Physics and religion

  • Thread starter Altruist
  • Start date
  • #1
25
0
is it possible to be interested in cosmology and a unified theory and not be an athiest?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Pengwuino
Gold Member
5,009
17
is it possible to be interested in cosmology and a unified theory and not be an athiest?

Religion, at it's core, is meant to explain what science can't explain. By that, I don't mean what it hasn't explained yet, but what it can't explain. They operate in different domains. For example, science can't be used to "prove" moralities and such.
 
  • #3
fluidistic
Gold Member
3,857
188
is it possible to be interested in cosmology and a unified theory and not be an athiest?
Of course. As far as I know Einstein was agnostic.
 
  • #4
25
0
actually if i recall correctly, einstien was a pretty religious guy and it did affect the way he looked at physics...I mean honestly though, how can you consider something like the big bang but still believe the earth is 4000 years old...i guess it would all boil down to how one defines god...i was just talking to a fellow student today about it and, as students interested in cosmology we are the minority at our school. We happen to live in deeply christian area of the world, and we were just discussing how we have such a different view of physics than say one of the students who wants to do biophysics or EE
 
  • #5
fluidistic
Gold Member
3,857
188
actually if i recall correctly, einstien was a pretty religious guy

I quote wikipedia, quoting Einstein himself :
My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.
and
I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth.
.
Judge by yourself.
 
  • #6
166
0
Einstein was not a religious guy. He was a little deistic, but he was certainly not "religious" in any standard sense.

There are many religious cosmologists, so it can be done, most scientists are able to compartmentalize their beliefs and not let one impact the other very much. So long as you don't believe in the literal bible, you can still do good physics.
 
  • #7
25
0
lol physics smack down, my bad you guys
 
  • #8
25
0
why does everything always get reverted back to einstein anyway, how what penrose believes in
 
  • #9
fluidistic
Gold Member
3,857
188
why does everything always get reverted back to einstein anyway, how what penrose believes in

Because it is a good example to solve the question
is it possible to be interested in cosmology and a unified theory and not be an athiest?
.
It answers it as a yes.
 
  • #10
25
0
I sure wish my actual physics questions on here would get answered instead of the chit chat ones
 
  • #11
Evo
Mentor
23,550
3,240
actually if i recall correctly, einstien was a pretty religious guy and it did affect the way he looked at physics
That is wrong, Einstein flatly denied being religious, it's a myth that he was religious.

These are the actual quotes.
It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious, then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
Albert Einstein from a letter to an atheist, written in English (24 March 1954). It is included in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman

My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.
Albert Einstein, Letter to M. Berkowitz (25 October 1950)
 
Last edited:
  • #12
2,486
103
Does anyone else think there is too much emphasis placed on the thoughts and writings of Einstein.He could speak authoratitively about his areas of expertise in physics but as for other matters?
 
  • #13
18
0
For example, science can't be used to "prove" moralities and such.
I'm not sure I agree with the way this is phrased, but it comes down to definitions. I think that many questions about things such as morality can actually be answered by science.

However, science will never answer the big questions that keep some of us awake at night. Religions and spirituality and philosophy try to answer the 'why' questions. Why does the universe exist? etc etc.

is it possible to be interested in cosmology and a unified theory and not be an athiest?

Yes, obviously there are many thiests who are not only interested in these topics but also are experts and have advanced our knowledge in these fields.
 
  • #14
18
0
For certain. Just look at a chain email that has been continually circulating for the last couple years: http://www.snopes.com/religion/einstein.asp" [Broken]
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #15
25
0
That is wrong, Einstein flatly denied being religious, it's a myth that he was religious.

These are the actual quotes.

With all do respect, the only thing he "flaty denied" was being an atheist. Similarly, the only thing he "flaty confirmed" was being an agnostic - as you have so rightly pointed out.

The fact is that he had an OPEN MIND that wouldn't be pigeoned holed by religious fundamentalists OR fanatical atheists (who are scarily the same in my book but that's a purely subjective opinion and for another thread.).


Anyone who's looking for factual evidence - and in context too - can read his exact words here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=dJ...X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7#PPA386,M1


"I'm not an atheist. I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws."


