Church-going

By Sean Carroll | June 6, 2006 1:55 pm

God Since today, 6/6/06, is (granted some typographical latitude) International Number of the Beast Day, I should tell you about my visit on Sunday to the Augustana Lutheran Church near the University of Chicago. (Not to disparage my kind hosts, but I have to say that sacred architecture really took a turn for the worse after the Reformation; give me those Gothic cathedrals any day.) I was invited by Shane Caldwell, a student in my cosmology class, to speak to a group that meets to talk about science and religion. Of course, my take on the matter is that science and religion are in stark conflict. But they understood where I was coming from, and were interested in hearing my spiel on cosmology and atheism. (All practiced academics understand that it’s important to have a small number of spiels that can be adapted to multiple circumstances at the drop of a hat; mine was rather different in this case than Clifford’s.)

Hot dogs and hamburgers were served, and we had a fun time debating the meaning of “knowing” and the existence of God. Robert Smith, the pastor of the church who is also the campus minister of the UofC, was very welcoming, and excited to be starting this kind of dialogue between different parts of the community. Most of the small audience were actually students, some who had taken my classes and some undergrads who were members of the church. There were also a few representatives from the Zygon Center for Science and Society, an organization across the street that is dedicated to studying the relationship between science and religion.

I’ve given my “God does not exist” talk to a couple of religious audiences before, and they’re generally very interested in hearing a different perspective and thinking about the issues in an unfamiliar way. Granted, these audiences were highly selected and undoubtedly academic, not randomly chosen evangelical churches in the heartland. And you may suspect that nothing I might say would ever change anyone’s mind, but that’s not true; I had one professional theologian tell me that I did change his mind. Not about the existence of God, but about the efficacy of the argument from design. And there is a tight (inverse) correlation between age of the listener and willingness to engage with the ideas; the students were interested and ready to tackle my claims on their own terms, while some of the older folks wanted to argue that there were plenty of scientists more famous than me who were religious, so what right did I have?

There are a million things one could talk about concerning science and religion, and the discussions tend to become rapidly unfocused (or individually focused on the concerns of each person in the room, with everyone talking past everyone else). Not to mention that theology is a rich subject with a complex history about which I know only the basics. So I make a real effort to define all the my words very carefully, and limit myself to one extremely specific chain of reasoning: science and religion do overlap in their mutual interest in understanding the basic workings of reality, and therefore it is possible to judge at least some religious claims using the ordinary empirical criteria of science, and that when one does so, a materialistic conception of reality (in which there exist nothing but stuff following unbreakable rules) comes out very far ahead of a theistic one (in which there exists a separate supernatural/spiritual category not bound by the laws of physics). There might be other interesting things to talk about, and there are other things that religion is concerned with besides the workings of nature, and there could be other criteria besides the scientific method that one might want to use in deciding between different pictures of the world. But in the quite specific question I am choosing to address, I think there is a sensible answer.

At the same time, I want to argue that the answer is not inevitable, or it wouldn’t be worth going through the exercise. There are several ways that thinking like a scientist could have led us to believe in God (or the supernatural more generally). The most obvious would be if God just kept showing up in our world and performing miracles; a sensible scientific approach in that case would be to search for the “laws of nature” that were in effect when God wasn’t around, and treat his manifestations as outside that box. More subtly, we might look for evidence of design in nature, or we might look for impassable “gaps” in our understanding (like the beginning of the universe, or the origin of life and/or consciousness) that only God could bridge. I’m perfectly happy to contemplate that such things could be part of a logically possible world; I just strongly believe that, in the actual world in which we find ourselves, there are no such fingerprints of design or unbridgeable gaps, and hence no scientific reason to appeal to the supernatural. We don’t understand everything in nature, but there’s absolutely no reason to think that it’s not understandable (even the beginning of the universe etc.) in terms of purely mechanical laws. So God, as an hypothesis, is discarded along with geocentrism and phlogiston and the Steady State universe and whatnot. Sadly, it’s taking a little while for the discarding to actually sink in, but I suspect it’s just a matter of (perhaps a very long) time.

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  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Hi Sean,

    It’s really great that you engaged in such a conversation at the church. As I said in the posts that you refered to, I think that it is so important that scientists actually show up to Churches and have these conversations. The Churches are important foci for a lot of communities, and regardless of what we may or may not think about why they exist, we should recognize that they are a great way of getting the message out to the general public that they should engage in more critical thinking about their world, and that science is a vital way of going about doing that. Also, it’s a great opportunity to remind people how much science plays a vital positive role in almost every aspect of their everyday lives. Finally, sometimes, as in the case of the church at which I spoke, a church can be one of the *very few* ways of letting parents and their children know about valuable career options that exist through science, which ultimately have an extremely long term positive effect on their lives and communities.

    Best,

    -cvj

  • Vince

    I’m afraid there has been another instance of data manipulation. It’s not 6/6/6, but 06/06/06.

  • Paul Valletta

    Three [yes or no] questions if I may?

    1)Do/Can you Know everything there is to Know?

    2)At what time [relative to GMT] did the Universe begin?

    3)Can science explain/answer, every question posed to it?
    😉

  • Vince

    Here is my attempt:

    1) No

    2) Yes….ummm….No….Hmmm…roughly 13.7 billion years ago?

    3) Not every question is a scientific question, therefore I say no. In fact, the very question you just asked cannot be answered by science. Therefore, the question necessarily leads to the answer no.

  • Paul Valletta

    So two No’s and a ..maybe !

    “) Not every question is a scientific question, therefore I say no. In fact, the very question you just asked cannot be answered by science.”

    But some scientists insist this non-scientific question can be answered, I mean just ask Sean! and I state this not as a rebutal to Sean, but merely as a query?

    I am inclined to believ that Sean’s great post and Answers, is based on a personal level, rather than scientific reasoning?

    But then I may be way off the mark?

  • http://spatulated.wordpress.com/ Spatulated

    If we knew everything there was to know there would be no need for science. Science’s purpose is for continued discovery. Also, since its easier for me to say that the universe has simply existed forever (rather than adding a god into the mix that has existed for ever and just recently decided to poop out existence since he was bored) it is also possible for me to accept that there is infinite amount of information to learn, but I also think every fact (not opinions) is discoverable, if given infinite amount of time (kind of like that monkey/type writer thing).

