FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 32 Steven Weinberg and Woody Allen and “The Meaningless of All Things” (Feature on photographer Martin Karplus )

The Atheism Tapes – Steven Weinberg [2/6]

Published on Sep 25, 2012

Jonathan Miller in conversation with American physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg

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I have posted many times in the past about Steven Weinberg on my blog and I have always found his works very engaging. It is true that he is a secular humanist and is friends with many of the new atheists and many of the top scientists of today hold his same secular views. Many of these scholars have taken the time to respond back to me in the last 20 years and some of the names  included are  Ernest Mayr (1904-2005), George Wald (1906-1997), Carl Sagan (1934-1996),  Robert Shapiro (1935-2011), Nicolaas Bloembergen (1920-),  Brian Charlesworth (1945-),  Francisco J. Ayala (1934-) Elliott Sober (1948-), Kevin Padian (1951-), Matt Cartmill (1943-) , Milton Fingerman (1928-), John J. Shea (1969-), , Michael A. Crawford (1938-), (Paul Kurtz (1925-2012), Sol Gordon (1923-2008), Albert Ellis (1913-2007), Barbara Marie Tabler (1915-1996), Renate Vambery (1916-2005), Archie J. Bahm (1907-1996), Aron S “Gil” Martin ( 1910-1997), Matthew I. Spetter (1921-2012), H. J. Eysenck (1916-1997), Robert L. Erdmann (1929-2006), Mary Morain (1911-1999), Lloyd Morain (1917-2010),  Warren Allen Smith (1921-), Bette Chambers (1930-),  Gordon Stein (1941-1996) , Milton Friedman (1912-2006), John Hospers (1918-2011), and Michael Martin (1932-).

Many times in the past these secular humanists have suggested books for me to read and I have made it my practice to take them up on that and read the books they suggest and then I send my reviews back to them to consider.

One trend I have noticed among modern scholars and that have become more and more pessimistic. (No where is this demonstrated better than in the beginning of the episode THE AGE OF NONREASON shown below.  Also Francis Schaeffer in his book WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE? points out that Steven Weinberg has discussed the issue of the meaningless and pointlessness of life.

How Should We then Live Episode 7 small (Age of Nonreason)

#02 How Should We Then Live? (Promo Clip) Dr. Francis Schaeffer

10 Worldview and Truth

Two Minute Warning: How Then Should We Live?: Francis Schaeffer at 100

Francis Schaeffer “BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY” Whatever…HTTHR

Many modern artists are left in this point of desperation that Schaeffer points out and it reminds me of the despair that Solomon speaks of in Ecclesiastes.  Christian scholar Ravi Zacharias has noted, “The key to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes is the term ‘under the sun.’ What that literally means is you lock God out of a closed system, and you are left with only this world of time plus chance plus matter.” THIS IS EXACT POINT SCHAEFFER SAYS SECULAR ARTISTS ARE PAINTING FROM TODAY BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED ARE A RESULT OF MINDLESS CHANCE.

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Francis Schaeffer noted:

The Meaningless of All Things

An  overwhelming number of modern thinkers agree that seeing the universe and man from a humanist base leads to meaninglessness, both for the universe and for man – not just mankind in general but for each of us as individuals. Professor Steven Weinberg of Harvard University and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory has written a book entitled The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1976). Here he explains, as clearly as probably anyone has ever done, the modern materialistic view of the universe and its origin.
But when his explanation is finished and he is looking down at the earth from an airplane, as Weinberg writes, “It is very hard to realize that this all is just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe … [which] has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”86
When Weinberg says that the universe seems more “comprehensible,” he is, of course, referring to our greater understanding of the physical universe through the advance of science. But it is an understanding, notice, within, a materialistic framework, which considers the universe solely in terms of physics and chemistry – simply machinery. Here lies the irony. It is comprehension of a sort, but it is like giving a blind person sight, only to remove anything seeable. As we heard Woody Allen saying earlier, such a view of reality is “absolutely stupefying in its terror, and it renders anyone’s accomplishments meaningless.”
So, to the person who wants to be left alone without explanations for the big questions, we must say very gently, “Look at what you are left alone with.” This is not merely rhetoric. As the decades of this century have slipped by, more and more have said the same thing as Steven Weinberg and Woody Allen. It has become an obvious thing to say. The tremendous optimism of the nineteenth century, which stemmed from the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, has gradually ebbed away.
If everything “faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat,” all things are meaningless. This is the first problem, the first form of pollution. The second is just as bad.

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Rice Broocks in his book GOD’S NOT DEAD quoted the American philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig:

My claim is that if there is no God then meaning, value, and purpose are ultimately human illusions. They’re just in our heads. If atheism is true, then life is really objectively meaningless, valueless, and purposeless, despite our subjective beliefs to the contrary,” (William Lane Craig, ON GUARD: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision [Colorodo Springs: David C. Cook, 2010], 30).

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Francis Schaeffer below pictured on cover of World Magazine:

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Dr. Francis schaeffer – The flow of Materialism(from Part 4 of Whatever happened to human race?)