To answer the poster's original question:
is it possible to be interested in cosmology and a unified theory and not be an athiest?


First of all, this is an absolutely false dichotomy that one should not allow oneself to be forced into - either by the religious fundamentalists or the dogmatic atheists both of whom have their biases towards one particular worldview (to use Bohm's language).... (it seems as if Einstein faced this himself).


I think you'll find a talk by Brian Greene (Harvard undergrad, Oxford, PHD (Rhodes Scholar) , Columbia University Professor, Narrator of the PBS special, "The Elegant Universe") quite interesting (by the way, as a renowned scientist, he too rejects this false dichotomy).

In his talks, he discusses this issue, in a very insightful, engaging manner. One of his contentions is that the *true purpose* of science is not to "explain away" "god" but rather to understand the nature of the universe.

By the way, speaking of cosmology, he is co-director of Columbia's Institute for Strings, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics (ISCAP).

(listen closely around 8:04) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezcB4nrrxD0&feature=related



He also was a leading advocate for the World Science Festival (http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/about-us/founders-staff/brian-greene)

The key word is "understand" - for some that understanding could be finding the truth about how the universe came into being spontaneously.....


For others, that could be an understanding of how a creative force - or that which existed at the point of singularity if you will - manifested the world and reality as we know it.






To give you my own personal opinion, I fear that science is unfortunately making some of the same historical mistakes that transpired 300 or 400 years ago. Back then, if you mentioned anything that questioned the existence of god (i.e. you objectively considered that one MAY NOT exist), you were professionally ostracized and maybe even killed.....

Now if you are a scientist and question the existence of a god (i.e. you objectively consider that one MAY exist), the same thing happens!


Both religious fundamentalists and fundamentalist atheists have their biases (as we all do) - never forget that....

In fact, one of the things that drew me to this forum was how the rules were written:

Religious Discussion Guidelines:
Discussions that assert the a priori truth or falsity of religious dogmas and belief systems, or value judgments stemming from such religious belief systems, will not be tolerated. As a rule of thumb, some topics pertaining to religion might be permissible if they are discussed in such a way so as to remain neutral on the truth of, or value judgments stemming from, religious belief systems. However, it is essential to use good judgment whenever discussing religious matters to ensure that the discussion does not degenerate into a messy dispute. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.


Lastly, I think you'll find that if you investigate keenly, you'll find many well-educated, well-informed, open minded individuals who find absolutely no conflict between science and spirituality. By the way, I used the latter term vs "religious" to denote those who believe that there is a nonphysical aspect to life beyond the left brained-centric ideas deemed important by reason, rationality and modern day convention vs. a particular set of ecclesiastical practices. And to end, I think this whole idea of an "either", "or" is the product of a classical world view wherein everything is rigid, fixed and either "this" or "that".

When we consider how fluid life is and leave ourselves open to the possibilities of what could be out there - even if we may not like the answers, find them comfortable, or perhaps scarily, even when they question our own world view - we get closer to the "truth".

So please, don't let either religious people or atheists tell you, "look you have to pick a side - it's either US or THEM". If you happen to be religious and curious about science, by all means explore them both.

Best wishes from a fellow knowledge seeker ;)
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #16
815
70
Look up John Polkinghorne http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Polkinghorne. He is both a physicist and a theologian and is very well respected at both. He became professor of mathematical physics at cambridge and has worked with physicists such as Dirac and Martin Rees. He later became a priest and theologian and writes extensively on the interplay between science and religion.
 
  • #17
25
0
definitely don't care about Einstein being an atheist or not anymore, this was written as a far more general thread, and i'm sorry but i don't believe Einstein's life is the general rule most physicist live by
 
  • #18
1,497
4
is it possible to be interested in cosmology and a unified theory and not be an athiest?

yes it's possible.

Human psychology is such that you can believe in anything you want, but the brain doesn't guarantee that what you believe in is factual. That's why we have science.

You can actually believe that sky is green, at first it's sounds absurd, but if you repeatedly convince yourself it is, your brain will start rewiring it self. Given enough time, if somebody says the word "sky" you will think of a color green.
 
  • #19
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,840
1,001
yes it's possible.

Human psychology is such that you can believe in anything you want, but the brain doesn't guarantee that what you believe in is factual. That's why we have science.

