"But then, maybe at the very bottom of it... I really don't like God.
You know, it's silly to say I don't like God because I don't believe
in God, but in the same sense that I don't like Iago, or the Reverend
Slope or any of the other villains of literature, the god of traditional
Judaism and Christianity and Islam seems to me a terrible character.
He's a god who will... who obsessed the degree to which people worship
him and anxious to punish with the most awful torments those who
don't worship him in the right way. Now I realise that many people
don't believe in that any more who call themselves Muslims or Jews
or Christians, but that is the traditional God and he's a terrible
character. I don't like him."
Из интервью со Стивеном Вайнбергом о религии. Полный текст ниже.
"If there is a God that has special plans for humans,
then He has taken very great pains to hide His concern for us. To me
it would seem impolite if not impious to bother such a God with our
Dreams of a Final Theory.
"Premature as the question may be, it is hardly
possible not to wonder whether we will find any answer to our deepest
questions, any signs of the workings of an interested God, in a final
theory. I think that we will not."
Dreams of a Final Theory.
"Good people will do good things, and bad people will
do bad things. But for good people to do bad things - that
"It seems a bit unfair to my relatives to be murdered
in order to provide an opportunity for free will for Germans, but
even putting that aside, how does free will account for cancer? Is
it an opportunity of free will for tumors?
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. But in fact the perception that God cannot be
benevolent is very old. Plays by Aeschylus and Euripides make a
quite explicit statement that the gods are selfish and cruel,
though they expect better behavior from humans. God in the Old
Testament tells us to bash the heads of infidels and demands of
us that we be willing to sacrifice our children's lives at His
orders, and the God of traditional Christianity and Islam damns
us for eternity if we do not worship him in the right manner. Is
this a nice way to behave? I know, I know, we are not supposed to
judge God according to human standards, but you see the problem
here: If we are not yet convinced of His existence, and are looking
for signs of His benevolence, then what other standards can we use?"
"Most scientists I know don't care enough about
religion even to call themselves atheists."
"Science should be taught not in order to support
religion and not in order to destroy religion. Science should be taught
simply ignoring religion."
"Though aware that there is nothing in the universe
that suggests any purpose for humanity, one way that we can find a
purpose is to study the universe by the methods of science,
without consoling ourselves with fairy tales about its future, or
about our own."
The Universe Might Last Forever, Astronomers Say, but Life
Might Not January 1, 2002, The New York Times
"Even though their arguments did not invoke religion,
I think we all know what's behind these arguments. They're trying to
protect religious beliefs from contradiction by science. They used to
do it by prohibiting teachers from teaching evolution at all; then
they wanted to teach intelligent design as an alternative theory;
now they want the supposed "weaknesses" in evolution pointed out.
But it's all the same program -- it's all an attempt to let religious
ideas determine what is taught in science courses."
September, 2003, State Board of Education hearing.
Интервью со Стивеном Вайнбергом
Jonathan Miller (JM) [To viewer]: Now the Nobel
physicist Steven Weinburg has often addressed himself to what he sees as the
pernicious effects of religion, and when I met him in Texas I started by asking
him how he reacted to the fact that the physicists who were his own intellectual
predecessors had seen the physical regularity of the universe and the beauty of
the Earth to be incontrovertible evidence of divine design.
Weinburg (SW): Looking at nature, in the past, the impression of design must
have been overwhelming. It's such a comfortable, pleasant Earth and things work
out so well. Well as we learn more and more about the universe, it seems not
such a friendly place, and we appear just to have been winners in a cosmic
JM: And yet there might be those believers who might say, "Yes,
admittedly there might be other celestial bodies which are not good stage sets
for life, let alone for the human drama, but here we are on Earth, which is, as
they would say, convivially arranged to... accommodate life.
what would you expect? With all these billions and billions of planets, some of
them are going to be comfortable and it's only on those that life can
JM: But people like Newton, for example, and Samuel Clark, who
wrote, as it were, on his behalf later on, at Trinity when he did the Boyle
Lectures... was not invoking the comfort and conviviality of the Earth. Newton
was impressed by the regularity of nature, whether or not it was a suitable
setting for the human drama - he thought that the laws of motion, and the...
arrangement of the uh... of the celestial system expressed design, regardless of
it's suitability for human existence.
SW: Yes... and well... he was
religious. He saw the universe as a great puzzle, just as he saw the Book of
Daniel as a great puzzle, and it was God leaving messages for human beings to
puzzle out, and he puzzled out the way the solar system worked, and he tried to
puzzle out the chronology of the Bible. Urr... Well we don't do that any more.
JM: But might there be any reason - in that you still find people, and
indeed some of your own colleagues, who feel that nevertheless, the regularity
by definition involves and invokes... a regulator.
