Football, Faith and String Theory - Ten Dimensional Football  

Pre-Game Interview

Pity the perplexed Tween. Young people between the ages of eleven and fourteen are making the decisions that will imprint their lives as adults for years to come. Most aren’t even aware they are making these decisions. The most fundamental decision they are forming is whether they will view the world as WYSIWYG (Wizzywig), which stands for “What you see is what you get,” or YDSWYG (Yidzwig), which stands for “You don’t see what you get.”

These two choices stand for the scientific, rational, objective view of life, nature, origins and meaning in life (What you see is what you get), and the faith oriented, normative, subjective view of life, nature, origins and meaning in life (You don’t see what you get). In recent years our culture has moved to the WYSIWYG view, the scientific rationalist view of life. Religion, the chief bearer of the YDSWYG view has been steadily losing ground, from the decline in mainline religions to the more recent loss of political and cultural influence by the religious right.

The poor Tween is being dealt a bad hand because we present a false choice. Our major religions present a view of miracles divine beings and unseen realties that doesn’t square up with the world they see around them. Our education system and the culture as a whole present a view of scientific experimentation and observation, logic and physical causality that leaves no room for what the Tween has been learning in church, temple or mosque. The two views are presented as irreconcilable, as opposed. The youngster has to make an unspoken choice of what his rock bottom, fundamental belief system will be. Will it be Science? Or will it be Faith Traditions.

I want to discuss a third choice. I think we think of science and faith as two separate spheres, which may cooperate, like two hemispheres of the brain, but which are clearly operating in different arenas. Mature adults can put on a scientific hat in one moment, and put on their spiritual hat in another moment. But I’d like us to examine a new idea. The new idea is that science and faith traditions are each operating in exactly the same arena. The difference is that science and faith share many dimensions of reality, but there are dimensions of reality to which science is not yet able to extend its observations, but which faith comfortably describes and operates in. The idea we’ll look at together is that faith operates in ten dimensions and science is only able to share seven of those dimensions today. Here is the proposition: Not only is there no conflict between faith and science, looking at the world with a faith view improves scientific inquiry.

Chapter One - Football Fundamentals

How do we talk about a subject involving religion? G.K. Chesterton once gave someone trying to write on this subject an odd piece of advice. Chesterton suggested the writer prepare two different articles, one for The Sporting News and the other for The Church Times. Then send off the two articles in the wrong envelopes. So to take this good advice, let’s talk about football.

Let's talk about football right down to the basics. Football is a good down-to-earth way to illustrate some up-in-the-air ideas. The ideas are pretty "out there" without some practical illustrations. With that warm-up, let’s use football to demonstrate how the two teams of science and religion are really playing in the same arena. In fact, they may even be one team. Four hundred years after Galileo and more since Copernicus there is still heat and smoke from the friction between the scientific and religious views of the world. Even within the scientific community there is friction between the current world champion four-dimensional quantum mechanics team and a new challenging team with a ten-dimensional super-string theory of how everything works. What seems to be missing is common ground to play on. So today, let's look at a place where current science, which we will identify as quantum mechanics and string theory on the one hand, and religion on the other hand, might share common ground. It might be this common ground is in a place we usually don’t look – the field of dimensions.

Dimensions are a characteristic of “matter”, or material things. Most simply, dimensions are usually thought of as length, width and height. All material, or matter, has at least one of these characteristics – even if some bits of matter are quite tiny. In fact, if a bit of matter doesn’t have at least one of these characteristics we don’t characterize it as matter anymore; we call it energy. In recent times we recognize time as another dimension. A broader view of dimensions is that any feature or characteristic of matter or even effect on matter might be thought of as a dimension. That idea is implicit in the mathematics that string and super string theory people use.

Let’s use football to illustrate this way of looking at dimensions, and how the worlds of physics, mathematics and religion might be more related than meets the eye. And, what better place to find common ground than a football field?

We’re all more or less familiar with the dimensions of a U.S. football field. The official football field is three hundred feet long and one hundred and sixty feet wide. The top of the goalpost is thirty feet and the crossbar is ten feet in the air. These three dimensions make for some pretty exciting weekend afternoon action. Let’s look at the action from all dimensions. Not just three. We’ve come to think of 3-D as the perfect way to view a game. But, only three dimensions would make for a dull afternoon.

