Christ the Physician

As he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him,    beseeching him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion answered him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”  And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; be it done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.   (Matthew 8:5-13)

“The Lord’s reaction must have surprised those who witnessed the scene. He declares that He has not found such great faith in Israel; those chosen to be the children of the kingdom would be cast out and replaced by others. Finally, He tells the centurion to go his way and that his servant is healed. St.Ambrose sees the healing by the Lord’s word alone as proof of His equality with the Father: ‘…as the Father spoke the Son made, so, too, the Father works and the Son speaks’. And St.Basil the Great emphasizes that it was the Savior’s word and not His presence that healed the sick man.

The centurion is a striking figure. He enters the narrative as a man already possessed of a deep faith in Jesus’ power to heal, even by a word. He asks nothing for himself but only for his servant, his social and military inferior. His status notwithstanding, he feels profoundly his own unworthiness.” (Archbishop Dmitri, The Miracles of Christ, pg. 15)

From Incarnation to Encryption

And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”  (Genesis 1:3)

Twenty-first Century man measures: “And how many kilobytes of information is that?”

I am fascinated by the modern notion that everything that happens in the universe can be understood, measured and stored as data.  James Gleick in the 8 July 2011 issue of DISCOVER magazine writes:

“The universe, by existing, registers information … by evolving in time, it processes information.”

The existence of the entire universe and all its activity from a macro- to micro- level can measured as information.  Quantum engineer Seth Lloyd of MIT says to date everything that has occurred in the universe, down to every activity of every particle amounts to about 1090 bits of information.  Our entire universe is now quantifiable in numbers which can be crunched in countless ways through computers.

In 1948, the transistor was born in Bell Telephone Labs.  This is the same year, according to Gleick that elsewhere in the Bell Labs, Claude Shannon wrote a a mathematical theory of communication.  It is his thinking which began the conversion of the universe to a measurable form which could then be manipulated through computers.

1951 brought us the concept of the kilobit.  In 1972 thanks to the engineers at IBM whose hardware processed information in 8-bit pieces, we came to our term the byte.   Soon we were speaking in terms of the megabyte, 8 million bits.  By 1991 ever grander terms were needed to name the amount of information being handled – thus the zettabyte (1021 bytes) and the yottabyte (1024 bytes).

Gleick reports that in 1970 a computer with a megabyte of memory could be purchased for $4,674,160 and it took an entire room to hold the necessary transitors.  By 1982, a megabyte could be held on one circuit board costing $36,000.  By 2010, a terabyte (1000 gigabytes) disk drive which fits into the palm of your hand was selling for $100.00.

Digitalizing Our Selves

My lifetime spans approximately the age of the kilobyte to the cheap terabyte.  I am utterly fascinated by how information theory combined with mathematics has made our digital world possible.  I continue to be amazed by a technology that I generally resist.  But now I travel with laptop (my oldest technology!), tablet, cell phone, GPS and digital camera.  A world which did not exist when I was born now accompanies me wherever I go.

The theology of the incarnation contemplates the mystery of God becoming flesh.  Information theory digitalizes all of reality into bits and bytes and opens to us many other mysteries of the universe – but it does not change empirical reality into bytes, but only can re-image all of creation in an electronic form.   It is a de-incarnation of reality re-imagining it all as information stored in digital form.   It has however allowed theory to be worked out in computers which then translates into the creation of new ideas, models, and products.

See also my blog:  Knowledge and Wisdom, Fact and Truth