Complete Podcast Interview Transcript:  

GERALD CLEAVER, PhD, astrophysicist

Announcer:                        00:06                    

Welcome to the Purpose Nation Podcast. Inspiring conversations with Christians in science, technology and industries of the future. For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, visit

Brad Cooper:                     00:16                    

This is Brad Cooper with Purpose Nation and today we are thrilled to be joined by a theoretical physicist Professor Gerald Cleaver. Professor Cleaver, welcome to the Purpose Nation Podcast. How are things in Texas going today?

Gerald Cleaver:                 00:29                    

They're  going well thank you. Brad thanks for the opportunity and don't just call me Jerry.

Brad Cooper:                     00:33                    

OK. I will. Happy to honor our guests in any way they'd like to be addressed.

Gerald Cleaver:                 00:38                    

Thanks very much for the opportunity to discuss science and technology with you today.

Brad Cooper:                     00:43                    

Thanks  again for joining us. Looking forward to it as well. Should be some interesting topics and discussions on faith and science and maybe talk a little bit about space travel. I saw that on there and that always jumps out at me. And so I saw some things there on your back. So first by way of background a little background on Professor Cleaver he is a professor and a graduate program director in the Department of Physics and division head at the Center for Astrophysics at Baylor University. He directs there early universe cosmology and string's division as well and I guess it's UCOS and that's how you pronounce it.

Gerald Cleaver:                 01:15                    

Yeah. UCOS is the acronym for it.

Brad Cooper:                     01:19                    

Okay.  And then also Baylor's Center for Astrophysics Space Physics and Engineering Research which the acronym is CASPER.

Gerald Cleaver:                 01:19                    

And UCOS is the division I lead in CASPER.

Brad Cooper:                     01:28                    

Okay great. And I always love the acronyms in science.

Gerald Cleaver:                 01:30                    

Baylor loves acronyms.

Brad Cooper:                     01:33                    

And don't worry we have a lot of those in the technology in the tech industry as well, so  acronyms city. Jerry has written over 100 peer reviewed papers and articles in many top tier research journals and conference proceedings. He co-authored a book. He earned his Ph.D. at Caltech. Real top school for physics there are lots of great names have come out of Caltech including John Schwartz who I guess is one of the founders of string theory. Is that right that somebody that is.

Gerald Cleaver:                 01:57                    

That is correct.

Brad Cooper:                     01:59                    

And he does focus on superstring theory and string theories as well as elementary particles and fundamental forces and as we'll talk about here I hope in a minute some interesting interstellar propulsion mechanisms and things like that. So lots of great background there and some fascinating experience. Tell  us some of the main things that you're working on currently. What are some of the main research projects or areas of research that you're currently focused on?

Gerald Cleaver:                 02:20                    

My long term research. Yet again continuation of the Ph.D. that I earned way back in 1993 with under John Schwartz at Caltech is a specific aspect of string theory. String theory is interesting and controversial topic that suggests that the universe that we live in is not just three dimensional but has some extra but very, very small and essentially undetectable dimensions of space and it proposes a version of sort of a grand unified theory that offers an explanation or description of all of the forces and particles that we find in this universe. More  recently I've been doing research with my colleagues here on something called quantum gravity of which string theory is one possible direction and we've been working on ways of detecting the state of the universe prior to the big bang.

Brad Cooper:                     03:13                    

That's definitely interesting because my impression has always been that there wasn't a state of the universe prior to the Big Bang.

Gerakd Cleaver:               03:21                    

Quantum gravity in various different approaches actually suggest otherwise.  Some suggest that at the beginning of time it really was what we'll call time zero but that there was likely even time within our universe preceding that.

Brad Cooper:                     03:34                    

Interesting. OK. I'd like to hear more about that in a minute now. So you're also at Baylor University and how long have you been there.

Gerald Cleaver:                 03:41                    

I came to Baylor from Texas in the back in 2001 following my earning my Ph.D. in 1993 at Cal Tech, I did postdocs at Ohio State University of Pennsylvania and then Texas A&M for two years and then visiting assistant professor for one and I came to Baylor from there.

Brad Cooper:                     03:59                    

Right. Great. And they're  Christian university. Yes.

Gerakd Cleaver:               04:01                    

Baylor is yes Baylor is affiliated with the Baptist denomination. And I say affiliated it is most closely affiliated with the Baptist General Conference of Texas.