If the game were in just one dimension, that would be really dull. What kind of game would we have if the whole field were only one straight line running from one goal line to the other? Blocking would be very easy. So, we have a second dimension, area. Now the game really opens up. Ah, one hundred and sixty feet in one direction and three hundred feet in another. That’s better. But how about the pass, the field goal, the punt? Aha, let’s add another dimension, a third dimension – up. So now we have sort of a box with length, area and volume. The kicker isn’t forced to keep his kicks on the ground. He can kick as high as he wants. But he needs this “up” dimension to play with, or he will kick the ball into the backside of his own linemen.

Are three dimensions enough? Nope. The game would be pretty chaotic without a fourth dimension, time. We create a rule that the game will have duration of sixty minutes divided into quarters and halves, with a fixed number of time-outs allowed each team. Now it seems complete, four dimensions - length, width, height and time.

But there is still something missing. Nothing is happening. We need motion. Without motion, the game would really, really be dull. Motion is an important dimension of the game. Without motion, fans would sit and watch three-dimensional players standing still for sixty minutes. What, you ask? Is motion a dimension? Let’s look at what a dimension really is.

Dimension has a couple of meanings. In math, the minimum number of coordinates necessary to specify every point within it defines a dimension. That takes care of length, width and height. Time, the fourth dimension, can also be defined by a fourth coordinate, but it starts to get complicated. In physics, another meaning of dimension is the nature of a quantity, or matter, not just its physical coordinates. You can see that the length of a quarter is different in nature from the area of the football field. But, they are both dimensions. By adding in time, we now have a great four-dimensional game coming up. But, even with time added, there is still something missing, something that that can make the game exciting for us. We need a fifth dimension, motion.

Motion, or acceleration, is different in nature from time or length or area or volume. But it is also a dimension. Let’s add in acceleration. So, now we have a satisfactory game coming up: acceleration, time, height, length and area. Let’s settle in with some peanuts and a drink and watch the game. There’s the coin toss and the kick-off. Oops, a score. Look, one score after another. The Giants kick-off and there’s a quick Patriots touchdown. The Patriots kick off and the Giants score an immediate touchdown. So it goes. At the end of the first quarter the score is tied at 105-105. That’s a lousy game! What’s missing? Where is the defense? Where is opposition, the sixth dimension?

Opposition is resistance to acceleration. Without opposition, acceleration would continue forever. Remember, an object in motion continues in motion. But whether we are speaking of the expanding universe or a nickel defense, unopposed acceleration goes on forever – or at least until the goal line is crossed and gravity slows down both the big bang expansion and the running back. We understand something of the nature of opposition. The NFL draft has both offensive players and defensive. What everyone wants is a defense as good as offense – at least for the home team.

In nature we learn that every action, or acceleration has an equal and opposite reaction, or opposition. We aren’t sure why or how, but scientists have been measuring this for centuries. It’s called Newton’s Third Law, and makes for a more interesting game to watch. Defense is the opposition. If defense were perfect, scores might all end up tied at zero. But, unequal talent, practice and trickery makes it interesting. Now we have a game. Length, area, height, duration, acceleration and opposition, these six dimensions make for an engaging game.

Is that it? Well, today’s professional football leagues are content. Fans love action and success, and even enjoy the occasional agony of defeat. Team owners revel in their pride and revenues. Players get a few years of unimaginable income that doesn’t necessarily last and injuries that do. But, the trade-off works for everyone involved.

That is, the trade-off works as long as there is basic equity. Basic equity is that the age and talent levels of the players match. It wouldn’t be much fun to watch Notre Dame play San Jose Central High School. Or the New York Giants play a Pop Warner League team of fourteen-year olds. Equity is another dimension, a seventh dimension. Team owners understand it is their economic interest there be a basic equity between teams. If the Giants won by huge scores every single time they played, and the Patriots lost every single game they played, there would be sharp declines over time in revenue at the gate and overall shared TV revenue would decline. So the owners, the league, agree to some general principles to insure a basic equity in player quality. The lowest ranked teams select earliest in the annual draft and there are salary caps. A formula guarantees even the weaker teams a reasonable share of overall revenue, further motivating the owners to support basic equity. So, we see equity is as important a dimension in an enjoyable football game as opposition, acceleration, time, height, width and length. It seems obvious, but all the dimensions are obvious. Some are easier to measure than others. We just don’t normally think of them as dimensions. But, try to take one of these fundamental natures of a quantity away from a football game and things unravel.


