Saturday, May 31, 2014

Einstein’s idea of “God”


I found another one, another scientist who disavows scientific materialism. Amir Aczel counters the New Atheist movement in his book, Why Science Does Not Disprove God. Interviewed on MPR, he mentioned Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, who claim science disproves the existence of God. A review of his book states that Aczel accuses new atheists of “staining the scientific enterprise by bending it to their dark mission.”

On MPR he addressed the question, “What existed before the Big Bang?” Materialists would answer, “Nothing.” Aczel’s answer: “Not nothing.”

Kraus, he said, explains that the universe came into being because empty space is unstable and always produces matter—no creator necessary. But Aczel pointed out that space also was created at the Big Bang—first recognized in Einstein’s special theory of relativity—and “empty” space is not empty. It is pulsating with energy, as our most advanced science is discovering.

Not being a scientist, I cannot explain antimatter, dark matter, negative matter or the Higgs bosun nicknamed “the God particle.” It is enough for me that scientists like Aczel talk authoritatively about phenomena like these and the mathematical symmetry of natural laws, plus the finely-tuned conditions in our universe for human habitation, to profess belief in Something else besides physical stuff.  Aczel called it Intelligence and Wisdom and Ultimate Reality that existed before the Big Bang.

Aczel also voiced my belief that the New Atheism arose from disgust over the worst elements of religion— naïve, literalist belief and corrupt leaders.

Einstein, of course, was another scientist who was not a materialist. Scientists Freeman Dyson and Paul Davies discussed Einstein’s respect for “religion”—his term for spirituality—with Krista Tippett at On Being. Dyson says Einstein did not believe in an individual as creator of the universe.
And he said that very explicitly, that he did not believe in a personal God who was interested in human affairs. He did believe in nature as some sort of universal spirit, or I suppose you might say world soul, or some kind of universal mind which ruled the universe and which was far beyond our comprehension. That's what he called "God" or "The Lord."
Einstein rejected the idea of “God” as a humanlike individual:
I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. Enough for me, the mystery of the eternity of life and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, . . .
So Einstein was an a-theist—a disbeliever in a god, but he was not a materialist. And he respected religion.
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. . . .

Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind. . .
Einstein’s “God” is that of the mystics.
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. . . .
Einstein believed in some kind of universal Mind beyond our comprehension, similar to Aczel’s Intelligence and Wisdom and Ultimate Reality. He wanted to find the order deeply hidden behind everything—what God was thinking.
*****
I can’t resist sharing Joan Chittister’s latest. There’s no one better at expressing the need for budging the Catholic Church away from its monarchical pattern of governance. She reminds us of reformers in the 16th century:
They railed against clericalism, the wealth of the church, the use of arcane language that distanced the laity from its inner operations and made them second-class citizens, the sale of relics, the conferral of indulgences in exchange for alms, and a theology that left laypeople to be docile and unthinking consumers of a faith long bereft of either witness or spiritual energy.
It seems some Christians have made little or no progress in the last four centuries.
*****

A note regarding comments. I publish reflections on the topic, not searches for ways to disagree. 


May 14, Scientists speak


I received a virulent response from a family member to my letter in the StarTribune saying I’m a Catholic atheist. I’ve explained the term in previous posts. Here I claim scientists as my model for believing in spiritual reality while rejecting the gods of religion.

Many Christians I know understand the difference between what’s called “God” and the images of religion. We stay in our church for a variety of reasons. This excerpt from On Being throws some light on the subject.