    I don’t see why we always have to fall on god when things become infinite

  • http://phy.duke.edu/~bstacey Blake Stacey

    Spatulated wrote:

    I don’t see why we always have to fall on god when things become infinite

    We don’t. When something becomes infinite, we can either break out the surreal number theory or we perform an analytic continuation on the Riemann zeta function and make 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + … equal to minus one over twelve.

  • Belizean

    Of course, … science and religion are in stark conflict.

    Not quite. The naturalism (intelligibility of the reality) assumed by science conflicts with supernaturalism assumed by most religions.

    But religions need not involve supernatural assumptions.

  • Cynthia

    Instead of defining God as a “supernatural designer” existing “outside the box,” I would define God as a “natural designer” that exists “inside the box.” Hypothetically, I would depict this designer as simply the bath of afterglow emerging from the last scattering surface. In turn, I would characterize this designer as the bath of afterglow which is homogenous and isotropic. In turn again, I would describe this designer as the bath of afterglow existing on a level playing field. In summary: this designer of nature – who is both universal and democratic – is redshifting asymptotically towards an infinite horizon…

  • Say Lee

    I’m happy at embracing both. To quote from the Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science, religion is not founded on science, nor is science an extension of religion.

  • Vince

    (Way off topic, but what the heck…)
    So what’s the deal with 1 + 2 + 3 + … = -1/12 ? In what sense is this supposed to be true, and under what conditions?

  • AR

    Say Lee, your belief is quite untenable, unless you interpret religion or God, as an extra axiom which does not have any observable effect on the material universe around us. Religion is not founded on science, but it is in direct contradiction to science. I can not speak for every established religion, but at least the major ones have seriously flawed cosmology which can be easily disproved. Religion, at most, is a social or ethical code which is socially constructed, and completely irrelevant to the search for explanations of the phenomena in the natural world. Unless religion gives up all pretensions to explaining the natural world, science would always be opposed to religion and logically and empirically, it is very obvious which side is correct.

  • http://www.amara.com/ Amara

    >So I make a real effort to define all the my words very carefully, and
    >limit myself to one extremely specific chain of reasoning: science and
    >religion do overlap in their mutual interest in understanding the basic
    >workings of reality, and therefore it is possible to judge at least some
    >religious claims using the ordinary empirical criteria of science,

    That’s exactly what the Jesuits who work at the Vatican Observatory do. In their perspective, they want to understand the mind of God, so they use their extensive scientific tools to do that. If someone claims that they are not scientists, then the simplest answer is to point them to NASA ADS to see their hundreds or thousands of papers in the highest quality journals.

    I consider the Vatican astronomers excellent bridges between the fundamentalist (i.e. extreme) religious people and scientists (any kind). The scientists understand the need for studying the big picture while fundamentalist regilious people don’t understand the need for science. That’s where the Jesuits can be a bridge: they can help the strongly religious people see the value of science.

  • AR

    Amara, as much as I admire the Jesuits for their pursuit of knowledge– and I am not being sarcastic here; I come from India where some of the best schools are run by Jesuits– I still find the idea of upholding science as a “tool” to understand the Mind of the God, slightly problematic. I do not deny that the Jesuits are practicing good scientific methods and as such are excellent scientists, but to what end are they doing it? Merely to understand the “mind” of an ill-defined, logically and empirically untenable notion! Do we really want people to think science is necessary only so that we could better interpret religion? If fundamentalist religious people do not see the value of science, it is because they have been indoctrinated to ignore it’s obvious importance, and/or we as scientists have failed to connect to them and disabuse them of their mistaken beliefs about Nature. I do not see why theological nitpicking should be the main conduit of science to anyone.
    That said, it is possible that you are right– perhaps what you are saying is a more pragmatic way of disseminating the scientific spirit and I am being an ideological purist. It is just that, all my life I have seen religion is brilliant at subverting rationalism and I am sort of wary of it. May be I am being too much of an ideologue here!

  • http://www.pyracantha.com Pyracantha

    Proposition number 666: If, as a religious believer, I could be guaranteed of becoming a brilliant scientist if and only if I forswore any religious belief and publicly denounced religion any chance I could get, would I do it?

  • AR

    Pyracantha, what you have is a question, not a proposition. A proposition, by definition, must pose a (dis)provable statement and then one can prove or disprove it within a logical system.(I am ignoring all pathologies of set theoretic logic!!)

    Besides, your question is not answerable as it does not lend itself to logical considerations at all. Such guarantees do not exist, except perhaps in totalitarian systems where the word “brilliant” has new meanings. Scientists are not created American Idol style through a popular vote limited to atheists only.

    This a rather bizarre comment. What exactly did you have in mind? I can not decide whether you are being facetious or sarcastic at Sean and Mark!!

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    Hehe, if we’re talking of the God of Gaps, then he exists in quantum mechanics. Either everything that can happen happens in infinitely branching and disconnected universes, and God is the only entity that spans them all, or else out of several possibilities, only one happens, and quantum mechanics says there are no hidden variables or anything else that will ever enable us to know which one is going to happen in a particular measurement; God is then the Decider.

    :-)

  • http://www.amara.com/ Amara

    AR: “Do we really want people to think science is necessary only so that we could better interpret religion?”

    No, and I don’t think the Vatican astronomers would agree either. To answer better of the Jesuits’ perspective, though, I should let them speak for themselves. The person who is most vocal and published in the press is Guy Consolmagno. Here is him speaking to young people about science, and here he is speaking to Astrobiology Journal. He also did an excellent job on the BBC Radio 4 science programs. They are all good, but I like this one the best because he successively circumvented the Vatican rules for recording at the Vatican Observatory. Apparently images are subject to control, but sound is not, so the sounds you hear at the Observatory and the Castel Gandolfo piazza in front of the entrance to the ‘papal palace’ are as they are ‘on-location’. Another thing I can point to from the Vatican Observatory is their series of summer astronomy schools. This link is for VOSS 2005, the course taught last summer. No religion is taught, only astrophysics.

