RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! (Pausing to look at the life of Steven Weinberg who was one of my favorite authors!) Part 169 O My 9/30/18 letter to Dr. Weinberg discussing his quote on Religious liberals being farther from the truth in one sense than conservatives!

The Incredible Steven Weinberg (1933-2021) – Sixty Symbols

Letter 9-30-18 Daniel 5 Machen

Francis Schaeffer

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H. L. Mencken below
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J.Gresham Machen below
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Bertrand Russell
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Belshazzar’s Feast is a painting by Rembrandt housed in the National Gallery, London.[1]The painting is Rembrandt’s attempt to establish himself as a painter of large, baroque history paintings.[2][3] The date of the painting is unknown, but most sources give a date between 1635 and 1638.[4][1]
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September 30, 2018

Steven Weinberg
The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Physics
2515 Speedway Stop C1600
Austin, TX 78712-1192

Dear Dr. Weinberg,

In this letter I just want to do two things.

First, I agree with you that scientists are closer to conservative Christians in comparison to liberals because the liberals actually believe that something can be “true for you.” Christians like me believe that if the Bible said that Moses received the 10 commandments and did all those miracles that it historically happened. It reminds of a story that Francis Schaeffer once told:

H.L. Mencken died when I was a young man and I read some of the stuff he wrote and he came at just the point of the total collapse of the American consensus back in the 1930’s or a little before. H.L.Mencken was very destructive to the American consensus and he was way out. It is he who said the famous thing about Dr. J. Gresham Machen. Dr. Machen was the man who was fighting the battle for historic Christianity against the liberals in the big denominations and expressly the Presbyterian denomination and the liberals were trying to laugh Machen out of court. But H.L. Mencken said a remarkable thing, “Well, if you really want to be a Christian there is only one kind of Christian to be and that is the Machen kind.” This is wonderful. This is exactly where the battlefield is. When you take Christianity and chip away at it like the liberals wanted to do then you don’t have anything left. This is no halfway war. If you are going to be a Christian you have to be a biblical Christian. Machen and Mencken understood this and this is my position too.  

Second, I wanted to give you an amazing piece of evidence that confirms some accuracy concerning the story of the “handwriting on the wall.” I know you like me have used that phrase many times in the past. It comes from Daniel chapter 5!

Lubos Motl’s recent posting about Steven Weinberg’s recent BBC interview [transcript] on the relation between religion and science mentioned the chapter about God in Weinberg’s book: Dreams of a Final Theory.

The following is from chapter 11, titled “What About God?”. In the middle of that chapter, Weinberg refers to the problem of religious “liberals”, as follows:

“Religious liberals are in one sense even farther in spirit from scientists than are fundamentalists and other religious conservatives.

“At least the conservatives, like the scientists, tell you that they believe in what they believe because it is true, rather than because it makes them good or happy.

“Many religious liberals today seem to think that different people can believe in different mutually exclusive things without any of them being wrong, as long as their beliefs ‘work for them’.

“This one believes in reincarnation, that one in heaven and hell; a third believes in the extinction of the soul at death, but no one can be said to be wrong as long as everyone gets a satisfying spiritual rush from what they believe.

“To borrow a phrase from Susan Sontag, we are surrounded by ‘piety without content’.

“It all reminds me of a story that is told about an experience of Bertrand Russell, when in 1918 he was committed to prison for his opposition to the war. Following prison routine, a jailer asked Russell his religion, and Russell said that he was an agnostic. The jailer looked puzzled for a moment, and then brightened, with the observation that ‘I guess it’s all right. We worship the same God, don’t we?’

Returning to the role of the religious conservatives, Weinberg later continues:

“Many of the great world religions teach that God demands a particular faith and form of worship. It should not be surprising that some of the people who take these teachings seriously should sincerely regard these divine commands as incomparably more important than any merely secular virtues like tolerance or compassion or reason.”

In the middle of Weinberg’s BBC interview we have the remarks by Weinberg:

“…I once wrote something [apparently referring to the above quote from his Dreams of a Final Theory] rather disparaging about ultra-liberal Christianity and that I found myself more … in some ways more akin to a fundamentalist because at least they haven’t forgotten what it [is] to believe something. And I got a copy of a fundamentalist newspaper from, I think from New Mexico that praised me! Because what they really … I think what their real concern was, was not odd atheist physicists, that wasn’t what they were worried about, what they were worried about was the liberal Christians. … I think they [the fundamentalists] just found a surprising ally in the battle that they really cared about – their battle with the liberal wing of Christianity.