Krista Tippett to Freeman Dyson: You have written of yourself that you are a practicing Christian, but not a believing Christian. And it seems to me that Einstein might well have made the same statement about himself as a Jew.
Dyson: Well, he wasn't really a practicing Jew in that he didn't observe the Sabbath. But still, . . . he was a sort of a cultural Jew, but not a believing Jew.
Just so, some of us are cultural Catholics or cultural Episcopalians or cultural Christians but have a broader understanding of spiritual reality than do traditional believers.
In response to my post “God” exists. How do I know? David Steeves sent this marvelous list of quotations by scientists. Dave is an atheist who says of himself:
I had a background in the Lutheran church, but questioned the morality of the Viet Nam war and was excommunicated.  Since then I have had no church affiliation, but I have studied the world religions for my own reasons.
Dave and I think much alike, despite our different backgrounds.
Scientists speak:

"Science enhances the moral values of life because it furthers a love of truth and reverence—love of truth displaying itself in the constant endeavor to arrive at a more exact knowledge of the world of mind and matter around us, and reverence, because every advance in knowledge brings us face to face with the mystery of our own being."
 Max Planck, German physicist credited with originating quantum theory

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science... 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."
 Albert Einstein. Carl Jung and Einstein were contemporaries, writing in the first half of the 20th century. As they used “religious,” it meant “spiritual.”

"At one extreme is the idea of an objective world, pursuing its regular course in space and time, independently of any kind of observing subject; this has been the guiding image of modern science. At the other extreme is the idea of a subject, mystically experiencing the unity of the world and no longer confronted by an object or by any objective world; this has been the guiding image of Asian mysticism. Our thinking moves somewhere in the middle, between these two limiting conceptions; we should maintain the tension resulting from these two opposites."
 Werner Heisenberg, German physicist who with Niels Bohr created quantum mechanics

"The scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart and that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity."
 Erwin Schrödinger, Austrian physicist also doing significant work in quantum mechanics

"The essential fact is simply that all the pictures which science now draws of nature, and which alone seem capable of according with observational fact, are mathematical pictures. Most scientists would agree that they are nothing more than pictures—fictions, if you like, if by fiction you mean that science is not yet in contact with ultimate reality... To speak in terms of Plato's well-known simile, we are still imprisoned in our cave, with our backs to the light, and can only watch the shadows on the wall."
 James Jeans, English physicist, astronomer, and mathematician

"Scientific instincts warn me that any attempt to answer the question "What is real?" in a broader sense than that adopted for domestic purposes in science, is likely to lead to a floundering among vain words and high-sounding epithets. We all know that there are regions of the human spirit untrammelled by the world of physics. In the mystic sense of the creation around us, in the expression of art, in a yearning towards God, the soul grows upward and finds the fulfillment of something implanted in its nature… Whether in the intellectual pursuits of science or in the mystical pursuits of the spirit, the light beckons ahead and the purpose surging in our nature responds."
 Arthur Eddington, English physicist, astronomer, and mathematician who explained Einstein’s general theory of relativity  

"It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom... God may be either a world-soul or a collection of world-souls. So I am thinking that atoms and humans and God may have minds that differ in degree but not in kind."
 Freeman Dyson, American (English born) theoretical physicist and mathematician, still living and interviewed by Krista Tippett at On Being (along with Paul Davies) on “Einstein’s God.”

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Quantum Enigma

February 27
The "quantum theory proves immaterial reality argument" is just another god-of-the gaps argument. The dual nature of subatomic particles differently expressed as waves or particles is a material phenomenon either way. In either expression they interact with the material world in statistically predictable ways based on how we choose to view them.
           
Perhaps one day physical science (string theory?) will explain this too as it has with all those other mysteries of the material world previously attributed to spirits. 
Will, Sauk Rapids
This is the standard response by materialists to material evidence of spiritual reality (See previous posts). When science cannot explain phenomena appearing in the physical world, we believers say, “Ahah!—an indication of spiritual reality.” And deniers of spiritual reality say, “Science hasn’t explained it YET, but we expect it will in the future.”