    I understand the purists perspective, but if I were that way living and working here (Rome/Frascati, Italy), then I would be willfully wearing blinders. I’ve visited Guy a few times at the Vatican Observatory and consider him a colleague and a friend. My group are planning to do a spectral analysis of some of the meteorites in his collection. I’m also surrounded with history and see the science embedded in religious places, and as a (former) Astronomy 100 teacher, if I didn’t point out the various contributions to astronomy by the Jesuits and other religious people (too), then I wouldn’t have done my job well. I can’t be so black-and-white in my field. You can see from my old syllabus that it is necessary to show everything. This includes Angelo Secchi, the Jesuit who invented spectrocsopy (whose lab was inside of a Roman church), Giovanni Cassini, another Jesuit, who discovered the moons of Saturn, the gaps in the rings and who confirmed with his Jesuit colleagues Kepler’s version of the Copernican theory using his requested modifications to the Basilica of San Petronio church in Bologna for its meridian line.

    (See John L. Heilbron’s, The Sun in the Church for how the Jesuits historically used churches as solar observatories, which were higher in their precision than any other astronomical tool until the telescope was invented.)

    That said, I’m far from immune about the damage done by the Vatican since I see it close up. I am little consoled by the fact that the Vatican astronomers do not interact with the Pope on a daily or weekly basis, it is more like once every few months. I have alot of topics I would like to discuss further with Guy about how he resolves some of the Vatican positions, such as on Italy’s assisted reproductive technology laws, the western world’s most draconian view on women’s and family’s choices. I could go on a rant on that topic alone. so I wil stop here.

  • Alex R

    It’s very nice to read a post by an atheist interacting comfortably and peaceably with religious believers. Speaking as someone who has moved back and forth between these camps, it’s refreshing to see the reality reflected that many believers can also be careful critical thinkers.

    I will comment on Sean’s acceptance that it could be “logically possible” that there are “impassable “gaps” in our understanding (like the beginning of the universe, or the origin of life and/or consciousness) that only God could bridge.”

    As an occasional believer, I think that religious believers who also are willing to accept what science tells us about the world should think very carefully before they embrace a “God of the Gaps”. The problem with this formulation of God is that the experience of science is that gaps are filled in over time, and if you make your religious belief dependent on the existence of a gap in our scientific understanding of the world, then religious belief will eventually lose.

    Commenter AR (not me :-) seems to find it unlikely that religion might be willing to give up on trying to explain the “material world”. To me, any religion that is *not* willing to sacrifice most or all of its role in explaining nature will find itself superseded as our scientific knowledge expands — or will end up turning its adherents away from scientific understanding and towards various forms of willful ignorance.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Amara, there are certainly plenty of religious people who are great scientists, and vice-versa. I just disagree with those people about the existence of God, in the same way that I disagree with other people about the anthropic principle or astrology or supply-side economics. Likewise, religious belief has inspired some people to do some very good things, as well as inspiring some people to do some very bad things. In fact, the situation seems exactly as it would be if religious beliefs were a set of somewhat arbitrary myths that led to both good and bad actions — which I think they are. There’s certainly no reason to hide the contributions of religion to science or history, nor disparage the personal character of religious believers — and neither of those should that have any effect on our judgment about religion’s truth.

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    Nobody has explained why a changing understanding of religion is, in of itself, a bad thing.

    Secondly, either QM is incomplete, or there is a permanent gap there that will never be filled, that leaves room for things like Amit Goswami’s “The Self-Aware Universe”.

  • http://www.pieterkok.com/index.html PK

    Quantum theory in not incomplete: The probabilistic nature of the theory does not imply that there is something more to know than the predictions of quantum mechanics. (Note that I am not talking about possible theories superseding QM.)

    A God of the Gaps that hides in the uncertainty in quantum mechanics occupies a gap of width zero. I guess that’s a god I can live with…

  • Cynthia

    Scary thought… In this theoretical God of the Gap, this quantum God might to performing acts of entanglement and superpositioning! 😉

  • cynic

    In my limited experience of this world, if not the next, I have found that people tend to believe in what works for them. This might even be true of the anthropic principle, astrology and supply side economics.

  • Ambitwistor

    So God, as an hypothesis, is discarded along with geocentrism and phlogiston and the Steady State universe and whatnot. Sadly, it’s taking a little while for the discarding to actually sink in, but I suspect it’s just a matter of (perhaps a very long) time.

    “Religion is not a fundamental human impulse; asking questions about our
    nature and origins is, and the desire for justice is, but religion will
    turn out to be a very transient response to those impulses, lasting no
    more than ten or twenty thousand years.”

    — SF author Greg Egan

  • Mark Srednicki

    Sean, I used to wonder why it was taking so long for supernatural religious beliefs to decline, as (for example) Thomas Jefferson fully expected. Then I happened across the (stunningly brilliant, in my view) work of the atheist sociologists Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, who in their books
    “A Theory of Religion” and “The Future of Religion” explain, in easy-to-understand (for non-sociologists) terms just what economic function is served by religion, why that function is an essential part of human nature, why science cannot possibly fulfill that function, and how the empirical evidence lines up in favor of their theory. Bottom line prediction: the level of religious belief (suitably defined) in any functioning human society is always the same,
    and will always be the same.

    Some related ideas are presented in “In Gods We Trust” by Scott Atran (equaly fascinating but a much tougher read; Atran is writing for his sociologist friends). This book contains the astonishing poll result (Gallup if I recall correctly) that 98% of the American public would not vote for an avowed atheist for president. Atran explains the role of religion in legitimizing the social order (whatever it happens to be), and claims that no socielty has survived for more than a generation without this form of legitimization.

  • Q

    Jesuits— I still find the idea of upholding science as a “tool” to understand the Mind of the God, slightly problematic

    Errr – That you find it problematic, would simply mean you have not found the answer, or choose, with your limite human Mind, not to have the time to dedicate to this problem.

    Also – that you may find Science + Religion in conflict or contradiction, and that most religious concepts, and for that matter scientific theories/concepts are inconlusive, unproven, or even wrong, is not proof of the existance or not of God. At best you can deny the existance of God, but with no ‘proof’ theory or LAW.

    Further, if “…as was in the beginning…” where can Man’s Mind, limited & finite, aspire to reach, but to catch a glimpse of the infinite & unlimited Mind.

    Laters … Q

  • Say Lee

    The way I see it, religion is a a personal faith that one seeks for spiritual solace. In that sense, it’s very much a case of to each his/her own. Therefore I don’t see religion as in conflict to science because in the affair of the faith, all worldly judgments are suspended.

