 30th-magnitude objects. Those objects, however, are so dim they are lost in the glare of brighter, nearby galaxies.Searching for the faintest objects in the Ultra Deep Field is like trying to find a firefly on the Moon. Light from the farthest objects reached the Hubble telescope in trickles rather than gushers. The orbiting observatory collected one photon of light per minute from the dimmest objects. Normally, the telescope collects millions of photons per minute from nearby galaxies.
Are these things that are in plain sight, and yet unseen? Does science improve our view?