Brad Cooper:                     04:12                    

OK. And now this is a graduate physics program as well. At least to my mind it doesn't seem like there's a lot of at least top programs I know there are probably some programs that are undergrad. But in terms of graduate physics programs at Christian universities, are there many?

Gerald Cleaver:                 04:26                    

Each denomination tends to have at least one full university with graduate programs and Baylor is the largest of the Baptist universities. Baylor likes to think of itself as in some sense the Protestant Notre Dame.

Brad Cooper:                     04:43                    

So obviously Notre Dame's Catholic Christian roots to it.  They obviously have some top programs in science and physics. I wish there were more I guess is what I'm saying because it does seem like a great option.

Gerald Cleaver:                 04:51                    

We are trying to be one of the leading Christian universities with research. Decades ago Baylor was predominantly a teaching university. It starting over 20 years ago it began the transformation into a research university and currently we have research one status and our goal as part of the next 10 year program is to advance to a research one is also known as high research. We are trying to advance to what's now classified by the Carnegie as highest research status. To do so also means basically increasing our rank to one of the top 50 universities.

Brad Cooper:                     05:24                    

Specifically for the physics department. It  seems like you're definitely growing that in the grants that you've gotten. Seems like there's a lot of growth there.

Gerald Cleaver:               05:30                    

Yes it has been growing in developing quite well since 2000 or so.

Brad Cooper:                     05:35                    

OK. Well you know so take us a little bit back in time maybe back into the childhood where it wherever it might have been where you decided that you wanted to get into science and then maybe more specifically physics.

Gerald Cleaver:               05:46                    

I knew by early years that I wanted to be a physicist and more specifically astrophysics and I will sound like a typical nerd. I think one of the things that did it for me was Star Trek.

Brad Cooper:                     05:59                    

It's very common. I was more of a Star Wars guy but Star Trek at least the movies. OK so it's always been sort of astrophysics so this space in space travel and the stars and that was sort of your thing.

Gerald Cleaver:                 06:11                    

To me there's quite a bit of overlap between elementary particle physics and astrophysics slash cosmology and I've been my degree ended up being in string theory which has both some elementary particle aspects and some cosmology aspect involved in both and interested in both areas.

Brad Cooper:                     06:26                    

So  science fiction any members of your family that were either in science or math or in education. That's a common one that I also hear.

Gerald Cleaver:                 06:35                    

My father is a retired aero engineer who worked with the Department of Defense Civil Service after being in the military for a few years. So yeah. Right.  So that was one science side.

Brad Cooper:                     06:47                    

And then math as well was that was that an area of interest for you. Is that something you were strong in through college even?

Gerald Cleaver:                 06:53                    

It was that was one thing that led me to attend Valparaiso University in Indiana for my undergraduate degrees. I have undergraduate degrees in both in physics, mathematics and I also have many philosophical interest so I was a member of Christ College Honors College at Valparaiso.

Brad Cooper:                     07:09                    

I was going to ask. So it was a real point in maybe your life or a career where you thought about maybe potentially other careers and one common when we hear is you know for Christians anyway as the debate between do I go into ministry or do I go into the workforce you know into an industry? Was that ever?

Gerald Cleaver:                 07:24                    

That was in effect that was to be more specific. I also started out as a pre-seminary student at Valparaiso that reason for going there. I am of Lutheran background.

Brad Cooper:                     07:33                    

What sort of caused you to go into one direction or the other and how did that happen? You still obviously can live out and practice your faith in the career that you're in and that's sort of one of the messages we come across with Purpose Nation.

Gerald Cleaver:                 07:44                    

I think that's a good emphasis. I felt drawn in both directions during my college years. By the time I was junior, senior I realized that my deeper interest was sciences but the related theological aspect so I've always been interested in I think the understanding the two books: Book of Science and book of theology, general revelation and special revelation.

Brad Cooper:                     08:05                    

And was there a point. I mean was it in college or were you just sort of firmly put your foot in the eye and the more firmly I say into the science camp versus going down the path of becoming a pastor?

Gerald Cleaver:                 08:16                    

My junior year at Valparaiso. And I think some of the courses in the Christ College Honors College really help me to affirm that.

Brad Cooper:                     08:24                    

And any other interests or things that might be served people I'd be surprised so I saw something about model aviation, sailing and maybe even some tae kwon do. Is there any other musician maybe. I don't know. Is there any other potential career for you or was it always really just so solid in science that there wasn't even like a second choice?