    I’ve only sympathy but no empathy for religious fundamentalists nor secular purists/idealogues.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Mark, thanks, I’m not familiar with their work. But I’m generally skeptical of ex post facto sociological/biological claims for the inevitability of religious belief; I lean more towards the Greg Egan quote given by Ambitwistor just above. I find it hard to imagine a sensible definition of “religion” in which Holland and Iran are just about equally religious, for example (or Canada and the US, for that matter).

    Having said that, I’m not at all optimistic that it will fade away any time soon.

  • http://www.pieterkok.com/index.html PK

    Sean, just so you know: tiny as Holland is, it actually has a bible belt. I guess we didn’t send all our religious nutters down your way. 😉

  • Cynthia

    Using the gravitational power of a black hole, I suggest squeezing America’s “macro-bible-belt” into Holland’s “micro-bible-belt.” Then safely stand back and witness an exponential growth of extreme supernature. 😉

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    PK:

    Quantum theory in not incomplete: The probabilistic nature of the theory does not imply that there is something more to know than the predictions of quantum mechanics.

    Te measurement problem makes QM incomplete. You can ignore it in practice because we are macroscopic observers. So ultimately you are always dealing with a macroscopic system as a measurement device coupled to a quantum system and then decoherence etc. will make QM 100% predictive despite it being incomplete.

    In principle, however, you can imagine non-classical observers. Large scale quantum computing could allow one to make a virtual observer doing virtual experiments in a virtual world. Such experiments have been proposed by David Deutsch to test the MWI.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    I think that many people don’t buy the atheistic world view because they feel that something is missing here. They then turn to religion (or don’t become atheist despite all the arguments against religion) because there is no other alternative.

    What is missing is an explanation of the way we experience the world, consciousness etc. Most people will simply not accept that we are ultimately just machines. Even many scientists will not give a straight answer in inteviews when asked about these matters.

    I think that people will become atheists in large numbers when the first intelligent machines are made. Then there can be no doubt that ”mere machines” can indeed be conscious, feel pain etc.

  • http://www.pieterkok.com/index.html PK

    Count Iblis, by definition the total quantum state of a system describes all there is to know about it (this is how the quantum state is typically introduced in the postulates). That is another way of saying that quantum mechanics is complete.

    When Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen (EPR) came up with their famous paradox to “show” the incompleteness of quantum mechanics, they did not forsee that their argument is now a textbook example of the quantum mechanical phenomenon called entanglement. And that is all well decribed and reasonably well understood within quantum theory. The measurement problem has nothing to do with this.

  • Q

    Hi Count Iblis, remember the story about pinochio.

    Yep, that’s the one. Somebody makes a little boy out of wood and it comes to life with a conscious. A walking talking doll, and of course develops free will and does things ‘naughty’ little boys do.

    So when man develops a machine or robot, that can walk, talk & think for itself – will that be proof that man is greater than any god, or that there is NO God?

    Or will it be simply yet further proof of a Creator God, which/who endows man with ‘free will’ in Creation.

    After all we are a long way from making such a creation, and despite claims to the contrary, even if we make it less ‘fragile’ and metallic – we are still far short of making it as complex, and both perfect & imperfect in its complexity, as a human is.

    I do recognise this is a ‘circular’ argument, but you try and get out of the circle. Funny how even ‘atheists’ want to be (have a desire to be) godlike and all knowing if still far short of perfect and Almighty. Laters…Q

  • FZ6RLZ

    Very much enjoyed reading the dialogue! The human mind and it’s commentary on the Divine! I am a physicist and also what most of this crowd would probably call a fundamentalist Christian by which I mean that I believe the Bible … i.e. that it’s logical interpretation is the truth always. What is so interesting to me in reading these type of conversations is that the same science which will cause me to be completely overwhelmed with awe for the brilliance of my God, will cause others to confirm their faith in His inexistence. Have any of you experienced this same quandry? I don’t believe that (in all but arguably an infinitesimal sampling of cases) scientific arguments found, form, or motivate our beliefs about God or lack thereof. I don’t think I could prove that to an athiest but let me share my perspective. In my experience, the value of the most brilliant human argument or achievement (scientific or otherwise) that I have ever in my life comprehended … seems a mere speck of dust in comparison to the moment that the God of the Universe touches you and you see even merely a hint of a glimpse of a small fraction of the shadow of the God who created us all. Then at that moment, all you can do is fall on your face and say “Holy is the Lord God Almight”. And then you’ve seen Him… and you know Him…. and argument in comparison seems foolishness. This is certainly not the kind of argument a scientist wants to hear… but I hope it will happen for you one day. And I thought in any case it might be interesting to hear this perspective.

    Now, would I believe God if I found Him to be contradictory to the observable and repeatable laws and logic of science? Obviously I believe in the value of science and spend my every work day in that pursuit, so I see pure science as truth as well. Honestly I don’t find myself facing a quandry there very often (where God and science collide). If you believe in a God who spoke the universe into existence, it is a small leap of faith to believe in occasional miracles here on this planet as recorded in the Bible. Many scientists claim religion is ludicrous, this I don’t find and sometimes fall back on the argument of the many brilliant scientists who have believed in God. It’s not the best argument, but after having these debates over and over with people on scientific issues, I find that even if I win the logical debate, it does not alter the person’s perspective. And so I come back to my original statement that science does not found, form, or motivate our believes about God… Thank you for listening! Comments?

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    PK, I agree about EPR, entanglement etc. But as long as the postulates assume collapse of the wavefunction, Born rule etc, then it is just an effective theory.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Q, in principle one cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. So, making an intelligent machine won’t settle the philosophical argument. But I do think it will take away an important motivation for believing in God or some other supernatural power.

    Also, Hugo de Garis thinks that intelligent machines will be developed pretty soon.

  • http://brobartleby.blogspot.com/ Bro. Bartleby

    We too at the monastery are attempting to bridge the gap between science and religion, Bro. Juniper just purchased a Gilbert Chemistry Set on eBay, a very well preserved set, all chemicals intact, so, as they say, “Let the experiment begin!”

    Shalom,
    Bro. Bartleby

  • Chris W.

