Steven Weinberg, honest atheist

I am interested in the philosophy and beliefs of the great scientists. Einstein, Bohr, Pauli, Schrodinger, Heisenberg. It strikes me that in almost every case they are led to a wonder at the harmony and structure underlying existence. What a refreshing contrast to the childish un-scientific preaching of Dawkins (all religion is “child abuse”).

Speaking at the “Beyond Belief” symposium in 2006 Steven Weinberg (Nobel Prize for his electroweak theory) was quoted as saying  “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief”. He is an avowed atheist, but since he’s a proper scientist he also said:

“I have to admit that, even when physicists will have gone as ar as they can go, when we have a final theory, we will not have a completely satisfying picture of the world, because we will still be left with the question ‘why?’

What Wolfgang Pauli Believed

Pauli was – with Bohr, Planck, Heinsenberg, Dirac et al – a pioneer of quantum mechanics and Nobel Prize winner for Physics for discovery of the exclusion principle. He could equally have won the prize for his discovery of the Neutrino or of PCT Symmetry.

He is less known for his work on the philosophy of knowledge and for his work with Carl Jung on the links between physics and the psyche. They wrote papers together (in some of which Einstein participated) , which were only discovered and published in the 1970’s and also co-authored the book “The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche”.

In 1955 he gave a lecture at the University of Hamburg, “Science and Western Thought”, which he later described in analysis to Jung and to Niels Bohr. His interest throughout his life was to reconcile the “rational-critical” (Western Science) with the “mystical-irrational” (Eastern thought), to try to create a single framework of the physical and psychical.

“it is precisely by these means, that the scientist can more or less consciously tread a path of inner salvation. Slowly then develop inner images, fantasies or ideas, compensatory to the external situation”.

His belief in complementarity was fundamental; not just in physics but in general. For him and Jung the conscious and unconscious are mirrors of each other, and an understanding built solely out of one or the other is necessarily incomplete. (What Pauli sometimes referred to – witheringly – as “not even wrong”). This extended to his views on wider existence. He had an abiding interest in the views of Kepler and Newton – scientists working out of the alchemy tradition – “as above, so below” whose physical discoveries were incidental (to them) in their pursuit of the truth of God.

Pauli, with many great creative scientists, was a polymath. His scientific credentials are impeccable. His god-father was Ernst Mach and he was mentored by Arnold Sommerfeld. Albert Einstein proposed him for his Nobel Prize. He was a lifelong friend and collaborator of Bohr, Heisenberg and Dirac. All of his inquiring brought him to a concrete sense of the motive force and nature that lies beyond the physical or material world. He had a strong sense of humanity and humour, dealing gently with those of other or non-belief. For instance in response to Paul Dirac (who famously could not tolerate the religions and their politics) he quipped – “Well, I’d say that also our friend Dirac has got a religion and the first commandment of this religion is ‘God does not exist and Paul Dirac is his prophet'”.

Here he is on the nature of knowledge itself:

“the natural laws are of such a kind that every bit of knowledge gained from a measurement must be paid for by the loss of other, complementary items of knowledge.. the process of knowing is connected with the religious experience of transmutation undergone by him who acquires knowledge. This connection can only be comprehended through symbols which both imaginatively express the emotional aspect of the experience and stand in vital relationship to the sum total of contemporary knowledge and the actual process of cognition. Just because in our times the possibility of such symbolism has become an alien idea, it may be considered especially interesting to examine another age to which the concepts of what is now called classical scientific mechanics were foreign but which permits us to prove the existence of a symbol that had, simultaneously, a religious and a scientific function.”

Walter Heisenberg wrote of Pauli’s beliefs (in his book – “Across the Frontiers”)

“Pauli.. points out that even Kepler’s conversion to the Copernican theory, which marks the beginning of modern natural science, was decisively affected by certain primeval images or archetypes. He cites this passage from Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum: “The image of the triune God is in the sphere, namely of the Father in the centre, of the Son in the outer surface and of the Holy Ghost in the uniformity of connection between point and intervening space or surroundings”.

Continuing to:

“Pauli considers, moreover, that Kepler’s symbol illustrates quite generally the attitude from which contemporary science has arisen. “From an inner centre, the mind seems to move outward in a sort of extraversion into the physical world, in which all happenings are assumed to be automatic, so that the spirit serenely encompasses this physical world , as it were, with its Ideas.” Thus the natural science of the modern era involves a Christian elaboration of the “lucid mysticism” of Plato, in which the unitary ground of spirit and matter is sought in the primeval images, and in which understanding has found its place in its various degrees and kinds, even to knowledge of the word of God.”

Why Un-God is Un-Likely (for me)

It is all, let’s admit, unprovable. All – reality, God, no-God, meaning, purpose etc. That’s because there is no independent starting point, no external (to the Universe) objective truth. That is, there may well be – but it isn’t available to us as humans and to our thinking minds. That being so – all is conjecture and belief. I have been irritated by the messaging from materialists and atheists that tries to claim that “science” dis-proves God. They are trying to manipulate, and they do – or should – know better. However, as atheists can’t prove Un-God, neither can other religions prove God.

