Scientists on God

Albert Einstein (the father of the General Theory of Relativity – the comprehensive theory of the macroscopic universe), was perhaps the most cautious of these great thinkers. He viewed God as a principle of intelligibility and rationality – a superior mind — stating it this way:

Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality and intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order… This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.[1]

Though Einstein had a conviction, feeling, and belief about “a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience,” he did not believe in a personal God, and he does not comment on the status of a human soul. However, two of his colleagues (who developed the Quantum Theory – completing the scientific picture of the modern universe) did.

Max Planck (d 1947), was the originator of the quantum theory, which completely revolutionized our view of the microscopic world – the domain of atomic and subatomic fields and particles. He was not only convinced about the existence of God and the human soul, but also the veracity and importance of religion:

Religion is the link that binds man to God – resulting from the respectful humility before a supernatural power, to which all human life is subject and which controls our weal and woe.[2]

Planck manifests a genuine sense of “humble reverence” before “the supernatural power” — indicating not only his prayerfulness but also his sense of being subject to an authority and providential control greater than that of physics or the human will.

Werner Heisenberg (d 1976), the father of the matrix formulation of quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle, was a practicing Lutheran who believed in a transphysical soul and a transcendent domain to which we are called. When asked about whether he believed in a personal God by his colleague Wolfgang Pauli, he responded:

Can you, or anyone else, reach the central order of things, or events, whose existence seems beyond doubt, as directly as you can reach the soul of another human being? I am using the term ‘soul’ quite deliberately so as not to be misunderstood. If you would put the question like that, the answer is yes.[3]

He later indicated that faith goes beyond having a conviction about the existence of God and a soul, noting that faith entails trust which moves us to action:

Faith requires trust; we must believe in – not just about. If I have found faith, it means I have decided to do something and am willing to stake my life on it.[4]

Sir Arthur Eddington (d 1944) was the astrophysicist responsible for the early astronomical confirmation of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity as well as other theories integral to the conception of the modern universe. In a classical work devoted to the integration of the General Theory of Relativity with Quantum Theory, he wrote a curious chapter called “A Defense of Mysticism” in which he said the following:

We all know that there are regions of the human spirit untrammeled 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. The sanction for this development is within us, a striving born with our consciousness or an Inner Light proceeding from a greater power than ours. Science can scarcely question this sanction, for the pursuit of science springs from a striving which the mind is impelled to follow, a questioning that will not be suppressed. 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.[5]

Eddington intuitively recognized that the human spirit could not be reduced to the structures and constituents of physics, implying that our minds could not be reduced to our brains – or some derivative of artificial intelligence. These observations made the work of Kurt Gödel (d 1978) – one of the twentieth century’s most prominent mathematicians and logicians, and colleague of Einstein’s – incredibly relevant. In his two Incompleteness Theorems, he showed that the human capacity to understand the rules upon which any set of algorithms is founded, cannot be explained by the algorithms themselves. This shows that human beings (who are capable of knowing the rules upon which any set of algorithms is grounded) transcend not only rule-based thinking, but also any mechanism which is bound by such rule-based thinking (such as computers and even merely physical brains). This points, at least incipiently, to the existence of a transphysical dimension of human beings.[6] The implications of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems are consistent with his strong theistic convictions and belief in a soul. Unlike his friend, Albert Einstein, Gödel did believe in a personal God. He expressed his thoughts as follows:

Of course this supposes that there are many relationships which today’s science and received wisdom haven’t any inkling of. But I am convinced of this [the afterlife], independently of any theology. It is possible today to perceive, by pure reasoning that it is entirely consistent with known facts. If the world is rationally constructed and has meaning, then there must be such a thing [as an afterlife].[7]

If we assess the collective thought of the three greatest theoretical physicists, one of the greatest astrophysicists, and one of the greatest mathematicians and logicians of our age, it reveals a conviction about the reality of the transcendent domain arising out of (1) the rational essence of our universe, (2) the transphysical dimension of mathematical and scientific thought, and (3) the intelligibility of mathematics and logic itself. These are not the opinions of a few deluded men who are wishfully yearning for a comforting parent, but rather the best intellectual and intuitive conclusions from lives devoted to the highest dimensions of science, mathematics, and logic. If they believe that the rationality of our universe and the transphysical dimension of our minds warrant belief in God and a soul, then we may want to at least remain open to this prospect, and delve into their reasons for believing this. It should be noted that all of these thinkers, with the exception of Einstein, believed in a personal God who is concerned with each of us in both this world and the next. Planck was moved to humble reverence before God, Heisenberg to virtue, trust, and faith, Eddington to an experience of the mystical, and Gödel to a belief in an afterlife with a personal God.

We might pause for a moment to consider Gödel’s and Eddington’s rationale for belief in a soul or spirit. Gödel’s Proof (in its contemporary articulation by Roger Penrose and others[8]) shows strongly that human intellection is not reducible to rule-based or algorithmic structures in the physical world or in the brain. Rather, human intellection has the capacity to transcend all such rule-based and algorithmic structures (to which the physical world is limited) implying that it has a transphysical quality.