SW: Well it
doesn't... There is a mystery, I have to admit. You know... we try to understand
nature and we ask questions and we get answers and then we ask follow-up
questions, "why is THAT true?" and we... ultimately we hope to come to a set of
elegant physical principles that describe everything, and when we have it, the
mystery will still be there, because we will always have to ask, "well why is it
that theory and not some other theory?". And one answer is, well that is the
regularity imposed on us by a... spirit, a designer, but that doesn't answer
anything - I mean then you have to say, "why is the designer like that?". You
know, either by a designer you have something in particular in mind - a god who
is... benevolent or jealous, or humorous - whatever! Or you have nothing in mind
and then let's not talk about it. If you have something in mind, then the
question arises, "why is that true?". So I don't see that having a designer puts
us at rest. I think we are permanently in the tragic position of being able...
of not being able to understand at the deepest possible level why things are the
way they are. And... you just have to live with that, but, well, saying it's a
designer doesn't settle it, doesn't help.
JM: But let's say, and I'm
being, as it were, the deist's advocate here...
SW: Instead of the
JM: Instead of the devil's advocate. Um... let's say that it
doesn't exhibit or it doesn't answer the question of design. But if there is
this insuperable mystery... might one understand how it is that people feel that
in the presence of such a mystery that they, as it were, it's the thin end of
some sort of theological wedge into which spirituality or originator can be
JM: I mean I don't feel that.
don't feel that way either. I suppose many do. I think much more likely is that
people are religious because they're... they know they're going to die and they
know their loved ones are going to die, and that's the tragedy. It's not that
bothers them, it's not the tragedy of not being able to come to the final cause.
It's the tragedy of... knowing that your life and all the wonderful things that
you can do and living and the people you love, that that's all going to end. It
seems to me that provides the driving force for religion much more than these
philosophical wonderings about first cause.
These issues of the
beginning of time were discussed very intelligently long ago by Augustine,
and... who grappled with the question of what there was before time began, and
he said God created the world with time. That time was created - there was no
"before" - that that's part of the Creation. That's as good an answer as any I
JM: It is interesting that someone like Augustine, without the
benefits of quantum physics, without the benefits of Einstein, without the
benefits of any of your sort of work, was able to invoke ideas such as time
itself having a beginning.
SW: Augustine was a very clever man and it's
wonderful, looking back over all the thousands of years of speculation about
these things, that time - I think first with Galileo - became part of the
ordinary... ambit of science. Galileo was the first person who tried to measure
time during a physical process - measured the time it took for various balls to
roll down an inclined plane, and he got the rule that the distance travelled is
proportional to the square of the time. Nobody before had ever tried to bring
time into the laws of nature, quantitatively.
JM: But for Galileo,
observing these regularities and observing the relationship between these balls
rolling down these slopes, the time it took, and giving a mathematical
expression for that, for him, as an unquestioningly religious man they were, in
fact, demonstrations of God's mind.
SW: Well, I don't think Galileo came
to that conclusion - if he did, I'm not aware of it - but the... if what you're
suggesting is that there is no... necessary conflict between being a scientist
and being religious, I suppose I have to agree. Even now, there are very fine
scientists who are deeply religious. I know a few. Umm, but... the... I think
what happened - and it only began to happen with Galileo and Newton, so it took
a long time to mature... What happened was that much of the early basis for
religious belief was dissolved by science. It wasn't that scientific discoveries
made religion impossible... it's that they made irreligion possible. It became
possible to understand how things worked without the religious explanation and
particularly, I think, more important than anything any physicist did, was what
Darwin did, Darwin and Wallis.
JM: Yes, well this is the argument which
we've had... I think from Dennett, from Daniel Dennett. He feels that perhaps
the most wounding influence upon religion really came with Darwin rather than
SW: Oh, I agree. Even though it hurts my pride as a
physicist to say so. You know, because people don't really care that much about
the way the planets go round the sun or the way... certainly they don't care
about balls rolling down the inclined plane. What they care about is life, and
particularly their own life, and their relationship to... the causes for them
being the way they are, they care about that. And Darwin's revision of the...
understanding of why living things are the way they are, in particular why
people are the way they are, was overwhelming and Darwin himself lost his faith.
You know, I was recently re-reading Lytton Strachey's wonderful little
biography of Cardinal Manning in Eminent Victorians and Manning said that he was
con-, he became convinced... a convinced Christian, because of reading...
JM: Natural Theology
SW: Yes... and the wonderful
adaptation of living things convinced him that there had to be a creator. A
person, a personality that created all this. And suddenly that was God. There
wasn't a discovery that there wasn't a creator, but the argument was removed,
and I don't think anything in... that science has done for general culture has
ever been as important as that.