However there is the small matter of probability, and it seems to me highly unlikely that there is no God. This does not speak to what God might be. Declaring my hand, I do believe in God as personal and loving – but that is belief. However, if God were defined as “that which came before” or ” the ultimate cause outside existence”, then it seems to me overwhelmingly likely that God exists.

Cosmologists agree that the chain of events that have led to this existence are not random. The likelihood that the Universe – with it’s 26 physical constants (eg the exact speed of light etc) – is a random event is vanishingly small. Think of it –  from the “Big Bang” through rapid inflation of the Universe, pausing every now and then just long enough to create stars, the elements, the conditions for life and then an aware and self-conscious mankind. At every stage, if the “laws” of physics were just fractionally different – we wouldn’t be here. You only have to read the discoveries of science – and wipe away the slant that materialists would like to put on them..

In the face of this mountain of evidence that the Universe is not random, atheists and materialists hold up a model of Multiple Universes. This is their line of defence against God, or at least a God as I defined earlier. They do this because they can then say that in an infinity of Universes there would be one that had just the right conditions for awareness and life – and we think that’s special because we happen to be in it. Let me pause here simply to contrast probabilities. All agree that this Universe is infinetly unlikely. Which is more probable? Either that there is a creative impulse that set up the Universe (I define this as God), or that infinite Universes arises all the time and we happen to keep on track with the only one where awareness is possible? Leave aside the question of what was the creative impulse behind setting up the infinite Universes.

The Multiple Universes theory is  the “alternative” explanation to the Copenhagen Interpretation of the observer effect which has been proven in Quantum Mechanics. (There is a third, a kind of fudge called Environmental Decoherence – but that anyway relies on the Universe being singular and everything in it relative).

Revisiting what these theories attempt to address. Experiments show that everything exists (at least at the quantum level) as possibility – until observed. It is the act of observation that collapses possibility into a single reality. This isn’t contentious, simply fact established by experiment time and time again. (For me this leads to the critical role of consciousness, us, as reality engines. We crystallise out reality by our observation.).

” Before observation, a particle is in a superposition state of all possible values. During measurement, what causes the reduction of this state to a single value?” (Hidden in Plain Sight: The fundamental link between relativity and quantum mechanics. Andrew Thomas). Einstein famously could not refute the conclusions of these quantum experiments, but couldn’t accept them because he couldn’t explain them – “What I am really interested in is whether God could have the world in a different way; that is, whether the necessity of logical simplicity leaves any freedom at all”.

The Many Worlds Interpretation states that all the time the world is splitting into infinite Universes. Therefore the collapse of superposition into one state of reality is not caused by the observer, it is that the observer is also splitting infinitely. There is a logical problem with this however. To work – the “observer” has to be in a state of superposition before the observation (so that it can continue to split infinitely as supposedly does the “observed”. Yet the observer is not, the observer is in a single well-defined state.

So, for what it’s worth. This is why I believe that Un-God is overwhelmingly Un-likely. There is one Universe (Uni-verse!). It is agreed by all scientists that it is almost inconceivably un-likely that the conditions within this Universe leading to conscious life is random. It it’s simplest if God is defined as the primal cause, then God exists.

God, then at least as “the Word existing beyond Time and Space”. An implication of this logic is that, here and now, the nature of God is un-knowable (since we exist IN Time and Space). The nature of God, then, and not the existence of God is a matter of belief.

For me anyway…

 

 

 

 

Momentum and Reality

Reality is bound up with the present. This, according to Zen and as re-expressed by Eckhart Tolle – the Power of Now..

The present, now, is the door to reality and focus on the past and future distracts from the intensity of experience.

But…

How does that square with Alfred North Whitehead’s theory of relativity – where reality is a process and certainly not an instant?

It seems to me that the integration of these two concepts through the interpretation of the present – Now – as momentary rather than instantaneous. By this I mean to include the immediate past and the immediate future into a lengthened and extended instant. I think (though I’m never certain when trying to understand Process and Reality) that this is what Whitehead refers to as prehension.

It seems then that consciousness requires some element of time, that which immediately surrounds the instant in which we exist. It is observation that crystallises out the particular reality which we choose. (Bohr, Born, Schrodinger – the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics). The experience of reality requires the flow of time – to allow the immediate past and future to give context to the instant that is now.

Consciousness can then be described as observation surfing on time, and the fragment of time that surrounds the instant creates the moment in which we exist. Hence – reality as momentum.

Reality as Momentum

Reality is bound up with the present. This, according to Zen and as re-expressed by Eckhart Tolle – the Power of Now..

The present, now, is the door to reality and focus on the past and future distracts from the intensity of experience.

But…

How does that square with Alfred North Whitehead’s theory of relativity – where reality is a process and certainly not an instant?

It seems to me that the integration of these two concepts through the interpretation of the present – Now – as momentary rather than instantaneous. By this I mean to include the immediate past and the immediate future into a lengthened and extended instant. I think (though I’m never certain when trying to understand Process and Reality) that this is what Whitehead refers to as prehension.

