Hi. My name is Albert E+ and I’m a board certified professional geek! 😉
All joking aside, I’m really excited about this opportunity to share my professional and personal thoughts about such vital questions as the existence of God, the relationship between science and religion, the challenges against religion (both reasonable and unreasonable) as posed by the “New Atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, etc., and many other related topics. his first entry is simply to introduce myself to you, explain my background a bit, and address the obvious question: why I must express myself from behind the pseudonym “Albert E+”.
I am a professionally trained theoretical physicist with a doctorate from a North American university. I’m currently a senior postdoctoral fellow, looking for a permanent faculty position specializing in Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, theoretical cosmology, searches for quantum gravity and other related studies in theoretical physics. Preprints of my papers—most of them already refereed and published in established print journals such as Physical Review, Physics Letters, Classical and Quantum Gravity, etc.—can be found online by going here: http://arxiv.org/ and typing my real name—should you happen to know it—into the website’s search engine. I promise, you won’t get anywhere if you type in “Albert E+”! 😉
This preprint archive is a very simple and effective way of identifying who’s a legitimate physicist and who’s not. For example, there’s a very popular individual in the “New Age Movement” who claims to be a respected theoretical physicist. A friend came across him on the Internet and asked my opinion of him. Since I’d never heard his name until then, the first thing I did was to check the arxiv.org search engine for any papers he might have written. Of course, when I got no hits of any kind on the preprint archive, I then “googled” him, and found that he was a highly intelligent, but untrained amateur.
Getting back to my story, over the past few years I’ve been very fortunate to know and write papers with several leading figures in my areas of interest. They hail from such institutions as Caltech, Stanford, University of California schools, Oxford, Cambridge, University of London and other forces in theoretical physics. Some of them have written popular books on the subject that you may have read either as part of a class curriculum or just for fun :=). While seeking a permanent faculty job, I’ve had the privilege of traveling the world to present my research at leading conferences in my field, being invited to visit research institutions for collaboration with leading researchers, all the while writing and publishing papers on my findings. In recent years, a number of colleagues have made an effort to contact me, after reading these papers, to express their interest in my research. This sort of collegial support of my research perspectives is much appreciated because it helps me to feel that I’m not a complete idiot for taking some relatively critical positions on “established scientific thought” that I’ve done in my own search for “scientific truth.”
As for the other side of my story—perhaps the “dark side”in the eyes of atheists who may read this ;)—I became a member of the Bahá’í Faith well over ten years ago, while in my senior undergraduate year of university. To this day, I have never encountered any religion, philosophical principle, or statement of claim to reality that so completely speaks to the essence of truth, oneness, unity, kindness, compassion, and the spiritual needs of the modern world than what I have found in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. For me, the very idea of living the remainder of my life for even one nanosecond without my personal connection with Bahá’u’lláh or the worldwide Bahá’í community is so unthinkable that, should I ever have to face the brutal choice given to the Bahá’ís in Iran every day—namely to either give up my faith and keep a comfortable life, or be persecuted to the point of torture and death—I’ll freely choose the second option every time.
Now, for those of you who are declared atheists or at the very least hold deep suspicions about the existence of God, such comments from a self-described scientist may seem “fanatical,” “delusional,” or “irrational” in comparison to your own beliefs. Any claims of “balance” or “logical discourse” to come from me might seem totally misplaced. On the face of it—and in the absence of any corroborating evidence to the contrary—that may be a reasonable position to hold. However, it’s my sincere hope that my blog entries will reveal a high degree of reason, fairness, and substantive content to properly emphasize that a strong belief in God—at least from a Bahá’í perspective—is totally compatible with a belief in the modern scientifically motivated vision of the world today. That is the ultimate goal of my blog postings.
When it comes to particular topics I would like to discuss in this blog, my goals are to operate from a dispassionate, but committed position to state what I honestly think are valid or invalid points made by the “New Atheists” noted above and others of like mind, and also to provide support for what is commonly considered to be a Bahá’í position. It’s very clear to me that a lot of “trash talk” is thrown about along both sides of the divide between atheists and religiously minded people. Please let me be viewed alongside the other contributors of Common Ground as someone who will not engage in such behavior at any time.
Bahá’ís believe very strongly in respecting the dignity of all people, in spite of having to occasionally deal with indignities thrown at us by certain individuals who vehemently disagree with our beliefs, and quite literally threaten our lives, as in the case of believers in Iran and elsewhere. It’s both possible and necessary to exercise moderation of speech as the only gateway that will enable us to achieve a sense of positivity and mutual respect in this type of discussion. In fact, for the purpose of any future dialogue, I think we need to be extremely mindful of the following warning given by Bahá’u’lláh to humanity, as stated in The Kitab-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude):
“For the tongue is a smouldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endure a century.” — Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Iqan, page 193.
