…If the question is whether I think that there is a person who has created Heavens and Earth, and responds to our prayers, then definitely my answer is no, with much certainty.
If the question is whether I believe that “God” is a powerful something in the people, which causes a lot of disasters but also a lot of good, then of course I believe it. In fact, I am extremely curious about religion. I think that we should study what is religion much more than what is done. There is a sort of taboo in this, a sort of respect towards people who “believe in God”, which makes it difficult to understand better.
I think that viewing the “belief in God” just as a bunch of silly superstitions is wrong. The “belief in God” is one form of human religious attitude, and human religious attitude is something very general and universal about our functioning. Something which is important for man, and we have not yet understood.
…you can be great in solving Maxwell’s equations and pray to God in the evening. But there is an unavoidable clash between science and certain religions, especially some forms of Christianity and Islam, those that pretend to be repositories of “absolute Truths.” The problem is not that scientists think they know everything. It is the opposite: scientists know that there are things we simply do not know, and naturally question those who pretend to know. Many religious people are disturbed by this, and have difficulty in coping with it. The religious person says, “I know that God has created light saying, ‘Fiat Lux.’” The scientist does not believe the story. The religious people feel threatened. And here the clash develops. But not all religions are like that. Many forms of Buddhism, for instance, have no difficulty with the continual critical attitude of science. …
Response from an interview with physicist Carlo Rovelli, to the questions: “Do you believe in God?” and “Are science and religion compatible?”
August 21, 2014
…Einstein, Heisenberg, Newton, Bohr… and many … of the greatest scientists of all times … read philosophy, learned from philosophy, and could have never done the great science they did without the input they got from philosophy, as they claimed repeatedly. You see: the scientists that talk philosophy down are simply superficial: they have a philosophy (usually some ill-digested mixture of Popper and Kuhn) and think that this is the “true” philosophy, and do not realize that this has limitations.
Excerpt from an interview with physicist Carlo Rovelli of Aix-Marseille University and the Intitut Universitaire de France.
August 21, 2014••••••
What is the “mystery of the universe”? There isn’t a “mystery of the universe.” There is an ocean of things we do not know. Many of them we’ll figure out, if we continue to be somewhat rational and do not kill one another first (which is well possible.) There will always be plenty of things that we will not understand, I think, but what do I know? In any case, we are very very very far from any complete comprehension of everything we would like to know.
I have no idea what “absolute truth” means. I think that science is the attitude of those who find funny the people saying they know something is absolute truth. Science is the awareness that our knowledge is constantly uncertain. What I know is that there are plenty of things that science does not understand yet. And science is the best tool found so far for reaching reasonably reliable knowledge.
Responses from an interview with physicist Carlo Rovelli, to the questions: “Can physics—or science in general—ever completely solve the mystery of the universe?” and “Can science attain absolute truth?”
August 21, 2014
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons createphyd within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.
I was an ordinary person
who studied hard.
Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist, d. 1988 (via whats-out-there)
"You ask me if an ordinary person could ever get to be able to imagine these things like I imagine them. Of course! I was an ordinary person who studied hard. There are no miracle people. It happens they get interested in this thing and they learn all this stuff, but they’re just people. There’s no talent, no special ability to understand quantum mechanics, or to imagine electromagnetic fields, that comes without practice and reading and learning and study. I was not born understanding quantum mechanics — I still don’t understand quantum mechanics! I was born not knowing things were made out of atoms, and not being able to visualize, therefore, when I saw the bottle of milk that I was sucking, that it was a dynamic bunch of balls bouncing around. I had to learn that just like anybody else. So if you take an ordinary person who is willing to devote a great deal of time and work and thinking and mathematics, then he’s become a scientist!”
True of art, as well.