History of Physics Group meeting “From Newton to the free electron laser”

Lecture 7: The paradigm shift of physics-religion-unbelief relationship from renaissance to the 21st century

Dr Elisabetta Canetta


Elisabetta graduated from the Department of Physics of the Universita’ di Bologna, Bologna (Italy) with an MPhys in Theoretical Nuclear Physics. In 2000, she moved to the Universite’ Joseph Fourier, Grenoble (France) and obtained a PhD in Experimental Biophysics in 2004 with a thesis entitled “Micromanipulation of living cells by using an AFM spectrometer: Application to cancer”.



My notes from the lecture (if they don’t make sense then it is entirely my fault)

Aristotle – The science of theology – linking theology with physics (and the other sciences): causes are linked to nature



Roman copy in marble of a Greek bronze bust of Aristotle by Lysippos, c. 330 BC, with modern alabaster mantle

Aristotle (384–322 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist born in the city of Stagira, Chalkidiki, in the north of Classical Greece.

Aristotle divided the theoretical sciences into three groups: physics, mathematics, and theology.

Scientific knowledge, he urged, must be built up out of demonstrations.

He was the first genuine scientist in history. He was the first author whose surviving works contain detailed and extensive observations of natural phenomena, and he was the first philosopher to achieve a sound grasp of the relationship between observation and theory in scientific method. He identified the various scientific disciplines and explored their relationships to each other.

He felt theology was the study of the highest form of reality, the “first substance,” which he seems to have regarded at different times as the “unmoved mover” and as “being qua being.” Aristotle spoke of three theoretical, or speculative, ways of knowing: the mathematical, the physical, and the theological, with theology being the “most honourable.”


He offered arguments for the existence of God (a God beyond the gods so to speak) and his arguments started from the observable fact of motion or change in things around us. On the basis of his theory of motion, change, and causality presented in Physics, Aristotle proceeded to offer a demonstration that there exists a first mover of all other movers which is not itself moved in any respect.

Aristotle’s arguments for the existence of God, because he argued from some feature of nature, came to be called “natural theology.” Natural theology was part of philosophy.


Rationalism of the Renaissance – 16th and 17th century – Autonomy of reason for the search of the truth

The Renaissance, that is, the period that extends roughly from the middle of the fourteenth century to the beginning of the seventeen century, was a time of intense, distinctive philosophical activity.

In the early part of the renaissance Aristotle’s works were rediscovered and considerable time and energy was taken to make Aristotelian texts clearer and more precise. Many Renaissance Aristotelians read Aristotle for scientific or secular reasons, with no direct interest in religious or theological questions. For some of them, their goals were the retrieval of the genuine Aristotelian concepts of science and scientific method, which he understood as the indisputable demonstration of the nature and constitutive principles of natural beings.

Unfortunately Aristotelian metaphysics set the standard for philosophical and theological teaching in the Catholic Church for almost two centuries. This explains why Nicolaus Copernicus’ ideas of heliocentrism and the motion of the earth were not immediately accepted.



Nicolaus Copernicus 19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543) was a Renaissance-era mathematician and astronomer who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the centre of the universe.


First edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), in which Copernicus argued that the positions of the stars and planetary orbits could be better explained by the sun being at the centre of the universe with the planets rotating around it in a circular motion, as shown in this iconic diagram.

Things changed throughout the 16th and 17th century. The Aristotelian representation of the universe began to be challenged.

During the sixteenth century, there were many philosophers of nature who felt that Aristotle’s system could no longer regulate honest inquiry into nature. Therefore, they stopped trying to adjust the Aristotelian system and turned their backs on it altogether.

The development of the new science took place by means of methodical observations and experiments, such as Galileo’s telescopic discoveries and his experiments on inclined planes, and it was the new philosophy of the early seventeenth century that sealed the fate of the Aristotelian worldview and set the tone for a new age.




Galileo Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Galileo has been called the “father of observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics”, the “father of the scientific method”, and the “father of modern science”

These letters record astronomical observations made by the Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1612.


Philosophical atheism of the age of the enlightenment (18th century) – a split between science and religion


The Enlightenment , also known as the great ‘Age of Reason’ – is defined as the period of rigorous scientific, political and philosophical discourse that characterised European society during the ‘long’ 18th century: from the late 17th century to the ending of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.

During this period there was an explosion of scientific endeavour. The growth of ‘natural philosophy’ was underpinned by the application of rational thought and reason to scientific enquiry. Scientific experimentation (with instrumentation) was used to shed new light on nature and to challenge superstitious interpretations of the living world, much of which had been deduced from uncritical readings of historical texts.