JM: Yes, it is interesting to find that,
on the whole, the percentage of biological disbelievers in the scientific
community is higher than the percentage of disbelievers amongst your colleagues
in physics and chemistry.
SW: Is that true? I didn't know that. Actually,
I've occasionally... not too often, gotten into conversations with my physicist
colleagues about religion and I find an overwhelming lack of interest in it. I
once said that they don't care enough about it to qualify as practising
atheists. They... they just regard it as a sort of question that it's silly to
raise, and umm... I, for some obscure reason, I tend to care about it and I'm
interested in religion, but most of my physicist friends are not. But you find
such a variety of belief.
I have one friend, a very distinguished
astrophysicist, who told me that he is an orthodox, observant Jew - which is a
lot of trouble, that's not easy - and doesn't believe in God. Because, for him,
the religion is a framework for life that he inherited from his parents. He grew
up with it. He wants to stay in it. But he doesn't think there's anything behind
it. I think probably a fair number of people in the Church of England feel that
JM: I think that for a number of people, the retreat into religion
is, as you say, not a retreat into belief, but a retreat into reassuring
domestic ritual, and I suspect that's much greater for Jews than it is for
Christians. I mean there is a way in which one could say that belief is less
importance for Jews than observance.
SW: I think that's very true. One
can argue about the reasons for it, but I don't think that Judaism is the only
religion for which that's true. I think it's also true for Hinduism. I don't
think the Hindu's have ever looked very closely into what they all believe.
They're allowed to believe in all sorts of things, but the important thing is,
you know, the Brahmens are not supposed to cross the ocean, and you're not
supposed to kill cows - those are... that's what's important. What you really
think about... Brahma and Vishnu and Shiva... I don't think there was ever an
inquisition... among the Hindus. On the other hand, then you have religions like
Christianity, Islam, and I guess to some extent, Buddhism. These are the
religions that have missionaries, that go out and try to convert other people,
and it's in these religions that have universalised ambitions, that theology
becomes important, and it is... it does become important. And in a way, I'm more
attracted to that, because as a scientist, I care about searching for truth and
making a theory of the world, and Christianity or Buddhism for that matter,
provides an alternative theory of the world. And that's something I have... I
feel I have something to say about, I can interact with, I can respond to. On
the other hand, if people just want to not eat pork, or not kill cows, or
whatever it is, wall, you know, more power to them, it has nothing to do with
me, and there's no argument there.
JM: So you feel a realistic and
vigorous sense of opposition in that they are... that Christianity, and
Buddhism, in a rather different way, are in fact, as it were, more
intellectually intelligible and complementary to a scientific world
SW: Yes... Yes, they have a theory, and it's a theory that I don't
agree with, but there is a theory there. And... without a theory, what can I
say? Then it's not something that I can engage. I once wrote something 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 in 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
JM: Ah I see, so that in fact... the fundamentalist
Christians see you scientists as worthy opponents...
JM: In the same way that you scientists...
SM: I wouldn't draw
that implication. I think they just found a surprising ally in the battle that
they really care about - their battle with the liberal wing of Christianity. But
please don't let me give the wrong impression, I think enormous harm is done by
religion - not just in the name of religion, but actually by religion - and I
JM: How is that? Tell me the harm that is done by religion as
opposed to the harm that is done in the name of it.
SW: Oh, I think
people who crash air-planes into office buildings in order to destroy them must
really believe in paradise and that this is something that their god wants them
to do and that they'll be rewarded in paradise. And if they don't believe that
then it's a very foolish career move.
SW: But... you
know, the idea that God has... whether it's Allah or Jehovah or whatever, has
dictated certain ways of behaving, certain ways of worshipping, and that it's
incumbent on you to force others to behave that way and worship in that way...
God, think of all the harm that's been done throughout all the ages by people
who believe that and believe it very sincerely. One could just go on and on
about the number of very sincerely religious people who were led by their
religion to do the most awful things.
JM: Well in fact that was very
much an aspect of Judaism before the Diaspora.
SW: Oh, absolutely, yes.
I do agree, but just coming back to what we were talking about before, it is the
religions that have a theory of the world, it seems to me, at least in recent
centuries, that do the harm. So the... the very sincere true believers are the
ones are the ones you have to watch out for, even though they may have something
more to show for themselves intellectually than the more liberal religious, but
they are the dangerous ones.
JM [To the viewer]: Given the fact that the
current president of the United States could be described as a "sincere true
believer", I wanted to know if Steven himself was alarmed by the apparent growth
of fundamental Christianity in his own country.