Chapter Two - Out of Bounds

We are talking about football. But, we are really pointing at something more universal – if such a thing were possible. Human experience includes the physical dimensions that allow football to be fun to watch and play. But human experience goes farther than the simply physical dimensions. Yes, humans experience space, time acceleration, opposition and a sense of equity, but human experience includes more than these physical dimensions. Let’s start right where football and the physical dimensions leave off – equity.  We’ve discussed equity as a balance of acceleration and opposition, or a balance of force. In nature this process is often called entropy, or the movement of systems to “seek” their simplest and most balanced levels. Humans bring layers of complexity to equity, however.

Let’s return to football to illustrate. The idea of football is to win within guidelines – and entertain the partisan crowd in the process. Success is the desired outcome at the college and professional levels. But, at younger ages, sports, even football, are played primarily as a developmental activity. The objective of games for younger ages is to promote personal physical and social development, understanding and practice of teamwork and cooperation and the development of physical and mental discipline. The objective is not running up a scorecard or winning at any cost.

Parents often forget this though. You can see parents treating children’s games with adult seriousness, yelling at referees and berating their children when they don’t do well.  Grownups can impose “adult world” values on children’s sports. You can see these “practical” adult world values in adults pushing their children to win even at grade school sports. Why? Winning is a vicarious experience and entertaining for adults. Winning is also early “training” for the competitive real world children will enter in a few years. But this driving urge to win is also the point where a split happens between day-to-day practicality and “higher” human values.

Our major belief systems teach human equity, a compassionate regard for the other person as equal to or even ahead of regard for ourselves. The practical social and economic values we teach generally discourage this sort of human equity, and encourage fierce competition and winning over others. This paradox is the basis of much of the opposition between what we call “faith” values and “real world” values.

Let’s carry our football example forward by looking at a “scrimmage” as a simple example of this more complex human equity. Scrimmage is another word for a match in which the objective is not to win, but to improve the quality of play. Another term for this is “friendly match”. A team, in practice, often runs a scrimmage match within their own squad to perfect individual skills, teamwork and coordination, and to work out and resolve problems or shortcomings. The teams take turns running and defending plays from an arbitrary line, called scrimmage. At the conclusion of each play, both sides return to this line and start again. Scrimmage is tough, demanding and exhausting, but at the end, valuable lessons have been learned and talents fully used. Scrimmage matches make better players – and better people.

Scrimmage is a form of equity, but something more. This is not simple equity of equivalent age and equal talent focused on winning. The players and coaches engaged in scrimmage are not focused on score outcome today. The focus is on learning and overcoming problems. This movement beyond equity disregards immediate score outcome and focuses on sharing, teamwork and discipline. In a sense, scrimmage focuses on maximizing human potential. Scrimmage, in a sense, promotes a higher form of equity rarely seen in the physical world. This is a conscious willingness to defer immediate benefit for a future benefit. This conscious willingness to defer future benefit for future good or the future good of the larger group is present in some animals, generally as play, or rehearsal for future events. But acting to consciously defer future benefit is rare even among higher consciousness animals. We can see that physical equity, or balance, has a human parallel, but the human aspect of equity is more complex than physical equity.

To this point we have been describing dimensions of the physical world that are shared by humans, whether players or fans or team owners. The laws of physics perfectly describe the phenomena we experience when the first seven dimensions come into play. Humans understand spatial dimensions in a practical sense. We experience length, area and volume as measurable objective realities.

Human minds can easily accept a three or four or even five dimensional world. Humans experience ordinary time as a succession of events or duration. Humans easily accept and experience the laws of acceleration or motion. We see it at work and feel it in our bodies. Humans also see the principles of opposition, of equal and opposite reaction to every action at work in nature. We understand opposition as a physical force or phenomenon. It is measurable and predictable. But humans have experiences of opposition that go beyond the physical aspects of opposition.