——

It really comes down to the fact that the Bible is a book filled with historical facts (many that can investigated), and also it is filled with many prophecies (many in the Old Testament that have already been fulfilled). Let me give a you an amazing historical fact that has been verified. A couple of years ago I sent you the CD “Dust, Darwin and Disbelief,” by Adrian Rogers and Bill Elliff. On that CD you will find this story below:

The Bible is affirmed through historical accuracy. Do you remember the story about the handwriting on the wall that is found in the fifth chapter of Daniel? Belshazzar hosted a feast with a thousand of his lords and ladies. Suddenly, a gruesome hand appeared out of nowhere and began to write on a wall. The king was disturbed and asked for someone to interpret the writing. Daniel was found and gave the interpretation. After the interpretation, “Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.” (Daniel 5:29). Basing their opinion on Babylonian records, the historians claim this never happened. According to the records, the last king of Babylon was not Belshazzar, but a man named Nabonidas. And so, they said, the Bible is in error. There wasn’t a record of a king named Belshazzar. Well, the spades of archeologists continued to do their work. In 1853, an inscription was found on a cornerstone of a temple built by Nabonidas, to the god Ur, which read: “May I, Nabonidas, king of Babylon, not sin against thee. And may reverence for thee dwell in the heart of Belshazzar, my first-born favorite son.” From other inscriptions, it was learned that Belshazzar and Nabonidas were co-regents. Nabonidas traveled while Belshazzar stayed home to run the kingdom. Now that we know that Belshazzar and Nabonidas were co-regents, it makes sense that Belshazzar would say that Daniel would be the third ruler. What a marvelous nugget of truth tucked away in the Word of God!

Francis Schaeffer rightly noted:
From the Bible’s viewpoint, all truth finally rests upon the fact that the infinite-personal God exists in contrast to His not existing. This means that God exists objectively. He exists whether or not people say He does. The Bible also teaches that God is personal.
Much of the Bible is in the sphere of normal existence and is observable. God communicated himself in language. This is not surprising for He  was the creator of people who use language in communicating with other people.
In the Hebrew (and biblical) view, truth is grounded ultimately in the existence and character of God and what has been given us by God in creation and revelation. Because people are finite, reality cannot be exhausted by human reason.
It is within this Judeo-Christian view of truth that, by its own insistence, we must understand the Bible. Moses could appeal to real historical events as the basis for Israel’s confidence and obedience into the future. He could even pass down to subsequent generations physical reminders of what God had done, so that the people could see them and remember.

Thank you again for taking time to read this letter. It was been a thrill to get the chance to correspond with you!

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher, everettehatcher@gmail.com, http://www.thedailyhatch.org, cell ph 501-920-5733, Box 23416, LittleRock, AR 72221, United States

On the Shoulders of Giants: Steven Weinberg and the Quest to Explain the…

Steven Weinberg Discussion (1/8) – Richard Dawkins

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Whatever Happened To The Human Race? (2010) | Full Movie | Michael Hordern

——

The Bill Moyers Interview – Steven Weinberg

How Should We Then Live (1977) | Full Movie | Francis Schaeffer | Edith …

Steven Weinberg Discussion (2/8) – Richard Dawkins

RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!!

Steven Weinberg – Dreams of a Final Theory

Steven Weinberg Discussion (3/8) – Richard Dawkins

Steven Weinberg, Author

How Should We Then Live | Season 1 | Episode 6 | The Scientific Age

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Steven Weinberg Discussion (4/8) – Richard Dawkins

I am grieved to hear of the death of Dr. Steven Weinberg who I have been familiar with since reading about him in 1979 in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACE? by Dr. C. Everett Koop and Francis Schaeffer. I have really enjoyed reading his books and DREAMS OF A FINAL REALITY and TO EXPLAIN THE WORLD were two of my favorite!