Gerald Cleaver:                 08:42                    

I really enjoyed those areas. I don't have enough time to spend on any of them. I do like radio controlled model aviation. I've a couple of sailboats, sunfish and a snipe. OK. I was karate years ago but had been wanting to get back in and I stopped at Blue Belt and haven't been able to go further.

Brad Cooper:                     08:55                    

Well that's further than me (laughing). And then also so talk about that without the faith background so it sounds like you mentioned Lutheran family.

Gerald Cleaver:                 09:02                    

I grew up in the ELCA division of the Lutheran Church which is again why I chose Bell Pope. It seemed clear to me again. I went to go into the into sciences, physics in particular after that while still being involved in theological aspects which I continue to be. So even here at Baylor University I am a member of the Center for Christian Philosophy a fellow of it's also a fellow of the American Scientific Affiliations. The content of it is better described by the Canadian sister branch the Canadian Christian and Scientific Affiliation. It's also connected with Christians in Science in Britain.

Brad Cooper:                     09:37                    

So there is definitely the faith background there and family as well as it sound like you know some engineering with your dad.  And then when you got into college at least for undergrad there was the Christian aspect and faith aspects there going to Caltech you obviously ran into some pretty top physicists but also I'm guessing folks who were maybe not sharing your belief in either belief in God or a specific Christian faith. Were there any challenges there were. Were you concerned about sort of people looking maybe at your Christian or background and having any kind of prejudice there anything was there any kind of concern as you're going into Caltech and then into a future career in industry.  Did that come to a head at all for you?

Gerald Cleaver:                 10:15                    

In the sense that it inspired my continuation in science and theology areas and in particular when I heard some discussion between a Nobel Laureate and another with a Nobel Laureate level discussing Christianity and their criticisms of it with regard to each other were summarized in the question. If Christians understand this physical universe so poorly why should I pay attention to what they talk about theologically or spiritually.  And that has been a deep question and something that I have been very concerned about since and that is educating bringing up many branches of Christian churches and denominations to understanding and acceptance of the discoveries of modern science. And that includes the knee jerk reactions that many denominations have taken with regard to the claim of evolution as the origin of humankind and of all life and the negative responses to it and not just evolution of life but also evolution of the universe. And there have been telling studies in surveys over the last decade or so that are very concerning to me about the connection or lack of connection between science and theology of many denominations and also the response that young adults in Christian churches they view in terms of the churches and their connection to science. According to one recent survey a third of youth adults with a Christian background believe that churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in and a quarter of them believe that Christianity is anti-science.  Perhaps as telling there's been another recent survey conducted by The Associated Press JFK that indicates that Americans have more doubt that acceptance of concepts far away in scope and time that we scientists accept as firmly established by overwhelming evidence. For example, over about 50 percent of the U.S. population disbelieves in Big Bang origin of the universe about 14 billion years ago. Along with doubting the 5 billion year age of the earth and over 3 billion year evolutionary history of life on Earth. And unfortunately there is confidence in the well-founded scientific theories all strongly supported by evidence tends to decrease sharply with increasing theistic belief. Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians in particular express much greater doubts based upon another recent Gallup survey more than two thirds of those who attend weekly religious services espouse belief in a young earth compared to just 23 percent of those who never go to church.  So I am concerned about educating many fundamentalist and evangelical denominations of the wonder and glory and beauty that can be seen in the universe and understanding science.

Brad Cooper:                     13:09                    

Yeah and it seems like it comes from both ways too. So I'm on the on the atheist non-believer side.  They will look at evidence like that and say well you know I may have concerns about your scientific views if you say you're religious because of some of that data that you mentioned and then also you know their faith in their not being a god. So I mean there's lots of people out there on television. Sean Carroll or I think he is also he's also a Caltech guy I think. He's not as extreme as some people obviously like Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins who are you know on the attack on one side and then yeah like you said within the Christian faith a lack of understanding. What are you what are some of your thoughts as to first of all why. Why is that?

Gerald Cleaver:                 13:50                    

I won that one. One thing I want to comment on both of those extremes take the same position in some sense. It's just who's right. Each claim to be right. But both of them are essentially claiming it's an exclusive God as Creator or science that it's an either this or that rather than God and our scientific understanding of creation. There's no inconsistency between the two and that's the primary message that I try to present. And along that's also the predominant message of groups like the American Scientific Affiliation. We're trying to show that there is consistency between the two. And that's again that's going back to the idea of the two books The Book of Nature that is and the book of scripture that if there is God as creator of all things and we should expect to see and demand consistency between all types of truth that we study.