Most people can easily identify ways or times they feel or experience opposition at work in their lives. Opposition is a dimension that has both a physical effect and a non-material impact. By non-material, I mean opposition is experienced by people, but the source of this opposition is not physically observable or measurable. Opposition not only works against our bodies when we do physical work, but we experience opposition emotionally and morally. Let's take a moment and look at the human experience of opposition.

We do things we wish we did not do, and do not do the things we want to do. At the peak moment of happy occasions when we should be elated, we often suddenly feel empty and depressed. We sometimes find ourselves at the refrigerator door, not hungry, but about to sabotage our hard-won weight loss. We just “know” there is something opposing us. We do not know what it is. But for sure, opposition is a dimension with a “non-physical world” definition. We say, “The Devil made me do it!" And we more than half mean it.

Our literature and sacred scriptures speak about opposition, and the consequences of opposition. Our wisdom literature knows and teaches that every human action has an equal and opposite reaction. We are cautioned to not act pridefully, because we will be brought down. We are taught to act humbly and meekly, and then we will be raised up. We are taught to seek the lower place, and then we will be called up. We are taught that the meek inherit the earth, that those who mourn will be comforted, those who extend mercy will receive mercy. We are taught those who forgive will be forgiven, and whatever measure we use for others will be used to measure us. We are taught to ask and we will be answered, to seek and we will find, to knock and the door will be opened. We are told that if we give, it will be given us, full measure shaken together, pressed down and running over. Each of these teachings is an affirmation that the universe responds equally and opposite to our actions and intentions. The New Testament injunction to "turn the other cheek" implies the natural instinct to equal and opposite reaction, and at the same time teaches us the importance of breaking the natural physical cycle of opposition, which is vengeance and revenge. People joke, the Devil made me do it. One of the ancient names for the Devil, or Satan, is The Opposer. The concept of opposition is very old.

Returning to the dimension of equity, humans understand the concept of physical balance or physical equity. But there are also human parallels to equity. Some are simple, for example the social balance we call "justice.” The goal of justice is essentially a redress of imbalance. But some examples of human equity are more complex than a simple balance of forces or entropy. Humans value and practice complex forms of equity such as altruistic behavior, both legal and social justice and particularly complex forms of equity in the practices of shared suffering and compassionate sharing. These go beyond simple balance - yet altruism, justice and compassion parallel balance in some sense.

The reason for bringing up the human parallels to opposition and equity is to point out that while the first seven dimensions are physical dimensions, they are not unique to the physical, measurable world. These seven dimensions are experienced by humans and have human parallels. But humans also experience phenomena that go beyond the boundaries of the known physical dimensions. There are dimensions only humans recognize and experience. I believe there are three of these higher dimensions. The three higher dimensions added to the seven we’ve already briefly discussed as necessary for a good football game total up to the ten the String Theorists propose.

I would like to name these three higher dimensions. And, I would like to suggest there are probably physical worlds counter-parts to each these higher dimensions. Humans may be the only creatures or entities we know of capable of recognizing these higher dimensions. Let's take the plunge and name them. Before we name the human name for the dimension, though, let’s describe the possible physical counter-part to each of these human dimensions.

Here are the physical counter-parts to these three higher dimensions:

The eighth dimension is Convergence

The ninth is Dissolution or Disintegration

The tenth is Unity

Chapter Three - View From The Upper Deck

The first of these higher dimensions is convergence.

Convergence? Everything is diverging faster and faster. The universe is accelerating apart at an increasing rate of speed. That is a mind-boggler. But that is what science currently sees as a true picture. Everything is diverging from everything else in the universe – and at an accelerating rate of speed.  The accelerating rate of the expansion of the universe is “divergence”. Things are moving, accelerating apart, growing farther and farther away from each other at a faster and faster clip. The Universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. This is hard to get our minds around, but the evidence seems certain at this point. There doesn’t appear to be enough “opposition” to balance this increasing expansion. Physics suggests there has to be invisible, or “dark matter”, or perhaps “dark energy” to account for the right amount of mass, or matter in the universe. But there is a lot of head-scratching going on among physicists today about this. We have only recently agreed the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate – and we don’t know where or how it will stop or even slow down. Maybe things will keep expanding and diverging forever, faster and faster. But, maybe they will slow down and even arrive at a state of equilibrium – if there is enough opposition to finally slow it down. Even then, what will happen next?

