The Discovery of Modern Science

by Steven Weinberg

Steven Weinberg says there was a scientific revolution in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. To his credit, he provides enough information to support a contrary theory. I agree with the theory that modern science began in the thirteenth century when the Catholic Church condemned the Aristotelian idea that vacuums are impossible. Before that, the scientific achievements in ancient and non-Western civilizations were sporadic and not sustained. The following quote supports this theory:

After the era of translation and the conflict over the reception of Aristotle, creative scientific work began at last in Europe in the fourteenth century.” (2079)

What happened in the 14th century in the West is that scientific knowledge progressed in a continuous way with one scientist building upon the achievements of other scientists. The author gives a clue as to why this happened:

Robert Merton supposed that Protestantism created social attitudes favorable to science and promoted a combination of rationalism and empiricism and a belief in an understandable order in nature—attitudes and beliefs that he found in the actual behavior of Protestant scientists.(3977)

Science developed in the West, and not in the other civilizations, because scientists believed God created the universe from nothing. This means the universe has an “understandable order in nature,” which inspires humans to try to understand the universe. The idea that vacuums are impossible implies that God did not create the universe because God has infinite power and could have created vacuums. Weinberg discusses the Condemnation of 1277, as it is called, but thinks it hindered the development of scientific knowledge.

In my opinion, Steven Weinberg is suffering from cognitive dissonance because his atheism conflicts with the reality that so many people believe in God. The following quote indicates that he is obsessed with religion because he feels a need to express his lack of faith in God in a book about science and history:

It is not that the modern scientist makes a decision from the start that there are no supernatural persons. That happens to be my view, but there are good scientists who are seriously religious. (789)

The following quote shows that Weinberg’s mental and emotional suffering inhibits him from being rational:

Or we may encounter phenomena that in principle cannot be brought into a unified framework for all science. For instance, although we may well come to understand the processes in the brain responsible for consciousness, it is hard to see how we will ever describe conscious feelings themselves in physical terms. (4199)

There is an equally irrational quotation from Carl Sagan as recalled by Sean Carroll in a TV interview on the PBS Newshour. Dr. Carroll posted the video on his blog on March 14, 2014, with the title “A Great Time for Reason and Science.” This is the quote:

We are a collection of atoms and particles like the rest of the universe, but we have the power to theorize, to gather data, and to understand this universe.

The phrase “brain responsible for consciousness” is a reference to the conscious knowledge of humans as opposed to the sense knowledge of animals. Science is a method of inquiry arising from sense observations. For example: Why is the sky blue? Knowing the sky is blue means more than that light is entering your eye and a signal is going to your brain. It means an awareness of this. Humans ask the question: What is this awareness? This is not a scientific question because it does not arise from our senses. The question arises because we can make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge. It is a metaphysical question.

Humans have had a lot of success in answering scientific questions, as this book explains. One can reasonably say there are no mysteries in science, only questions not yet answered. There is very little success answering metaphysical questions and the word mystery is necessary. Concerning consciousness, that word can be avoided by saying, “The sky is manifesting its blueness, and humans are open to that manifestation.” There is no evidence that human consciousness is a brain process. There is, of course, evidence that the sense knowledge of animals is a brain process.

On the subject of consciousness, Steven Weinberg, Sean Carroll, and Carl Sagan have a blind spot. However, the following quote reveals that Weinberg did not go to a Catholic college:

For Descartes the only certain fact is that he exists, deduced from the observation that he is thinking about it…He (Rene Descartes) gives several arguments (all unconvincing) for the existence of God, but rejects the authority of organized religion.(3162)

He was wrong in saying that the pineal gland is the seat of a soul responsible for human consciousness.(3181)

Descartes did not “deduce” that he existed. His quote, “I think, therefore I am,” expressed a common metaphysical experience that we all have. We know that we exist, not because we can see ourselves, but because we can turn into ourselves and catch ourselves in the act of our own existence.

Descartes was trying to explain free will by saying there is a spiritual “little man” located behind the eyes that controls the body like a stagecoach driver controls a team of horses. This nonsense is called dualism and conflicts with the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas who said that unity is a transcendental property of being. A stagecoach driver and team of horses is not a being, it is many beings.