Back in September of 2014 I had a chance to correspond with Nobel Prize Harold Kroto and he  used this quote from his friend Steven Weinberg,“With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” I DO AGREE WITH A PORTION OF THAT ASSERTION BUT IT SEEMS THAT MUSLIMS KILL A LOT MORE PEOPLE TODAY THAN CHRISTIANS. (SAM HARRIS EVEN POINTED THAT OUT RECENTLY ON BILL MAHER’S SHOW.)Then he gave me a link that gave more quotes from Steven Weinberg and here are some of those quotes and my initial reaction to some of them (From Nobel Lectures, Physics 1971-1980, Editor Stig Lundqvist, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1992):

“One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment.”  Steven Weinberg (Many of Weinberg and Kroto’s scientific heroes of the past were Bible believing Christians such as Isaac Newton and I pointed this out to Ernst Mayr during our correspondence in 1995.I have also pointed out that evolutionists must hope  like George Wald that   “Time is the Hero” because the law of bio-genesis seems to  disprove evolution altogether.)

“I don’t need to argue here that the evil in the world proves that the universe is not designed, but only that there are no signs of benevolence that might have shown the hand of a designer.” Steven Weinberg  (There are great problems for the agnostic on this subject too and my discussion with Lester Mondale in his home in Missouri in 1996 clearly shows the secular humanist’s glaring weakness.)

“I have a friend — or had a friend, now dead — Abdus Salam, a very devout Muslim, who was trying to bring science into the universities in the Gulf states and he told me that he had a terrible time because, although they were very receptive to technology, they felt that science would be a corrosive to religious belief, and they were worried about it… and damn it, I think they were right. It is corrosive of religious belief, and it’s a good thing too.”
Steven Weinberg
I would point out that many scientists of the past were Christians and many of them opposed Darwinism (Agassiz, Pasteur, Lord Kelvin, Maxwell, Dawson, Virchow, Fabre, Fleming, etc). The list of Bible believing scientists boogle the mind and they believed the inspiration of the scriptures and put their faith in Christ for their salvation. Here is just a short list of some of them, Newton, Pasteur, Linnaeus, Faraday, Pascal, Lord Kelvin, Maxwell, Kepler, etc. 

“If there is no point in the universe that we discover by the methods of science, there is a point that we can give the universe by the way we live, by loving each other, by discovering things about nature, by creating works of art. And that—in a way, although we are not the stars in a cosmic drama, if the only drama we’re starring in is one that we are making up as we go along, it is not entirely ignoble that faced with this unloving, impersonal universe we make a little island of warmth and love and science and art for ourselves. That’s not an entirely despicable role for us to play.” Steven Weinberg (I was privileged to have the opportunity to correspond with Carl Sagan during the last year of his life and in that correspondence I answered back his letter with the assertion that mankind was put on this earth by God with a special purpose. We are precious, but even though Jodie Foster makes that claim in the movie CONTACT which Sagan wrote, the secular worldview does not in anywhere support that conclusion.)

One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment. Steven Weinberg (Although Charles Darwin did lead science that direction,  Dr. H. Fritz Schaefer confronted the assertion that a scientist cannot believe in God in an excellent article. )

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/86758.Steven_Weinberg (This link led me to the following quotes.)

“All logical arguments can be defeated by the simple refusal to reason logically”
Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory
“The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy. ”
Steven Weinberg
“It does not matter whether you win or lose, what matters is whether I win or lose!”
Steven Weinberg

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1979
Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam, Steven Weinberg

Steven Weinberg – Biographical

I was born in 1933 in New York City to Frederick and Eva Weinberg. My early inclination toward science received encouragement from my father, and by the time I was 15 or 16 my interests had focused on theoretical physics.

I received my undergraduate degree from Cornell in 1954, and then went for a year of graduate study to the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen (now the Niels Bohr Institute). There, with the help of David Frisch and Gunnar Källén. I began to do research in physics. I then returned to the U.S. to complete my graduate studies at Princeton. My Ph.D thesis, with Sam Treiman as adviser, was on the application of renormalization theory to the effects of strong interactions in weak interaction processes.

After receiving my Ph.D. in 1957, I worked at Columbia and then from 1959 to 1966 at Berkeley. My research during this period was on a wide variety of topics – high energy behavior of Feynman graphs, second-class weak interaction currents, broken symmetries, scattering theory, muon physics, etc. – topics chosen in many cases because I was trying to teach myself some area of physics. My active interest in astrophysics dates from 1961-62; I wrote some papers on the cosmic population of neutrinos and then began to write a book, Gravitation and Cosmology, which was eventually completed in 1971. Late in 1965 I began my work on current algebra and the application to the strong interactions of the idea of spontaneous symmetry breaking.

From 1966 to 1969, on leave from Berkeley, I was Loeb Lecturer at Harvard and then visiting professor at M.I.T. In 1969 I accepted a professorship in the Physics Department at M.I.T., then chaired by Viki Weisskopf. It was while I was a visitor to M.I.T. in 1967 that my work on broken symmetries, current algebra, and renormalization theory turned in the direction of the unification of weak and electromagnetic interactions. In 1973, when Julian Schwinger left Harvard, I was offered and accepted his chair there as Higgins Professor of Physics, together with an appointment as Senior Scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

My work during the 1970’s has been mainly concerned with the implications of the unified theory of weak and electromagnetic interactions, with the development of the related theory of strong interactions known as quantum chromodynamics, and with steps toward the unification of all interactions.