Brad Cooper:                     14:43                    

Yeah. And I think some of it has to do with the messenger as well and so that's one of the reason we have you on the show and other Christians and believers you know to bring them up is other voices because part of it is in the media mostly you hear from those other folks I mention you know in science.

Gerald Cleaver:                 15:01                    

Yeah,  you hear from both extremes but sometimes the truth falls in the middle.  And I think we are there. We don't speak as loud enough or are not focused on because we're not as controversial. Controversy brings news.

Brad Cooper:                     15:15                    

Right, usually people trying to sell books. And so the more controversy the better for them the more the books. OK transitioning now and talking a bit more about your specific research related to cosmology string theory quantum gravity how faith and science work together to support each other in your work.

Gerald Cleaver:                 15:30                    

The way I see all of these and one thing I'm doing in fitting all these in is I see the development of human understanding of reality as enlightening and informing of faith for Christians and the way we see that if we look at the development and the stages of perception of reality that humankind has gone through. We can see with corresponding to all of those a better and fuller understanding of God as creator. I won't say that those provide evidence for God as Creator but instead or the theist they provide a better understanding and a fuller understanding of God as creator that is already fundamental to one state. I won't try to say that science will convert but I think science our understanding presents a more full picture of God. As we look at the growth in the scientific understanding of the universe. We'll start out with pre-history civilizations at the end their perception of basically what I'll call a regional centric or sometimes also mythic centric view of creation.  The early myths stories of many different early civilizations up until a few hundred or a thousand B.C. in particular get down to about 300 B.C. when the Greeks developed began scientific or pseudo-scientific understanding and on the scientific side they understood the geocentric picture. They really understood that the earth was spherical airsoft and he's was able to measure the radius of the Earth to within about 10 percent uncertainty. With that our understanding of reality grew our understanding of God. Likewise as creator. Eventually we went onto a heliocentric picture of creation much more grand than the geocentric and this also broadened our view of creation and God is greater. Eventually we went onto the galactic centric view beginning to realize the vastness of creation. Even as Einstein developed his special theory and general theory of relativity was still at the point of galactic centric. By the 1920s we went onto what I'll call a universe centric the perception realization that our Milky Way galaxy was just one of trillions became the dominant until in the last few decades. We are I think up to and beginning a new paradigm shift a larger one to the reality that our universe may be just one of many. Now it becomes part of a multiverse picture. And this is where my research fit in with string theory fits and string theory strongly supports and predicts that our universe is one of a vast number of different quantum gravity theories have some different predictions in scale but they're all just vast numbers. String theory in particular suggests that there is somewhere universes defined by different physical laws somewhere around 10 to the 500 and that's the one with about five hundred zeros after it all physically distinct universes.  And when we get to that stage I think for the theist it shows a vastness of creation that we've never really considered before. But I think it's really putting us up to the scale of grandeur of God as Creator that we need to bring ourselves to.

Brad Cooper:                     18:44                    

The non-theist might say and I've heard it said over that time at the same time that also somewhat minimizes. If you look at it in a certain way, it minimizes man or mankind or humankind and discover things so if it's all just earth and everything else is around the surface surrounds the Earth. It's all about earth and humans being the primary creation and now rulers of the earth. If you now expand it to not only the universe but potentially you know as you said to 10 the 500 other universes it opens up obvious a couple of other questions, right? So humankind's creation created role in that and then. Are there other places where life exists in those other universe.

Gerald Cleaver:                 19:17                    

On the other hand, to me imagining that the finite number of human lives on Earth over a finite time is not consistent with a God of infinitudes an omniscient omnipotent all of the Omni properties.  To me finite number of lives on Earth over a finite time span is more in league with the very finite limited concept of of Greek gods. If we really think of the vastness of the Christian God that we believe in who is creator of all things, beyond all things, transcendent as was discussed by Robin Collins and myself when we were interviewed by Christianity each day back in 2010 in an article called Christ for the Klingons but we were suggesting that the God of the Omni properties is not consistent with anything less than a vastness of creation and a vastness of sentient beings to interact with. An infinite God who interacts with its creation in some way would not stop at a finite number of creatures over finite time.

