Beauty, law, nature, New Yorker, Physics, Redeeming Science\, Science, Surfing the Universe, Vern Poythress
In “Surfing the Universe,” Benjamin Wallace-Wells, of physics as a search for beauty:
Physicists have long looked to higher math for insights into the workings of the universe. “If a figure is so beautiful and intricate and clear, you figure it must not exist for itself alone,” John Baez, a professor of mathematics at the University of California at Riverside, said. “It must correspond to something in the physical world.” This instinct—the assumption that beauty will stand in for truth—has become a habit. Some physicists now worry that string theory’s mathematics have grown permanently unmoored from the real world—an exercise in its own complexity. And so modern theoretical physics has become, in part, an argument about aesthetics.
Interestingly, Poythress explains that seeing such beauty is right, because such beauty is a disclosure of God:
Scientific laws, especially “deep” laws, are beautiful. Scientists have long sifted through possible hypotheses and models partly on the basis of the criteria of beauty and simplicity. For example, Newton’s law of gravitation and Maxwell’s laws of electromagnetism are mathematically simple and beautiful. And scientists clearly expect new laws, as well as the old ones, to show beauty and simplicity. Why?
The beauty of scientific laws shows the beauty of God himself. Though beauty has not been a favorite topic in classical expositions of the doctrine of God, the Bible shows us a God who is profoundly beautiful. He manifests himself in beauty in the design of the tabernacle, the poetry of the Psalms, and the elegance of Christ’s parables, as well as the moral beauty of the life of Christ.
The beauty of God himself is reflected in what he has made. We are more accustomed to seeing beauty in particular objects within creation, such as a butterfly, or a lofty mountain, or a flower-covered meadow. But beauty is also displayed in the simple, elegant form of some of the most basic physical laws, like Newton’s law for force, F = ma, or Einstein’s formula relating mass and energy, E = mc2. Why should such elegant laws even exist? Beauty is also displayed in the harmony among different areas of science, and the harmony between mathematics and science that scientists rely on whenever they use a mathematical formula to describe a physical process.
Poythress, Vern S. (2006-10-13). Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach (Kindle Locations 369-377). Crossway. Kindle Edition.