It seems then that consciousness requires some element of time, that which immediately surrounds the instant in which we exist. It is observation that crystallises out the particular reality which we choose. (Bohr, Born, Schrodinger – the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics). The experience of reality requires the flow of time – to allow the immediate past and future to give context to the instant that is now.

Consciousness can then be described as observation surfing on time, and the fragment of time that surrounds the instant creates the moment in which we exist. Hence – reality as momentum.

Whence, Whither and Why?

Carl Jung gave us spirit as balance to material, the collective unconscious and synchronicity.

Niels Bohr gave us quantum uncertainty – with observation (call that knowledge) crystallising out our reality from the infinity of potential.

Manuel de Landa gave us nonlinear history. Complex systems combining to form new emergeant realities.

Martin Buber gave us spiritual existentialism. I-thou forming a connection between our spirit and other, as opposed to I-It of materialism which is essentially connecting only with ourselves via our projection on to the material world.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin gave evolution awakening consciousness – from the big bang (physical evolution) formation of atoms (chemical evolution), complexification into life (biological evolution) and now arrival of the noosphere (evolution of ideas).  He believed that the culmination of conscious awakening will be the ultimate connection between us all with shared ideas – the Omega Point.

Wilfred Bion gave ideas existing before the structures to think them.

Albert Einstein gave us the integration of space and time into four dimensional space-time. There have been experiments that show backward causality, with current observation crystallising out past reality from quantum possibility – to make the current observation true.

Whence, Whither and Why?  

Could it not be that God is an emergeant property of the evolving complex system of ideas. The evolution of the material world now supports consciousness that can witness these ideas. If we awoke from Jung’s universal (un)conscious to a shared universal consciousness then we would be at de Chardin’s Omega Point. Consciousness arising from intense connection (the I-thou of Buber’s existentialism). Consciousness, the thinking of pre-existing ideas. Knowledge, witness – observation – which crystalises out reality from the realm of quantum potential. If God were ultimate truth (the word existing beyond time), then end-point of the evolution of ideas and their combination into an emergent property then that observation could perhaps be potent enough to have caused the evolution of the universe to lead to God itself. From our individual standpoint – we would see God as an emergent property of the complex sytems that evolution has thrown up. Cosmology, quantum mechanics and particle physics are discovering the mechanisms through which all this happens. The question – how? is being answered in increasing detail. How?, however, bears no relation to the questions whence?  whither?  or when?

If God, our ultimate shared connection through knowledge, has the power to create itself – perhaps whence? whither? have the same answer or solution.

Of course, that would still leaves the question – why? The answer will not come from the material side of existence, but from the spiritual. de Chardin’s answer is  – love – the primal force, and it’s expression through a physical world. We can experience this, and our most intense connection (I-thou) individually and every day – even though that is still experienced “through a glass darkly”.

 

We’re good at How.. (what about whence, whither and why?)

Carl Jung gave us spirit as balance to material, the collective unconscious and synchronicity.

Niels Bohr gave us quantum uncertainty – with observation (call that knowledge) crystallising out our reality from the infinity of potential.

Manuel de Landa gave us nonlinear history. Complex systems combining to form new emergeant realities.

Martin Buber gave us spiritual existentialism. I-thou forming a connection between our spirit and other, as opposed to I-It of materialism which is essentially connecting only with ourselves via our projection on to the material world.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin gave evolution awakening consciousness – from the big bang (physical evolution) formation of atoms (chemical evolution), complexification into life (biological evolution) and now arrival of the noosphere (evolution of ideas).  He believed that the culmination of conscious awakening will be the ultimate connection between us all with shared ideas – the Omega Point.

Wilfred Bion gave ideas existing before the structures to think them.

Albert Einstein gave us the integration of space and time into four dimensional space-time. There have been experiments that show backward causality, with current observation crystallising out past reality from quantum possibility – to make the current observation true.

Whence, Whither and Why?  

Could it not be that God is an emergeant property of the evolving complex system of ideas. The evolution of the material world now supports consciousness that can witness these ideas. If we awoke from Jung’s universal (un)conscious to a shared universal consciousness then we would be at de Chardin’s Omega Point. Consciousness arising from intense connection (the I-thou of Buber’s existentialism). Consciousness, the thinking of pre-existing ideas. Knowledge, witness – observation – which crystalises out reality from the realm of quantum potential. If God were ultimate truth (the word existing beyond time), then end-point of the evolution of ideas and their combination into an emergent property then that observation could perhaps be potent enough to have caused the evolution of the universe to lead to God itself. From our individual standpoint – we would see God as an emergent property of the complex sytems that evolution has thrown up. Cosmology, quantum mechanics and particle physics are discovering the mechanisms through which all this happens. The question – how? is being answered in increasing detail. How?, however, bears no relation to the questions whence?  whither?  or when?

If God, our ultimate shared connection through knowledge, has the power to create itself – perhaps whence? whither? have the same answer or solution.

Of course, that would still leaves the question – why? The answer will not come from the material side of existence, but from the spiritual. de Chardin’s answer is  – love – the primal force, and it’s expression through a physical world. We can experience this, and our most intense connection (I-thou) individually and every day – even though that is still experienced “through a glass darkly”.