In 1982 I moved to the physics and astronomy departments of the University of Texas at Austin, as Josey Regental Professor of Science. I met my wife Louise when we were undergraduates at Cornell, and we were married in 1954. She is now a professor of law. Our daughter Elizabeth was born in Berkeley in 1963.

Francis Schaeffer has written extensively on art and culture spanning the last 2000years and here are some posts I have done on this subject before : Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation”episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” episode 6 “The Scientific Age” , episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” episode 4 “The Reformation” episode 3 “The Renaissance”episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”, and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,” . My favorite episodes are number 7 and 8 since they deal with modern art and culture primarily.(Joe Carter rightly noted,Schaefferwho always claimed to be an evangelist and not aphilosopher—was often criticized for the way his work oversimplifiedintellectual history and philosophy.” To those critics I say take a chill pillbecause Schaeffer was introducing millions into the fields of art andculture!!!! !!! More people need to read his works and blog about thembecause they show how people’s worldviews affect their lives!

J.I.PACKER WROTE OF SCHAEFFER, “His communicative style was not that of acautious academic who labors for exhaustive coverage and dispassionate objectivity. It was rather that of an impassioned thinker who paints his vision of eternal truth in bold strokes and stark contrasts.Yet it is a fact that MANY YOUNG THINKERS AND ARTISTS…HAVE FOUND SCHAEFFER’S ANALYSES A LIFELINE TO SANITY WITHOUT WHICH THEY COULD NOT HAVE GONE ON LIVING.”

Francis Schaeffer’s works  are the basis for a large portion of my blog posts andthey have stood the test of time. In fact, many people would say that many of the things he wrote in the 1960’s  were right on  in the sense he saw where ourwestern society was heading and he knew that abortion, infanticide and youthenthansia were  moral boundaries we would be crossing  in the coming decadesbecause of humanism and these are the discussions we are having now!)

There is evidence that points to the fact that the Bible is historically true asSchaeffer pointed out in episode 5 of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE? There is a basis then for faith in Christ alone for our eternal hope. This linkshows how to do that.

Francis Schaeffer in Art and the Bible noted, “Many modern artists, it seems to me, have forgotten the value that art has in itself. Much modern art is far too intellectual to be great art. Many modern artists seem not to see the distinction between man and non-man, and it is a part of the lostness of modern man that they no longer see value in the work of art as a work of art.” 

Steven Weinberg here in this video below does come down more critical on the violence brought on by Muslim radicals versus the political correct view that Islam is an religion of peace while Christianity has all the problems. At the end of this video he says “I don’t like God.”

Steven Weinberg on Atheism

Uploaded on Jul 31, 2011

According to atheist physicist Steven Weinburg, most scientists don’t think much about religion — they don’t think it’s worth thinking about. But Steven Weinburg does think about it and in a 2003 interview with BBC’s Jonathan Miller he gave his view on a number of things. Why are people religious, is the U.S. too religious, do Americans equate religion with patriotism, is truth important in religion, does our moral sense come from religion, is religion a good thing and does religion conflict with science? This video is edited from the original 29 minutes and does not have the annoying text over.

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APOLOGETICS: ETHICS

The Practical Impossibility of Atheism

By William Lane Craig
Guest Contributor

0 Comment(s)

CBN.com – Excerpted with permission from On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision

About the only solution the atheist can offer is that we face the absurdity of life and live bravely. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell, for example, believed that we have no choice but to build our lives upon “the firm foundation of unyielding despair.” Only by recognizing that the world really is a terrible place can we successfully come to terms with life. Camus said that we should honestly recognize life’s absurdity and then live in love for one another.

The fundamental problem with this solution, however, is that it’s impossible to live consistently and happily within the framework of such a worldview. If you live consistently, you will not be happy; if you live happily, it is only because you are not consistent.

Francis Schaeffer has explained this point well. Modern man, says Schaeffer, resides in a two-story universe. In the lower story is the finite world without God; here life is absurd, as we have seen. In the upper story are meaning, value, and purpose. Now modern man lives in the lower story because he believes there is no God. But he cannot live happily in such an absurd world; therefore, he continually makes leaps of faith into the upper story to affirm meaning, value, and purpose, even though he has no right to, since he does not believe in God.

Let’s look again, then, at each of the three areas in which we saw that life was absurd without God, to see how difficult it is to live consistently and happily with an atheistic worldview.

First, the area of meaning. We saw that without God, life has no meaning. Yet philosophers continue to live as though life does have meaning. For example, Sartre argued that one may create meaning for his life by freely choosing to follow a certain course of action. Sartre himself chose Marxism.

Now this is totally inconsistent. It is inconsistent to say life is objectively absurd and then to say you may create meaning for your life. If life is really absurd, then you’re trapped in the lower story. To try to create meaning in life represents a leap to the upper story. But Sartre has no basis for this leap. Sartre’s program is actually an exercise in self-delusion. For the universe doesn’t really acquire a meaning just because I happen to give it one. This is easy to see: Suppose I give the universe one meaning, and you give it another. Who’s right? The answer, of course, is neither one. For the universe without God remains objectively meaningless, no matter how we happen to regard it. Sartre is really saying, “Let’s pretend the universe has meaning.” And this is just fooling yourself.

