One simply cannot divorce the spiritual and the scientific--as long as there are unanswered questions regarding the composition of the universe and man's position in the universe. Science can explore and offer the objective and the spiritual can fill the void of questions. Let each and every individual blend the both for a holistic perspective. Now the Christian Science journal, late this summer, provided an article titled "Time Space Matter: Seeing through the grand illusion" by, Jeffrey Hildner. And of particular interest was an interview with Brian Greene of which is reproduced here.
[Thanks to Megirox for the fine work and time spent transcribing the entire article.]
Here is the Brian Greene interview:
On April 18, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s passing, a relay of lights started around the globe in Princeton, New Jersey, the physicist’s home. The even, titled "Physics enlightens the world," marked a high point of this Einstein-inspired World Year of Physics 2005. It just happens that it was on that very evening that I sat down with Brian Greene in The Princeton Club in New York City. A professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, Professor Greene is the author of The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality and The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory, which describes what physicists now call the "Theory of Everything," or the string theory. String theory picks up where Einstein left off in his quest to find one master equation that unifies nature, explains Professor Greene as part of the Nova television series based on his book. "String theory says that we may be living in a universe where reality meets science fiction. A universe of 11 dimensions, with parallel universes right next door…. It says that everything in the universe, from the tiniest particle to the most distant star, is made from one kind of ingredient - unimaginably small, vibrating strands of energy, called strings." Although Christian Scientists have come to entirely different conclusions about the substance of reality - based on the discoveries elucidated in Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy - our conversation was a fruitful and honest exchange of ideas.
You've learned that reality is very different from everyday perception, Brian. In the article in The New York Times you wrote, "….modern physics’ notion of time is clearly at odds with the one most of us have internalized….For decades, I've struggled to bring my experience closer to my understanding. In my everyday routines, I delight in what I know is the individual's power, however imperceptible, to affect time’s passage." Tell us about that struggle. How have you bought your experience more in accord with what you know is true?
Sometimes it requires having almost a dual outlook on the world. One part is the pragmatic outlook, the one that aligns with the things that we do perceive. And that outlook imagines a time that’s the same for you and me, a space that’s the same for you and me, and a reality that’s pretty close to what we think it is. The other part, though, is the outlook that recognizes that the veneer of perception is hiding something deeply profound and thoroughly shocking when one is ale to see it in its full mathematical form (which is the only way that we can really see it directly). There you learn that time elapses in ways that are different from what we experience. And space has properties difference from what we experience. I try to keep these concepts as close to the forefront of my experience as possible. But everyday reality intrudes on what I know to be the true nature of the world. Finding a means of keeping them in harmony is not something that really eats at the soul, but it takes attention to keep your eye on the truth while allowing the everyday necessities of life run their course.
Einstein believed that the concepts of past, present, and future are an illusion. I come from a religious tradition that agrees. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded our religion, concluded that matter itself is an illusion and that the only true reality is Spirit, which is the opposite of matter. Do you think that reality is ultimately physical?
I do think that reality is completely physical. In many ways, I agree with Einstein that past, present, and future are distinctions that are human made, that they’re not intrinsic to the way the world is put together and in some deep sense are meaningless. But when I say that, I don’t mean that time itself is a complete illusion. What I mean is that features of time that we consider basic to it - such as past, present, and future - are illusory. But I think time is real. I think time exists. It has properties that are unfamiliar when compared with what we’d expect based on everyday experience.
Could I ask you for a simple definition of time, space, and matter?
Very tough question, of course. I would say that to answer that question we need the next revolution in physics. And I think that’s where the next revolution will come from. Roughly speaking, I’d say time is the capacity for change. And change is the manifestation of time. Space I’d like to think of as the arena within which that change can take place. But, of course, space itself can also change, so it can be part of the way time manifests itself. And matter we like to think of as the actors within this space-time arena, on this space-time stage. But that’s an artificial distinction, because we’ve learned from Einstein that space and time and matter all evolve in a wonderfully intricate and interconnected dance. So all of these descriptions I’m giving are only partial truths. And the deep truth of what time and space and matter are, I think, will await the next big breakthrough.
Where does the question of consciousness factor into the ultimate equation?
Consciousness is one of the grand questions. To my mind, the big questions are: How did the universe begin? How did life begin? How did consciousness begin? You know, those are the big three. And the latter two, life and consciousness, are just too complex for me. The universe is very simple when you talk about its gross overall structure. And that’s where I like to be, because the questions are far simpler than the complex ones of mind and body and life. So I don’t really think about it, even though I’m tremendously interested in the issue.