So far our discussion of physical dimensions has taken us as far as equity. Equity is a state of balance or equilibrium, where opposition balances divergence. We are not even sure if opposition of some sort will even slow down the expansion, but even if it did, we don’t know how or if things could reverse direction, and come closer together. Equity describes a steady state of balance. But equity does not bring things back together. To bring things back together we would need a dimension of convergence.

Now, who knows whether or not this matters? But, humans like to think that everything that goes up comes down, that which goes away will return and that nothing goes on forever. Human experience would like to believe the prodigal galaxies would come home. Returning would be convergence, or coming together.

The human experience that corresponds to a physical convergence dimension is called Love. If we substitute the word love for convergence, we can see that love intersects with the other dimensions. Love intersects with equity and includes equity and is more than equity. Simply said, without equitable balance of action and reaction, we cannot begin to converge. Without first establishing the baseline parallel of social justice and human compassion, we cannot experience or receive the dimension of love. Love is more than, is beyond equity. Love can bring things that are apart back together. We can think of love as a dimension of “convergence." Love brings back together that which has grown or flown apart.

We cannot explain Love. We dimly know it a willing consciousness and experience of our connection with other people and things. We do know what it is not, and we know some of its effects. But love is beyond our ability to describe or explain. Even the mystics from Paul to Theresa of Avila to the anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing do not attempt to describe or explain this dimension. The mystics explain what love is not, and what love's effects are. But they do not explain what love is. But they all assert that love IS. Let's think of love as the eighth dimension, a dimension of convergence.

The remaining dimensions are even more difficult to get our minds around. But, the string theorists tell us there are two or three more. Let's think about a ninth dimension beyond love. At the physical level we can think of this as “de-materialization”, or dissolving. Objects that have separate identities first converge, and as they converge begin to merge and possibly lose their unique material identity. In a sense, they dematerialize, or move from matter to energy. The parallel human experience of this dimension is Renouncing of Self.

The old word for renouncing of self is Sacrifice. In sacrifice of self we willingly give up our separate identity to merge with a larger identity. In the Christian scriptures we read, ... whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

This renouncing of self is the human correlate of dematerialization. We willingly give up our material or corporeal self and allow ourselves to be transformed into an immaterial self. Some have described renunciation, or sacrifice, as “the movement of love." Sacrifice has a cost, and is accompanied by pain, suffering, loss, even the letting of blood. The Psalms and the Prophets describe sacrifice not as the offering itself, but as the feeling, emotions and intentions to diminish the self on behalf of something greater that accompany the act of sacrifice.

We would have to move to mysticism and theology to try and explain this willing dissolution of self, this self-denying, self-giving dimension of human experience. All we can do here is name it and point to it. This human dimension of sacrifice is a prominent feature of almost all faith traditions of the world, which suggests universality of this dimension of human experience.

And finally, we are taught there is something beyond love and beyond the willing sacrifice of self. Something that is achieved only through love, sacrifice, compassion, shared suffering. The mystics and theologians allude to this dimension and name this dimension, Unity. Some call it peace. Some have actually experienced this, but find it difficult to describe to us who have not experienced it. All we can do here is call your attention to this tenth dimension.

Thinking in terms of the scale of the universe, we started with a Singularity before the Big Bang. During the Big Bang, energy materialized into matter, and the three familiar volume dimensions appeared. But before the Big Bang, before matter existed, there was unity. And maybe our goal is to get back to unity. Most faith traditions teach returning to unity is an ultimate goal for each person. Maybe this is what they mean. Perhaps the renouncing of self corresponds to leaving the material world and moving to a spiritual world. The spiritual world is certainly not a material world. Maybe the spiritual world is Unity.

Chapter Four - The Final Whistle

I hope this little discussion of the dimensionality of football contributes to your deeper enjoyment and appreciation of the game we are all in. It’s a big one. The purpose of this little football story was to help us explore some simple truths that often get obscured in complex mathematics formulas or religious formulas.

One last question before we wrap up: Is there an eleventh dimension? There is some debate among String theorists. This concept of an eleventh dimension is referred to as the M, or master dimension; a dimension that is somehow outside of yet contains the other dimensions. We could speculate that the eleventh, or M dimension could be a reference to something beyond what we call creation. That has no name. The first attempt to name this master dimension is recorded in Jewish and Christian scriptures. When Moses asked the voice speaking from the burning bush for its name, instead of a name he received the response, “I am.”

The purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate that there is no conflict or separation at all between the arena of Science and the arena of Faith. Human experience encompasses the world of science and the seven dimensions of the physical world – but human experience extends beyond those limited boundaries. We use phrases that point beyond the boundaries, such as, “There is more here than meets the eye.” The contrary view is, “What you see is what you get.” Many of us, like doubting Thomas in the gospels, are stuck in, “Seeing is believing.”  What we tried to do in this little discussion is point out that while there is more here than meets the eye, there is no conflict between what meets the eye and what lies beyond the powers of our eye to see. Just because you can’t see it does not mean it is not there. We really do know better, or at least intuitively feel this is true.

Our faith traditions help introduce and give us a structure and tools to understand and open to the higher dimensions that science is incapable of dealing with. Science doesn't even try to approach these dimensions. And no thoughtful scientist can authoritatively deny the existence of these dimensions. A scientist is not required to deny or affirm these dimensions. If there is a difference between the “spiritual three” and the “physical seven” dimensions, it is that the physical dimensions, the observable and measurable dimensions the scientific world deals with, are just a part of the larger set of dimensions. Humans experience all ten dimensions. 

Faith traditions differ in how they teach these dimensions, but they all acknowledge the reality of the higher dimensions. One religion or faith tradition may be a closer approximation of truth than another. One set of religious practices may be more helpful than another to a person because of her upbringing or culture. But adopting and cultivating a religious belief that introduces you to the idea of a creative power and force that is beyond human comprehension is a very reasonable alternative - and I believe a preferable one - to turning your back on the reality of dimensions of human life commonly experienced.

Of course it is up to you, with the embrace and support of your faith tradition, to cultivate your relationship with God, the M dimension. This will renew your mind and change you. Think of it as the next step in Evolution of the Human Species.


Chapter Five - Post Game Interview

Taking a fresh look at things as familiar as dimensions can be very liberating. The process of "renewing your mind" opens us up to imagine unconventional possibilities. I think this was what St. Paul had in mind in his Letter to the Romans. We've explored the transition from the physically observable dimensions to the "non-physical" dimensions, that may or may not have physical counterparts - as some of the physical dimensions have "non-physical" counterparts. I think this shows the compatability, if not the cordiality of a scientific view with a non-physical or spiritual view.

So, now that we've re-thought dimensions, let's really bend our minds a little and take a plunge. Let's look at a phenomenon science measures very well, but still cannot integrate into the holy grail of scientific understanding - the Grand Unified Theory which explains the integration of the four forces of nature. The problem even Einstein failed at is mathematically integrating the attractive force of gravity with the other known physical forces. Our dimensional view lets us think about the force or effect of gravity in new ways.

For example, accelerating expansion, or accelerating divergence, could conceivably explain the phenomenon of gravity more simply than the current theory of gravity. The gravitational effect could be caused by something as “simple” as inertial opposition to accelerating expansion. Scientists now know for certain that the universe is in a state of accelerating expansion. It keeps speeding up, getting bigger, expanding and accelerating at an unimaginable rate. But, is the expansion only "between" stars and galaxies? If stars and galaxies are accelerating away from each other, expanding distance, maybe each galaxy is internally expanding, too. For that matter, maybe each star or even planet is also expanding - expanding at an unimaginable accelerating rate. Expanding where? Possibly the rate of expansion is both proportional to mass and into other unseen dimensions.

Just imagine; if the Earth were expanding at an accelerating rate, inertial resistance to the accelerating expansion of the particles that make up the world beneath us could cause the effect we call gravitational attraction, or the experience of weight. We could be being pushed out from the surface at a continuously accelerating rate. We're simply being thrown back against the earth like a very fast accelerating elevator. And to really go wild - black holes and anti-matter may also be predictable and explicable other dimensional effects of inertial resistance to accelerating expansion, rather than huge vacuum cleaners or mysterious visitors.

That's pretty far out. But, this wild idea illustrates the liberating power of rethinking dimensions. Clearer minds will make sense of it someday. In the meantime, be thankful, forgive others, stay out of trouble and watch out for the Opposition.