    Loosely related:
    The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos
    by Joel R. Primack, Nancy Ellen Abrams

    (I haven’t read it. The Amazon reviews are mixed but quite interesting.)

  • Vince

    Hey, you can get this book for free. Just click on “Search Inside” when you go to the amazon website for this book, and search for the word “universe” and you’ll get almost every page. For all other pages, just click on the right or left arrows. Cool!

  • http://www.rawdc.com z.king

    Sean, I used to wonder why it was taking so long for supernatural religious beliefs to decline…the level of religious belief (suitably defined) in any functioning human society is always the same, and will always be the same…..Mark Srednicki

    From what I’ve been reading about demographics, groups of people that tend to be more secular in nature are dying out and being replaced with groups that have strong, traditional religious beliefs . That due to lower and higher birth rates, respectively.

    Sean, it seems to me the most fundamental problem is that of something out of nothing. Some “living being” has to have always existed or some “non-living being” has to have always existed. The acceptance of either takes faith, and it’s easier for me to believe life is more foundational than non-life.

    Is their some standard take these days by atheists to this problem?

  • Q

    Hi Count Iblis, thanks for the link to Hugo de Garis, interesting title, don’t you think.

    PS – How do you ‘prove’ to a colour blind person that green is green?

    PPS – How do you ‘prove’ to a blind man that science and the universe as you ‘see’ it exists?

  • http://quasar9.blogspot.com/ quasar9

    Count Iblis, for more about God from Q, visit QUASAR9

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Quasar9, I’ll take a look!

    Q, these are some interesting questions that I’ll write more about on my blog :)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance the son’s daughter

    be ready jesus might come before you get to know what you need to know at this second and it might be in this second the left behind

  • Shane Caldwell

    Scientific Fundamentalism

    I often notice scientists talking about religion as though its evidentiary basis were to be found in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, and using the word “fundamentalist” as though it addresses a majority of theists. I’m sure people have different motivations for embracing this straw man. Maybe their experience of religion actually justifies it; mine certainly doesn’t. Whatever its cause, such an attitude makes it easy to dismiss religion, and this seems to satisfy a lot of people. “The bible says that the universe is young, created in 6*24 hours, the earth never moves, and pi equals three? Well then, to hell with it.”

    That is a silly, made-up quotation. Few people reason that way, and it would be unfair to present it as though its refutation would answer the deepest concerns of a serious atheist. But I do want to criticize the kernel of the quotation, which is the notion that science can put religion on trial and show it to be false. Such a trial can be made into a handy device for asserting the supremacy of science, if one wants it to do that. And this kind of reasoning, together with its conclusion and especially the dismissive attitude it can beget toward non-believers in the total authority of science, is what I mean by the title of Scientific Fundamentalism. It is characterized by the reduction of a problem with many dimensions to an argument about one dimension, together with the belief that the conclusions resulting from this can make the other lines of evidence irrelevant. I see this attitude more or less prominently displayed in some of the previous comments on this thread. Sean’s argument against the existence of God, at least as I have found it in his post as well as here and here, and as he presented it at our church, is grounded in this fallacious reductionism, where he says that religion and science make competing claims about nature and science wins if science is used to judge. Against this, I argue that science has not in fact undermined Christianity, nor can it.

    Like my made-up quotation, the proposition that science has actually discredited religion in history only makes sense if it is supported by a misunderstanding of religion, historically or theologically. The historical claim, I guess, is based on a number of times when Christian leaders have propounded scientific falsehoods, such as in the trials of Galileo and the development of young-Earth creationism, and argued to those falsehoods from their understanding of Christianity. But it is obvious, even without recourse to Christian theology, that those falsehoods are not warrants of Christianity; otherwise, their destruction would have destroyed Christianity.

    Sean seems to think that Christianity really has been destroyed in this way, and we are only waiting for the walls to crumble. Perhaps he believes that a preponderance of Christians are geocentrists and young-Earth creationists whose faith is waiting in the darkness for the light of science to finally set them free. But that is demonstrably false, and anyone who wants to test it for oneself can do so very easily. Christians have rejected the falsehoods of the church’s past and yet Christianity remains intact. To deny this is only to make the mistake of labeling the rule by its exception, although I admit that this mistake is greatly advanced by the mortal aversion of the public media to intelligent discourse, especially on subjects of any nuance or importance. The point is that no past errors of the church have undermined the warrants of Christianity, as much as those errors may make people suspicious of the church and lead them to a mistaken rejection of Christianity itself. I present as an empirical fact of history which goes against Sean’s belief that most people are eventually going to join him on the enlightened side of the fence. In fact, I deny that there is any scientific problem with Christianity now or in the past.

    I say this because scientific controversies can not harm Christianity, as much as they may embarrass a number of individual Christians. In order to see this, we do need to understand Christian theology. The bible does not advance itself as a science textbook. When it speaks of nature as such, as in the final chapters of Job or in the Psalms, its message is about our ignorance of nature and our humble place within it, and about how it shows the greatness of God who “numbered the stars.” It does not pretend to give to us, or assure us of, any understanding of nature’s details. Accordingly, Christian authors and creeds over the millennia have regarded nature as another testament of God, separate from scripture but not repugnant to it. This view was advanced by Galileo and Newton, and emphatically in the second article of the Belgic Confession which predated them both, but perhaps most vividly by Francis Assisi and most influentially by such theological luminaries as the apostle Paul, Saint Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas. To quote from Augustine’s Enchiridion (his advice for Christians of the fifth century),

    “When the question is asked what we are to believe in regard to religion, it is not necessary to probe into the nature of things, as was done by those whom the Greeks call physici; nor need we be in alarm lest the Christian should be ignorant of the force and number of elements — the motion, and order, and eclipses of the heavenly bodies; the form of the heavens; the species and the natures of animals, plants, stones, fountains, rivers, mountains; about chronology and distances; the signs of coming storms; and a thousand other things which those philosophers either have found out, or think they have found out… It is enough for the Christian to believe that the only cause of all created things, whether heavenly or earthly, whether visible or invisible, is the goodness of the Creator, the one true God; and that nothing exists, but Himself, that does not derive its existence from Him.”