The point is this: If God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends life has meaning. But this is, of course, entirely inconsistent—for without God, man and the universe are without any real significance.

Turn now to the problem of value. Here is where the most blatant inconsistencies occur. First of all, atheistic humanists are totally inconsistent in affirming the traditional values of love and brotherhood. Camus has been rightly criticized for inconsistently holding both to the absurdity of life and the ethics of human love and brotherhood. The view that there are no values is logically incompatible with affirming the values of love and brotherhood. Bertrand Russell, too, was inconsistent. For though he was an atheist, he was an outspoken social critic, denouncing war and restrictions on sexual freedom. Russell admitted that he could not live as though ethical values were simply a matter of personal taste, and that he therefore found his own views “incredible.” “I do not know the solution,” he confessed.6

The point is that if there is no God, then objective right and wrong do not exist. As Dostoyevsky said, “All things are permitted.” But man cannot live this way. So he makes a leap of faith and affirms values anyway. And when he does so, he reveals the inadequacy of a world without God.

The horror of a world devoid of value was brought home to me with new intensity several years ago as I watched a BBC television documentary called The Gathering. It concerned the reunion of survivors of the Holocaust in Jerusalem, where they rediscovered lost friendships and shared their experiences. One former prisoner, a nurse, told of how she was made the gynecologist at Auschwitz. She observed that pregnant women were grouped together by the soldiers under the direction of Dr. Josef Mengele and housed in the same barracks. Some time passed, and she noted that she no longer saw any of these women. She made inquiries. “Where are the pregnant women who were housed in that barracks?” “Haven’t you heard?” came the reply. “Dr. Mengele used them for vivisection.”

Another woman told of how Mengele had bound up her breasts so that she could not suckle her infant. The doctor wanted to learn how long an infant could survive without nourishment. Desperately this poor woman tried to keep her baby alive by giving it pieces of bread soaked in coffee, but to no avail. Each day the baby lost weight, a fact that was eagerly monitored by Dr. Mengele. A nurse then came secretly to this woman and told her, “I have arranged a way for you to get out of here, but you cannot take your baby with you. I have brought a morphine injection that you can give to your child to end its life.” When the woman protested, the nurse was insistent: “Look, your baby is going to die anyway. At least save yourself.” And so this mother felt compelled to take the life of her own baby. Dr. Mengele was furious when he learned of it because he had lost his experimental specimen, and he searched among the dead to find the baby’s discarded corpse so that he could have one last weighing.

My heart was torn by these stories. One rabbi who survived the camp summed it up well when he said that at Auschwitz it was as though there existed a world in which all the Ten Commandments were reversed. Mankind had never seen such a hell.

And yet, if God does not exist, then in a sense, our world is Auschwitz: There is no right and wrong; all things are permitted.

But no atheist, no agnostic, can live consistently with such a view. Nietzsche himself, who proclaimed the necessity of living beyond good and evil, broke with his mentor Richard Wagner precisely over the issue of the composer’s anti-Semitism and strident German nationalism. Similarly, Sartre, writing in the aftermath of the Second World War, condemned anti-Semitism, declaring that a doctrine that leads to mass extermination is not merely an opinion or matter of personal taste of equal value with its opposite. In his important essay “Existentialism Is a Humanism,” Sartre struggles vainly to elude the contradiction between his denial of divinely pre-established values and his urgent desire to affirm the value of human persons. Like Russell, he could not live with the implications of his own denial of ethical absolutes.

Neither can the so-called New Atheists like Richard Dawkins. For although he says that there is no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference, he is an unabashed moralist. He vigorously condemns such actions as the harassment and abuse of homosexuals, religious indoctrination of children, the Incan practice of human sacrifice, and prizing cultural diversity over the interests of Amish children. He even goes so far as to offer his own amended Ten Commandments for guiding moral behavior, all the while marvelously oblivious to the contradiction with his ethical subjectivism.

Indeed, one will probably never find an atheist who lives consistently with his system. For a universe without moral accountability and devoid of value is unimaginably terrible.

Finally, let’s look at the problem of purpose in life. The only way most people who deny purpose in life live happily is either by making up some purpose—which amounts to self-delusion, as we saw with Sartre—or by not carrying their view to its logical conclusions. The temptation to invest one’s own petty plans and projects with objective significance and thereby to find some purpose to one’s life is almost irresistible.

For example, the outspoken atheist and Nobel Prize–winning physicist Steven Weinberg, at the close of his much-acclaimed book The First Three Minutes, writes,

It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that somehow we were built in from the beginning.… It is very hard to realize that this all is just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe. It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.

But if there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself. Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators, and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather. The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.

There’s something strange about Weinberg’s moving description of the human predicament: Tragedy is not a neutral term. It expresses an evaluation of a situation. Weinberg evidently sees a life devoted to scientific pursuits as truly meaningful, and therefore it’s tragic that such a noble pursuit should be extinguished. But why, given atheism, should the pursuit of science be any different from slouching about doing nothing? Since there is no objective purpose to human life, none of our pursuits has any objective significance, however important and dear they may seem to us subjectively. They’re no more significant than shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

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Woody Allen’s view of life

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What’s the Meaning of Life?