Whatever you may think of religious people or atheists, my hope is that we can avoid the consequences of what an “excess of speech” can bring.
Obviously, with so many people who see the world unfolding in very difficult times—with both science and religion having already played pivotal roles in recent days—it’s easy for someone like me to simply go through the same talking points as found on YouTube, Facebook, or other private blogs, without much forward progress. I will hopefully take a different approach in terms of discussions concerning science and religion, philosophy, sociology, politics, and other topics as they concern exploring the existence of God.
In particular, my approach to discussions about science and religion, the Bahá’í Faith, and other relevant topics will be very scientifically driven, at times possibly to the point of being off-putting to some who may not have the requisite background to follow everything I write. For those of you who are familiar with Roger Penrose’s popular books on physics, such as The Road to Reality and The Emperor’s New Mind, you will know exactly what I mean. These are not books for the faint of heart where it concerns science and the general public. Hopefully, I will be able to find a happy medium between maintaining a “scientifically pure” understanding of relevant topics of discussion and your general comprehension of what is written.
Especially when it comes to discussing the various approaches to quantum gravity—where I honestly think even physicists have little insight about what they’re doing even after over seventy years of concerted effort (!), technical points may invariably come up. I’m sorry, but that can’t be helped. If you get lost in the discussion process, please feel free to ask for clarification, and I will be happy to oblige your needs as best as I can. Whenever it’s convenient for me to do so, I will try to provide some source references for anyone who wishes to do further reading on his/her own.
Finally, I would like to address my reason for writing this blog behind the pseudonym “Albert E+.” If you think about it a bit, the reason should become obvious. Science, as an entity cannot and does not “do” anything. Scientists—as people who partake in the study of science—do everything that is under the umbrella of what we call “science.” In other words, scientists as human beings are ultimately no better or worse as a collection of people than any other group, be it in the corporate business world or the labor movement, government, the entertainment industry, or so-called “civil society.” In any discussion about the relative merits of science and religion, we should never divorce from our collective thoughts the simple fact that human beings are inexorably involved throughout this whole process.
Sadly, despite the altruistic mythology of the so-called “New Enlightenment” projected by the New Atheists that’s supposed to follow from a purely scientific worldview, I think the realities on the ground are far less than noble. I’ve been an eyewitness to some very unprofessional behavior by senior scientists (both in public and private settings) meant to undermine other scientists’ reputations and careers, simply for taking an honest scientific position that disagrees with the prevailing opinions held by more powerful people. By virtue of a majority atheistic representation in the scientific community, much of this conduct comes from atheists victimizing other atheists, involving subject matter with absolutely no religious content whatsoever. When one adds to this mix any discussion about such topics as “intelligent design” found within Nature, for example, it should be no surprise to anyone that people like me will invariably face increasingly toxic levels of hostility already directed towards people of faith as a generic group.
While it’s likely true that the majority of legitimate scientists are atheists, at least in my branch of theoretical physics there are many very reputable senior and junior scientists who hold a faith perspective. Although I have not yet been explicitly penalized for being a declared follower of Bahá’u’lláh in the company of physicists I know well, I also have to be very circumspect about my level of openness where it concerns expressing a belief in God. Clearly, there are circumstances where expressing a faith perspective within a science-driven context, such as a classroom lecture in a publicly funded university or a purely scientific conference presentation, is completely inappropriate, and I sometimes find myself on exactly the same side as atheist colleagues when such situations do arise.
At the same time, having been an eyewitness to one man’s very public tirade against all things religious at a national physics conference, there is much cause for alarm about the potential for a McCarthy-style witch-hunt within the scientific community targeting anyone who claims to believe in God. To the atheists who might shake their heads in disbelief or claim that I’m simply being paranoid, let me make the following point very clear: my experience with this is factually true and can be corroborated by physical evidence that is publicly available if you know where to look for it.
Having now just given a rather lengthy overview of myself and the motivations behind my contribution to this blog, let me conclude by expressing my support to all the Bahá’ís in Iran and elsewhere who’ve suffered intense persecution for claiming an allegiance to Bahá’u’lláh and the Bahá’í Faith. At the time of this writing, there are seven believers held prisoner in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for no just reason, except that they are Bahá’ís. They recently received a prison sentence of twenty years each after being incarcerated for over two years without charge by the Iranian authorities, with their basic rights of due process denied to them.
When we, who are in relatively safe countries and can freely practice our faith (or lack thereof), know about the suffering of people like these seven Bahá’ís, I believe we are obligated to help them in whatever ways we can. I dedicate all of my blog entries to these seven Bahá’ís in Iran, since I know with total confidence that they are not suffering in prison right now out of love for a God that does not exist. If you wish to know more about their story, please go here: http://news.bahai.org/
For now, I look forward to writing more in the near future. Thank you.