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15 November 2011

(Epi)Phenomenal Surfers

I'm watching Brian Greene's Fabric of the Cosmos on PBS. It's an amazing series. I initially got interested in science--and, yes, sociology is "science"--through physics. I read Einstein's Theory of Relativity when I was in middle school. (In all honesty, it was a statement of identity and status more than an actually attempt at understanding. The maths were utterly incomprehensible to me. I read the words, but more importantly, carried the book cover around.)

So far, I'm most interested by this idea of the "forward" movement of time. It seems to physicists that the tendency toward entropy, that is the ever increasing disorder of everything, dictates the direction of the arrow of time, without which time could theoretically tick in either direction. Knowing this, one physicist said that we are essentially "surfers riding the wave" of an epiphenomenon within a larger movement toward chaos.

As a scholar of religion, this leads me to an even larger conclusion about those who hold an anti-evolutionary perspective. Ironically, physics makes us more sympathetic to these fundamentalists. If we exist as cosmic quirk, residing in an isolated exception within the universe, programmed to understand only that which is in front of our faces, people's reactions against the theory of evolution are utterly understandable. What is exceptional is that some among us have figured out that we are the fluke. The irony is that science leads us to a greater appreciation for our exceptionalism.

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