A Semantics Problem


Semantics - “the meaning or the interpretation of a word, sentence, or other language form”

Though science wasn’t at all interesting to me when I was younger, I found a lot of enjoyment in the subject as an adult. The major problem was how it was presented, rather than the actual subject. Most of my classes were taught from a two columed text book by someone with marginal teaching skills and semi-marginal passion. Even the fun parts - the labs - were way less than inspiring. Each experiment was something so predictable and formulaic that it could be graded upon accuracy of observation; such as -measure two ounces of this, three ounces of that, and combine them. If the result was different than it was ‘supposed to be’, we’d be graded down. Which is really the opposite of a hypothesis. But nowhere was this more obvious than Astronomy, which I took in college with the same professor that told my friends and I he believed in evolution.

Astronomy, or the study of stars and space, has facinated me since I was a child. I remember nights staring up at the sky, studying a constellation chart and looking at the vastness of it all. It did good things in me, and opened my mind to a much much bigger thing. (Which always improved my belief in God. To this day, if I have what Baptists call ‘doubts’, all I have to do is get a good look at the sky and my belief is restored.) I had, and have, many more questions than answers. So when I got to actually choose a science class, it was easy: Astronomy.

I couldn’t wait to read about space and stars and find out facts and information, observe some things in the observatory. And I’ve maybe never been more disappointed. The professor is one of the 5-worst teachers I’ve ever had - by far. He could take any subject and make it boring. I don’t even know if he looked at the class the entire semester. We had to buy a book that I remember being expensive, and had to read a few chapters from it; but the book was evidentally no good, and the professor wrote 26-pages of notes stating exactly why and sent them to the publisher. He was the type of person that I have no idea how they’re in front of students. Especially with a subject this intersting, how can you be passionate enough to get a PHd, and then make it boring for everyone else. He gave lecture and had us copy down slides, adn gave tests that were so hard that a 28% was passing. (There was a day where our class huddled around the grades - posted outside the classroom door, and saw our ID numbers and a grade. You had no idea what the nubmer meant until you looked at the curve. One of my friends was like, ‘shit. I got an 18’. Then he looked at the curve. ‘Wait. That’s a C. I passed!’). There is not one thing I learned that I can remember, and it wasn’t from lack of trying. But the expereicne did affirm my belief that Science was Boring.

When I hit my 30’s, I stumbled across the book A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. I’d heard of Bryson, but never read any of his books, and finally decided to give it a try. (My brother-in-law loved one of his other books, and I think I made a promise to check it out.) Early on, he discusses the origin of the universe; you can’t talk about everything if you don’t talk about the beginning. He’s a really good writier - way better than the boring two column science books - and related scientific things in literary terms. And how he presented the origin - The Big Bang - was so interesting. In the first 10 to the negavite 27 of time, there was nothing, adn then there was our solar system. Within the first two minutes of it all, our entire galaxy and the physics we know to be true adn consistent were all formed. The Universe went through three transitions in this entire time, and I’m now rambling, probably wrong, and butchering the subject matter. But I’d never heard this. First there was nothing, adn then there was something. Not too differnet than the Chrsitian teeshirt I liked so much, “God Spoke and then, Bang, it ahppened.”

It was so compelling.

Up until taht point, I’d thought that there were two optins to choose from, Creation or Evolution. That as a person, we had to decide, do we believe God and in God as the originator or do we believe in the anti-God evolution.

But reading this book affirmed something I thoguht but didn’t know how to articulate. If God created everything, this included Science. And if God is all powerful, knowing, and everywhere, this would included all of space as well. And then my mind exploded, and this just became another area where we fight about semantics and miss the point of it all.