Down in the comments section of this post, reader St. TY has the following kind thing to say about me:
What an excellent blog. I have been looking for one like this for a long time. I tell what I like about it: Although we all know St. Aron’s Christian bias, but he does not let it intrude into his physics and, as one with a mathematical background, I like that separation of Church and State.
As for the format I’m old fashioned and I like the written word because good writing demands clarity and coherence I must add honesty, and so I like reading Aron’s pieces and the comments.
I would like Aron to put all of this meaty stuff in a book.
Would you, Aron?
Thanks so much for your gracious compliments about my blog! It's too bad really, that I must strongly disagree with you when you say that
Although we all know St. Aron’s Christian bias, but he does not let it intrude into his physics and, as one with a mathematical background, I like that separation of Church and State.
Your proposal that I keep a separating wall is not really very undivided, is it? I expressed a different aspiration in my About page:
"Undivided Looking" expresses the aspiration that, although compartmentalized thinking is frequently helpful in life, one must also step back and look at the world as a whole. This involves balancing specialized knowledge with common sense to keep both kinds of thinking in perspective.
So in response I would say, that one's physics views can and should be influenced by one's theological views (or vice versa), if there is a legitimate reason why it should do so. There is, after all, only one universe, and therefore no compartments can be kept completely watertight. For example, most economists don't need to know much about chemistry, but if they're talking about buying things that might explode then there needs to be some cross-talk.
Christianity is not a "bias", but a "belief", one which happens to be true. Deducing things from one's beliefs is not bias unless it is done in an irrational and capricious manner. But perhaps you were speaking in a semi-humorous way, in the way that we might say that all scientists seek to be biased towards the truth!
Reasonable physicists will probably have similar intuitions about how physics should be done (I'm excluding unreasonable people like Young Earth Creationists), regardless of whether they are atheists or theists. Or rather, people have different intuitions about physics but they mostly don't correlate with religious views! But if on a particular matter (e.g. the universe having a beginning in time) somebody happens to be influenced by their religion (or lack thereof) to think that one viewpoint is more likely than another, I don't think that should be taboo.
Far from corrupting the scientific process, I think science usually works better when people explore a variety of intuitions and options. As I said in discussing the importance of collaboration in science:
Healthy scientific collaboration encourages reasonable dissent. Otherwise group-think can insulate the community from effective criticism of accepted ideas. Some people say that scientists should proportion their beliefs to the evidence. However, there's also some value in diversity of opinion, because it permits subgroups to work on unpopular hypotheses. I suppose things work best when the scientific community taken as a whole proportions its research work to the evidence.
It doesn't necessarily matter whether the source of the original intuition is something that could be accepted by all scientists. What matters is that the resulting idea can be tested. Sometimes, the original motivation for a successful scientific theory is rather dubious (e.g the Dirac sea motivation for antimatter), but nevertheless the resulting theory is confirmed by experiment and later is motivated by a different set of considerations.
So I don't believe in the complete separation of Physics and Theology, hence the blog. But maybe I believe in something else which has some similar effects on my writing. You must after all be detecting something about what I am doing which provoked your favorable statement.
Perhaps it is this: I believe in being honest. I must to the best of my ability weigh the evidence on fair scales, and be open about what I am doing. It would be dishonest if, because I want to prove the truth of Theism, I were to report the relevant Physics data in an imbalanced way, playing up anything which might seem to help my case and playing down anything which does not. People often do this kind of thing reflexively when they argue, even to the extent of first deceiving themselves before they deceive others. But it's still unfair tactics, especially when deployed by the expert against the layman.
It is not dishonesty for me to have my own views about what's important in Physics and what's not, but it would be dishonest if I implied that all physicists agreed with me about that when they don't. Nor would it be dishonest if my views about speculative physics are influenced to some extent by my theological views—I think this is inevitable, and possibly not even fully conscious—but to pretend that a view is based on purely physical considerations when it is not, or to distort the data about Physics to match a preconceived agenda (theological or otherwise) is repugnant to me.
So I'll do the best I can to be honest, and hopefully that will tilt the scales in the right direction.
Once upon a time, a college friend and I planned to write a book about Science-and-Religion topics, but that never got off the ground. A few of the ideas from that time are being recycled here.
I originally started this blog because an elder Christian whom I respect back in Maryland told me (and gave me to understand that it was a divine revelation to him, and I trust him to know the difference) that I should not neglect my gift of teaching when I went to Santa Barbara. At first I tried to start a Bible study with my church, but it already had lots of other groups, and it kept not working out for various reasons; then I thought of the idea of blogging instead.
Once I reach a critical mass on the blog, perhaps some of them could be organized into book format. But I don't need to decide that yet. For the time being, the informal blogging environment seems more fruitful for developing ideas.