C. Everett Koop
C. Everett Koop, 1980s.jpg

—-

Steven Weinberg Discussion (5/8) – Richard Dawkins

Steven Weinberg 1933-2021

I heard this morning the news that Steven Weinberg passed away yesterday at the age of 88.  He was arguably the dominant figure in theoretical particle physics during its period of great success from the late sixties to the early eighties.  In particular, his 1967 work on unification of the weak and electromagnetic interactions was a huge breakthrough, and remains to this day at the center of the Standard Model, our best understanding of fundamental physics.

During the years 1975-79 when I was a student at Harvard,  I believe the hallway where Weinberg, Glashow and Coleman had offices close together  was the greatest concentration of the world’s major figures driving the field of particle theory, with Weinberg seen as the most prominent of the three.  From what I recall, in a meeting one of the graduate students (Eddie Farhi?) referred to “Shelly, Sidney and Weinberg”, indicating the way Weinberg was a special case even in that group.   I had the great fortune to attend not only Coleman’s QFT course, but also a course by Weinberg on the quantization of gauge theory.

Weinberg was the author of an influential text on general relativity, as well as a masterful three-volume set of textbooks on QFT.  The second volume roughly corresponds to the course I took from him, and the third is about supersymmetry.   While most QFT books cover the basics in much the same way, Weinberg’s first volume is a quite different, original and highly influential take on the subject. It’s not easy going, but the details are all there and his point of view is an important one.  When you hear Nima Arkani-Hamed preaching about the right way to understand how QFT comes out uniquely as the only sensible way to combine special relativity and quantum mechanics, he’s often referring specifically to what you’ll find in that first volume.

Besides his technical work, Weinberg also did a huge amount of writing of the highest quality about physics and science in general for wider audiences.  An early example is his 1977 The Search for Unity: Notes for a History of Quantum Field Theory (a copy is here). His 1992 Dreams of a Final Theory is perhaps the best statement anywhere of the goal of fundamental physical theory during the 20th century. His large collection of pieces written for the The New York Review of Books covers a wide variety of topics and all are well worth reading.

At the time of the 1984 “First Superstring Revolution”, Weinberg joined in and worked on string theory for a while, but after a few years turned to cosmology. In early 2002 he was one of several people I wrote to about the current state of string theory, and here’s what I heard back from him:

I share your disappointment about the lack of contact so far of string theory with nature, but I can’t see that anyone else (including those studying topological nontrivialities in gauge theories) is doing much better. I thinks that some theorists should go on pushing as hard as they can on string theory, and others should do something else, but it is not easy to see what. I have myself voted with my feet (if that is the appropriate organ here) and switched entirely to work in cosmology, which is as exciting now as particle physics was in the 1960s and 1970s. I wouldn’t criticize anyone for their choices: it’s a tough time for fundamental physics.

A couple years after that time, Weinberg’s 1987 “prediction” of the cosmological constant became the main argument for the string theory multiverse. This “prediction” was essentially the observation that if you have a theory in which all values of the cosmological constant are equally likely, and put this together with the “anthropic” constraint that only for some range will galaxy formation give what seem to be the conditions for life, then you expect a non-zero CC of very roughly the size later found. I’ve argued ad nauseam here that this can’t be used as a significant argument for string theory in its landscape incarnation. One way to see the problem is to notice that my own theory of the CC (which is that I have no idea what determines it, so any value is as likely as any other) is exactly equivalent to the string landscape theory of the CC (in which you don’t know either the measure on the space of possible vacua, or even what this space is, so you assume all CC equally likely). One place where Weinberg wrote about this issue is his essay Living in the Multiverse, which I wrote about here (the sad story of misinterpretation of a comment of mine there is told here).

Weinberg’s death yesterday, taking away from us the dominant figure of the period of particle theory’s greatest success is both a significant loss and marks the end of an era. His 2002 remark that “it’s a tough time” is even more true today.

Update: Scott Aaronson writes about Weinberg here, especially about getting to know him during the last part of his life.

Update: For Arkani-Hamed on Weinberg, see here.

Update: Glashow writes about Weinberg here.

This entry was posted in Obituaries. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Steven Weinberg 1933-2021

  1. Alessandro Strumia says:

    Weinberg was the last of the physics giants who produced fundamental theories validated by experiments. After half a century his Standard Model still holds, so maybe now is the fist time in physics history without scientific giants.