Brad Cooper:                     20:24                    

OK. So you're in THE definitely high possibility or you're even saying probability of a life outside of earth.

Gerald Cleaver:                 20:31                    

I think both life outside of earth throughout this universe and probably likely within our galaxy but also probably within the multiverse picture.  An abundance of sentient life.

Speaker 10:                        20:42                    

Well on that note again what I'm driving back here to the things that you've been working on that has some of the more technical science things. So tell me about some of the propulsion things that you've been working on because that seems pretty interesting in terms of interstellar travel. And then do you think, within our lifetimes NASA or some company will launch some kind of an interstellar mission?

Gerald Cleaver:                 20:59                    

Not sure exactly the length of time it could take longer than currently planned but the breakthrough star shot funded by Yuri Milner and the details of the physics aspects of are being worked out by people such as Phil Luban at the University of California San Diego I think is a realistic proposal for interstellar travel. The one aspect of it that isn't exactly the type commonly taught is that the breakthrough star shot involves propelling by lasers. These square centimeter size chips that basically would be using current iPhone technology or iPhone technology has developed within the next few decades to launch thousands of these and a few likely known solar systems that contain Earth like planets. It's been proposed that just three laser propulsion these small microchips could be accelerated to roughly two tenths of the speed of light. So that means that two tenths is one fifth the speed of light the closest star system is four light years away. So that's talking about 20 years travel time. I think it's a viable project. There's many technical issues that have to work out but none of them are significantly beyond current technological levels. So I think those will come much sooner than any type of interstellar travel involving human participation.

Brad Cooper:                     22:18                    

Right. That is obviously a debate as well. And Elon Musk and many others are really honed in on putting humans in his face and metal into space but potentially to Mars. What's  your view on that in terms of you know if you have limited dollars in terms of investing in these things human space travel. If you had to put it up against you know robotic missions come to me at least is more productive on the robotics side but I know there's different opinions out there.

Gerald Cleaver:                 22:40                    

I  would agree with that too. I think the robotics side of exploration of Mars too especially as autonomous systems are being developed. I mean we're promoting autonomous systems for travel here on Earth. It will be much more advanced for doing that. Ultimately I think human travel to Mars will be possible eliminating some of the more serious issues such as radiation exposure along the way and all that. Personally I've sort of changed my position a bit and falling more on the autonomous system development first.

Brad Cooper:                     23:10                    

Right. So for these interstellar missions. So maybe 20 30 years out in terms of launching one maybe 10 years out of launching one and then it might take 20 or 30 years to get there and then you know whatever for a ten years to get any information back. So we are looking at a good 50 years from hopefully it sounds like.

Gerald Cleaver:                 23:28                    

Yes I think you know my lifespan I don't think I'll be around when the signals come back. So I think the next generation are our children could.

Brad Cooper:                     23:36                    

That's right.  Again we get a message from another star system.

Gerald Cleaver:                 23:40                    

I think we basically talking two generations.

Brad Cooper:                     23:42                    

Unless there's some other breakthrough, right? In terms of opening up a wormhole or I mean other things that you've looked at outside of the laser propulsion that could get us antimatter or drive?  There's something I thought  saw that you've you worked on or thought about.

Gerald Cleaver:                 23:55                    

I've done some research on there and I have is one of my research colleagues now in my group here Eric Davis who is one of the leaders in advanced propulsion science recommend a book that he co-edited with Mark Mills a former director of Advance concepts division at NASA. They have a book called Frontiers of propulsion science about a 700 page tomb that, a tome actually I should say, that investigate a full range of aspects of advanced propulsion systems for range from matter antimatter to things investigating possibility of wormhole. And in fact Eric is working with me here he's a member of UCOS. He and I are working with several of our graduate undergraduate students here on theoretical understanding of features required of a wormhole for trouble such as that.

Brad Cooper:                     24:45                    

That one seems a little tough to swing.

Gerald Cleaver:                 24:47                    

Yep, yep. I would agree but I've been predominately theorist working more in phenomenological studies now with something like that as it's intriguing to do theoretically.

Brad Cooper:                     24:56                    

Yeah, it's exciting and interesting stuff and yeah let know how those are going.

Gerald Cleaver:                 24:59                    

And it's very ominous in the age of a copy of computational studies.