And for issues that science can't address, we make leaps of faith. Some people make the leap of faith that science can answer all questions; others make the leap of faith that it can't. In either case, it is a leap of faith. "Science" has nothing to say about it.
 
  • #20
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,840
1,001
In the beginning, a miracle occurred. This was followed by a rapid expansion. :biggrin:
 
  • #21
1,497
4
And for issues that science can't address, we make leaps of faith. Some people make the leap of faith that science can answer all questions; others make the leap of faith that it can't. In either case, it is a leap of faith. "Science" has nothing to say about it.

I guess science and specifically neuroscience, psychology, and sociology, has alot to say about us humans.

It was shown that highly religious people seem to have activated area in the brain associated with social interactions. That means god is their imaginary friend. Whereas people believing in superstitious type of stuff don't have that area activated. That's how deeply rooted god is.
 
  • #22
3,099
4
An omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent (and omnitemporal?) deity would surely have enough room for unified theory, and remain unthreatened by any authentic science (evolution, big bang, plate tectonics, etc.)
 
  • #23
DaveC426913
Gold Member
20,604
4,070
... I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth.
That is an awesome, awesome quote. 'tis only icing on the cake that it was uttered by Einstein.

I am an atheist but I've always found most atheists are rabid; they attack with the zeal of bloodlust, which flies directly in the face of their claim to be rational.

That quote sums up perfectly how I feel.
 
  • #24
Evo
Mentor
23,550
3,240
That is an awesome, awesome quote. 'tis only icing on the cake that it was uttered by Einstein.

I am an atheist but I've always found most atheists are rabid; they attack with the zeal of bloodlust, which flies directly in the face of their claim to be rational.

That quote sums up perfectly how I feel.
Dave, there is no such organization as "atheist". People that truly just do not believe in a "supreme being" do not call call themselves anything, "atheist" is a label assigned by the religious to people that do not buy into religion.

People that don't believe do not gather in groups, they do not build temples to what they know does not exist. Just as people that do not believe in fairies, elves, unicorns etc.. are not part of an organized group.

There is a segment of society that are 'anti-religious", and it is this fringe that are outspoken. They do not represent me or people like me that simply do not believe.

So to lable someone and then make the claim that are rabid, and attack people, of whom are you speaking, because it's certainly not anyone I know. It's like saying that all Christians are rabid and attack people that do not believe in what they do. You should be more careful.
 
Last edited:
  • #25
DaveC426913
Gold Member
20,604
4,070
Dave, there is no such organization as "atheist". People that truly just do not believe in a "supreme being" do not call call themselves anything, "atheist" is a label assigned by the religious to people that do not buy into religion.

People that don't believe do not gather in groups, they do not build temples to what they know does not exist. Just as people that do not believe in fairies, elves, unicorns etc.. are not part of an organized group.

There is a segment of society that are 'anti-religious", and it is this fringe that are outspoken. They do not represent me or people like me that simply do not believe.

:confused: Where did I claim atheists traveled in groups?
 
  • #26
Evo
Mentor
23,550
3,240
:confused: Where did I claim atheists traveled in groups?
Just look at your post. You grouped people together by your own personal definition. No one said they traveled in groups, please don't make things up.
 
  • #27
DaveC426913
Gold Member
20,604
4,070
Just look at your post. You grouped people together by your own personal definition. No one said they traveled in groups, please don't make things up.
"travelled in groups" = "organization such as atheists", whatever.

You coined the idea that they have an org (even if to then shoot it down - that's a straw man), why are you snapping at me? You are not argung what I wrote, you read what you wanted to read.


(Maybe if I had capitalized 'atheist', I could see your point. But atheistic is a perfectly good identifier of a person who is a-theistic).

Again, please show me where I organized them in groups. And please then show me how that's relevant in refuting my opinions and experiences.
 
  • #28
Evo
Mentor
23,550
3,240
"travelled in groups" = "organization such as atheists", whatever.

You coined the idea that they have an org (even if to then shoot it down - that's a straw man), why are you snapping at me? You are not argung what I wrote, you read what you wanted to read.


(Maybe if I had capitalized 'atheist', I could see your point. But atheistic is a perfectly good identifier of a person who is a-theistic).