Enlightenment science greatly valued empiricism and rational thought and was embedded with the Enlightenment ideal of advancement and progress. The study of science, under the heading of natural philosophy, was divided into physics and a conglomerate grouping of chemistry and natural history, which included anatomy, biology, geology, mineralogy and zoology.


In France, René Descartes’ rationalist philosophy laid the foundation for enlightenment thinking.


Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality.



René Descartes (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist.

In Holland Baruch Spinoza was a leading philosophical figure of the Dutch Golden Age.


Baruch Spinoza (born Benedito de Espinosa, Portuguese: 24 November 1632 – 21 February 1677, later Benedict de Spinoza) was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Sephardi origin.


He laid the groundwork for the Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism, including modern conceptions of the self and the universe. His views were not accepted by his fellow Jews and he was excommunicated from the Talmud Torah congregation of Amsterdam

He lived an outwardly simple life as an optical lens grinder, collaborating on microscope and telescope lens designs.

In England Sir Isaac Newton stood at the forefront of the scientific revolution. His achievements in mathematics and physics revolutionised the contemporary view of the natural world.



Sir Isaac Newton FRS PRS (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author (described in his own day as a “natural philosopher”) who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time, and a key figure in the scientific revolution.


Title page of the first edition of Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (in Latin)

Newton was able to show that the natural world was ‘amenable to observations and experiment’, engendering a feeling among the scientific community that ‘Nature had finally been fathomed’.

In the mid-18th century, Paris became the centre of an explosion of philosophic and scientific activity challenging traditional doctrines and dogmas. The philosophic movement was led by People such as Voltaire, who argued for a society based upon reason rather than faith and Catholic doctrine, for a new civil order based on natural law, and for science based on experiments and observation.



François-Marie Arouet (21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and separation of church and state.

In Germany Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) tried to reconcile rationalism and religious belief, individual freedom and political authority, as well as map out a view of the public sphere through private and public reason.


He was a German philosopher who is a central figure in modern philosophy. He argued that space, time and causation are mere sensibilities; “things-in-themselves” exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited beforehand, and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant’s views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.


Religion and personal faith were subject to the tides of reason evident during the 18th century. Personal judgements on matters of belief were actively debated during the period, leading to scepticism, if not bold atheism, among enlightened elite.

New views on religion led to increasing fears among the clergy that the Enlightenment was ungodly and thus harmful to the moral well-being of an increasingly secular society. Deist’s argued that God’s influence on the world was minimal and revealed only by one’s own personal experience of nature.

Secular science and invention, fertilised by a spirit of enquiry and discovery, became the hallmark of enlightenment society, which in turn propelled the pace of 18th-century industrialisation and economic growth.

However, natural philosophers, such as Isaac Newton, sometimes appealed to supernatural agents in their natural philosophy (which we now call “science”).

Social rejection of religion in the 19th and 20th centuries

It wasn’t until the 19th century that the terms “religion” and “science” became widely used and Philosophers of science attempted to separate science from religion.

Karl Popper (1959) claimed that scientific hypotheses (unlike religious ones) are in principle falsifiable. Many affirm a difference between science and religion, even if the meanings of both terms had been known by different names.



Sir Karl Raimund Popper CH FBA FRS(28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994) was an Austrian-British philosopher and professor. He is generally regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers of science, and he is known for his rejection of the classical views on the scientific method in favour of empirical falsification.

One way to distinguish between science and religion is the claim that science concerns the natural world, whereas religion concerns both the natural and the supernatural. Scientific explanations do not appeal to supernatural entities such as gods or angels, or to non-natural forces (like miracles or karma).

The most influential model of the relationships between science and religion remains Barbour’s (2000): conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration.

The conflict model, which holds that science and religion are in perpetual and principal conflict, relies heavily on two historical narratives: the trial of Galileo and the reception of Darwinism. The conflict model was developed and defended in the nineteenth century.



The Galileo affair was a sequence of events, beginning around 1610, culminating with the trial and condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1633 for his support of heliocentrism.



Charles Robert Darwin, FRS FRGS FLS FZS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution.


On the Origin of Species (or more completely, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life), published on 24 November 1859, is a work of scientific literature by Charles Darwin which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Darwin’s book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution.


The title page of the 1859 edition of On the Origin of Species

It was argued that science and religion inevitably conflict as they essentially discuss the same domain.

The independence model holds that science and religion explore separate domains that ask distinct questions.

The dialogue model proposes a mutualistic relationship between religion and science.