Brad Cooper:                     25:04                    

Ok yeah let us know if you discover how to create a wormhole I'd love to be on your list of people you call when you when you find the answer to that one.

Gerald Cleaver:                 25:12                    

And I'll contact you from the other side.

Brad Cooper:                     25:13                    

That's right. You can send the information to me from the future into the wormhole. So then how about some of these other theories, string theories, M theory. You talked about quantum gravity.  Seems like things that have been we've been working on for decades. In your view, are there any kind of discoveries or experiments or things that would really move us further along in our understanding in these areas and get closer to some kind of grand unified theories, some kind of consistent theory of quantum gravity. What's your view on the future of some of these really?

Gerald Cleaver:                 25:41                    

There have been different proposals for quantum gravity string theory and when I say string theory it actually evolved into with now known as M theory in the mid-1990s. I did string theory again for my Ph.D. thesis back in the late 80s and those of us who have been in it since then just we still say say string theory although what we actually mean is now the new version of it called M theory. It's one of several approaches. There's also something called loop quantum gravity causal dynamical triangulation which is a computational approach which has been successful and on and on probably on a dozen different proposals that are viable possibly different possibly connected versions of quantum gravity. I know there's amazing connections between the different proposals have been found in some significant papers in the last few years. In the end we have quantum gravity is fully understood it may show that all of these are in fact related.  We don't know theoretical exploration at the same time one of the things that my colleagues Anzhong Wang in physics here Klaus Kjerstin and Tim Chen in math at Baylor are working on as a combined research group are developing ways of making predictions of all of these different quantum gravity proposals. We're looking for ways that may show up in variations in say patterns in the cosmic microwave background and we're not the only group several are doing this to develop some method of experimentally detecting the differences in these theory and it's a very detailed aspects that right now we don't have the detector capability we're really talking probably one or two generations away. But if we think it is possible and I say not just we but the whole field and the other way that may be testable now develops significantly is detection of gravity waves with the detection of the gravity waves from black holes and neutron stars.  And the Nobel prizes that were awarded to it. I think it was very appropriate that Kip Thorne was one of the recipient. I had general relativity from him at Caltech and really appreciated his lectures. I think it's amazing advancement in that field. I think all of these things working together will help cosmologists develop an understanding of the deep time Big Bang and Pre Big Bang in status of the universe and how early are we talking we're talking when we talk about Big Bang we're talking within a time of about 10 to the minus fortieth of a second after what we'll call Time Zero The start of this universe. Really small we're talking scale size of the observable universe compared to 14 billion light years.  Now we're talking the length scale of the observable universe down to something as small as ten to the minus 33 centimeters. Sounds like a small number. How's that compare. Will realize that the nuclear scale is only 10 to the minus 13 centimeters. So we are going a billionth of a trillionth smaller than the nucleus of an atom.

Brad Cooper:                     28:33                    

Hard to get my, makes my brain hurt,  head wrapped around that type of whether it's this small end of the scale or the large end of the scales. Pretty hard for humans to even contemplate something like that.

Gerald Cleaver:                 28:44                    

It is. But that's where science has enabled us to understand and that's where I think there's a real need for churches to come to an understanding of our knowledge of the physical world and to allow that to inform us of aspects of theology to write and of our interpretation of scripture. That's one of the themes of the Lutheran Church and other denominations too is faith informed by reason we could replace reason with scientific discovery human knowledge.

Brad Cooper:                     29:13                    

We like to have an improvisation even take it's the most basic level of scripture and say well you know look at the two greatest commandments - to love and serve God and with all your heart and your mind and your soul includes your mind right. So and also you know to know more about Him what better way to learn more deeply about God than through science. That's the way to see God. And as you said the book of nature and then also the second commandment to serve each other. What better way to serve each other than to come up with discoveries that can help and cure people and cure disease. And so many of the things that God can use science for and helping others as well. So it's certainly something that we're encouraging people to do but we're saying hey this is sort of part of what God's telling us we must do as well.

Gerald Cleaver:                 29:48                    

I would agree with adding that that's our calling. I mean we've been given so much freedom and I think that's one of the greatest gifts that sometimes we fear the dangers of this of this universe of getting wrapped around us. I think all of that is part of the freedom both of sentient beings of nature itself and us living in it.

