How Does Science Relate To Your Worldview

Do you think people who become eminent scientists become atheists in the process, or do you think atheists tend to gravitate toward science and then excel?

So why does a scientist who does not believe in a personal God (by personal I am thinking of the father figure on high) have to be called an atheist. This is something I have thought about and what follows are a few examples of eminent scientists who do not believe in a personal God, but are certainly not atheists:

To sum up my worldview, in as few words as possible: My worldview is, very close to Wolfgang Pauli’s. [The three physicists I quote (paraphrase) here are described in Ken Wilber’s book: Quantum Questions, Mystical Writings of the World’s Greatest Physicists]. A Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Wolfgang Pauli, earned a reputation for being a ruthless critic of sloppy scientific ideas during the time when physics was birthing the principles governing sub atomic particles. His contributions were numerous, including the famous “exclusion principle” and the prediction of the existence of the neutrino. At the center of Pauli’s philosophical outlook was his—“wish for a unitary understanding of the world, a unity incorporating the tension of opposites,”—and he hailed the interpretation of quantum theory as a major development toward this end. (p. 173)

My worldview is also in tune with the profound reverence Einstein held for rationality. Einstein believed that scientific knowledge ennobles true religion—not the religion that inspires fear in God, but rather a religion “capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself.” For Einstein, “the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence” was the highest religious attitude. (p.113)

But, even more than with Pauli and Einstein, my worldview resonates with Arthur Eddington’s. He was possibly the first person to fully comprehend Einstein’s relativity theory. He also headed up the famous expedition that photographed the solar eclipse which offered proof of relativity theory. Eddington believed that if you want to fill a vessel you must first make it hollow. He also said, “our present conception of the physical world is hollow enough to hold almost anything,” hollow enough to hold “that which asks the question,” hollow enough to hold “the scheme of symbols connected by mathematical equations that describes the basis of all phenomena.” He also said, however, “If ever the physicist solves the problem of the living body, he should no longer be tempted to point to his result and say ‘That’s you.’ He should say rather ‘That is the aggregation of symbols which stands for you in my description and explanation of those of your properties which I can observe and measure. If you claim a deeper insight into your own nature by which you can interpret these symbols—a more intimate knowledge of the reality which I can only deal with by symbolism—you can rest assured that I have no rival interpretation to propose. The skeleton is the contribution of physics to the solution of the Problem of Experience; from the clothing of the skeleton it (physics) stands aloof.” (p. 194)

So, what personal insight into our own nature can we claim? Last night I took another look at Stigmata, one of my favorite movies. Just before the end credits ran, these words appeared on the screen: “The kingdom of God is within you and all around you and not in buildings of wood and stone. Split a piece of wood and I am there, lift a stone and I am there.” These words, words taken from the gospel of Thomas, were recorded in the Aramaic language—the language of Jesus–some nineteen hundred years ago. The next words that appeared on the screen were these: “Whoever discovers the meaning of these sayings will not taste death.”

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About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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2 Responses to How Does Science Relate To Your Worldview

  1. I have moments of awe, when I do see all in the stone or a cut piece of wood or the blowing of the wind. I count such moments which take me to a feeling of oneness as profoundly religious.

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      I’ve had my share of those kinds of religious experiences too. One of my first (the first attempt a description at least) took place on Vancouver Island, British Columbia back in 1969 (it’s a few posts into the beginning of this blog).

      When we stopped to stretch our legs, I walked over to where
      water was cascading down from a large stone outcropping on the
      mountain face. The water was ice cold and crystal clear. Off to the
      side, I saw another stream trickling down from a more manageable overhang. This stream was flowing at drinking fountain velocity. Clinging to a boulder, my head cocked in full view of beautiful passing clouds, I became enlivened as mountain water poured into my mouth. Rock, sun, sky, forest, and snow filled my senses; this heightened sensitivity crystallized with each cool swallow of water. The whole experience left me with an overwhelming sense of being part of nature, a feeling I will not soon forget and hopefully, someday, be able to repeat. Getting back in the dusty van brought me down somewhat, but the bump and grind of the road definitely put me back in touch with the fact that God’s gifts do not come cheap.

      Thanks for all the support. Take care.

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