    Augustine was not forced to say this as a retreat from the onslaught of contemporary scientific progress. Rather, he was attempting to make a theologically sound, synthetic application of Christian philosophy from first prinicples, and it has withstood the test of time on its own merits. (A well informed Christian, of course, is not surprised by this; but opponents of Christianity should consider the importance of Augustine’s statement if they wish for their criticisms to be taken seriously.) Augustine’s view is typical, as it was formative, of Christian philosophy. So to say that science and religion have in the past collided is true as a sociological statement about institutions and people who have set themselves up as authorities. But this is philosophically no problem: the supposed authority was false; and when they went against the truth they went against God.

    It is worthwhile to examine the fallacy as it appears in Sean’s argument. I want to emphasize that I don’t think Sean’s argument relies on the assertion that science *has* discredited religion. Sean’s argument concludes that science does discredit religion, and he uses the *possibility* of this explicitly as a premise. I also want to gratefully acknowledge Sean’s thoughtfulness, fairness, and respectfulness, as well as his generosity for speaking at our church. Although I think his conclusion is the brother of meanness of attitude, he most certainly is not. I am using his statement of the possibility of science discrediting theism because he puts it so well, and I have found it instructive to take apart his language. I also hope to illuminate the way in which Sean’s description falls short for theists and to draw forth an admonition that may be helpful to scientists who want to converse with theism. When Sean spoke at our church, a number of people responded to him that they could not identify with his representation of theism. This failure to communicate is, as we all know, very common. I want to suggest that the failure is, in our time, mostly on the part of scientists and that it has endangered the public trust in which the scientific enterprise prospers in a free society.

    It is true that Christianity makes claims about the “basic workings of reality,” as Sean puts it, but those claims are founded on a worldview that is emphatically non-materialistic. This point is crucial, because in talking about the basic workings of reality one relies implicitly on some notion of what reality really is. Specifically, whereas science takes the “basic workings of reality” to be the fundamental laws and contents of the physical universe, Christianity not only uses a different concept but also explicitly denies that physical reality is fundamental, or basic. Christianity says that the fundamental aspect of our existence is not our bodies but rather our minds, or our hearts, or our souls. (Even if the mind arises from a complex blob of matter, the ordering and function of the blob, not the material of it, is the fundamental thing.) This idea is strange to no one; we have to be conditioned to believe otherwise, or else we are always speaking of “falsehood” and “justice” and “love” as if they actually existed and carried moral value and therefore ought to have some binding effect on the activity of our minds. Science is quite different from this in that it provisionally reduces “reality” to “nature” in order to help us find out about natural things, which is its aim. To a Christian, this aim is quite modest and incomplete, while to an atheist that aim is all there is. While Christianity agrees that humans are material beings as frail in their bodies as every other transient thing, it also insists that we are not merely material objects. Indeed, the assertion that men and women are made of the dust of the earth is one of the more important theological points of the creation story. But there also exist reason, order, purpose, dignity, and the possibilities of real love and hatred and honor and disgrace, by virtue of the nature of God in which our nature partakes, and these things evince God’s existence and imperfectly reflect God’s nature.

    Scientists may scoff at that worldview, but science does not understand it. The process by which science inquires does not account for all of those invisible qualities, such as love and justice and hope and order, unless they are somehow visible, as much as it does assume several of them, such as order and reason. To understand, let alone to judge, the claims of Christianity requires that its worldview be fully engaged, and science cannot make that engagement. Therefore, to use science as one’s only basis for making that judgment is to choose rules that religion does not play by. It is a fallacy, and a blindingly obvious one, at that.

    It is not as though certain limited facts about nature are not important, even central, to religion. Sean mentions the possibility that God might make appearances in nature. But, of course, Christianity rests entirely on the claim that this did happen! “If Christ is not risen, then our faith is vain,” was the claim made expressly at a time and place when people were alive who could refute it. People, sometimes scientific people, often experience miraculous events in their lives. One wonders what amount of evidence might the skeptic need in to order to break the cycle of, “Miracles don’t happen, therefore all evidence about miracles is false, therefore miracles don’t happen.” There is a mountain of eyewitness testimony about miracles; is it even scientific to dismiss this fact? If so, then on what basis, if not materialistic philosophical prejudice?

    Not surprisingly, Sean’s argument relies mostly on prejudice in order to get from “science may show that God is a needed hypothesis” all the way to “science has shown that God is not a needed hypothesis.” (Here I am referring especially to his longer versions.) The intermediate step here seems to be that we can still imagine, if not test, alternative hypotheses, and as long as we can do that then we have dodged the bullet of theism. To me, that is by no means convincing even as science, much less as an attempt to address the radical claims of theology. But then there is a final, quiet step — to me it looks like a leap of pure faith — to conclude that “therefore God does not exist; material and interactions are all that exist.” This is what I mean by accepted a reduced argument as prevailing against all other evidence. One might almost as well argue, say, that the bible is true merely because it can be construed as self-consistent (admittedly, with much less work and much more certainty, than to believe that physics ultimately will be) — that is, merely because it can be thought to be completely true — and to hold this conclusion over and against any tests of its moral authority.

    Scientists often wonder with each other how the average of their fellow citizens can give science so little credit on the questions that matter most to them. I think Sean’s argument is indicative of the reason why. To put it simply, an argument like Sean’s comes across to most people as studiously missing the point of religion, and then, by illogical reasoning, reaching a conclusion (real, bona fide materialism) whose consequences are absurd to the heart: that our lives are meaningless; that no real moral principle exists; that the observed order of nature is an accident; that our conclusions about science are themselves just another part of nature, no more likely to deserve the mantle of “truth” than any other phenomenon. Most people who contemplate materialism, I think, somehow recognize that materialism is a self-defeating philosophy; that it undermines its own warrant (“sawing off the epistemological branch on which it sits”), and that, even if by some “miracle” of nature it were true, it would leave us all to a purposeless life that we can hardly contemplate. Ask a materialist why he loves his children, and he will say, “It is the will of Nature that I do so.” Ask him why he ought to love them, and you have uttered nonsense to him. Ask a Christian, and he will say to both, “It pleases God that I do so.” He understands both categories — indicative and imperative, “is” and “ought to” — in the richness of his concept, without breaking his own heart to do so, and without laying upon nature the work of a deity, which mistake results from every misidentification of the one true and transcending deity.