Jerry Solomon

The Questions Around Us

As I was driving to my office one day I heard a dramatic radio advertisement for a book. It began something like this: “Would you like to find meaning in life?” As I listened to the remainder of the ad I realized that the book’s author was focusing on New Age concepts of purpose and meaning. But the striking thing about what was said was that the advertisers obviously believed that they could get the attention of the radio audience by asking about meaning in life. Some may think it is advertising suicide to open an ad with such a question. Or perhaps the author and her publicists are on to something that “strikes a chord” with many people in our culture.

Questions of meaning and purpose are a part of the mental landscape as we enter a new millenium. Some contend this has not always been the case, but that such questions are an unprecedented legacy of the upheavals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.{3} Others assert that such questions are a result of man’s rejection of God.{4}

Even though most of us don’t make such issues a part of our normal conversations, the questions tend to lurk around us. They can be heard in songs, movies, books, magazines, and many other media that permeate our lives. For example, Jackson Browne, an exceptionally reflective songwriter of the ’60s and ’70s, wrote these haunting lyrics in a song entitled For a Dancer:

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go ahead and throw
Some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive….{5}

Russell Banks, the author of Affliction and The Sweet Hereafter, both of which became Oscar-nominated films, has this to say about his work: “I’m not a morbid man. In my writing, I’m just trying to describe the world as straightforwardly as I can. I think most lives are desperate and painful, despite surface appearances. If you consider anyone’s life for long, you find it’s without meaning.”{6}

Woody Allen, the film writer, director, and actor, has consistently populated his scripts with characters who exchange dialogue concerning meaning and purpose. In Hannah and Her Sisters a character named Mickey says, “Do you realize what a thread we’re all hanging by? Can you understand how meaningless everything is? Everything. I gotta get some answers.”{7}

Even television ads have focused on meaning, although in a flippant manner. A few years ago you could watch Michael Jordan running across hills and valleys in order to find a guru. When Jordan finds him he asks, “What is the meaning of life?” The guru answers with a maxim that leads to the product that is the real focus of Jordan’s quest.

Even though such illustrations can be ridiculous, maybe they serve to lead us beyond the surface of our subject. We often get nervous when we are encouraged to delve into subject matter that might stretch us. When we get involved in conversations that go beyond the more mundane things of everyday life we may tend to get tense and defensive. Actually, this can be a good thing. The Christian shouldn’t fear such conversations. Indeed, I’m confident that if we go beyond the surface, we can find peace and hope.

Beyond the Surface
Listen to the sober words of a famous writer of the twentieth century:

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy…. I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth living. I see others paradoxically getting killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living (what is called a reason for living is an excellent reason for dying). I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.{8}

These phrases indicate that Albert Camus, author of The Plague, The Stranger, and The Myth of Sisyphus, was not afraid to go beyond the surface. Camus was bold in exposing the thoughts many were having during his lifetime. In fact, his world view made it obligatory. He was struggling with questions of meaning in light of what some called the “death of God.” That is, if there is no God, can we find meaning? Many have concluded that the answer is a resounding “No!” If true, this means that one who believes there is no God is not living consistently with that belief.

William Lane Craig, one of the great Christian thinkers of our time, states that:

Man cannot live consistently and happily as though life were ultimately without meaning, value or purpose. If we try to live consistently within the atheistic world view, we shall find ourselves profoundly unhappy. If instead we manage to live happily, it is only by giving the lie to our world view.{9}

Francis Schaeffer agrees with Craig’s analysis, but makes even bolder assertions. He also maintains that the Christian can close the hopeless gap that is created in a person’s godless world view. Listen to what he wrote:

It is impossible for any non-Christian individual or group to be consistent to their system in logic or in practice. Thus, when you face twentieth-century man, whether he is brilliant or an ordinary man of the street, a man of the university or the docks, you are facing a man in tension; and it is this tension which works on your behalf as you speak to him.{10}

What happens when we go “beyond the surface” in order to find meaning? Can a Christian world view stand up to the challenge? I believe it can, but we must stop and think of whether we are willing to accept the challenge. David Henderson, a pastor and writer, gives us reason to pause and consider our response. He writes:

Our lives, like our Daytimers, are busy, busy, busy, full of things to do and places to go and people to see. Many of us, convinced that the opposite of an empty life is a full schedule, remain content to press on and ignore the deeper questions. Perhaps it is out of fear that we stuff our lives to the walls—fear that, were we to stop and ask the big questions, we would discover there are no satisfying answers after all.{11}

Let’s jettison any fear and continue our investigation. There are satisfying answers. It is not necessary to “stuff our lives to the walls” in order to escape questions of meaning and purpose. God has spoken to us. Let us begin to pursue His answers.

Eternity in Our Hearts

The book of Ecclesiastes contains numerous phrases that have entered our discourse. One of those phrases states that God “has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart. . .” (3:11). What a fascinating statement! Actually, the first part of the verse can be just as accurately translated “beautiful in its time.” Thus “a harmony of purpose and a beneficial supremacy of control pervade all issues of life to such an extent that they rightly challenge our admiration.”{12} The second part of the verse indicates that “man has a deep-seated ‘sense of eternity’, of purposes and destinies.”{13}But man can’t fathom the vastness of eternal things, even when he believes in the God of eternity. As a result, all people live with what some call a “God-shaped hole.” Stephen Evans believes this hole can be understood through “the desire for eternal life, the desire for eternal meaning, and the desire for eternal love:”{14}

The desire for eternal life is the most evident manifestation of the need for God. Deep in our hearts we feel death should not be, was not meant to be.