  2. Shantanu says:

    A tribute to him from one Astrophysics colleague who had recently joined UT Austin
    https://twitter.com/MBKplus/status/1418972769509855236

  3. Pingback: #Virasoro-Algebren und das Standardmodell [Mathlog] – BuradaBiliyorum.Com
  4. Ricardo says:

    His last book “Foundations of Modern Physics came out a few months ago. From the preface:
    “This book treats such a broad range of topics that it is impossible to go very far into any of them. Certainly its treatment of quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, transport theory, nuclear physics, and quantum field theory is no substitute for graduate-level courses on these topics, any one of which would occupy at least a whole year. This book presents what I think, in an ideal world, the ambitious physics student would already know when he or she enters graduate school. At least, it is what I wish that I had known when I entered graduate school.”
    Does anybody have an opinion about how well he succeeded?

  5. Wei Liu says:

    It is sad news that Weinberg is not with us anymore but I cannot agree with Alessandro Strumia that “Weinberg was the last of the physics giants who produced fundamental theories validated by experiments…so maybe now is the fi(r)st time in physics history without scientific giants.” Please be reminded that C. N. Yang and T. D. Lee still are healthily living.

  6. Mark Weitzman says:

    @Ricardo: I wrote the following review on one of my piazza sites a few weeks ago. I am currently half way through the book, and I am enjoying the book, although I am familiar with most of the content already. As I indicated below it is more of a review book, than a teaching book.

    Steven Weinberg had come out with a new book: Foundations of Modern Physics.  I have read the first 2 chapters, and scanned the rest of the book – the book is a short 300 pages and the hardcover is about $40.  The level of the book is intermediate to advanced undergraduate.

    I often encounter online students who have taken several of the MIT physics MOOC’s but often feel that they either lack some background, or don’t see what they have learned (especially in the QM sequence) and how it will be applied.  To many of these students my advice is usually to read the Feynman Lectures on physics, to get the big picture and for more background in QM prerequisite physics, and/or find a good textbook on modern physics.

    When I was in college almost half a century ago, I remember using Leighton’s classic book Principles of Modern Physics 1959 (about 700 pages in length), and suggest students try and find a more recent book covering roughly the same material – I haven’t seen one, so let me know if you have. There seem to be many freshman/sophomore level books covering modern physics, but I don’t think these are sufficient.

    Weinberg’s book is less of a textbook (while there are 25 problems at the end of the book, there are no exercises at the end of chapters, and no worked out examples).  It is written in Weinberg style, few pictures or diagrams, unusual symbols ( for the atomic mass unit, usual notation is u), nice but sometimes terse arguments, and excellent content with interesting historical asides.  The math level is low at the beginning (algebra – elementary calculus), and rises a little with the level of the material, but not nearly as difficult as his graduate level books.

    There are seven chapters in the book:

    Early Atomic Theory
    Thermodynamics and Kinetic Theory
    Early Quantum Theory
    Relativity
    Quantum Mechanics
    Nuclear Physics
    Quantum Field Theory
    So the coverage is exactly what a student should be looking for in a modern physics book (perhaps astrophysics and cosmology are left out, because Weinberg just published a set of lectures on astrophysics, and has a whole book on Cosmology). The book seems more of a review or plug holes in background, and less of a teaching masterpiece.

    I recommend that students looking for a book on this type of material take a look at the book and see if it is for them.  I think students who are taking or have finished the MITx 8.04-8.06 sequence might find the book worthwhile as a review and also as filling out some material, and get a preview of quantum field theory as well.

  7. Ralf Hofmann says:

    Steven Weinberg – a great, highly creative physicist and wonderfully involved teacher of fundamental physics who shaped my own education in quantum field theory and cosmology during essential steps. I’ll miss him and his sober views very much.

  8. Alessandro Strumia says:

    Dear Wei, thank you, let me try to explain better. Historians like to choose a somehow arbitrary moment to symbolise a gradual change. If the change I mentioned will really happen, I expect they will choose this moment.

  9. Thomas Larsson says:

    Alessandro, Glashow is still around, isn’t he? So not quite the last. As a sophomore, I attended a talk by GSW when they were here in Stockholm to collect their Nobel prize, and I understood absolutely nothing.