I know this is a personal question, so I hesitate to ask, but are you a religious person?
I’m not religious in any conventional sense. I don’t follow any of the standard religions, even though from a cultural point of view, religion is important to me, but not in a traditional theological sense. I would definitely consider myself spiritual, and a certain kind of religiosity is definitely part of my being. But it’s a spirituality that comes from a wonderment at the universe, a sense of deep satisfaction and gratitude, and, at times, an overwhelming sense of the order and the harmony of the cosmos. The way it all fits together, the way the laws of physics are so elegant in their description of the universe, and how we’ve been able to understand so much about inner space - molecules and atoms. So much about outer space - galaxies and space in the entire cosmos. That has to fill you with a sense of awe. Some people wonder, Is that religious awe? I don’t know what the word religious means in this context, but this sense of awe is not cognitive, it’s definitely visceral. And, to me, that is a kind of spirituality. It’s a spirituality of connection to the cosmos.
I think of it as a spirituality that’s in touch with the poetic/aesthetic dimension of the universe, and I feel it, too. But, ultimately, I think we have two different definitions of the universe. As I see it, what’s called the physical universe isn’t physical at all; it’s actually a mental construction. Oceans, stars, and galaxies are thought-forms - grand symbols of the real universe, which is spiritual and governed by the laws of a perfect divine Principle, or intelligence. And that real universe - a universe whose substance comprises incorporeal qualities, such as precision and creativity, vitality, wisdom, happiness, coherence, integrity, health - is present here and now, completely accessible to human consciousness, and therefore potentially tangible in everyday life. Mary Baker Eddy made this remarkable statement about these apparently two different universes that you and I are sorting out - she said, “Immortal Mind, governing all, must be acknowledged as supreme in the physical realm, so-called, as well as in the spiritual.” I’m trying to live in accord with this advanced understanding, and I’ve experienced physical healing and rescue from misery and all kinds of bad things as a result. Which prompts me to circle back to the pragmatic question we started with and ask: Have you experienced any breakthroughs on your quest to live in accord with your advanced, physics-based understanding of time?
Well, the only impact that I can put my finger on is a certain, sometimes even roguish, pranksterish way in which I grin to myself about how, by moving, I’m affecting time’s passage. It’s more just recognizing that you can kind of wink at the universe, and it winks back if you understand how it works at a deeper level than what you could imagine based on everyday perception. One very important thing to keep in mind is that people who have different viewpoints on the world and the universe, generally hold those different viewpoints because they make use of different benchmarks when judging something is right, wrong, true, or not true. And, for me, the benchmark that’s always primary is: Does your belief, does your idea, does your theory about the universe, give rise to some testable prediction - one that you can go out and repeatedly and reliably confirm or prove wrong and in that way come to an assessment of the proposal? And through this scientific approach to truth, we have revealed so much about the universe that is thoroughly unexpected. Science has peeled back layers that no one could have anticipated; science has shown that there is a reality beyond the everyday that in some ways is shocking. To me, this is wonderful. I feel I need to keep these strange ideas of relativity and quantum physics as close to the forefront of my mind as possible, because they are, in my view, revealing a deep truth about the nature of the world we inhabit.
Here we are on the day of special celebration of Einstein’s life, during this centennial anniversary of his remarkable discoveries. What are you thinking?
It’s an astounding thing that in the course of one year Einstein came up with four ideas that have each profoundly changed our conception of the universe. Most physicists would be happy if they had a fraction of one of these in their lifetime. It really is humbling, because it’s wonderful to realize that there can be such minds, such creative geniuses. We as a species can celebrate the fact that we sometimes have members who can see so much further than others. And I think that’s not only a thing to celebrate, but also something that should give us great hope that we can go so far.
"How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people -- first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving...."--Albert Einstein.
I suppose there comes a time during this topic that Einstein's religious views or philosophy of life should be mentioned. It is a bit unfair to speculate too much into a man's mind on these feelings for the individual is not here to expound or defend statements. Nevertheless, Einstein in lectures and books, has expressed enough to draw some general conclusions via these quotes.
Einstein's rejection of main stream theism, prayer, punishment after death, and relationship of theology and science is expressed by the following statements:
1.) "The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events."
2.) "What I cannot understand is how there could possibly be a God who would reward or punish his subjects or who could induce us to develop our will in our daily life. I cannot then believe in this concept of an anthropomorphic God who has the powers of interfering with these natural laws."
3.) "The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events - provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously."
4.) "The idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I am unable to take seriously."
