The Meaning of the Universe

September 6, 2008

I’m already getting excited for winter.  I went to work this morning in a long sleeve shirt and Sweatshirt.  I think Donald Miller said that it’s easier for him to believe in God in the winter, I’m the same way.  And it’s not that I don’t believe at other times of the year, it’s just something about the tighter chilled air that puts my soul at ease about all the metaphysical mysteries surrounding.

            Lately I’ve been upset with scientist and mathematicians.  I mean, I get where they’re coming from; trying to factor out the universe and everything.  But what if the universe can’t be factored?  What if, at it’s core, the universe is more about poetry and color than math.  What if we get to the end of the universe and find out it really makes no scientific sense at all, I’m actually kind of hoping for that.

            In the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a super computer is built to find the meaning of the universe.  After 7 ½ million years the computer comes up with it’s answer: 42.  Everyone then realizes that they’ve calculated an answer without even knowing the question.  Philosophers ponder the meaning of 42, but come up with nothing.  So an even larger super computer is built to calculate the question to the meaning of the universe.  10 Million years later the computer has finished it’s calculations, the Question to the meaning of the universe: 6×9.  Unfortunately 6×9 doesn’t even equal 42.

            I’m not sure what I’m exactly trying to say here.  I guess I just don’t want the meaning of the universe to come down to math, and I pray winter to come quickly.





5 Responses to “The Meaning of the Universe”

  1. Gabriel Says:

    As a wannabe mathematician and scientist: I agree. 🙂

    Are you perhaps talking about the LHC project at CERN? (

    Here’s a pretty good poke at that (written by a scientist):

  2. joelmw Says:

    I’m pretty sure we’ve little to fear as far as anyone figuring everything out. What we should fear is those that are already sure they have.

    I recall seeing and hearing in a few places that the ultimate test of the unified field theory will be it’s simplicity and elegance and that poetry will at last be understood as the true judge of math. Einstein said that thing about translating Mozart.

    My take is that art is able to articulate mysteries in such a way as to make them intuitively perceived if not finally comprehended. Math attempts to parse that perception into something comprehensible and quantifiable. Or something like that–um, only pithier. I thank God for the mathematicians, but I pray (and for their own sakes and not just for ours) that they never stop listening to the poets.

    Considering our own canon, I’m always mindful that the Creator gave us more story and song than systematic theology. And, yeah, it pisses me off when we forget that and try to render it down to mere equation. We shouldn’t stop trying to translate it but we should never be deceived that our translation is better than or as good as the original. Nor should we neglect to respond in kind–that is, in unquantifiable poetry v. measured legalism.

    On summer and winter and wherein lies the grace of God in purest form:
    As I endure the Texas summer, I’m often reminded of that apocalyptic promise:
    “The sun will not beat upon them,
    nor any scorching heat. ”
    Even so, come Lord Jesus. 🙂

  3. Josh Says:

    maybe i am just super lame, but i spend no time or energy wondering whether the base of the universe is mathematical or poetic… to be honest if we figured out if it was one or the other, it would not help us in any way…. except one group one fill validated and then forever gloat over the other group, and that would be super annoying for everyone

    however, i do feel more connected to God during the winter as well… i wonder what that is all about?

  4. Josh Says:


    “one group would feel”

    sorry for the typo and additional comment

  5. joelmw Says:

    It’s not that you’re lame (at least not necessarily 😉 ). And it’s most especially not that there is a dichotomy.

    The reason some of us make such a big deal of it is that we live in an age and a culture that prioritizes the mathematical, technological, materialistic, rational and we’ve been brought up with that valuation (and the corresponding devaluation of what isn’t those things). And it’s no small thing. It infects the Church much more than most of us realize or acknowledge or, really, care to think about.

    I guess it’s kinda like the race issue. Thank God if you’re truly beyond judging folks by the color of their skin. It would be a glorious day indeed if our society had reached that point. Sadly, there’s too much evidence that it hasn’t. So, until that day comes, some of us will keep making noise about it.

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