SW: I don't see the
United States in the grip of a... a really disturbing religious awakening. I
think that what's much more frightening in the world is Islam, where people, it
seems to me, take their religion seriously to the point of madness. I think, you
know, there have been times in the history of the world when Islam was a far
more tolerant religion than Christianity, but that is not the case now.
JM: But there is undoubtedly for... a certainly for a European, the
impression that there's a very strong association between Christianity and
patriotism in a way that simply doesn't exist in Europe, certainly not in my own
country, the United Kingdom.
SW: Yes, well, it's... I know that
impression exists and I think that Americans think more highly of religion that
Europeans do. I sometimes think that Americans believe in religion much more
than Europeans do. They don't believe in God much more than Europeans do, but
they believe that religion is good for you, and without being particularly
religious in any meaningful way. You know, I know many people who say they're
religious and go to church every Sunday and belong to church organisations, and
then when you talk to them and you ask them, "Do you really think that after
death this is going to happen?" they say, "I've no idea, I don't know, it's all
a mystery, but I think it's good to be religious. This is the faith I grew up
with.". As a physicist, you have to decide what you think is true and you get in
the habit of that kind of intellectual activity because if you work on the wrong
theory and it isn't true you have wasted your professional time, and you keep
having to make judgements of truth or falsity, and or truth becomes very
important to you. For most people truth is not as important as good behaviour,
or loyalty to your ethnic group, or loyalty to your family traditions, and truth
is something that you don't worry about very much.
JM: Although, of
course, in the Middle Ages and indeed when people were opposing atheism in the
17th century, it was insisted that the truthfulness of religion was what
guaranteed good behaviour.
SW: Yes, and many people believe that, but an
awful lot of people also believe it doesn't matter whether it's true, you just
have to be religious because that will guarantee good behaviour. You know the
wonderful line of Gibbon's about the pagan religions, he said "The multitude of
gods... ", Gibbon said, "The common people found them all equally true, and the
philosophers found them all equally false, and the magistrates found them all
equally useful.". And I think many people in America and undoubtedly in Europe
are in the position of the magistrates Gibbon was talking about - they find them
useful. Although I really don't think that... I don't see religion as actually
inspiring moral behaviour. In fact you very often hear people say, "Well, these
people who blow themselves up for some religious reason in the Middle East or
Hindu mobs who destroy a mosque or Muslim mobs who kill Hindus, that they're not
really religious, that real religion doesn't involve that kind of behaviour.". I
think what they're saying is that they have a moral sense which allows them to
distinguish what is religious from what is not religious.
I think, for
example, George Bush said that these terrorists have hijacked a great religion
because their actions, their terrorist actions don't fit his idea of religion.
You see what's really happening there is that instead of using religion to
decide what is moral, they're using their moral sense, which fortunately is a
perfectly, good, reasonable, enlightened moral sense, to decide what is
religious... and... if that's the case, then what's the point of the
JM: Finally, I wanted to know whether there were any particular
reasons, apart from being constantly asked be people like myself, why Steven
felt it necessary to address himself to the topic of religion more than many of
his colleagues did.
SW: Oh, I try not to do it too much. I don't want to
become the village atheist... and I do get involved in a lot of other issues
like missile defence and neo... well, post-constructionism, neo-modernism, but I
do spend probably a little bit more time than I should on religion and I have a
certain amount of hostility to... to it. I think the most rational reason for it
is because of the harm that I see it does, we were talking about that earlier.
Many people do simply awful things out of sincere religious belief, not using
religion as a cover the way that Saddam Hussein may have done, but really
because they believe that this is what God wants them to do, going all the way
back to Abraham being willing to sacrifice Issac because God told him to do
that. Putting God ahead of humanity is a terrible thing.
is because I'm offended by the kind of smarmy religiosity that's all around us,
perhaps more in America than in Europe, and not really that harmful because it's
not really that intense or even that serious, but just... you know after a while
you get tired of hearing clergymen giving the invocation at various public
celebrations and you feel, haven't we outgrown all this? Do we have to listen to
But then, maybe at the very bottom of it... I really don't like
God. You know, it's silly to say I don't like God because I don't believe in
God, but in the same sense that I don't like Iago, or the Reverend Slope or any
of the other villains of literature, the god of traditional Judaism and
Christianity and Islam seems to me a terrible character. He's a god who will...
who obsessed the degree to which people worship him and anxious to punish with
the most awful torments those who don't worship him in the right way. Now I
realise that many people don't believe in that any more who call themselves
Muslims or Jews or Christians, but that is the traditional God and he's a
terrible character. I don't like him.
I have a friend - or had a friend,
now dead - Abdul 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.