To me the scientific evidence from quantum mechanics is indisputable. Unlike experimentation on other scientific theories, quantum experiments always—in100% of cases—yield the same result. Stated in scientific terms, the observation collapses the wavefunction, or the physical stuff obeys the decision of the experimenter. The scientist sees the material result produced by the scientist’s own choice or consciousness.
Again from Quantum Enigma:
[at a demonstration by a physicist]
“Just wait a second!” says a fellow who’s been frowning and shaking his head for some time. . . .
“If quantum theory says that by observing something someplace, I create it there, it’s saying something ridiculous!” . . .    
This fellow’s getting it.
Neils Bohr, a founder of quantum theory, once said that anyone not shocked by quantum mechanics has not understood it. . . .
“If you’re saying that . . . nothing’s real until we observe it, you’re saying we live in a dream world.” . . .
“Well,” our physicist replies calmly, “there’s a saving grace. . . . it’s not practical—at least not yet—to do that with big things.”
But pressed to state the implications, the physicist continues,
Maybe what you’re driving at is the notion that “We create our own reality.” I sometimes feel much that way.
And so do I. I have come to believe we create our own reality. But the way this plays out is complicated, because each of us is part of the collective consciousness, which has many, many layers and created the reality we were born into. Still, upon examination, each individual life manifests this truth. Take me.

That I’m alive today makes no medical sense. I was expected to die the first of three times I got cancer in 1987. When I told my oncologist that I knew why I got cancer (I’d been reading Jung for years), he said, oh no, cancer didn’t come from stress.

I survived the cancer, not to mention the mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. The second time I had cancer, about three years later, my oncologist confessed that the American Cancer Society now admitted stress as a cause of cancer. He warned that my bones were probably full of it. They weren’t.

The third time my oncologist didn’t say anything, only prescribed treatment without any prognosis. It was as if he wondered what it was about me. The radiation oncologist gave me 4 years to live—this was about 1994. I lived. Ten years later my oncologist took me off cancer drugs altogether because he saw what the last drug was doing to my body. Through a third party (he’s no longer my doctor), I hear about his amazement and delight over my recovery.

Today I am healthier than in most of my adult life. I attribute my success in withstanding cancer and a multitude of other ailments to what was going on in my mind, but I do this in retrospect. At the time I was not actively “fighting” cancer, but bent on a purpose and undergoing a psychic transformation. I had the right attitude but it was unconscious, pointing to another way it’s all very complicated—consciousness includes the unconscious.

Today, having learned more about directing my inner beliefs and attitudes, I work at changing impulses that kept me unhealthy and unhappy. Jung urges us to become aware of the unconscious contents of our minds, which requires deep inner work. I went through a tomb/womb phase of my life, being transformed.

I died and rose, more than once. Among the issues I was working out were dawning realizations about religion, the reason I became a writer. This I believe is the point of life. Each of us in her or his unique ways dies and rises on a journey of spiritual growth. It is why the theme of death and resurrection suffuses religions, which SHOULD connect us with the inner realm. Yes, there are failures and setbacks.

How is the religion of Christianity doing? Watch this Frontline documentary exposing Vatican secrets— sleaze, sex scandals, corrupted power—and hope in Francis.

And then find restorative healing in Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis.
I challenge materialists who also are music lovers to listen and continue belief in matter as the sole reality. I believe in MORE—the inner realm.

Next time more material evidence of spiritual reality.

March 8

Continuing my debate with materialism. . . . ………..
I’m afraid I have not given an accurate sense of just how shocked physicists are by the implications of quantum mechanics. When I first learned of the wave/particle and the role of the observer from The Tao of Physics—I’m guessing in the 1980s—I was shocked too. Fritjof Capra writes,
We can never speak about nature without, at the same time, speaking about ourselves.
Immediately I saw the spiritual implication, and this must be what disturbs some physicists. I applied quantum mechanics to Jesus’ miracles in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky, but it was after that that Vincent led me to the best book I’ve seen—Quantum Enigma (2006). So that I, a non-physicist, do not misrepresent the issue, I will have authors and physicists Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner discuss, in their words,
the strange worldview quantum mechanics forces on us. . . .
Physics has encountered something beyond the realm of “ordinary” physics. . . .