5.) "What I cannot understand is how there could possibly be a God who would reward or punish his subjects or who could induce us to develop our will in our daily life. I cannot then believe in this concept of an anthropomorphic God who has the powers of interfering with these natural laws."
6.) "Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the actions of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a supernatural Being."
7.) "If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?"
8.) "The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery--even if mixed with fear--that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms--it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man."
9.) "The religious feeling engendered by experiencing the logical comprehensibility of profound interrelations is of a somewhat different sort from the feeling that one usually calls religious. It is more a feeling of awe at the scheme that is manifested in the material universe. It does not lead us to take the step of fashioning a god-like being in our own image-a personage who makes demands of us and who takes an interest in us as individuals. There is in this neither a will nor a goal, nor a must, but only sheer being."
10.) "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings."
Einstein's views on religion and God can sometimes be puzzling but it is all interwoven in science.
"Einstein's God: Just What Did Einstein Believe About God?"Just over a century ago, near the beginning of his intellectual life, the young Albert Einstein became a skeptic. He states so on the first page of his Autobiographical Notes (1949, pp. 3-5): "Thus I came--despite the fact I was the son of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents--to a deep religiosity, which, however, found an abrupt ending at the age of 12. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic [orgy of] freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived...Suspicion against every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude...hich has never left me..."
Michael R. Gilmore
Volume 5, Number 2,
Michael R. Gilmore
Volume 5, Number 2,
We all know Albert Einstein as the most famous scientist of the 20th century, and many know him as a great humanist. Some have also viewed him as religious. Indeed, in Einstein's writings there is well-known reference to God and discussion of religion (1949, 1954). Although Einstein stated he was religious and that he believed in God, it was in his own specialized sense that he used these terms. Many are aware that Einstein was not religious in the conventional sense, but it will come as a surprise to some to learn that Einstein clearly identified himself as an atheist and as an agnostic. If one understands how Einstein used the terms religion, God, atheism, and agnosticism, it is clear that he was consistent in his beliefs.
Part of the popular picture of Einstein's God and religion comes from his well-known statements, such as: "God is cunning but He is not malicious." (Also: "God is subtle but he is not bloody-minded." Or: "God is slick, but he ain't mean." (1946) "God does not play dice." (On many occasions.) "I want to know how God created the world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details." (Unknown date.)
It is easy to see how some got the idea that Einstein was expressing a close relationship with a personal god, but it is more accurate to say he was simply expressing his ideas and beliefs about the universe.
Einstein's "belief" in Spinoza's God is one of his most widely quoted statements. But quoted out of context, like so many of these statements, it is misleading at best. It all started when Boston's Cardinal O'Connel attacked Einstein and the General Theory of Relativity and warned the youth that the theory "cloaked the ghastly apparition of atheism" and "befogged speculation, producing universal doubt about God and His creation" (Clark, 1971, 413-414). Einstein had already experienced heavier duty attacks against his theory in the form of anti-Semitic mass meetings in Germany, and he initially ignored the Cardinal's attack. Shortly thereafter though, on April 24, 1929, Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of New York cabled Einstein to ask: "Do you believe in God?" (Sommerfeld, 1949, 103). Einstein's return message is the famous statement: "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings"( 103). The Rabbi, who was intent on defending Einstein against the Cardinal, interpreted Einstein's statement in his own way when writing: "Spinoza, who is called the God-intoxicated man, and who saw God manifest in all nature, certainly could not be called an atheist. Furthermore, Einstein points to a unity. Einstein's theory if carried out to its logical conclusion would bring to mankind a scientific formula for monotheism. He does away with all thought of dualism or pluralism. There can be no room for any aspect of polytheism. This latter thought may have caused the Cardinal to speak out. "Let us call a spade a spade" (Clark, 1971, 414). Both the Rabbi and the Cardinal would have done well to note Einstein's remark, of 1921, to Archbishop Davidson in a similar context about science: "It makes no difference. It is purely abstract science" (413).
The American physicist Steven Weinberg (1992), in critiquing Einstein's "Spinoza's God" statement, noted: "But what possible difference does it make to anyone if we use the word 'God' in place of 'order' or 'harmony,' except perhaps to avoid the accusation of having no God?" Weinberg certainly has a valid point, but we should also forgive Einstein for being a product of his times, for his poetic sense, and for his cosmic religious view regarding such things as the order and harmony of the universe.
But what, at bottom, was Einstein's belief? The long answer exists in Einstein's essays on religion and science as given in his Ideas and Opinions (1954), his Autobiographical Notes (1949), and other works. What about a short answer?