Brad Cooper:                     30:05                    

Amen! So talking about some of these deep science questions so M theory and quantum gravity and some of the other things that you've talked about inside these deep questions about the very, very beginning are pretty big bang beginning deep questions that have taken decades to get to the point we're at and probably will take a few more decades to get it even further along. If you could choose one of those deep science questions to ask God, is there one that you could pick out and say God I'm really struggling with this one. Could you just go ahead and give me a shortcut. What would be the answer to this problem?

Gerald Cleaver:                 30:33                    

Yes but at the same time I think it goes beyond science to that question that I would ask is What is the totality of physical reality? It has to do again with this understanding of reality through the stages that we've gone again starting with you know a regional centric close view of reality around us. You know 3000 years ago to up to the universe and multiverse stage now and clearly how much does reality go beyond that and including and that was that it goes beyond just science when we consider the theological aspects of it too. What is the concept of heaven and what does it really mean? I think we all have very primitive views and I don't think it's one of those questions. If we imagine that it can't be so. Along with that also what is the ultimate understanding of time and time beyond this universe? If we have a multiverse time within each universe within the multiverse is totally independent of time within any other universe. And I say that flippantly but that's arguably true on physical grounds and grounds for general relativity.

Brad Cooper:                     31:38                    

Right. So you're asking him for the full textbook here it sounds like. No, I don't want the Chapter 4 paragraph to answer. I want the whole enchilada. OK well no that's a good. I mean you know so yeah.

Gerald Cleaver:                 31:53                    

And the third question I would ask OK you said one but totally beyond physics or science and I would ask God how do you perceive your own existence?

Brad Cooper:                     32:02                    

He could tell you but you wouldn't be able to understand that it will be meaningless to you. Those are all great ones.

Brad Cooper:                     32:10                    

And yeah I mean sort of understanding you know how we fit into all of it too I think so. So great questions. Shifting gears a little bit so we talked a little bit about Christians getting more knowledgeable about science and understanding these issues and having an interest in not putting up the barriers. You know that a lot of people will do based on fears or concerns or maybe disagreements or perceptions of disagreements in the scripture or faith. So assuming we have gotten past that and we've got people who are interested who are Christian believers strongly who are interested in science you know young people are people maybe we are entering college considering entering college and what are some things that and advice you might give them in pursuing a career in science or in physics.

Gerald Cleaver:                 32:49                    

I would say if they're entering college they may have already decided on their major they may have not. My advice for each of them would be go in the direction where your passion is calling. Love what you do and do what you love. I don't think there's any more substantive advice than that. I think that at the heart of success.

Brad Cooper:                     33:07                    

So looking back for you. Is there something in particular that you can think of in your in your science career at least where maybe you saw the hand of God or some miracle or some you know guiding voice or something in your life or in your career where you're thankful to God and kind of moving you along in a certain direction or helping you along the way. I  think the opportunities we encounter and at the same time not just the science part but I think opportunities with family and I think the human side always goes beyond the science side. I'm the most thankful for is family and friends.

Brad Cooper:                     33:42                    

Any closing thoughts on moving forward in the topic of faith and science?

Gerald Cleaver:                 33:47                    

I think it's broad and growing topic and the understanding and connections between science and theology. I think it's something we need to understand as developing and never finished. I think one of the problems at times is when people think that our theological development is finished or the science development is finished. Both are ongoing processes that need to be worked and developed together.  Just looking ahead always for the growth in all things.

Brad Cooper:                     34:16                    

and hopefully more open dialogue I guess and being open to hearing differing points of views not closing yourself off whichever side you fall on. I would say and that's obviously been very divisive in this country at least.

Gerald Cleaver:                 34:29                    

I would say and unfortunately so the divisiveness and the conflict rather than seeking understanding and acknowledgment of differing views.

Brad Cooper:                     34:36                    

Amen to that. Well thank you so much Professor Cleaver, Gerry, for your time and really appreciate it.

Gerald Cleaver:                 34:42                    

Thank you Brad, I very much enjoyed it.

Brad Cooper:                     34:43                    

Thank you very much for your service and the sciences and obviously in proclaiming Christ and hopefully you and your team there at Baylor and your family and will continue to flourish and may God bless you.

Gerald Cleaver:                 34:54                    

Likewise. Good talking to you. See you Brad!

Speaker 2:                           34:56                    

Thank you for joining the Purpose Nation Podcast. For more great interviews, resources, or to make your tax deductible contribution to support our nonprofit ministry, please visit This program is copyright Purpose Nation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.