It’s been quite a while since I last made a contribution to Common Ground. For those of you who care to know, I have been very busy over the past several months doing research, teaching, and occasionally traveling to certain international locations. While I’ve already got plans to do more of the same—now that things have finally settled down a bit—I’m now in position to compose some random thoughts on something “useful” to discuss. With that, I hope to make several new contributions to Common Ground in the near future.
For now, though, I have a much more “tongue-in-cheek” entry to give you, with an important moral at the end. If nothing else, I hope it at least puts a smile on your face!
I happened to see an old episode of “The Big Bang Theory” on TV some weeks ago that caught my attention in more ways than one. For those of you who have no idea what this show’s all about, it’s a very funny TV sitcom about two smart and geeky physicists from Caltech named Dr. Leonard Hofstadter and Dr. Sheldon Cooper, along with their equally geeky Caltech friends, an astrophysicist from India named Dr. Raj Koothrappali and his Jewish best friend, an aerospace engineer named Mr. Howard Wolowitz. I should note that, as the only character among the four without a Ph.D., Howard is the recipient of much comedic torment from the other three geeks, a recurring theme on the show.
￼Albert Einstein, one of the most influential scientists of all time, is an iconic public figure, whose opinion was sought after on many topics, including religion.
His General Relativity (GR) theory, which describes gravity as the curvature of space-time due to the presence of mass, successfully predicts the existence of black holes, and is the mathematical framework for modern cosmology.
Because of GR’s role in cosmology with metaphysical implications about the fate of the Universe, its statements have far-reaching implications for existing scriptural accounts of creation.
Einstein is famously quoted as saying:
Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.
It’s ironic, I think, that both religious people and atheists want to claim Einstein as their own. …
The question I posed at the end of my last blog was whether any form of material evidence would be sufficient to satisfy the atheists’ need for “proof” of God’s existence.
A related query is whether there is such thing as belief or faith within the scientific model. To answer either question I think we need to start by defining “belief”.
Here’s one from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (on-line):
belief: n. the feeling of certainty that something exists or is true
From Merriam-Webster’s On-Line Dictionary:
– a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
– something believed; esp. a tenant or body of tenants held by a group
– conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon, especially when based on examination or evidence
These definitions do not suggest to me that science and belief are antithetical. In fact, the scientific process—as a human attempt to understand the known physical Universe—is very much based on faith and belief within the context of reason and evidence. In this context, belief must play a part. …
I often hear the comment that religion by nature disallows questions and requires the believer to check his or her brain at the door. My experience with religion has been somewhat different. The Bahá’í Faith is not shy of honest differences of perspective and encourages a healthy dialogue in the search for truth. Here Abdu’l-Bahá is setting out guidelines for consultation during a meeting of a spiritual assembly (the elected guiding body of the Bahá’í community), but the principle of approach applies to any topic of consultation.
The members thereof must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise. This can be attained when every member expresseth with absolute freedom his own opinion and setteth forth his argument. Should anyone oppose, he must on no account feel hurt for not until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed. The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions. (‘’Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘’Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 86) …
In this age of modern science, we face the question of whether we need a belief in God for our advancement. In fact, many vocal atheists today—such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, P.Z. Myers, Sam Harris, Victor Stenger, etc.—make heavy use of science to justify their denial of the existence of God.
These are highly intelligent and well-educated people whose statements against religion make the claim that a belief in God is both “delusional” and a “dangerous threat” to the survival of humankind, and that it provides “false comfort” in the face of danger and difficulty. They claim religious people necessarily oppose critical thinking and believe in ideas “without evidence”. A number of them have referred to the religious education of children as “child abuse”. These atheists are especially hostile towards scientists who claim evidence for intelligent design in Nature, and/or those who question whether Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection—viewed as an undirected process without a need for God to intervene—can fully explain the diversity of life on Earth. (Or, indeed, explain the beginnings of life on Earth.) …
Before continuing with Part 2 of my series on “The New Atheism,” I decided to instead write about my thoughts after watching a recent Anderson Cooper CNN special called “Bullying: No Escape.”
This special was about the alarming prevalence of bullying in high schools, including some high profile suicides in the U.S. that occurred recently, such as the tragic case of Phoebe Prince in Massachusetts.
For those of you who missed the program, it featured a number of high school age children who were bullied mercilessly by their peers. It also featured a group of professionally trained experts who discussed the issue from their own vantage points. Included in this discussion was a high school student who identified himself as a former bully, who explained the thought processes behind his bullying behavior.
It is important to note that the bullied children interviewed sensed a “lack of empathy” on the part of their peers, and that bystanders (even those who disagreed with the mistreatment of their classmates) were no better than the bullies by their inaction.
Most disturbing about the whole program were the allegations of an apparent lack of regard from school officials (i.e. teachers, principals, school board trustees, etc.) on the severity of the problems faced by students today, especially with the use of Facebook and other social media to exacerbate the problem. It’s all very sad, indeed. …
Impact on Contemporary Perceptions of Science and Religion
Hi. I apologize for the delay in writing this blog entry, but matters have gotten busy for me lately with my research papers to work on, preparation for upcoming conferences and research visits, and other related activities. Though I may not be able to make contributions on a weekly basis as I would like, I hope that what I do put together over the next few months or so is worth the wait.
Unlike some of the other bloggers, my contributions may not follow some well-defined narrative, but will rather appear in a more “organic” fashion, either in response to statements on the Internet with potential implications for atheism, etc., or due to interesting statements made by fellow contributors to Common Ground. I also aim for a more conversational writing style to state my honestly held opinions, especially on topics for which I don’t claim any special expertise, such as philosophy or modern language usage.
Whenever I may make comments that intersect these types of disciplines, I will always defer to the expertise of people like Ian Kluge and Maya Bohnhoff for the insights they offer from within their knowledge base. All that stated, I would strive very hard for a simultaneous level of evidence-based scientific precision as required, and make comment on where ambiguities may also occur. …
Some Ground Rules About My Future Use of These Words
Hi. While preparing this blog entry on the above topic, I recently became aware of the new book written by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, called The Grand Design. This book essentially makes the claim that modern theoretical physics can dispel with the necessity of God in describing the creation of the Universe and all objects contained within.
Of course, given my own professional background and research interests, I definitely have a comment or two about their wide-reaching and—in my opinion—highly erroneous claims. Since I don’t have access to a copy of the book myself, I cannot really make any detailed comments until I’ve had a chance to read it myself. However, there is at least one comment attributed to Hawking that is worth noting for deep consideration. This is his claim that: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.” (?????) …
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. …