The integration model is more extensive in its unification of science and theology. Natural theology formulates arguments for the existence and attributes of God. Theology of nature, starts not from science but from a religious framework, and examines how this can enrich or even revise findings of the sciences. The process of philosophy was a promising way to integrate science and religion.


Until the nineteenth and even early twentieth century, it was common for scientists to have religious beliefs which guided their work. In the seventeenth century, the design argument reached its peak popularity and natural philosophers were convinced that science provided evidence for God’s providential creation. By contrast, contemporary scientists tend to have lower religiosity compared to the general population.

Personal note: I have a good honours degree in physics and have no problem with accepting the theories of the origin of the Universe etc., but I am also a practising Catholic. I have no problem with believing in God. My view is that the bible was simply a way for ancient man to make sense of his origins and history.

One of the most renowned astrophysicists, Georges Lemaître (17 July 1894 – 20 June 1966), was a Roman Catholic priest.

He proposed on theoretical grounds that the universe is expanding, which was observationally confirmed soon afterwards by Edwin Hubble. He was the first to derive what is now known as Hubble’s law, or the Hubble-Lemaître law, and made the first estimation of what is now called the Hubble constant, which he published in 1927, two years before Hubble’s article. Lemaître also proposed what became known as the “Big Bang theory” of the creation of the universe, originally calling it the “hypothesis of the primeval atom”.

By 1951, Pope Pius XII declared that Lemaître’s theory provided a scientific validation for Catholicism. However, Lemaître resented the Pope’s proclamation, stating that the theory was neutral and there was neither a connection nor a contradiction between his religion and his theory. Lemaître and Daniel O’Connell, the Pope’s scientific advisor, persuaded the Pope not to mention Creationism publicly, and to stop making proclamations about cosmology. While a devout Roman Catholic, he opposed mixing science with religion, although he held that the two fields were not in conflict.

It should be noted that the Vatican has a thriving astronomy department and Pope John Paull II told Stephen Hawking he had no problem with accepting the “Big Bang Theory”.



Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition.

In modern times, humanist movements are typically non-religious movements aligned with secularism, and today humanism typically refers to a nontheistic life stance centred on human agency and looking to science rather than revelation from a supernatural source to understand the world.

6th-century BCE pre-Socratic Greek philosophers Thales of Miletus and Xenophanes of Colophon were the first in the region to attempt to explain the world in terms of human reason rather than myth and tradition, thus can be said to be the first Greek humanists.



Thales of Miletus (c. 624 – c. 546 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer from Miletus in Asia Minor (present-day Milet in Turkey). He was one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Many, most notably Aristotle, regarded him as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition, and he is otherwise historically recognized as the first individual in Western civilization known to have entertained and engaged in scientific philosophy.

He is recognized for breaking from the use of mythology to explain the world and the universe, and instead explaining natural objects and phenomena by theories and hypotheses, in a precursor to modern science.

The educational curriculum of humanism spread throughout Europe during the sixteenth century and became the educational foundation for the schooling of European elites, the functionaries of political administration, the clergy of the various legally recognized churches, and the learned professions of law and medicine. The ideal of a liberal arts, or humanistic education grounded in classical languages and literature, persisted until the middle of the twentieth century.

Modern humanism involved the rediscovery and application of Greek philosophy.


Liberal arts is the term given to an education based on classical antiquity. It is meant to be a practical education which develops mental capacity. It was designed in the late medieval period (12th/13th centuries) using ideas from Ancient Greek and Roman culture. The students were meant to be young gentlemen, that is, from respectable and important families. In modern times, liberal arts colleges educate both sexes, and a wider range of people.

The seven liberal arts were taught in two groups: the trivium and the quadrivium:

Trivium = Grammar, Dialectic (logic) and Rhetoric

Quadrivium = Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music


Academic areas that are associated with the term liberal arts include the natural Sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, earth sciences). Within the subjects people started to experiment.

Geometry as a philosophy and language


Geometry (from the Ancient Greek: γεωμετρία; geo- “earth”, -metron “measurement”) is a branch of mathematics concerned with questions of shape, size, relative position of figures, and the properties of space.



Pythagoras of Samos (c. 570 – c. 495 BC) was an ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and the eponymous founder of Pythagoreanism.

Pythagoras is perhaps best known to modern students of mathematics for his work in geometry, and transformed it into a philosophical discipline which he called “historia” (or inquiry).

He saw the body as a temporary vehicle that if cared for properly (through diet, fasting, exercise & contemplation) could facilitate Transcendence by enabling the individual to realize their Divine Nature.



Pythagoreanism originated in the 6th century BC, based on the teachings and beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans. They espoused a rigorous life of the intellect and strict rules on diet, clothing and behaviour.

