Proof and silliness

Carl Sagan, the world-renowned astronomer and science fiction writer, said he would be more inclined to believe in God if he had slipped a few more clues into the Bible about science. Something perhaps about the theory of relativity, just so we’d know he really was behind it. Here’s how I think that would go.

Somewhere in Genesis: “And God spake unto Moses, saying, ‘Take these my Ten Commandments to my people. And by the way, e=mc2. Thou shalt not understand this which I say to you today, but thy descendants after thee shall get it, and know that I am God”.

Cue almost two millennia of fevered speculation, learned scholarship and standard human craziness. At least one cataclysmic schism, dividing believers who thought “e” was about the End Times, and those who thought it had something to do with Egypt. Or elephants, or enemas. Physicists would probably vote in an alternative notation for equations (also potentially Evil), using Greek letters, or maybe emojis. And if Einstein still, by some twist of fate, came up with his signature equation in those same terms, he would trigger a furore. The anti-theist scientific establishment would vehemently discredit his work, and he would certainly not win a Nobel prize. Meanwhile, churches would begin funding research facilities to pursue quantum physics. And the lunatic religiose would barricade themselves into a bus shelter somewhere and wait for the imminent end of the world. As usual.

But what if, after fifty years, scientists at the Pope Pius X Supercollider in the Vatican discover something even more remarkable than e=mc2? Another schism? A turning of tables, Einstein’s equation demoted to heresy and thereafter taken to the bosom of secular physics? Perhaps God should have picked the later discovery to leave as his clue. Or picked a different field. Entymology perhaps. Or the social sciences.

Or perhaps, he should simply have written on a toasted cheese sandwich in 1950’s Chicago: “Dear Carl: I’m for real. Deal with it. God.”



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