Wednesday, June 2, 2010

'Final Theory' and Isaac Newton

Quotation from
'What Price Glory?'
The New York Review of Books, JUNE 10, 2010

I find it ironic that Weinberg, after declaring so vehemently his hostility to religious beliefs, emerges in his writing about science as a man of faith. He believes passionately in the possibility of a Final Theory. He wrote a book with the title Dreams of a Final Theory, and the notion of a Final Theory permeates his thinking in this book too. A Final Theory means a set of mathematical rules that describe with complete generality and complete precision the way the physical universe behaves. Complete generality means that the rules are obeyed everywhere and at all times. Complete precision means that any discrepancies between the rules and the results of experimental measurements will be due to the limited accuracy of the measurements. (p. 12)


Isaac Newton, the scientist who took the biggest single step toward the understanding of nature, saw clearly how far he was from any Final Theory. “I do not know what I may appear to the World,” he wrote toward the end of his long life,

but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Newton wrote more modestly than Weinberg of the ability of the human mind to penetrate the mysteries of Nature. Newton was a devout Christian, as dedicated to theology as he was to science. Newton was no fool.(p. 12)


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