    In short, the point of view that purports to defeat religion by reducing the examination to materialistic grounds — the one which so facilitates labeling religious people as “fundamentalists” whose minds are not open to all lines of evidence — itself amounts, by rejecting all but a single line of evidence, to just another form of fundamentalism. In my opinion, the attitude of some scientists that science has all the answers (worth having), is no more true or dignified or intelligent than the belief that the bible is a book about cosmology, or that it is a recipe for every moral dilemma. It has the further disadvantage of making nonsense out of very basic parts of our thoroughly non-atheistic understanding of ourselves, such as the notion of our free will, our basic rights as humans, the absolute value of human life, and the possibility of moral evil; so that if any of these notions is true, then to the extent that Sean convinces us that science disproves theism, he has also disproved science! (That Sean’s argument would tend to make science — which we know is valid — logically more vulnerable, is yet more evidence of the fallacy.) To flatly invoke the Standard Model to explain the existence, in each of us, of a conscience at once our own and yet foreign to us, which makes demands on our minds to which we assent but which we cannot fulfill, has no more merit than does an application of Leviticus as a prescription rather than a paradigm by assuming the total supremacy of a single interpretation. Both constructions are so limited as to effectively rule out their being overturned by evidence; both have the effect of convincing most people that the construction is wrong; and, in fact, both amount to explanations of nothing.

  • http://mccue.cc/bob/spirituality.htm bob mccue

    One my friends sent me this link. I will leave it to her to self identify, if she wishes to do so. I found the discussion educational in a number of ways, as well as a regrettable example of how religious and scientific people talk past each other. My background as a former more-or-less fundamentalist Christian who has become a materialist/naturalist puts me in a position to perhaps shed some light on this. To give you some idea of where I used to fall on the literalists/metaphoric spectrum, I note that I used to accept things like the creation narrative and the global flood as metaphor while taking other equally bizarre events (such as the Tower of Babel, the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection) literally.

    I will refer to myself as “bm” in this review.

    First, my comment regarding Carroll’s useful paper is that he addresses an important segment of the religious population but does not make this clear enough to satisfy many whose religious beliefs are far more sophisticated than those he critiques. This one of Caldwell’s legitimate beefs, and as I started to read I thought I would take Caldwell’s side of the debate. I didn’t.

    As Carroll states or implies, science admits that there is much about reality that it does not understand or has misunderstood, and adopts as an article of faith that everything can be boiled down to naturalistic principles. So, any force that might seem supernatural is merely not yet understood or now misunderstood. I agree with this. Carroll’s articulation of the “theistic” point of view is, however, unduly narrow. There are many other conceptions of deity to which his critique does not apply as well, or at all.

    For example, Carroll says, “I will argue that … science and religion do speak to some of the same questions, and when they do they get different answers. In particular, I wish to argue that religious belief necessarily entails certain statements about how the universe works, that these statements can be judged as scientific hypotheses, and that as such they should be rejected in favor of alternative ways of understanding the universe.”

    I can’t agree. He conclusion depends on his too narrow definition of theism and hence religion. He has set up a straw man, while acknowledging the difficulty of the threshold defintional issues. The evolution of relgious belief, in general, is toward consistency with science. I expect this to be increasingly the case.

    I will leave Carroll here and turn to Caldwell, who offers us a scientific straw man. For brevity, I have included only the first few words of each of his paragraphs to which I respond.

    Caldwell: But it is obvious, even without recourse to Christian theology, that those falsehoods are not warrants of Christianity; otherwise, their destruction would have destroyed Christianity.

    bm — This is a non-sequitur. The durability of Christianity is a simple example of cultural evolution. Social organisms such as various incarnations of the Christian church are important to human survival and reproduction in various ways, and hence should be expected to evolve over time as their environmental conditions change. How similar is the average liberal Episcopalians today to literalist Christians of the 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th, or 21st, centuries CE?

    Caldwell: The point is that no past errors of the church have undermined the warrants of Christianity, as much as those errors may make people suspicious of the church and lead them to a mistaken rejection of Christianity itself.

    bm — It makes more sense to me to examine how the warrants of Christianity have changed as a result of science’s high probable falsification of many of Christianity’s claims.

    Caldwell: I present as an empirical fact of history which goes against Sean’s belief that most people are eventually going to join him on the enlightened side of the fence. In fact, I deny that there is any scientific problem with Christianity now or in the past.

    bm — No scientific problem with the virgin birth, immaculate conception, resurrection, other miracles?

    Caldwell: The bible does not advance itself as a science textbook.

    bm — The text clearly indicates the perspective of its writers. The earth was flat, with four corners. The heavens were a dome over the earth. Etc. Did those whose words comprise the Bible not believe this to be physical reality? Does their theology not depend to a large extent on that reality? See my discussion below the unfalsifiable nature of Caldwell’s epistemic system.

    Caldwell: Accordingly, Christian authors and creeds over the millennia have regarded nature as another testament of God, separate from scripture but not repugnant to it.

    bm — This was true of some people during some times. The ebb and flow of Christianity’s most basic premises is an interesting study.

    Caldwell: To quote from Augustine’s Enchiridion (his advice for Christians of the fifth century) [quote eliminated for brevity]

    bm — Any culture that has been around for a long time will have produced enough different points of view that almost any point of view can be supported now by reference to history. This history is the raw intellectual material that is used to justify the changes that are required to cope with environmental change as the social organism evolves. Here Caldwell treats us to an example of the kind of cherry picking that is central to the evolutionary process. One early Christian thinker, who had been working along the axis of synthesizing Christianity with Greek thought, is used to support a science friendly approach the Christian theology. To say that he was not dealing with the “onslaught of contemporary scientific progress” is hence misleading. In his day, that is precisely what he was doing, and a lot of Greek ideas have stood the test of time well. And while this aspect of what Augustine said sounds pretty good, it is as easy to find horrific ideas in his teachings, his attitudes toward sexuality among them.

    Caldwell: Augustine’s view is typical, as it was formative, of Christian philosophy.

    bm — Many apologists for a wide variety of religious and other ideologies use this argument. So, each time religious authority is proven wrong this falsifies the bit proven wrong but not the worldview thus leaving intact the remaining dogma — the “truth”. There are huge philosophical problems lurking here, the among the foremost being that Caldwell (and many other apologists) create epistemic systems that are non-falsifiable.

