Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Sermonette

Scientific American just came out with a special issue celebrating the 100th anniversary of Einstein's publication of the theory of general relativity. Special relativity, the description of the space-time continuum, the speed of light as a cosmic speed limit, and the equivalence of mass and energy, came 10 years earlier, in 1905. General relativity is the theory of gravity, which Einstein struggled with in the intervening decade.

I'm not a physicist so I would say that I barely have an intuitive understanding of this stuff. But I know enough about how physicists and cosmologists, with the information provided by observational astronomers, have put together the pieces of the puzzle that produce our modern understanding of the universe to believe it.

But a lot of people don't. I can understand why. First, the physicist's universe is sharply contrary to our intuitions and our experience. If you tell people that mass warps space and gravity slows time, that light is bent by gravity and that mass increases with acceleration, for example, it just sounds nuts.

More important, when we discovered the cosmos, the revelation destroyed the entire history of philosophy and culture. Many scientists are reluctant to say it, and some haven't accepted it, but religion -- at least anything resembling religion as we know it -- cannot survive cosmology. You can make up some new meaning for the word religion, I suppose, but Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, you name it, are all destroyed. To believe any of them, you must believe that the actually existing universe does not exist.

Disposed with the bathwater of mythology is the baby of meaning. No, God doesn't care about us - or exist, for that matter - and we don't matter at all to any entity but ourselves.  Many people just can't live with that. The challenge for the cause of reason is to help them find a way.


Blake said...

Read the ongoing debate about Einstein's beliefs - not God but order. Then read Fritjof Capra who is very much alive and writing- Rick Lippin

Cervantes said...

Einstein was an atheist without a doubt. He used the word "God" metaphorically. Fritjof Capra, in my opinion, spouts mystical mumbo jumbo. Just sayin'.