Robert Oppenheimer's Other Side

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Robert Oppenheimer's "Other" Side...

Hello,

About a year ago I read American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Bird. Oppenheimer was a physicist, and he loved physics. He was so enamored by the "new" physics of the time (of course I am speaking about the quantum revolution) that he pursued his studies at the only (or at least out of a very, very few places) place one could - the University of Göttingen.

Alright, enough nonsense and onto the main reason why I am posting this thread:

Oppie often got flak from his colleagues when they found out that he learned Sanskrit to read the Bhagavad Gita, and when he spent countless hours reading French poetry, classics, etc.

In the biography I read (mentioned previously) it never said if any of these outside activities helped him in any way. What I mean is that the whole of the human experiment condition is like so:


|----------------------------------------------------------------|

Science does not, and should not, claim to be applicable to the entire range. So, for simplicity sake, imagine:

|---------------|---------------SCIENCE-----------------------|

The unlabeled portion includes many things, but I am wondering about the
"deep" things (the unanswerables) such as :

Why are we here?
Is there a purpose for our existence?
How are we supposed to live?
What started the big bang?



Now, these are just very simply (and somewhat naive) metaphysical questions to illustrate the point.

FINALLY, my question:

Does anyone have any correspondence from Oppie either in early or late life relating to his doing of the aforementioned, non-scientific activities and even more specifically, did it help him, that is, did it make him happy?


I know this was a long post and a bit (maybe more than a bit) rambling and hard to following, but you would be doing me an unbelievably huge favor by helping me answer that question. This is not for a school project or for a commercial project or anything of the sort - I'm just a student who is at a very difficult cross-roads in my life and I figured this could really help me - I know it can't hurt me.

Thanks again and regards,
McSketch~
 

Ryan_m_b

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Re: Robert Oppenheimer's "Other" Side...

I know you said these were simplistic to prove a point but I really don't agree that there's an area of human life or the universe to which science cannot be applied. Philosophy is brilliant at giving us tools for defining phenomenon e.g. what do we mean by "good" act? but science is the tool by which we observe and examine e.g. what were the repercussions of this act?

Why are we here?
"Why" implies that there is a purpose. This is an example of begging the question because it assumes that there must be a purpose. Science can adequately be applied to "How did we get here" and can even be applied to "Is there a purpose for our existence?"

Is there a purpose for our existence?
To add to what I've said above purpose implies intelligence. If there is an intelligence that created human life for a specific purpose then the scientific method can be used to investigate how this intelligence did this and what evidence of purpose there is. If there a practical reasons for science being unable to do this (i.e. the creator has sufficient means of hiding their activity) then nothing will reliably provide evidence for creation.

How are we supposed to live?
Not just begging the question on purpose but also on moral absolutes

What started the big bang?
Current science can only tell us what happened at the time of the big bang. As far as we understand it time also started at the big bang and so notions of causes before it are flawed. Perhaps some day we will be able to explain scientifically why the big bang occurred but even if we don't if empirical study cannot provide an answer then nothing will.
 

Astronuc

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