Eddington had a similar insight, though he did not express it in a formal logical-mathematical proof. He noticed that all questioning implies the capacity to “see” beyond the current state of our knowledge. If we did not see beyond our knowledge, we could never understand the inadequacy or imperfection of it, in which case, we would never ask a question. The apple would have dropped on Newton’s head, and instead of formulating the law of gravitation, he would have simply eaten it. More interestingly, Eddington noticed that we have the capacity to ask questions continually (by continually recognizing imperfections in our knowledge through our capacity to be beyond every imperfect manifestation of it). He recognized that this “continual beyondness” (which is beyond all imperfect, finite, and algorithmic structures) must be transphysical or spiritual. Thus, for him, our spiritual nature is not only the source of mysticism and art, but also science and mathematics.[9]

Is there any other evidence for a transphysical or spiritual dimension of human beings besides Gödel’s Proof, Eddington’s insight, and the intuition of the above great theoretical physicists? As a matter of fact there is – and one does not have to be a physicist or mathematician to understand it. Contemporary, peer-reviewed medical studies of near death experiences provide convincing evidence of our spiritual nature. As we shall see in Volume II (Chapter Three), we have a spiritual dimension (like a transphysical soul) that leaves our bodies after clinical death. This “soul” has the capacity to see, hear, remember, recall, think, feel emotions, and be self-conscious. Furthermore, it has transphysical qualities – it is able to pass through walls, be unaffected by gravity, and can even pass over to a transcendent world where it can perceive deceased relatives, a loving white light, and Jesus.[10]

The evidence for this is remarkable – 80% of blind people who have near-death experiences see through their transphysical soul after clinical death.[11] Most of them had no capacity to see through their physical bodies prior to clinical death. Hundreds of cases of reported empirical data (that were unusual and could not have been anticipated or guessed) was reported with almost perfect accuracy (and verified by independent researchers after the fact).[12] Moreover, studies of death anxiety in children,[13] the confluence of thousands of reported cases of near death experiences,[14] and reports of knowledge about deceased relatives “beyond the grave”[15] all combine with the veridical evidence and the visual capacity of physically blind people to show the high likelihood of a transphysical or spiritual dimension within us – subject neither to the physical world nor to death.

Is there any other evidence for a transphysical domain from the natural sciences? Late 20th and 21st century physics (particularly Big Bang cosmology) reveals three indications of a Creator beyond not only our universe, but even any hypothetical multiverse – beyond bouncing universes, and even bouncing universes in the higher dimensions of string theory.[16] In other words, this evidence from cosmology and theoretical physics points to a transphysical Creator – a Creator beyond the totality of physical reality (whether physical reality be conceived as only our universe, a multiverse, or bouncing universes in the higher dimensional space of string theory).

[1] Einstein 1954 p 262. Italics mine.
[2] Seeger 1985 (a), pp. 232-233.
[3] Seeger 1985 (b), pp. 231-232.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Eddington 1928, pp. 327-28.
[6] The Gödel incompleteness theorems (Gödel 1931) are quite valid today, and have been reconfigured by John Lucas (1961) and Roger Penrose (1989 and 1996) – among others – implying the same result. This proof comports well with the evidence of a transphysical dimension of human beings from near death experiences (see Volume II, Chapter 3 of this Trilogy) and the five transcendental desires (see below in this Chapter, and also Volume II, Chapter 2 of this Trilogy).
[7] Wang 1996, pp. 104–105.
[8] See Lucas 1961, p. 120; Penrose 1989 and 1996; Stephen Barr 2003, p. 214; and Spitzer 2010, p. 5-27. For an excellent peer-reviewed summary of the critiques and responses to both the Lucas and Penrose renditions of the Gödel Proof, see also Megill 2013.
[9] Bernard Lonergan presents a formal proof of this in Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (Chapter 19). I have summarized it in my book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy (Chapter 8, Section I). See Spitzer 2010 (b), pp 260-263.
[10] See Alexander 2012 (a) and 2012 (b); Ring 1980; Ring, Cooper, and Tart 1999; van Lommel, van Wees, Meyers, and Elfferich 2001; Holden 2009; Moody 1993, 1988, 1975; Morse, Castillo, Venecia, et al 1986; Morse, Connor, and Tyler, 1985. These references are explained in detail in Volume II, Chapter 3 of this Trilogy.
[11] See Ring, Cooper, and Tart 1999.
[12] Janice Holden has done a study of thirty-seven monitored studies, and has compiled the remarkable accuracy of verified data reported by patients as taking place during clinical death. See Holden 2009.
[13] See Morse, Castillo, Venecia, et al 1986 and Morse, Connor, and Tyler, 1985.
[14] See Gallup and Proctor 1982; Moody 1988 and 1975; van Lommel, van Wees, Meyers, and Elfferich 2001; Ring 1980; and Holden 2009.
[15] See Moody 1993. See also Holden 2009.
[16] See Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin 2003.

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