Quarks and Doubt by Bob Wickizer

Quarks and Doubt
Bob Wickizer
Genesis 1:1-2:4; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

In James Joyce's book ''Finnegan's Wake'' the protagonist raises a toast to his friend Mark saying ''Three quarks for Muster Mark'' a ''quark'' being the cry of a sea gull. I was reminded of this line twice in my professional education. The first time took place in the 1970's when taking a third year graduate physics class titled ''Elementary Particle Physics'' an understatement if there ever was one.

In that class we were taught that physicist Murray Gell-Mann borrowed the word quark from Joyce's book to name an important subatomic particle. Until the mid-20th century, scientists thought that protons and neutrons were fundamental particles, the building blocks of the universe. As the theory and experiments progressed, physicists discovered that protons and neutrons are composed of three quarks each. The quarks composing a proton or neutron are constantly changing roles or identities. They do not last very long outside the proton or neutron. They are the fundamental components of everything and yet the illusory stability of the world we can observe is maintained only by the constant interchange and shifting of these three quarks bound together. I did not think about quarks very much after that for another twenty years.

Again in seminary we had formal classes in what is called, ''Systematic Theology.'' Ask an EFM graduate to tell you about this stuff. Part of the study of this rarefied branch of Christian education involves studying the formal doctrines of the Trinity. As we plunged into this complicated interpretation of the Bible, the notion of quarks immediately came to my mind. The ancient Celtic depiction of the Holy Trinity that you find on the cover of today's bulletin began to look a lot like modern day Feynman diagrams of particle physics.

Most of my work in physics involved working with larger scale things composed of these fundamental particles. ...

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