Again, please show me where I organized them in groups. And please then show me how that's relevant in refuting my opinions and experiences.
You made the disparaging remark agianst an imagined group of people you call "atheists", who do you claim these "atheists" to be? They are not a self proclaimed group. To say that people that don't believe in religion behave in any specific way is disengenious.
most atheists are rabid; they attack with the zeal of bloodlust, which flies directly in the face of their claim to be rational.

That quote sums up perfectly how I feel.
Let's see you validate that. Where is your proof of this?

If you had used the word "christian" or "muslim" or "hindu" or any other group of people, that would have been a guideline violation.
most christians are rabid; they attack with the zeal of bloodlust, which flies directly in the face of their claim to be rational
. Still sound good to you? So why is it people can feel free to disparage people that don't have a religious affiliation?
 
  • #29
DaveC426913
Gold Member
20,604
4,070
You made the disparaging remark agianst an imagined group of people you call "atheists", who do you claim these "atheists" to be? They are not a self proclaimed group. To say that people that don't believe in religion behave in any specific way is disengenious. Let's see you validate that. Where is your proof of this?

If you had used the word "christian" or "muslim" or "hindu" or any other group of people, that would have been a guideline violation. . Still sound good to you? So why is it people can feel free to disparage people that don't have a religious affiliation?
They are only a group inasmuch as they have one thing in common - that they are a-theist. There is no hint in my words that they are organized in any way. I could as easily say "I find most pedestrians are oblivious". Would you accuse me of calling them a group?

Your 'Christian' accusation is another straw man. (You are hoping that it's a better target to shoot at than the one on the table.) And in doing so, Evo, you are the one making the group, not I.


In fact, most of your first post is a complete diatribe of rhetoric that talks about many things that came off of your fingertips, not mine. How dare you pretend that any of those things have anything to do with me. They're your issues.


As for my "proof" (of my experiences remember), I can point to a dozens of posts on this very forum of rabid theist-hatred. I've spoken out more than once about it. Note, I didn't say ALL atheists, I said most (which is, of course, highly imprecise) and I am talknig about my experience, so I don't need to prove anything objectively.
 
Last edited:
  • #30
25
0
People that don't believe do not gather in groups, they do not build temples to what they know does not exist. Just as people that do not believe in fairies, elves, unicorns etc.. are not part of an organized group.

Hmm......it's sounds to me like basically you are saying that atheists or to use your frame of reference, "non believers" are not subject to the same human emotion, human behavior or human tendencies as other fellow members of the planet earth (those who happen to be the "believers") are. And to piggy back on what you said, many, many, many people who do believe, don't gather in groups, don't build temples and don't spend their time trying to convince atheists how "wrong" they are for living their lives the way they see fit. For them, it's a personal relationship that they have no interest in getting other people to join in on. They are not ashamed of it, but neither are they interested in participating in zealotry. And, like you and your social circle, perhaps you haven't met many religious or spiritual people like this, but I can assure you they are out there - en masse.

My goodness, if someone believed there was a source of infinite good and unconditional love in the universe, how utterly hypocritical would it be to have to "force" that on someone else?

People who are "really" spiritual, religious, etc. would never force their reality and beliefs on to someone else - just like "forcing" someone to love another is the antithesis of love....

One of the biggest intellectual and social mistakes I feel a lot of nonbelievers make is their assumption that they are "objective", "fair", "rational", etc about their beliefs while everyone else (i.e. the believers) aren't. Human beings are human beings - believers AND non-believers - and WE ARE ALL "guilty" of the same prejudices, subjectivity and attachment to our own way of seeing things as the next person.

To be fair though, perhaps there are some education, class and social (global) exposure distinctions that play out with regard to this issue as well. My friends who happen to be religious or even "secularly spiritual" (I much prefer that characterization, which is another long story), don't have the time, interest or inclination to go around lambasting other people who believe differently from them.
 

Related Threads on Physics and religion

Replies
8
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
24
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
10
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
2K
J
  • Last Post
Replies
9
Views
6K
  • Last Post
3
Replies
61
Views
7K
  • Last Post
Replies
16
Views
2K
P
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
6K
Top