The Science of Light, and the Light of Science

Some years ago it occurred to me that the first three verses of Genesis were very strange.  “And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ and there was light.”  What other creation account begins this way?  Most them begin with struggle, a molten mass of matter that somehow produces gods who destroy themselves while producing other gods.  Or else there’s some kind of malleable dough already in existence for the gods to work on.

But in Genesis, creation begins with light.  Light, even before sun.  The writers surely understood light to come from the sun, so why would they say light comes first, and record the creation of the sun four whole creation-days later? 

I like physics, in a very unscientific, artsy way–meaning that I don’t really understand it, but I get off on the poetic and spiritual implications.  Years ago, while struggling to learn something about relativity theory, I learned that the history of physics is largely about identifying forces.  Over time these forces reveal their relationship to each other, and come together as one.  (When I first started reading about this, science had identified four major forces.  Now there are only three, and the gold ring of physics is to find a way to unify them all in a single, “elegant” theory.)  Back in the mid-nineteenth century, Michael Faraday proved the relationship between electricity and magnetism by showing that a changing magnetic field produces electricity.  Then James Clerk Maxwell suspected that a changing electric field might also produce magnetism–leading to the discovery of electromagnetic waves.  Maxwell calculated the speed of these waves (don’t ask me how!) and the result turned out to be the known speed of light.

So what’s light?  Electromagnetic energy.  And if E=mc2, then matter and energy are interchangeable.  Therefore, couldn’t “Let there be light!” be, in its way, a scientifically accurate account for the beginning of the universe?

Or is that just me stumbling around in near-total ignorance?  Maybe not.  I just heard about a new book, available in October, that sounds like a must-read: The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible Is Scientifically Accurate.  With a title like that, the author must be a fulminating fundie!  But no–Andrew Parker is (according to “a Royal Society University Research Fellow at Oxford University, and one of the eight ‘Scientists for a New Century’ selected by the Royal Institution (London).”  His thesis is that the order of creation as recorded in Genesis 1 has striking parallels with the most recent scientific discoveries.  “But,” (reads the book description) “the Genesis account has no right to be correct. The author or authors could not have known these things happened in this order, and with the highlights science has come to recognize.”

The basic questions were supposed to have been answered by now.  But as time goes on, the structure of the universe gets more mysterious, not less.  Personally, I like it that way. It gives new (or rather the old) meaning to the expression, “Awesome!”


2 Responses to “The Science of Light, and the Light of Science”

  1. Charlotte Coyle Says:

    Awe-some! is right!

  2. Melissa Forte Says:

    First off, I was struck by the name Faraday, and then again by Maxwell because I love the show Lost! Faraday is a Character who seems to know the formula for time traveling which happens to be brought on by his mother. His mother seems to have the whole magnetic field/time traveling thing down, since she can seem to pinpoint when people can travel back to the mysterious island that nobody can find and it can be moved. All based off electromagnetic theory by the fact it was mentioned! Maxwell is a newcomer to Lost. He can hear dead people and made a good living at it. Turns out his pop started running the show on this “island no one can find” back when Max was a baby. Max’s dad is all about drilling out these electromagnetic waves.

    here’s a wiki link about the show, very bland and basic but you could google better odds I am sure.

    It is fun to watch in that mind frame because every person has a purpose on the show and real life. It makes you get up and research the new person and see how that name fits in.

    So besides all that fluff, I agree. I kinda think that the bible had been “dumbed down” in order to make sense to the mass…However, I believe these days people (including myself) would rather not hear the baby version of god’s words. Unfortunately the dumbed down version seems to be full of “different meanings” that tends to be abused for that reason.

    I bet a lot of people would start seeing God as a awesome creationist if only we would allow the bible to be modified scientifically(as already written) in order to keep out interpretations and confusion.

    But that’s just me.

    Back to math!

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