Don’t get me wrong, I’m normally not an overly apocalyptic sort of guy, but when I first read about the nearly infamous “Atom Smasher” buried beneath the French/Swiss border a few months ago, I was nervous. Long before the story broke in mainstream media, there were theorists expressing grave concern over the potentially destructive power of the device, such as the possibility for it to create a black hole inside the earth. You don’t have to be a science fiction lover to realize that wouldn’t be good. Of course, scientists involved in the project downplayed these fears, saying that if black holes were created that they would be spinning so quickly that they would likely cause no damage.
Seriously, they said that. I’m not kidding.
And you wonder why I’m nervous?
The purpose of this thing, as I understand it, is to delve into the theories of other dimensions, dark matter, and so forth…all extremely theoretical stuff in the realm of physics. Essentially, the Atom Smasher wants to duplicate post-Big-Bang energies in order to further the study of these theories, which are deemed to be at the core of what binds the universe as we know it together.
The thing about dark matter, though, is that it is hypothetical. You know, the stuff of conjecture. Essentially, scientists are looking at the universe and saying, “you know, something’s holding all this together, but we just can’t figure out what it is.” Scientists are afflicted by the same audacity as theologians: they want to be able to dissect, label, and easily reference everything. They want no mystery left in existence. They want to know how it all ticks, and, because we’re all bent on control at some level, we’ve deified this enterprise as the expense of appreciating mystery.
When the Scriptures describe Creation, they tend to speak in poetry, not science. And yet we think we can understand it better when we pick it apart, treating the world around us as something to be analyzed post-mortem (borrowing from Luke Timothy Johnson), and not as something wonderful and living to encounter and appreciate. And, in our efforts to analyze and become all-knowing, we build things like the Atom Smasher…things that our leaders will undoubtedly search for a way to weaponize, to transform from a means of inquiry to a means of mass destruction, because we never seem to be happy unless we’re killing each other. The Atom Smasher represents entire careers of work, and we know from history that when people invest that much time and energy into something like this, they tend to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
So, I must say, I was happy when I read the news that it broke.
In the interest of seeing miracles in everyday occurrences, I’d even be willing to say that it was no coincidence that its malfunction keeps looking worse. Perhaps, if we’re fortunate (or blessed, depending upon your vernacular), the Atom Smasher will stay buried, because perhaps…just perhaps…we’re meant to appreciate some things as being bigger than we can understand, to marvel at how they exist so beautifully in abstract ways that resist definition.
After all, it would be nice if we could appreciate what was around us instead of constantly mucking it up, wouldn’t it?