Logic and the Universe

'Science joke. You should probably just move along.'

Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.

-from “The Sayings of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

This quote from Dune by Frank Herbert has always stuck with me. I think it resonates with truth; both the science lover and person of faith can connect to this statement, or at least should be able to. I am a very rational person, always looking for the logical argument, the reasoning behind everything. While things can often be explained away, it is undeniable that we can only explain away so much. Why do we love? Why am I so amazed by what is to be found in the universe? Why are relationships so important? Why is humor so great? Explain those things away until they have no meaning; why bother?

The reality is that God has made the universe rational so we can figure things out and learn more about this world, but what lies behind that construct is the illogic of our loving God. Evidence of that irrationality is all around us: Jesus came and died for us, God loves us even though we consistently turn our backs on him, a painting evokes an emotional response, music brightens your day, laughing for hours on end with close friends. Why would I want to explain those things away when they are beautiful in their own right.

Yes, the world is logical and I do have the need to study that logic and discover how things work and fit together. But I also embrace the reality that God is not constrained by logical frameworks. I should be happy about that. If the universe were purely logical, my failures as a person would have me doomed. Thank God for the illogic of grace: broken and redeemed.

Maybe this doesn’t make any sense: it is late… and I don’t have to be logical. ;)

Categories: Daily Life, Religion Tags:
  1. April 1st, 2010 at 17:05 | #1

    Goedel’s Theorem proves that any interesting system of logic will always be capable of expressing true but unprovable statements.

  2. April 1st, 2010 at 17:22 | #2

    Makes me wish I knew more about math and CS. A friend of mine (who does both math and CS) commented on Facebook: “I agree. If logic can’t answer many questions in mathematics, which is governed solely by logic, why should we expect logic to make sense of the rest of the world?”

    I like the notion of true but unprovable. That just resonates with me I think!

  3. April 2nd, 2010 at 15:50 | #3

    I was getting a whole Plato’s cave or Kant’s upper/lower story vibe from that quote, even though illogical doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as irrational.

    I don’t know if the universe being one step beyond logic is true. Faith and logic aren’t antithetical. I want to think it’s logical all the way down (or up). The logic doesn’t stop and there is where faith begins. Faith can be logical or illogical. Logic can be irrational.

    Logic depends on reasoning from first principles. God’s first principles are undoubtedly beyond our understanding making things seem illogical to us. I bet it’s all logical from God’s point of view. [insert Kirk vs. Spock point of view illustration here]

    These are all fairly un-thought-through thoughts though. I could probably be persuaded otherwise.

    And the xkcd makes no sense to me, which makes me sad that I am out of the loop.

  4. April 2nd, 2010 at 20:27 | #4

    I think one of the key things that you mentioned is that God’s first principles are different from our own so His logic might not match our own. A miracle to us is outside of logic because it cannot be proved; it is by definition outside the laws of physics. But from God’s standpoint, it makes perfect and cogent sense.

    If you don’t get the xkcd it just means you haven’t studied astronomy in a while. One of Kepler’s laws (the 2nd I believe) states that a line between a planet and the sun will sweep out an equal area of space over an equal time period. Hence the funny.

  5. April 3rd, 2010 at 15:13 | #5

    Oh, sweep. Yes, it all make sense now and I feel that I am one of the cool kids again.

  1. March 30th, 2010 at 15:45 | #1
  2. November 18th, 2013 at 00:34 | #2