March 7, 2010 by Bill
Dr. Steven Weinberg is one of the true, authentic Renaissance men of our time. He has been called the “Einstein” of our day. He won the Nobel Prize for uniting the electro-magnetic and the weak nuclear forces into a single force. He is a founding director of the Jerusalem Winter School of Theoretical Physics, is on the Council of Scholars – the Library of Congress, he holds honorary doctoral degrees from major universities all over the world. He taught at MIT and Harvard. Nobody since Loren Eiseley and Lewis Thomas has written so beautifully, turning science into poetry.
He recently was awarded the Lewis Thomas prize, given to the scholar who “best embodies the scientist as poet.” He prefaced his acceptance speech by saying, “what a joy to be at a meeting that does not start with an invocation.” He went on to say that the great passion of his life, with science, was to free human beings from the superstition of religion, and he continued:
“Religion is an insult to human dignity. Science should be taught ignoring religion. One of the social functions of science is to free humans from superstition.
“The entire history of the last thousands of years has been a history of religious persecutions, wars, and crusades. I hope this long sad story, fueled by the progression of priests, ministers and rabbis, will come to an end. If science can contribute to this end, it will be the most important contribution we can make, that we see no more of priests, ministers, and rabbis.
“Religion is complete nonsense and terribly damaging to human civilization. As Voltaire said, ‘Religion began when the first knave met the first fool.’ Knaves today empower themselves by perpetuating ignorance and glorifying stupidity, like Billy Graham who says ‘science is the trouble’ or the Pope who says ‘technology will be the ruin of mankind,’ at the same time both benefit to the maximum from science and technology.”
In a beautiful profile on Weinberg, the New York Times, several years ago, made note of the fact that he lost all of his mother’s family in the holocaust, has a brilliant wife who is a professor of Law at the University of Texas, and that he is so sensitive he “cannot hear La Boheme without dissolving.”
Weinberg and Albert Einstein were kindred spirit heroes, whose lives were a passion to free human beings from religious superstition.
The cover of Time magazine for December 31, 1999, had their “Person of the Century,” Albert Einstein. Not that I understood his physics, but he has been one of my heroes for countless years due to his freedom of spirit. He lived his life as the ultimate heretic, maverick, iconoclast, free thinker and mystic, letting intuition guide his insights.
He despised bigotry and racism. He never minced words, nor was mealy-mouthed on the subject of religion. He wrote:
“Teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the archaic doctrine of a personal God; that is, give up that source of fear which has placed such vast power in the hands of the priests and ministers, and has done incalculable harm to human growth.
“The spiritual geniuses of all ages have had no use for dogma, doctrine, creeds, churches, as well as no God conceived in man’s image, all based on archaic superstitions.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and ignorance.
“My faith has always been in intuition, grounded in mysticism. I believe in Mystery. The most profound spiritual emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical; to stand before the Mystery in awe and wonder is at the heart of all true art and science.”
Practically all Nobel Physicists have said that their most perceptive insights came through mystical intuition. Mysticism has nothing to do with organized religion. In fact, it is the antithesis of “religion.”
A cartoon in the Washington Post following Einstein’s death said it all. The cartoon showed the heavens, with dozens of planets floating around the universe, and right in the middle was Earth, with a big sign on it that said…ALBERT EINSTEIN LIVED HERE.
Weinberg and Einstein both had a driving passion to free human beings from religious superstition – even as it has been a force and focus for my own life.