John Bell

… the giant of theoretical physics – was British. Just saying; because wherever I read about him he’s mentioned variously as Swiss, American or Irish.

He was born in Belfast in 1928. Two degrees from Belfast University then phd from Birmingham. He then worked at Harwell as a British civil scientist. Later he moved to CERN (Switzerland). He spent a year in USA.

What did he achieve? Just this.. his Bells Theorem settles the 40 year old argument between Einstein (et al) and Bohr. What that means is that the universe is singular, connected – with all parts no matter how distant instantaneously influencing all parts. It underpins David Bohm’s breakthrough work showing that reality is a single unboundaried flux or stream, with thoughts and matter as evanescent eddies and whirlpools. The model of the universe built up over centuries as material, atomic – is simply wrong.

Does it matter what nationality he was? No. But truth does…

We are inexplicably dual

“We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do”  Einstein (in relation to wave-particle duality)

Quantum mechanics has repeatedly proved that energy and matter is contradictory – it is both a wave and a particle at the same time. In addition, it is observation that crystallises out our particular reality from the infinity of possibilities.

“When bodies to their graves, souls from their graves remove” John Donne

There is almost incontrivertible evidence that there is meaning within the universe. The physical constants are incredibly finely tuned to allow even atoms to form, never mind reflective consciousness. There are those who fervently wish to deny this meaning. (Why?). Their only defence is what is called the multiple universe proposition – that there are infinity universes and we happen to live in the one that has these constants aligned. Their problems are these. Firstly, there is not a shred of evidence for the proposition. Secondly it fails the test of simplicity (this is certainly not the simplest solution).  Thirdly, even were it true – what then is the origin of the multiverses? Indeed, by definition Universe is all that is, and so multiverses are subsets of that. I personally dismiss this concept for what it is, materialist desperation. The Universe is significant and not simply material.

Material is but one aspect of reality, there is another a dual aspect. John Donne would call that “soul” as distinct from “body”…

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
.. and the great Jesuit scientist Teilhard de Chardin distinguished a Within from a Without, of all things. He posited consciousness within all matter, evolving through physical, chemical and biological realms through waves of emergent realities. Man represents a new dimension with the arrival of reflective consciousness – self awareness. It was Teilhard de Chardin who proposed that evolution has now moved from biological into the realm of ideas – what he called the noosphere. *

“The attitude of the “I” towards an “It”, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience. The attitude of the “I” towards “Thou”, in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds…human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships”  Ich und Du, Martin Buber

Martin Buber expresses this duality in his wonderful verse-philosophy “Ich und Du”. Not only is there duality in all-that-is, but it is in the dance – the relationships between the Within-Without, the wave-particle, the Ich-Du – that meaning exists.

People have called that meaning by all sorts of names. Who cares about semantics – a rose is still a rose by any name. If you’ve felt the connectedness of the Universe, then you’ve known joy in all its emphemerality, within the life of this body at least.

Dual, we certainly are, and inexplicably so. Although maybe…

“And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flames are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one” TS Elliot

*   There is a tradition of theft within evolutionary science. Dawkins stole the concept of evolution in the noosphere and clothed in the language of the “meme”. He did not credit Teilhard de Chardin. Charles Darwin stole the concept of evolution by natural selection from James Hutton, who in 1794 wrote “in conceiving an indefinite variety among the individuals of that species, we must be assured, that, on the one hand, those which depart most from the best adapted constitution, will be most liable to perish, while on the other hand, those organized bodies, which most approach to the best consitution for the present circumstances, will be best adapted to continue, in preserving themselves and multiplying the individuals of their race”.

We think therefore we are

Thinking is plural. It involves subject (thinker) and object (idea). Reality is in the relationship between; it is not concrete or material. “I think, therefore I am” is incomplete. Better would be – I think ABOUT, therefore there is existence.
This isn’t my insight, but variously Einstein’s (relativity), Bion’s (the mind as apparatus to think pre-existing ideas), Whitehead’s (Process and Reality) and Buber’s (Ich Ind Du). If there is a “singularity”, then it is outside the space-time in which we swim and spawn. As we Christians express it – God is “the Word, existing beyond time”. Others say the same thing in different ways (Nirvana ). 

What we experience is dis-integration. Alone we are: alone. Point-less. Together and between us lies the truth. Indeed materiality is chimera: we reflect each other, flowers of the same plant. Reality is in the honouring of the God in You, in I-Thou rather than I-It.

“World is crazier and more of it than we think,

Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion

A tangerine and spit the pips and feel

The drunkenness of things being various.” 

Louis MacNeice

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?’

Losing weight

Mass and energy are different aspects of the same thing. We know that since e(nergy) = m(ass) x the speed of light squared (a constant). We also know that Conservation of Energy is one of the other fundamental laws of physics. Energy is never lost, but just changes wavelength (light to heat etc). This does NOT though apply to mass. Mass is NOT conserved.

How can this be? What does it mean in our struggle to understand meaning and existence? We can lose weight, but not energy. What happens to the weightless energy?

Certainly I think materialism isn’t the way forward. Should we focus on being – energistic. I’m told that Hindus think in terms of vibrations, auras and energy flows within their cycles of transformations. Is this where angels live – energy dissociated from mass. Any thoughts?

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.”

Einstein and Religion

“Scientists are likely to be atheists.”

This is a new-age myth that materialists attempt to foster. It is not based in truth. Indeed many surveys have shown that a greater proportion of scientists believe in God, personal or otherwise, than do the general population.

I want to work through the writings on the subject of some real scientific heros – Neils Bohr, Max Planck, Erwin Schroedinger, Werner Heisenberg and the man who got me started – with his work with Karl Jung – Wolfgang Pauli.

But, to start. What did Albert Einstein really think? (Apart from “God doesn’t play dice”).

He spoke often about the relation – and complementarity – of religion and science. His view was, of course, often canvassed. He set down his thoughts most extensively in “Ideas and Opinions” (1954) and ” The World As I See It” (1949).

Einstein was most definitely not a materialist, and considered  “true” science and “true” religion to be complementary.

“The interpretation of religion, as here advanced, implies a dependence of science on the religious attitude, a relation which, in our predominantly materialistic age, is only too easily overlooked. While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to who we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge”.

He did not adhere to any one religion. In his earlier writing he categorises his view of a kind of “progression” of religious thought from a “religion of fear” through to “moral religions” and finally a “cosmic religious feeling” – which he finds in:

“many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learnt from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer especially, contains a much stronger element of it. The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image”

 

He also admired particularly the writing and thinking of Francis of Assisi and Spinoza, together with the “Jewish-Christian” tradition.

“The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations”

Einstein did not think of religion and science as being in conflict – except where one sought to make statements related to the sphere of the other. This, applies both ways. He identified that each validly approached a different question.

“the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet it is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be..Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievement of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source.. mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends”.

Einstein did not in the end believe in an anthropomorphic God – made in man’s image, but he certainly believed in something beyond the material and knowable.

“A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in the alone, I am a deeply religious man”.