The second dimension of our craving for eternity is the desire for eternal meaning. We want lives that are eternally meaningful.

We crave eternity, and earthly loves resemble eternity enough to kindle our deepest love. Yet earthly loves are not eternal. Our sense that love is the clue to what it’s all about is right on target, but earthly love itself merely points us in the right direction.

What we want is an eternal love, a love that loves us unconditionally, accepts us as we are, while helping us to become all we can become.

In short, we want God, the God of Christian faith.{15}

We must trust God for what we cannot see and understand. Or, to put it another way, we continue to live knowing there is meaning, but we struggle to know exactly what it is at all times. We are striving for what the Bible refers to as our future glorification (Rom. 8:30). “There is something self-defeating about human desire, in that what is desired, when achieved, seems to leave the desire unsatisfied.”{16} For example, we attempt to find meaning while searching for what is beautiful. C.S. Lewis referred to this in a sermon entitled The Weight of Glory:

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things–the beauty, the memory of our own past–are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.{17}

Lewis’ remarkable prose reminds us that meaning must be given to us. “Meaning is never intrinsic; it is always derivative. If my life itself is to have meaning (or a meaning), it thus must derive its meaning from some sort of purposive, intentional activity. It must be endowed with meaning.”{18} Thus we return to God, the giver of meaning.

Meaning: God’s Gift

Think of all the wonderful gifts that God has given you. No doubt you can come up with a lengthy record of God’s goodness. Does your list include meaning or purpose in life? Most people wouldn’t think of meaning as part of God’s goodness to us. But perhaps we should. This is because “only a being like God–a creator of all who could eventually, in the words of the New Testament, ‘work all things together for good’–only this sort of being could guarantee a completeness and permanency of meaning for human lives.”{19}So how did God accomplish this? The answer rests in His amazing love for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Consider the profound words of Carl F.H. Henry: “the eternal and self-revealed Logos, incarnate in Jesus Christ, is the foundation of all meaning.”{20} Bruce Lockerbie puts it like this: “The divine nature manifesting itself in the physical form of Jesus of Nazareth is, in fact, the integrating principle to which all life adheres, the focal point from which all being takes its meaning, the source of all coherence in the universe. Around him and him alone all else may be said to radiate. He is the Cosmic Center.”{21}

Picture a bicycle. When you ride one you are putting your weight on a multitude of spokes that radiate from a hub. All the spokes meet at the center and rotate around it. The bicycle moves based upon the center. Thus it is with Christ. He is the center around whom we move and find meaning. Our focus is on Him.

When the apostle Paul reflected on meaning and purpose in his life in Phillipians 3, he came to this conclusion (emphases added):

7…whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ,

9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Did you notice how Christ was central to what Paul had to say about both his past and present? And did you notice that he used phrases such as “knowing Christ,” or “that I may gain Christ?” Such statements appear to be crucial to Paul’s sense of meaning and purpose. Paul wants “to know” Christ intimately, which means he wants to know by experience. “Paul wants to come to know the Lord Jesus in that fulness of experimental knowledge which is only wrought by being like Him.”{22}

Personally, Paul’s thoughts are important words of encouragement in my life. God through Christ gives meaning and purpose to me. And until I am glorified, I will strive to know Him and be like Him. Praise God for Jesus Christ, His gift of meaning!
Notes
1. James Dobson, Focus on the Family Newsletter (May 1996).
2. Ibid.
3. Gerhard Sauter, The Question of Meaning, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982).
4. Charles R. Swindoll, Living on the Ragged Edge (Waco, TX: Word, 1985).
5. Jackson Browne, “For a Dancer,” in James F. Harris, Philosophy at 33 1/3 rpm: Themes of Classic Rock Music (Chicago: Open Court, 1993), 68.
6. Russell Banks, in Jerome Weeks, “Continental Divide,” The Dallas Morning News (2 March 1999), 2C.
7. Woody Allen, Hannah and Her Sisters, in Thomas V. Morris, Making Sense of It All: Pascal and the Meaning of Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 54.
8. Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, trans. Justin O’Brien (New York: Vintage, 1960), 3-4.
9. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 71.
10. Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1968), 122.
11. David W. Henderson, Culture Shift: Communicating God’s Truth to Our Changing World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 186.
12. H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Ecclesiastes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1952), 90.
13. Ibid., 91.
14. C. Stephen Evans, Why Believe? Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God, revised ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 58-60.
15. Ibid.
16. Alistair McGrath, A Cloud of Witnesses (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 127.
17. C.S. Lewis, in “The Weight of Glory,” quoted in Alistair McGrath, A Cloud of Witnesses, 127.
18. Morris, 57.
19. Ibid., 62.
20. Carl F.H. Henry, God Revelation and Authority, Vol. III (Waco, TX: Word, 1979), 195.
21. D. Bruce Lockerbie, The Cosmic Center: The Supremacy of Christ in a Secular Wasteland (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1986),127-128.
22. Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Volume Two (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973), 93.
© 1999 Probe Ministries International

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Featured Photographer is Martin Karplus

Martin Karplus on his passions

Two passions are Photography and cooking in famous Paris restaurants.

