The Butterfly Effect

 An interesting thing happened in the lab of a well-known MIT meteorologist, way back in the 60's. It has resounded throughout the scientific community ever since. 

It was 1961, to be precise, when quite by accident, Edward Lorenz made an incredible discovery. He was working on a computer model that would generate predictive weather patterns. In this particular case, he had already run the numbers once, and the computer had given him it's predictive scenario; but of course, he was supposed to double-check the work so he ran the numbers a second time.  

But this time, when he came upon a long 6-digit fraction, he decided to just round it off to three digits thinking that it wouldn't matter. I don't know what that number represented: knots of wind velocity; inches of mercury; degrees of lapse rate; something like that. But with six digits behind the decimal point, surely the last three could be dropped: ten-thousandths or hundred-thousandths of an inch, or degree, or knot couldn't possibly make much difference, right? So instead of entering .506137 as he had before, Lorenz just typed in .506. He was anxious to get home: why not save himself some trouble?  The computer would come up with the same result anyway.  

But—oh!—it didn't! When he ran the program again, he was stunned! A completely different weather scenario came back at him. He rechecked the work; double-checked all the other numbers. He ran it a third time: got the same result; ran it several more times and always it was the same: that miniscule .000127th of a degree or whatever it was, produced a radically different weather system.  

Two years later, Lorenz published a study on his findings, entitled: Deterministic Nonperi-odic Flow, which may not mean much to us, I suppose, but to his colleagues, it meant a great deal. One of his colleagues remarked that: "If Lorenz' theory is correct, one flap of a seagull's wings could change the course of weather entirely."  Later, more poetic scientists suggested he change the metaphor to a butterfly's wing, and that's how Lorenz' findings became famously known as The Butterfly Effect. 

In 1972, at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Lorenz delivered a lecture entitled: "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly Wing in Brazil Set off a Tornado in Texas?" 

The answer to the question turned out to be "no" actually: It doesn't directly "set off" the tornado; it can't be called the "cause"  of one;  but—oh!—it does contribute to the enormous sum of other infinitesimal factors that chain- react to govern our atmosphere, all of which, when taken together, will generate a tornado, or alter its path or even prevent its occurrence. 

Lorenz' new field of study has since been given the name "Chaos Theory", but it is anything but chaotic. The entire point is that even the tiniest, most insignificant movements and circumstances will play a part in the ultimate outcome of future phenomena.1 

Do you know what strikes me about all this? For centuries now, long before Lorenz made his discovery, our Bible has been talking about the exact same thing.  There's a 'Butterfly Effect' going on in the Christian life! Did you know? It manifests itself in all the little, seemingly 'insignificant' things we do as Christians in obedience to Him. 

Jesus seems to allude to such a thing in His Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, when the King says to the sheep on his right hand: "Come, you who are blessed of my Father! Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in; imprisoned and you came to visit me."  Mt 25: 31-40

The righteous ones are surprised to hear this. Such enormous reward—an entire 'kingdom' prepared!—for deeds of kindness and mercy that are so small and so insignificant that they don't even remember doing them! "Lord, when did we do such things?" they ask. Mt 25: 37-39 

Oh, they did them all right! And not a bit of it has escaped the Sovereign's eye! And, as it turns out, it was done for Him! So "Come! Take your inheritance!" Mt 25: 34 There it is: The Butterfly Effect in the Christian life! 

And—oh!—is it ever manifest in your lives as well, dear faithful OT!  Can you imagine the reward that is waiting for you, as the 'little things' you daily do—the kindnesses and mercies; the 'lifting' and the 'caring' and the 'bearing'—keep stirring the breeze and working together and adding up to make a difference in this sad and needy world around us! 

God bless you for that! Don't give up now! Thank you for all the sweet birthday things, by the way! 'Stirring the breeze' for me! 

See you Sunday.                           RAS

 

1. New York Times (4-17-08) "Edward N. Lorenz, Father of 

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