Descartes arguments for God’s existence were probably based on the famous “five ways” of Aquinas and the “prime mover” argument of Aristotle. The best argument for God’s existence is called the cosmological argument for historical reasons only. It is based on the metaphysics of Aquinas and the observation that we have free will. Free will means we possess a center of action that makes us unified with respect to ourselves but different from other humans. In other words, humans are finite beings. A finite being can’t be the reason for its own existence because it can’t limit itself. Assuming or hoping that the universe is intelligible means an infinite being exists and caused the universe of finite beings. In Western religions, we call the infinite being God.

Body and soul are the metaphysical principles of matter and form applied to humans. All humans are equal because we are all members of the same class or category of beings. The soul is the metaphysical principle or incomplete being that makes us humans, and the body is what makes us different from each other.

We can comprehend what a human being is because we know everything we do and everything that happens to us. However, we can’t define or explicate what a human is. We can only say that humans are embodied spirits. Another way of expressing this is to say the human soul is spiritual. To sum up, physics professors Weinberg, Carroll, and Sagan don’t know what they are talking about.

Astronomical discoveries in the 1960s and later prove the universe began to exist 14 billion years ago. This raises the scientific question: What caused the Big Bang? There is no scientific answer to this question, and many people think this “gap” is evidence of God’s existence. My understanding is that the Big Bang is evidence God does not exist because it is evidence that the universe is not intelligible. The Big Bang, however, a reason to believe in the Bible because the Bible says in a number of places that God created the universe from nothing.

There are four other gaps like this: What caused prokaryotes to appear on Earth 3.6 billion years ago? What caused mammals to evolve from prokaryotes? What caused the fine-tuning of the physical constants to enabled biological life? What caused the second law of thermodynamics to be suspended when life began and evolved into mammals?

One can call these five arguments for God’s existence pseudoscience. Atheists respond to this pseudoscience with pseudoscience that is more egregiously wrong. Atheists are trying to fight fire with fire, or anxiety is inhibiting them from thinking rationally and behaving honestly. This is the pseudoscientific response to the five god-of-gaps arguments:
  1. The Big Bang was caused by a vacuum fluctuation.
  2. Life on Earth came from another galaxy.
  3. Evolution was caused by natural selection.
  4. There are other many other universes where the constants are different.
  5. The second law of thermodynamics only applies to closed systems.
Weinberg promotes #3 and #4 in his book. For evolution, I recommend that he read these scholarly works by mainstream scientists: Evolution Revolution: Evolution is True. Darwin is Wrong. This Changes Everything, by Alan Bennett; Evolution: A View from the 21st Century, by James A. Shapiro; and The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma by Marc W. Kirschner and John C. Gerhart.

Weinberg’s discussion the multiverse theory made it clear to me why the theory is irrational, and this is one of the reasons I recommend the book. If the Earth were a little closer to the Sun or a little farther away, life could not have evolved. Question: Why is the distance between Earth and Sun 93 million miles? Answer: Random processes. If someone does not understand the term “random processes,” you can point out that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies with hundreds of billion stars each and many planets are not 93 million miles away from their star. The question related to the multiverse theory is this: Why do the physical constants have the value they have? There is no answer to this question. So the likes of Weinberg come up with the idea that there are a large number of other universes where the constants are different.

Weinberg and Carroll are guilty by association of promoting #5 because they are American physicists. The American Journal of Physics published an article titled “Entropy and evolution” (Am. J. Phys., Vol. 76, No. 11, November 2008) saying evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics and giving the results of an absurd calculation. The article disgraces every physicist in the United States.

There is another example of pseudoscience in his book that does not reflect badly on Weinberg’s character because it is found in physics textbooks on quantum mechanics. In fact, I may be the one who is guilty of pseudoscience.

“Instead of calculating the trajectories of a planet or a particle, one calculates the evolution of waves of probability, whose intensity at any position and time tells us the probability of finding the planet or particle then and there.” (3896)

Weinberg is referring to the Born statistical interpretation of the Shrödinger function. There is a lot of evidence that the Shrödinger function is a wave, but there is no evidence it is a probability wave. I give my arguments in an article titled “The Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics.”