Every interpretation of quantum mechanics involves consciousness. . . . Our discipline’s encounter with consciousness sometimes embarrasses us . . . But some of us, as physicists, or just as wonderers, want to ponder the meaning, to try to understand what’s going on. . . .

Over-the-top treatments of quantum mechanics—like the movie What the Bleep?—make physicists squirm and motivate them to minimize the enigma. And, of course, we keep the skeleton in the closet, and sometimes even deny its existence.

Many physicists try to avoid the issue and just ignore the “Spooky Interactions” by pursuing practical applications of quantum mechanics in technology.
One-third of our economy involves products based on quantum mechanics.
But physics’ encounter with consciousness demands the attention of theoretical physicists, and the quantum enigma, say Rosenblum and Kuttner, “depends crucially on free will.” In response to those who say our feeling of free will is an illusion, they write,
J.A Hobson’s comment seems apt to us:
“Those of us with common sense are amazed at the resistance put up by psychologists, physiologists, and philosophers to the obvious reality of free will.”

They quote this materialist position:
‘You,’ your joys and sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.
Then a point of view diametrically opposed:
Why should this process give rise to [conscious] experience? . . . no mere account of physical process will tell us why experience arises.
By “experience” is meant the inner awareness of our thinking “I.”
Rosenblum and Kuttner then address paraphenomena, generally known as ESP—happenings that defy the laws of science. They give no examples but readers can find some by clicking links in my blog index under “Paranormal.”  I am enamored with them, a total believer.   R. and K. remain skeptics but write,
Competent researchers claiming to display such phenomena cannot be dismissed . . .
But if—if—such a phenomenon were convincingly demonstrated, we would know where to start looking for an explanation: the quantum effects of consciousness, Einstein’s “spooky interactions.”
Then they present these facts that materialists and spiritual believers should consider:
The universe appears to be about 70% dark energy and 25% dark matter. [The stuff we know] appears to be a mere 5% of the universe.
R. and K. ask whether chance could be responsible for our universe. They present this set of evidence I want to throw at materialists:
Theories vary. According to one, if the initial conditions of the universe were chosen randomly, there would only be one chance in 10¹²º (that’s one with 120 zeros after it) that the universe would be livable.
Cosmologist Roger Penrose has it vastly more unlikely: The exponent he suggests is 10¹²³. . . . Can you accept odds like that as a coincidence?

Stephen Hawking poses a relevant question:
. . . Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?
Especially one so finely tuned for our survival? Rosenblum and Kuttner return to the seemingly impossible possibility that
We created the universe. . . . [This] involves a backward-in-time reasoning. . . . Does quantum theory suggest that, in some mysterious sense, we are a cosmic center?
Here physics is no help. I am informed by metaphysics that combines Christian theology with Zen Buddhism. I believe our inner divine center (not the ego) is an individual consciousness in the ocean of Consciousness, a wave in the ocean of Divinity.

Our inner seeing/thinking/observing centers are sparks of the Divine Fire, which is the unseen SOURCE of All That Is. Religions image this Source in naïve and conflicting ways. Thus are born religious conflict and foolishness and malevolence.

Scientific discoveries seem to point inexorably toward spiritual reality, leading reluctant materialists to the Mystery. Quantum Enigma ends with the quotation from Shakespeare’s Hamlet that heads my blog:
   There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
   Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

"God" exists. How do I know?  May 1
I'm always happy to engage with others who are captured by the themes that occupy my days.
So I appreciate the comments of those with the ability to re-think convictions. I’m meeting such thinkers. Keep the emails coming! 
In my writing I concentrate on issues getting too little attention. Clergy sex abuse, for instance, finally IS on the radar screen, but not the underlying patriarchal role in it, so that is my focus.