The surviving 5th century BC sources on Pythagoras and early Pythagoreanism do not include any supernatural elements although surviving 4th century BC sources on Pythagoreas’ teachings do include legend and fable.

The home of a Pythagorean was known as the site of mysteries and they believed that there was a transcendental nature to the methods of Pythagorean theory.

Pythagoras was supposed by some of his followers to be under the influence of Divine inspiration and was said to have been the first man to call himself a philosopher; in fact, the world is indebted to him for the word philosopher.



Theon of Smyrna (Greek: Θέων ὁ Σμυρναῖος Theon ho Smyrnaios, gen. Θέωνος Theonos; fl. 100 CE) was a Greek philosopher and mathematician, whose works were strongly influenced by the Pythagorean school of thought. His surviving On Mathematics Useful for the Understanding of Plato is an introductory survey of Greek mathematics.

Johannes Kepler



Johannes Kepler (December 27, 1571 – November 15, 1630) was a German astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer. He is a key figure in the 17th-century scientific revolution, best known for his laws of planetary motion, and his books Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae. These works also provided one of the foundations for Newton’s theory of universal gravitation.

He wanted to become a theologian and believed that God made Himself known to humanity through geometry. He made used of Pythagorean geometry.

Kepler’s belief that God created the cosmos in an orderly fashion caused him to attempt to determine and comprehend the laws that govern the natural world, most profoundly in astronomy.

Rene Descartes


Cartesian theory of the Universe begins with doubt rather than faith.

Cartesian dualism: Descartes’ famous saying epitomizes the dualism concept. He said, “cogito ergo sum,” “I reflect therefore I am.” Descartes held that the immaterial mind and the material body are two completely different types of substances and that they interact with each other. He reasoned that the body could be divided up by removing a leg or arm, but the mind or soul were indivisible.


Cartesian philosophy allowed the church to accept science. In his theology, he insisted on the absolute freedom of God’s act of creation.

From the renaissance there was increasing secularism where religion and statecraft separated. Science flourished.

Free thinkers caused a very fast expansion of human knowledge. From the 17th century the scientific revolution was part of the “age of enlightenment”.


In philosophy, empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience.

Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasises evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.

Empiricism, often used by natural scientists, says that “knowledge is based on experience” and that “knowledge is tentative and probabilistic, subject to continued revision and falsification”. Empirical research, including experiments and validated measurement tools, guides the scientific method.

From the 17th century the reliance on practical experiments increased.

Michael Faraday



Michael Faraday FRS (22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was a British scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis. He found relationships between forces and nature. He believed in what he called the unity of the forces of nature. By this he meant that all the forces of nature were but manifestations of a single universal force and ought, therefore, to be convertible into one another.


James Clerk Maxwell



James Clerk Maxwell FRS FRSE (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was a Scottish scientist in the field of mathematical physics.

Maxwell was a committed evangelical in whose thinking science was never far from religion. For example, in his inaugural lecture at Aberdeen in 1856 he confirmed his belief that natural theology was an integral part of the study of science: “But as Physical Science advances we see more and more that the laws of nature are not mere arbitrary and unconnected decisions of Omnipresence, but that they are essential parts of one universal system in which infinite Power serves only to reveal unsearchable Wisdom and external Truth. His evangelicalism led him to a position that has been described as antideist, anti-utilitarian, and anti-positivist. He believed that science should be kept separate from religion and warned against using the most recent advances in science to change the interpretation of the Bible; on the other hand, he admitted that certain conclusions from science might legitimately enhance the religious sensibility

Matter and Spirit in the Universe : Scientific And Religious … – Isidore.co https://isidore.co/calibre/get/pdf/4985

Maxwell was very much in favour of using mathematics as a tool for studying nature. At the time it was relatively unusual in Britain.

Maxwell used mathematics to improve Michael Faraday’s work on electricity and magnetism.

Faraday had written: “I was at first frightened when I saw such mathematical force made to bear upon the subject [of electricity and magnetism]”.

The correspondence with Faraday resulted in Maxwell’s success in at least getting his electricity-magnetism-motion mandala into mathematical form, the legendary “Maxwell’s Equations” (the bane of all undergraduate physics students).

It should be noted that Faraday had only a basic knowledge of mathematics and was quite worried that he wouldn’t understand Maxwell’s work.


“before I began the study of electricity I resolved to read no mathematics on the subject till I had first read through Faraday’s Experimental Researches in Electricity.”

Maxwell generated formulas for electric and magnetic “action” (forces) from mathematizing Faraday’s qualitative “lines of force” through a fluid flow analogy.

