TED Talks Worth Talking About – Brian Greene

Posted on May 22, 2008


Physicist Brian Greene explains superstring theory, the idea that minscule strands of energy vibrating in 11 dimensions create every particle and force in the universe. This 19:06 minute talk explains how physicists are striving for a unified theory of how the universe works and holds together.

What are the implications of physicists achieving a unified theory? What if we are able to identify strings in such a way as to not only explain, but then also to manipulate?

I don’t know much about physics, though I’m deeply fascinated. I welcome the inquiry, and believe that we all benefit from the discoveries, and the applications of those findings for all sorts of humanitarian efforts.

As with other discussions around evolution and creationism (see my post on “Expelled”) I sense that even with this kind of physical discovery, people of faith would balk at our playing around with the world at this kind of level.

The fear? Playing God. I offer a preemptive response.


Throughout the medical and scientific worlds we hear of this concern, especially when it comes to manipulating our findings for various endeavors. True, there is a danger is discovery, for it empowers us to find new ways of destruction. But, it also empowers us to find new ways of life. The question then, is not in empowerment, but in authority. And I would suggest that the question cannot be whether or not we can play God, we’re already doing that. The question is much more difficult, and to settle in on the “should we” question is to be dishonest a bit with the fact that we are already, and misses the bigger question of “how” we play God.

A quick glance at the Genesis account explains several amazing characteristics about ADAM (אדם), that is, humanity:

  • ADAM is made in the image of God. (בצלמנו)
  • ADAM is made in the likeness of God. (כדמותנו – which is literally “according to our likeness”)
  • ADAM is commanded to rule over creation. (וירדו)
  • ADAM is commanded to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. (פרו ורבו ומלאו את הארץ)

I suggest that even the Bible understands that “playing God” is what we do, and what we’ve been empowered and given authority to do. It is in some ways our commissioning, to “rule over” the earth. And that’s a blessing, to be the only part of the Creation that can recreate, to discover, to not only be God’s representatives on the earth, but to like God over the earth. And yes, this does mean that we have the authority to create life, destroy life, enhance life, and diminish life. This is already intrinsically within us.

So, let’s get rid of the “should we play God” debate. I confess the word “play” is still troublesome, but at least we can come to terms that acting as God is what we are to do.


So, the question that I leave unanswered is, “How then do we act like God, since we know we are already acting as God?” I think this will help us search for values, not just boundaries, for too often identifying the lines we ought not to cross are the values we hold most dear. If God has given us jurisdiction over all the earth (כל הארץ), then why do we value limits? We ought to find a different set of values that guide us in our ethics, and those are the ways in which our authority adds or subtracts to the created order. Does our inquiry and discovery “save” life or “lose” it? Does it enhance or diminish the fullness of our existence?

So, if Brian Greene and other physicists discover strings, are able to manipulate strings, are able to do amazing “God-like” things with strings and multiple dimensions, go for it. God is neither threatened nor hindered by our efforts. I simply pray that, like everything else, our efforts are deeply rooted in the value of love, the ultimate ethic of discovery, for love does not seek after itself, but rather “never fails” humanity in its purest sacrificial form.

And if that means manipulating strings for creating a whole new world order, perhaps that will be the salvation of us all? Who knows!?