    Btw. I learned from Lubos that Miguel Virasoro has passed away as well.

  10. Pingback: Shtetl-Optimized » Blog Archive » Steven Weinberg (1933-2021): a personal view
  11. Sebastian Thaler says:

    I was working at Cambridge University Press in 1995 when the first volume of his “Quantum Theory of Fields” was released. I recall speaking briefly with him on the phone about something trivial like distributing review copies, and picking up a copy of the book that had been delivered to our office. I read the first page and then put it back down—it was just a *bit* over my head…

  12. My PhD thesis was a measurement of the Weinberg angle (sin^2\theta_W) using polarized electrons at the SLAC linear collider. Some people insisted the W stood for Weak but I always held it is W for Weinberg. I read and reread his paper A Model of Leptons many times until I could reproduce it at my defense. I wish all theory papers were as clear and understandable.

  13. Severin Pappadeux says:

    Miguel Virasoro died the same day

  14. Shantanu says:

    Amitabha: From what I understand the “Weinberg” angle was first introduced by Glashow.

  15. Shantanu, that is funny because I was told to call it Weak Mixing Angle (and not Weinberg angle) after I gave this talk at Harvard. Glashow was in the room but he was not the one who made that comment. I made the correction with a marker on my transparencies right there. This was a while ago, but I also vaguely remember some chatter about “well if this is right it means the higgs is light”. We were, and it was.

  16. Shantanu says:

    Amitabha: This is also mentioned on Peter’s blog https://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=17
    I have also heard this mentioned in many HEP seminars I attended as a grad student.

  17. Robinson says:

    Dreams of a Final Theory is available on Audible. It’s read by Weinberg himself. It’s written for a general audience, so even untutored but interested readers like me can understand it.

  18. D R Lunsford says:

    That is sad news, but it was a long life well-lived. He was an authentic giant. His book on GR is still my favorite (tied with that of Fock) and I was lucky to learn the subject in detail mostly from that. Agree also about QTF II. I wish we had made more progress in his last years for him to enjoy and contribute to. RIP.

Francis Schaeffer : Reclaiming the World part 1, 2

The Atheism Tapes – Steven Weinberg [2/6]

The Story of Francis and Edith Schaeffer

Steven Weinberg – What Makes the Universe Fascinating?

On November 21, 2014 I received a letter from Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto and it said:

…Please click on this URL http://vimeo.com/26991975

and you will hear what far smarter people than I have to say on this matter. I agree with them.

Harry Kroto

_________________

Below you have picture of Dr. Harry Kroto:

______________

I have attempted to respond to all of Dr. Kroto’s friends arguments and I have posted my responses one per week for over a year now. Here are some of my earlier posts:

Sir David AttenboroughMark Balaguer, Patricia ChurchlandAaron CiechanoverNoam Chomsky,Alan DershowitzHubert Dreyfus, Bart EhrmanIvar Giaever , Roy GlauberRebecca GoldsteinDavid J. Gross,  Brian Greene, Susan GreenfieldAlan Guth, Jonathan HaidtHermann HauserRoald Hoffmann,  Bruce HoodHerbert Huppert,  Gareth Stedman JonesShelly KaganStuart Kauffman,  Lawrence KraussHarry Kroto, Elizabeth Loftus,  Alan MacfarlanePeter MillicanMarvin MinskyLeonard Mlodinow,  Yujin NagasawaDouglas Osheroff,   Saul PerlmutterHerman Philipse,  Robert M. PriceLisa RandallLord Martin Rees,  Oliver SacksMarcus du SautoySimon SchafferJ. L. Schellenberg,   Lee Silver Peter Singer,  Walter Sinnott-ArmstrongRonald de Sousa, Victor StengerBarry Supple,   Leonard Susskind, Raymond TallisNeil deGrasse Tyson,  .Alexander Vilenkin, Sir John WalkerFrank WilczekSteven Weinberg, and  Lewis Wolpert,

____________________________

In  the 1st video below in the 50th clip in this series are his words. 

50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 1)

Another 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 2)

A Further 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 3)

_________________________________

Steven Weinberg: To Explain the World

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

________

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