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THURSDAY SEP 25 – FRIDAY NOV 28, 2014

Presented by the
Austrian Cultural Forum New York

>> OPEN DAILY, 10 AM – 6 PM. FREE ADMISSION.

Martin Karplus is a chemist, Professor emeritus at Harvard University, and Nobel laureate who has spent the past fifty years consumed by a passion for documenting humanity in thousands of photographs. Sourced from Europe, Asia, and the Americas, his photographs capture societies at pivotal moments in their cultural and economic development in rich Kodachrome color.

In 1953, the Austrian-born, American Karplus received his uncle’s Leica camera as a gift from his parents and headed to Oxford University on a fellowship. In the following years he would spend months exploring the globe, documenting what he describes a “vision of a world, much of which no longer exists”.

Images from the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, Italy, France, Yugoslavia, and Germany present the closure of a bygone lifestyle as societies modernized and rebuilt in the wake of World War 2 and the dawning of the Cold War. Further travels throughout the 1950s took him to the Americas, where he photographed the exuberance of suburban Californian prosperity alongside Native and Latin Americans living a way of life uninterrupted for centuries, yet largely unheard of today. A more recent series from 2008-09 presents a look at China and India as each nation’s unfurling economy brings rapid modernization, as well as to Japan, where it has firmly taken root.

[Image: Martin Karplus, Portrait Martin Karplus, Marineland of the Pacific, California, 1956, ©Martin Karplus Photography]

images

MARTIN KARPLUS

Schönbrunn, Austria, 1954
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

MARTIN KARPLUS

Rome, Italy, 1954
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

MARTIN KARPLUS

Ferry along the Moselle, Germany, 1954
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

MARTIN KARPLUS

Sarajevo, Bosnia, 1955
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

MARTIN KARPLUS

Near Biograd, Croatia, 1955
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

MARTIN KARPLUS

Copenhagen, Denmark, 1955
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

MARTIN KARPLUS

Waiting for the ferry to Denmark, 1955
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

MARTIN KARPLUS

Grand Canyon, Arizona, 1956
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

MARTIN KARPLUS

Gallup, New Mexico, 1956
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

MARTIN KARPLUS

Cuzco, Peru, 1960
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

MARTIN KARPLUS

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1960
kodachrome
©Martin Karplus Photography

credits

Exhibition Coordinator Natascha Boojar
Exhibition Assistants Lisa-Joanna Csanyi, Sophie Gogl

With generous support from The Office of Science and Technology Austria (OSTA)

Supporting Institutions of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York Air BerlinEsterházy WineryStiegl

Special thanks to Franklin Castanien, Taylor Hawkins, Stefan Hoza, Geraldine Lau

Jewish Trio Win Nobel Prize for Chemistry: Michael Levitt, Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel awarded

Published on Oct 11, 2013

A three man team of professors has won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. And all three are Jewish, with two hailing from Israel. Michael Levitt, a British-US citizen of Stanford University; US-Austrian Martin Karplus of Strasbourg University and Harvard; and US-Israeli Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California will share this year’s prize of around USD 1.25 million. Warshel said the work for which he and his colleagues received the prize is for developing a method that allowed them to understand how proteins work. The trio devised computer simulations to understand chemical processes. In so doing, they revolutionized research in areas ranging from pharmaceuticals to solar energy.

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Two Israeli scientists who emigrated to U.S. win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Arieh Warshel, Michael Levitt, and Martin Karplus win prize for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems; all three scientists are Jewish, while Warshel and Levitt hold Israeli citizenship.

By and | Oct. 9, 2013 | 10:24 PM

Three Jewish scientists – two of them Israelis who had emigrated to the U.S. – won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday.

Arieh Warshel, Michael Levitt and Martin Karplus were awarded the top international prize for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Wednesday said, upon awarding the prize of 8 million crowns ($1.25 million), that their research in the 1970s has helped scientists develop programs that unveil chemical processes such as the purification of exhaust fumes or the photosynthesis in green leaves.

“The work of Karplus, Levitt and Warshel is ground-breaking in that they managed to make Newton’s classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics,” the academy said. “Previously, chemists had to choose to use either/or.”

All three winners are American citizens, but also hold dual citizenships. Warshel and Levitt are Israeli citizens, and both studied and worked at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, where Levitt also served as head of the Chemical Physics Department. Warshel was also educated at the Technion. Austrian-born Karplus had fled the Nazis to the U.S. as a child. The Nobel prize was awarded to them on the basis of their research at American universities.

Warshel is a U.S. and Israeli citizen affiliated with the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Levitt is a U.S., Israeli and British citizen and a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Karplus is affiliated with the University of Strasbourg, France, and Harvard University.

Pretoria-born Levitt immigrated to Israel at the age of 35 in 1983. He married an Israeli, and worked a few years at the Weizmann Institute until he left for Stanford.

“I can’t say I moved there because the conditions in Israel were not satisfactory,” Levitt told Israel Army Radio. “In all honesty, to this day I can’t quite say why I left the country, my connection to it being very strong. […] My wife is Israeli, I have two sons living in Israel.”

