I’ve developed quite a love of philosophy. It comes, surprisingly enough, not from my interest in Theology but from my background in Physics. To tell the truth, my interest in Theology grew out of my interest in Philosophy.
I first really encountered the joys of Philosophy when my graduate school advisor challenged a group of us who were complaining about the imprecision in the Heisenberg Inequality to tackle the question of measurement in more rigorous way. Being too young to know better a small group of us began discussing what might be needed. It fell to me to see what we could discover about what it meant to “know” something.
I asked around and was told that I might want to start by reading some Plato. So I did. And that was the beginning. That journey ended with my ordination.
Years later I was teaching an intro Physics course at Lehigh. I decided that rather than try to teach the basics of calculation to non-majors, I’d try to show them how a physicist thinks and emphasize the philosophy of Physics in the course rather than the doing of it. That introduced me to people such as Karl Popper and reintroduced me to Kuhn’s works. I taught that class for five years and I expect I learned much more in the effort than any of my students. That experience led to this blog and hopefully to a book, and to a renewed interest in the dialogue between science, philosophy and theology.
All this is written, I hope, to whet your appetite to read this lovely post over on Scientific American “A Physicist Flirts with Philosophy (and Lives to Tell the Tale)”.
The author points out that much of modern Physics grew out of the philosophical inquiries of the latter 19th century. Einstein, Heisenberg, et al, were merely using their own language (mathematics) to express the ideas that were being discussed in the salons of Europe. The astounding thing was that these mathematical expressions worked, and worked well.
Science is ultimately an attempt to understand Nature in terms of the paradigmatic models of the day (to borrow from Kuhn). There’s a fundamental question of which comes first, science or paradigm, but either way you look at it the two are dancing cheek to cheek.
Do read the post. I’m going to try to find more of the same.