In the Summer of 1945, just before the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein wrote a short letter stating his position as an atheist. Ensign Guy H. Raner had written Einstein from mid-Pacific requesting a clarification on the beliefs of the world famous scientist. Four years later Raner again wrote Einstein for further clarification and asked "Some people might interpret (your letter) to mean that to a Jesuit priest, anyone not a Roman Catholic is an atheist, and that you are in fact an orthodox Jew, or a Deist, or something else. Did you mean to leave room for such an interpretation, or are you from the viewpoint of the dictionary an atheist; i.e., 'one who disbelieves in the existence of a God, or a Supreme Being'?"
Combining key elements from the first and second response from Einstein there is little doubt as to his position: "From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.... I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our being."
I was fortunate to meet Guy Raner, by chance, at a humanist dinner in late 1994, at which time he told me of the Einstein letters. Raner lives in Chatsworth, California and has retired after a long teaching career. The Einstein letters, a treasured possession for most of his life, were sold in December, 1994, to a firm that deals in historical documents (Profiles in History, Beverly Hills, CA). Five years ago a very brief letter (Raner & Lerner, 1992) describing the correspondence was published in Nature. But the two Einstein letters have remained largely unknown.
Curiously enough, the wonderful and well-known biography Albert Einstein, Creator and Rebel, by Banesh Hoffmann (1972) does quote from Einstein's 1945 letter to Raner. But maddeningly, although Hoffmann quotes most of the letter (194-195), he leaves out Einstein's statement: "From the viewpoint of a Jesuit Priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist." Hoffmann's biography was written with the collaboration of Einstein's secretary, Helen Dukas. Could she have played a part in eliminating this important sentence, or was it Hoffmann's wish? I do not know. However, Freeman Dyson (1996) notes "that Helen wanted the world to see, the Einstein of legend, the friend of school children and impoverished students, the gently ironic philosopher, the Einstein without violent feelings and tragic mistakes." Dyson also notes that he thought Dukas "profoundly wrong in trying to hide the true Einstein from the world." Perhaps her well-intentioned protectionism included the elimination of Einstein as atheist. Although not a favorite of physicists, Einstein, The Life and Times, by the professional biographer Ronald W. Clark (1971), contains one of the best summaries on Einstein's God: "However, Einstein's God was not the God of most men. When he wrote of religion, as he often did in middle and later life, he tended to...clothe with different names what to many ordinary mortals--and to most Jewsa--looked like a variant of simple agnosticism...This was belief enough. It grew early and rooted deep. Only later was it dignified by the title of cosmic religion, a phrase which gave plausible respectability to the views of a man who did not believe in a life after death and who felt that if virtue paid off in the earthly one, then this was the result of cause and effect rather than celestial reward. Einstein's God thus stood for an orderly system obeying rules which could be discovered by those who had the courage, the imagination, and the persistence to go on searching for them" (19).
Einstein continued to search, even to the last days of his 76 years, but his search was not for the God of Abraham or Moses. His search was for the order and harmony of the world.
Dyson, F. 1996. Forward In The Quotable Einstein (Calaprice, Alice, Ed. ) Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1996. (Note: The section "On Religion, God, and Philosophy" is perhaps the best brief source to present the range and depth of Einstein's views.)
Einstein, A. 1929. quoted in Sommerfeld (see below). 1949. Also as Telegram to a Jewish Newspaper, 1929; Einstein Archive Number 33-272.
___. 1946 and of unknown date. In Einstein, A Centenary Volume. (A. P. French, Ed.) Cambridge: Harvard Univ Press. 1979. 32, 73, & 67.
___. 1959 (1949). "Autobiographical Notes." In Albert Einstein, Philosopher--Scientist. (Paul Arthur Schilpp, Ed.) New York: Harper & Bros.
___. 1950. Letter to M. Berkowitz, October 25, 1950; Einstein Archive Number 59-215. ___. 1954. Ideas and Opinions. New York: Crown Pub.
___. on many occasions. In Albert Einstein, Creator and Rebel. (B. Hoffmann with the collaboration of Helen Dukas.) New York: The Viking Press.
Hoffmann, B. (collaboration with Helen Dukas). 1972. Albert Einstein, Creator and Rebel. New York: The Viking Press. Raner, G. H. & Lerner, L. S. "Einstein's Beliefs." Nature, 358:102.
Sommerfeld, A. 1949. "To Albert Einstein's 70th Birthday." In Albert Einstein, Philospher-Scientist. (Paul Arthur Schilpp, Ed.) New York: Harper & Bros. 1959. 99-105.
Weinberg, S. 1992. Dreams of a Final Theory. New York: Pantheon Books. 245.
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