## Sunday, October 08, 2006

### Steven Weinberg on religion

In this video of

he explains how science didn't have to falsify the religion. It just allowed people not to believe. People usually believe in God mostly because of their feelings about their death - not because of fundamental explanations. Anyway, God doesn't explain why things are what they are unless you have a specific model of God, and even if you had it, you would have to ask why God is what it is, Weinberg says.

Weinberg thinks that Darwin had the most profound impact on the ideas behind religion - he had to admit that even no physicist has had such an impact. Incidentally, there has been a similar interview with

Back to Weinberg.

He is sad that most physicists are completely uninterested in religious questions. Weinberg divides the religions into two groups: those with a theory (and missionaries with universalist ambitions), and those without a theory. Those without a theory - judaism, hinduism - just tell you not to eat pork or not to kill the cows. He has nothing to do with it: it's their business. But Christianity, Islam, and partly Buddhism have alternative theories - so Weinberg has something to say about it.

Weinberg also describes how he once became an ally of the fundamentalist Christians who praised him for his harsh criticism of the ultra-liberal Christians. Weinberg praised them, too - they at least know what it means to believe something.

He also says that bad things are not made just in the name of religion, but by the religion itself - by sincerely believing people which includes the hijackers. Of course, this is mostly about the religions with a theory behind them - the very same religions that Weinberg has to respect in other ways.

This may seem as a contradiction to some people but I know very well where he is coming from.

Jonathan Miller tried to convince Weinberg to criticize the U.S. and its president for fundamentalist Christianity. Weinberg didn't do it for him, and said that Islam was much more threatening these days even though it could have been different in the past. According to Weinberg, Americans are more religious than the Europeans which doesn't mean that they believe in God and the theory.

He complains, and I also understand very well, that for many people, the truth is not as important as good behavior or loyalty to your ethnic group or loyalty to your family traditions - a different attitude than the attitude of physicists.

Bush once said that the terrorists have hijacked a great religion. Weinberg disagrees: Bush et al. are using their good moral sense to decide what is religious, instead of allowing others to use their religious sense to decide what is moral: what's the point of religion then?

Finally, Weinberg has to explain why he exactly spends more time with religion (plus neo-modernism and similar things) than others. Well, by definition - otherwise it wouldn't be Weinberg. ;-) But he answers that it's because he sees the harm the religion does; the annoying obsolete religious speeches; and because he really doesn't like God. It may look silly to say he dislikes Him if He doesn't exist - but it's the same like disliking J.R. Ewing from Dallas: He seems to be a terrible character, Weinberg argues.

God is obsessed with power and tortures those who don't worship him properly using the most brutal tools. ;-)

Finally, Weinberg tells a story of Abdus Salam, a devout Muslim, who wanted to introduce science to the Gulf states. Salam had a very hard time. They liked technology over there but they found science to be corrosive of their belief. Damn it, I think they were right, Weinberg says. It is corrosive of religious belief and it's a good thing, too. ;-)