Thursday, August 01, 2002

Newton was a bit like Columbus. He made a big discovery, but he didn't know exactly what he had discovered – or how momentous his discovery really was.

When Newton discovered gravity, he discovered God. What is God – what could God possibly be – if not gravity? Without gravity, the entire universe would be completely empty and there would be no reality of any kind whatsoever. Think about it.

This view is consistent with other notions of God – or suspicions as to the nature of God, anyway. We are often tempted to assert that God is love. This sounds "right" in a sort of abstract, instinctive way – we like to imagine God as a ubiquitous, positive force. Well that's right. God is a ubiquitous, positive force. Literally. And it is love. Everything that binds or draws one thing to another, everything that staves off entropy, the single thing that has enabled matter to coalesce into worlds and higher and higher forms of life – it's simply gravity. And to the degree that we feel that God must be an agent in the life of the universe right down to the minutest elements in human affairs, well… that's true, too. Perhaps not in the way that we would like to think (God does not answer prayers, let's face it), but God – gravity!- is unquestionably the agent of everything that happens in the universe.

It's deceptively simple. We have overlooked it perhaps because it's too simple, and not satisfyingly romantic or spectacular to our overstimulated imaginations. Also, we have a foolish – tragic, sometimes – tendency to believe the greater the question, the more complex the answer. Often the opposite is the case. Good scientists and mathematicians really appreciate this paradox – when faced with a difficult problem, they know to look first for the simplest answer. And it's a law of troubleshooting, expressed in the owner's manual of practically any gadget: Not working? Make sure it's plugged in.

Looking for God? It's everywhere.