I get requests for more personal experience of spiritual power. It brings to mind Carl Jung because his writings open me to greater awareness of inner reality breaking out.  In a famous BBC interview he was asked whether he believed in God.  Jung answered,
I don’t need to believe. I know.
A newspaper interview enlightens further. Jung said,
All that I have learned has led me step by step to an unshakeable conviction of the existence of God. I only believe in what I know.  And that eliminates believing.
Immediately I resonated with it when I first read it and I’m sure others do also. This is not blind, ignorant faith in what human authority decrees, but response to our deepest, innermost, sanctuary of personal experience. We KNOW there is SOMETHING underneath surface reality. But I resist writing about the most meaningful moments in my life—too intimate. While reminiscing and hearing stories from past classmates, this incident I don’t mind sharing came to mind.

I was in a cemetery with my sister, visiting the grave of our mom. As we stood by her grave, an indescribable feeling of dread came over me, so strong I felt physically ill. What to do about it?  Nothing I could do. I didn’t tell G. about it because I was afraid it was saying something negative about my relationship with Mom. As we left the cemetery to go visit Dad in the nursing home, the feeling diminished and then disappeared. 

The next day I drove G. to her home in the metro. On the way home, my car broke down, and I had been planning to drive to the airport shortly after that to get on a plane to Boulder to visit my daughter. Thanks to my dear brother-in-law, all eventually worked out.

I don’t know whether my mother was warning me or fearing for me or another power was trying to alert me or or . . . ?
The point is, something in my inner being knew something my outer being could not know—evidence of a deeper dimension, one beyond the reach of science. I respect science, but I can’t respect dismissal of incidents like this with the lame response that science just doesn’t have the answers yet.  

Clairvoyance, precognition, telepathy and other psychic phenomena defy the ability of science to probe them. Science draws knowledge from evidence but limits itself to outer reality, making these occurrences too slippery for its examination.
Incidents like this happen to everyone, which is why religion does not die despite growing knowledge about foolish beliefs and growing anger at immoral religious authorities.

A materialist friend of mine—a very thoughtful, literary one—replied when I asked him why he doubted his own experiences giving evidence of the inner dimension. His delightful reply, the words of Scrooge when confronted by Marley’s ghost in A Christmas Carol:
“Why do you doubt your senses?”
“Because,” said Scrooge, “a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheat. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
What he did not quote was Dickens’ next line, which helps to explain dismissal of messages from the Other Side.
Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then. The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror; for the spectre's voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones.
Sheer fear induces some of the lame denials. As William James and Rudolf Otto point out, uncanny connections with the Other Side make you shudder and feel the hair rise on the back of your neck.

I get satisfaction from provoking deeper thought, from questioning unquestioned assumptions, from challenging lazy acquiescence to religious authority.  Having related with dogmatic materialists lately, I am motivated to challenge them in the same way.

Dogmatic religious believers insist that the interpretation of religion comfortable and familiar to them is the only right one.  Dogmatic materialists insist that the interpretation of science comfortable and familiar to them is the only right one.

Each reader approaches my posts with a prior view, and apparently I’m confusing some. Chris, in his comment to my previous post, apparently thinks he disagrees with me when he restates my position. If he read more of my writing, he would realize this.

I do not think, however, that Chris and I agree on everything. Considering his past comments, I think he is far less critical of traditional belief and church authority. I agree that theologians know the role of myth in Christian belief, but their insights do not penetrate much church conversation. In fact, the Vatican punishes theologians who stray from the party line.

The beliefs of most bishops and priests seem as ignorant and naïve as those of people in the pews. If this were not so we would hear more inclusive references to the Inner Source of all reality. Their inability to veer from a single God-image indicates devotion to an idol, a violation of the First Commandment.

Screaming for restitution is sexist God-talk, which drives inequality for women in church governance and ministry—“irrelevant” to Chris who evidently has no concept of the harm done by the language and the blessings that would ensue with correction. I ask him to educate himself about the matter.

I have been working hard on content for our womenpriest website soon to be opened. My goal being to educate, I begin with this marvelous video that uncovers buried evidence of women ordained in the early church. Most striking—efforts to keep the evidence buried by misinterpretation, obfuscation, and the simple inability to release prejudice.