When I was at high school I had a miserable and grumpy physics teacher. The class regularly descended into anarchy because our teacher had no control of the class. I regret this very much, especially since I realized shortly after leaving school that physics really is fascinating. I remember suddenly being ravenous for information about the laws of the universe and since I had a head for maths my appetite for astronomy and physics just grew and grew.
Today’s picture prompt from The Haunted Wordsmith has sent me mind off in many different directions. I had about five ideas but I have settled on two subjects. So… I am thinking I may end up publishing two separate posts, rather than one huge one. A lovely blogger kindly told me some of my posts were too long. I quite agree. I am trying to limit myself.
I think it makes sense to publish this one first, because I don’t want anyone to think I am dogmatic or disrespectful of anyone else’s treasured beliefs. Many a thing has been said about Albert Einstein. I am aware of a lot of quotes ascribed to him. Since I was not there to hear him voice those words…I am going to shy away from quoting him directly. However, I don’t think anyone would argue that Albert Einstein was a true scientist. He asked questions and searched for answers. I read this of him:
IN 1905, a 26-year-old patent clerk named Albert Einstein published four scientific papers that altered the way we view our universe—from its tiniest building blocks to its most massive galaxies. Some of these papers also became springboards launching many of the life-altering inventions produced during the past 100 years.
“There is scarcely any important fundamental idea in modern physics,” says Nobel laureate in physics Isidor Rabi, “whose origin does not trace back at least in part to Einstein.”
As with other friends I have been very close to, I quickly detected where Goldfinch and I might have differing viewpoints on some of life’s big questions. I have been brought up to be respectful of other people’s opinions. I am more than happy to discuss big questions with friends and workmates from different cultures and faiths. You know questions like:
- Is there a Creator?
- What is the purpose of life?
- What happens when someone dies?
- Why is there so much injustice and suffering?
I am not afraid of any of these questions. Why should I be? We are all in exactly the same boat. We are human. We exist. We are alive. We have a mind that asks questions and is hungry for answers. I love to hear what others think on these subjects and hear the reasons behind their beliefs. I find it fascinating to hear where someone else is coming from…and the way their mind runs.
It concerns me when someone does not care at all and is far more interested in the latest designer handbag they want or what the score is in some sports match. I have started to wonder if some people are either mentally exhausted by their busy life to be able to ponder. Or are they are so afraid that the answers to those questions might show them up and make a fool out of them and their lifestyle? I don’t know. I would hope that at some point they will become hungry for answers…like Albert Einstein had a hunger to understand.
But what concerns me even more is people who have made their decision on what to believe and become monstrously dogmatic in the way they speak on these subjects. People who think that they are right and that anyone who does not share their opinion is an utter fruitcake! If you have ever had the misfortune to be belittled by someone who is dogmatic and will not allow you to get a word in edge-ways then you may agree with me. Ay karumba!
What I love is reasonable, mild people who converse with a humble approach. You know the type that are not gullible, they don’t just go along with popular opinion, they like to see some evidence and logic. But they are willing to acknowledge that there may be more than one way to see evidence. They are good at recognizing bias and don’t just accept the word of someone who is charismatic or couches their words on such a high intellectual level that Joe Bloggs cannot possibly understand them. Just as in a court case, people giving their testimony might describe seeing something differently from another. As an impartial juror, you might start to detect the sentiments or motives behind the person delivering their testimony.
I love talking with people who are as hungry as I am for answers. I totally understand why some might have strong feelings. I know some who are seething with rage about hypocrisy or corruption within religious organisations. I know some who felt the pain so deeply in unimaginable cases of suffering that they cannot reconcile themselves to the thought of someone with the power to prevent suffering existing. It’s clear how much anger within some have whenever they talk about any of the subjects I have mentioned.
However, I don’t understand how a scientist can be dogmatic about the physical evidence in front of them. In fact, I have read of scientists reaching completely opposing conclusions from other scientists. Sometimes I wonder are they at looking at the same thing? Physical or scientific evidence seems to be interpreted very differently by the so-called “experts”.
What I think I am trying to say is this: We are all human. We are all in the same boat. We are all bombarded with information from various sources telling us what to think, what to believe. As impartial jurors, we have to listen with shrewdness. I have become more and more cautious as I have aged…I do probe a bit to find out why someone may feel so strongly about what they claim is the truth, always aware that my own understanding is limited and I should be prepared to recognize where I am wrong. I am always respectful of other’s opinions, but I preserve my reasoning ability by analysing the logic and the evidence in what they are telling me. If they tell me about information they have read or some physical evidence they have seen, I want my own eyes to behold it before I will accept it as authoritative.
One night I was walking along with Goldfinch…and listening to his viewpoints respectfully. He spoke with strong feeling on some matters. I could empathise with him, although I did not necessarily agree with him. I had only known him for a couple of weeks at the time. So I explained to him pretty much what I have written above (although I managed to compress in into a a few sentences somehow) and then I told him about what someone showed me many years ago and I thought it was one of the fairest and most reasonable three questions about our universe I had seen. For me it summed up the situation I have referred to. We are all in the same boat and at one time may ask:
Had No Beginning Had a Beginning
Without Cause Was Caused
By Some THING By Some ONE
I remember the same person mentioning to me that if someone does not want to be reasonable…well, there is not much you can do. It certainly is not much fun discussing life’s big questions with someone so dogmatic and arrogant that they can’t see past the end of their own nose. I just don’t have time for someone completely dogmatic and brutally disrespectful of what others sincerely believe.
I am certainly not going to tell someone else what they ought to believe. Although I am more than happy to discuss these subjects and explain the reasons for my own beliefs. I know what I believe after reading and asking questions and discussing with others and thinking over things, following the logic and the reason. I am not going to mock what someone else believes if it is different to my own conclusion. However, I applaud those who have a deep conviction based on carefully and eagerly searching for the answers to their questions. I know some sincerely want to help others change their minds perhaps. It’s so important to be tactful, kind and respectful of someone else’s thinking though. Just avoid dogmatism…because it is so….
Now for those who love physics like I do…my next post will be a bit more on the scientific side of things!