Question to Weinberg: On What Science Cannot Explain
Gingerich: Steve, you stated that there is a mysterious realm that
science will never explain and that a similar statement is true about religion.
What do you see as the nature of this mysterious realm? How is it different
from your conception of a religious realm?
Weinberg: Well, the realm I refer to is just the - I do believe we
will find, I am not certain about this, but I do believe that sometime in the
next century or so were going to find that all our physical theories converge
to a fundamental theory, maybe something like the string theories that people
are talking about today, maybe something deeper, from which in principle all
other scientific generalizations that dont simply rely on historical accidents
can be inferred. The mystery will be: why is that true? It will be something
very specific, very crystallized into a clear scientific statement. We will
then wonder why is it true? As I said there may be a chance of answering the
question why its not slightly different, but we probably will not ever get the
answer why the truth is not totally different.
There is the possibility that we may be able to show that there is no other
logically consistent theory which would allow a rich enough universe to allow
for people to be raising the issue. That doesnt completely satisfy me but it
may give some satisfaction. I mean when, for instance, you look for
alternatives to quantum mechanics you think of Newtonian mechanics which dont
allow for atoms and I can hardly imagine how life could evolve in a purely
But, on the other hand, the religious mystery is, well, a mystery of whether
any of it is true which will always be with us because therell never be any - unless
the flaming sword descends, unless miracles start happening again in a
reproducible way that they havent - therell never be any way of being certain
about religion and the truth as the religious thinker finds it will always be
flexible, it will always be something that can be - that can vary indefinitely.
Polkinghorne: May I just say that, God forbid, if a flaming sword
were to come and decapitate Steve before our very eyes that would pose a very
big theological problem. Because that would be the capricious act of a magical,
vengeful god and thats not the God of my belief. You see the problem of
Weinberg: It is the god, however, of your religious tradition.
Polkinghorne: Ha. I wouldnt say that the religious tradition is
unsullied with that belief but its certainly not the sole element, strand
within that belief. The problem of miracles is the problem of divine
consistency. God is not capricious but God is not condemned equally to dreary
Weinberg: Well, it would pose not only a theological problem but a
Contributed by: Sir John Polkinghorne and Steven