    Caldwell: One wonders what amount of evidence might the skeptic need in to order to break the cycle of, “Miracles don’t happen, therefore all evidence about miracles is false, therefore miracles don’t happen.”

    bm — What happens when we scientifically test alleged miraculous claims? I am aware of countless cases in which the perception of miracles has been explained to result from various cognitive biases or charlatanry. I am not aware of a single case when after scientific testing the conclusion was that the best explanation for the phenomenon under consideration was a supernatural cause. If anyone can point me to such a case, I would be indebted. We are left with anecdotal evidence in favor of miracles, and nothing more. And, these anecdotes bear numerous indicia in common with the myths found at the base of most human cultures. In the absence of other evidence, this is their most parsimonious explanation. Christian miracles, all well as all others, fall into this camp.

    Caldwell: To put it simply, an argument like Sean’s comes across to most people as studiously missing the point of religion,

    bm — As one who has been on both sides of this divide, this seems to me to be a knee jerk religionist reaction that is likely the result of social conditioning. Having changed my point of view re. theism, I no longer need the “meaning” that my former beliefs posited. I am now quite content with meanings that are found entirely within the limited natural world as I perceive it, and find that the mystery and uncertainty this requires me to accept is enlivening.

    Caldwell: Ask a materialist why he loves his children, and he will say, “It is the will of Nature that I do so.”

    bm — This is a straw man, at least as bad as Carroll’s that Caldwell has spent an entire essay complaining about. There are countless answers to this question.

    Caldwell: Ask him why he ought to love them, and you have uttered nonsense to him.

    bm — Come on.

    Caldwell: Ask a Christian, and he will say to both, “It pleases God that I do so.”

    bm — Speaking of having missed basic points, here we have several volumes. The poor Christian held out here has no epistemically justifiable information about the nature of his God. In fact, most of his best theologians have told him that should not even try to understand the Divine Mystery. And yet the foundation for his love of his children is this God’s pleasure? And he gets both “is” and “ought” from that inscrutable source? Here we often find monumental ignorance or arrogance, and I know many religious people who are aptly described using either or both of these terms. And I know many others who simply accept the mystery of our existence as well as our love for our children, and let it go at that.

    Caldwell: In short, the point of view that purports to defeat religion by reducing the examination to materialistic grounds … itself amounts, by rejecting all but a single line of evidence, to just another form of fundamentalism.

    bm — This is one of the oldest and most common defences of the religious point of view. Is Caldwell comforted by the fact that apologists for the Mormons, JWs, Young Earth Creationists and countless others use this in precisely the way he does? While Carroll can be rightly accused to setting up a straw religious man to knock down, Caldwell here does the same thing to science. Straw men all around. More evidence of how difficult communication is across this divide. The reasons underlying this difficulty fascinate me, and the best answers I have so far found relate to the importance of the human group to survival and propagation throughout most of human history (see http://mccue.cc/bob/documents/rs.denial.pdf starting at page 120). Though we are not existentially threatened by these questions now, our biology evolved while we were. Hence, when discussing basic social premises, our fight or flight response engages and rational thought (as well as our ability to communicate) radically declines in many cases.

    Caldwell: In my opinion, the attitude of some scientists that science has all the answers (worth having), is no more true or dignified or intelligent than the belief that the bible is a book about cosmology, or that it is a recipe for every moral dilemma.

    bm — Another straw man. Most scientists I know readily admit how little science has to say relative to all that is possibly real. It is their refusal to give unearned epistemic credit to the claims religious people make that gets the goat of Caldwell and others like him, as we see here.

    Caldwell: It has the further disadvantage of making nonsense out of very basic parts of our thoroughly non-atheistic understanding of ourselves, such as the notion of our free will, our basic rights as humans, the absolute value of human life, and the possibility of moral evil;

    bm — Caldwell radically underestimates the degree to which our “understanding of ourselves” is a social construct. This is within the reach of science, and science has done a good job of showing that the perception of absolute values is a common feature of social groups, and that there is wide disagreement as to what those absolutes are. The question of how one justifies these absolutes is interesting. There does not seem to be any to do this other than to insist “it just is!” in a rising tone of voice.

    Caldwell: … so that if any of these notions is true, then to the extent that Sean convinces us that science disproves theism, he has also disproved science!

    bm — I must be slow this morning. This did not make sense to me. It seems circular. If something is true (in scientific terms?), and science disproves it, science has disproved itself. I am getting dizzy.

    Caldwell: To flatly invoke the Standard Model to explain the existence, in each of us, of a conscience at once our own …

    bm — The Standard Model falls far short of explaining all human behaviour, not to mention all reality. We have no theory of everything. Complexity theory has exciting potential in terms of explaining human behaviour, but is still nascent. There is much that science accepts on faith. However, in light of the uncertainty we face science offers the most parsimonious and hence justifiable approach to take, and hence to compare the scientific recognition of uncertainty and use of parsimony to the literalist acceptance of Leviticus is ridiculous.

    Caldwell: Both constructions are so limited as to effectively rule out their being overturned by evidence; both have the effect of convincing most people that the construction is wrong; and, in fact, both amount to explanations of nothing.

    bm — This is attempted guilt by association. Science provides more justifiable, reliable explanations than any other approach to understanding reality. Many conceptions of god are consistent with science, particularly when we take into account its willingness to accept new conceptions of reality. And, while there is no reliable evidence for miracles or the kind of supernatural force Caldwell posits, there is a great deal of evidence as to why this kind of belief is persistent.

    I applaud Carroll’s taking apart of the literalist conception of a personal, supernatural god, and hope he turns his analytical and rhetorical talents to helping people (like me) for whom that conception failed to find meaningful conceptions of deity that are consonant with the powerful impulses we have experienced as well as the world as science describes it.

    I applaud Caldwell’s attempt to let Carroll know that his approach is inadequate, and hope that he pays more attention to what is justifiable from an epistemic point of view and accepts mystery where knowledge is not justifiable. Dogma and magical thinking are weeds that spring up in our neural cracks wherever possible, largely as a result of the need we have for security and our concomitant unjustifiable tendency to certainty. These mental traits should discouraged whenever we meet them, as I am doing here.

    best,
    bob mccue
    Calgary Alberta

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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