Monday, February 7, 2011

The farce of science

Steven Weinberg is one of the worlds leading theoretical physicists. In 1979 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1977 he published a popular science book, The First Three Minutes: A modern view of the origin of the universe. [This a decade before Stephen Hawking made publishing such books an attractive option for prominent scientists.] The end of Weinberg's book is widely quoted because of the eloquence of its pessimistic atheism. I reproduce it here:
Some cosmologists are philosophically attracted to the oscillating model, especially because, like the steady-state model, it nicely avoids the problem of Genesis...
However all these problems may be resolved, and whichever cosmological model proves correct, there is not much of comfort in any of this. It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that we were somehow built in from the beginning....
It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.
But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself. Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators, and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather. The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things which lifts human life a little above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.
Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes (Basic Books, 1977), pages 154-155.

On one level I actually agree with Weinberg because his views resonate with the book of Ecclesiastes. Science without God is like "Life under the sun"; there is no point or meaning in the equations that describe the beginning of the universe. That meaning and purpose comes from outside science.

No comments:

Post a Comment