Faraday congratulated Maxwell on his epochal 1865 paper on “The Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field”.

The goal of physics became the successful formula–to be “checked” by experiment.


Science Without God? Rethinking the History of Scientific Naturalism edited by Peter Harrison, Jon H. Roberts

The stress on the continuity and uniformity of divine action through natural laws led to an important conclusion: that the unity of nature was an indication of God’s design. Maxwell famously addressed the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The incredible uniformity among matter scattered through space and time indicated the hand of a divine manufacturer. In other words uniformity could only be explained through God. Maxwell powerfully linked the unity and order of nature and the Universe not just with divine creation itself but also with the role of humans in that creation.

Borders between science and religion in the 20th century

Even though there was now increased secularisation in science there were still people who still managed to be religious and still be involved in physics.

Georges Lemaitre has already been mentioned, but there is also John Polkinghorne and Paul Davies



John Charlton Polkinghorne KBE FRS (born 16 October 1930) is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer and Anglican priest. A prominent and leading voice explaining the relationship between science and religion, he was professor of mathematical physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. He served as the president of Queens’ College, Cambridge from 1988 until 1996.



Paul Charles William Davies, AM (born 22 April 1946) is an English physicist, writer and broadcaster, a professor at Arizona State University as well as the Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science.

A 2007 opinion piece “Taking Science on Faith” in the New York Times, generated controversy over its exploration of the role of faith in scientific inquiry. Davies argued that the faith scientists have in the immutability of physical laws has origins in Christian theology, and that the claim that science is “free of faith” is “manifestly bogus.”

Deeper level of the mind

Heisenberg “One is almost scared by the simplicity and harmony of those connections”



Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist and one of the key pioneers of quantum mechanics. He published his work in 1925 in a breakthrough paper. In the subsequent series of papers with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, during the same year, this matrix formulation of quantum mechanics was substantially elaborated. He is known for the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which he published in 1927. Heisenberg was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics “for the creation of quantum mechanics”.

In his speech Scientific and Religious Truth (1974) while accepting the Romano Guardini Prize, Heisenberg affirmed:

“In the history of science, ever since the famous trial of Galileo, it has repeatedly been claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point.”

“Where no guiding ideals are left to point the way, the scale of values disappears and with it the meaning of our deeds and sufferings, and at the end can lie only negation and despair. Religion is therefore the foundation of ethics, and ethics the presupposition of life.”

20th and 21st century physics does have value in theological debate.

Nature of time


Philosophy of space and time is the branch of philosophy concerned with the issues surrounding the ontology, epistemology, and character of space and time.

In Book 11 of St. Augustine’s Confessions, he ruminates on the nature of time, asking, “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not.” He goes on to comment on the difficulty of thinking about time, pointing out the inaccuracy of common speech: “For but few things are there of which we speak properly; of most things we speak improperly, still the things intended are understood.”[7] But Augustine presented the first philosophical argument for the reality of Creation (against Aristotle) in the context of his discussion of time, saying that knowledge of time depends on the knowledge of the movement of things, and therefore time cannot be where there are no creatures to measure its passing (Confessions Book XI ¶30; City of God Book XI ch.6).



Saint Augustine of Hippo (13 November 354 – 28 August 430 AD) was a Roman African, early Christian theologian and philosopher from Numidia whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy.

Albert Einstein proposed that the laws of physics should be based on the principle of relativity. It was Einstein’s genius to realize that the speed of light is absolute, invariable and cannot be exceeded (and indeed that the speed of light is actually more fundamental than either time or space). In relativity, time is certainly an integral part of the very fabric of the universe and cannot exist apart from the universe, but, if the speed of light is invariable and absolute, Einstein realized, both space and time must be flexible and relative to accommodate this.


One aspect of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is that we now understand that space and time are merged inextricably into four-dimensional space-time.

Einstein quotes:

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

“I want to know God’s thoughts…the rest are details.”

“I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. [He was speaking of Quantum Mechanics and the breaking down of determinism.] My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.”

“Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not.”

‘I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research . . . [The scientist’s] religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systemic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of [her or] his life and work . . .’



Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science.

The quest continues

The philosophy behind physics https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zmHrCAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA2&dq=Brody+2012+Philosophy&ots=3bl5YStPJF&sig=Zp-hRtLJVu5RMc5SRfIVn5ZMvIU#v=onepage&q=Brody%202012%20Philosophy&f=false

Final point:

The talk did emphasise western philosophy. It should be noted that there was Middle Eastern science & philosophy, Indian science & philosophy and Chinese science & philosophy. Other cultures such as the Native American and Native Australians had their own views about time and space too.

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