When visiting Israel, Levitt resides in a Rehovot flat, but recently has been  considering a move to Tel Aviv, which he called “an amazing city.”

“I am being asked all the time what I plan to do with the winnings, but it isn’t enough to buy a flat in Tel Aviv with.”
‘I didn’t leave by choice’

Warshel completed his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in 1966.

The person who supervised Warshel in his final project, ‘his first scientific father,’ you could say, was Prof. Ruben Pauncz, who was the first in Israel who dealt with quantum chemistry and calculations of the molecular and atomic systems. Through him, Warshel entered the field of theoretical chemistry.

“I was very happy to hear of Arieh Warshel’s winning [the Nobel Prize]”, Pauncz, now 93 years old, told Haaretz. “There were very many students over the years and I remember him somewhat hazily. I remember at some point speaking with Prof. Shneior Lifson of the Weizmann Institute, who supervised his doctorate work, and I remember he was impressed by his intellectual abilities.”

From the Technion, Warshel continued on to the Weizmann Institute of Science, where, in 1970 he completed his Ph. D. degree after three years of work. He spent four years there as a researcher in the Molecular Biology Department, from 1972 to 1976, and then in the late 1970s left for the United States, after not being able to receive tenure at the Institute, according to Speiser.

“The primary reason I left [the Weitzmann Institute] was the difficulties I had in progressing [there],” said Warshel, interviewed Wednesday on Channel 2. “I didn’t leave by choice, so I am not a good example for the‘brain drain’ issue,” he added.

As to his relationship with Israel, Warshel said “I still define myself as an Israeli, but it isn’t a clear definition. I have two passports. I speak Hebrew, and sometimes pass to English.” But, he concluded his answer, “I act like an Israeli.”

“I was sleeping when I got the news,” he said. “My wife got a call, and after verifying a Swedish accent was on the other end I was very pleased.”

Warshel’s wife Tamar told Israel Radio on Wednesday that her husband “didn’t know how to sell himself well enough to Israeli academia,” when asked about his leaving Israel.

Benny Shalev, Warshel’s brother, spoke to  him after the announcement. “He was very excited – like someone who won the Nobel Prize. He may not have been completely surprised since he has been a candidate to receive the prize for a few years already, but it is still a very nice surprise,” Shalev told Haaretz.

Warshel visits Israel once a year and was last here three months ago, said his brother. “He came to lecture at Tel Aviv University and Weizmann Institute.” As to the reasons Warshel left Weizmann, Shalev said: “There are a lot of smart people in Israel and at the same time there was not a job – so he left.”

Warshel won the prize for his development of computer programs that describe the processes of complex chemical and biological systems using quantum mechanical and classical models, explained Prof. Alon Hoffman, the dean of the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry at the Technion.

“Today, in biological systems we are trying to understand how proteins work and how drugs work, for example, on proteins. With the aid of these [computer] programs we can predict the nature of the interaction between the protein and the drug, the responses of the active ingredients, etc. To predict the processes using computerized methods has great importance and it allows the development of new materials and drugs,” said Hoffman.

“In short, what we developed is a method which requires computers to look, to take the structure of the protein and then to eventually understand how exactly it does what it does,” Warshel said. When scientists wanted to simulate complex chemical processes on computers, they used to have to choose between software that was based on quantum physics, which applies on the scale of an atom, or classical Newtonian physics, which operates at larger scales. The academy said the three laureates developed computer models that “opened a gate between these two worlds.”

While quantum mechanics is more accurate, it is impossible to use on large molecules because the equations are too complex to solve. By using quantum mechanics only for key parts of molecules and classical physics for the rest, the blended approach delivers the accuracy of the quantum approach with manageable computations.

“They certainly deserve the prize. They are trailblazers and to a great extent they founded this field,” said Prof. Hanoch Senderowitz of the chemistry department at Bar-Ilan University, who also works in the area of computerized models of chemical and biological systems.

“The specific field which they specialize in is molecular dynamics and in their first simulation they ran on biological systems. To receive a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in a theoretical field is exceptional,” said Senderowitz.

“The great majority of Nobel Prize winners are experimentalists. I think that this is mostly because people have finally understood the importance of this field and the things it can bring. For people in this field, international recognition is important, because we are talking about a computing tool that always went hand in hand with the experimental work. When you develop a computer model you always validate it against experimental results, since only after you validate it a great number of times can you achieve results,” explained Senderowitz.

Chemistry was the third of this year’s Nobel prizes, medicine and physics were already awarded. The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were first awarded in 1901 in accordance with the will of businessman and dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel.

Israel’s history of Nobel Prizes

Israel has an impressive showing when it comes to Nobel winners, with 11 laureates in its 65-year history. Most recently, Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2011, just two years afterAda Yonath won the same award in 2009. Other Israelis to have won the prestigious prize in Chemistry were Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko in 2004. Three Israeli politicians have also won the Nobel Prize for peace – Menachem Begin in 1978, and Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin in 1994.

The other Israeli Nobel laureates are Robert Aumann and Daniel Kahneman, who won the prize in economic sciences in 2005 and 2002 respectively, and Shmuel Yosef Agnon, who won the prize in literature in 1966.

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