A few weeks ago, I bought a worn copy of your book, Bridges to Infinity, from my local bookshop. The intriguing cover and table of contents caught my eye immediately. And having read the book, I can see why you won awards as a physics instructor at Harvard. If your teaching is as good as your writing, your students were certainly in for a treat. I most enjoyed your essays on ‘A Certain Treasure’, ‘Irrational Thinking’, ‘Beyond Infinity’, ‘A Realm of Manifold Possibilities’, and ‘Of War and Peace’.
After completing Bridges to Infinity, I was eager to see what else you had written. And I was surprised. It seems that you have since transitioned from a life in mathematics and astronomy to one of spirituality and Christianity. Naturally, I grew curious. Wanting to understand the transformation in your worldviews, I read your latest book, Believing is Seeing, and hope to ask you a few things about your journey.
I should note first, however, that I do not agree with some of your views on the consistencies between science and Christianity. For one, you highlight that both science and religion are “faith-based” enterprises. Yes, that may be true to an extent. After all, human understanding depends on the shared mental models that we imagine for ourselves. But there remains, I think, an important distinction between scientific beliefs based upon accumulated evidence, and religious beliefs based upon cultivated faith. You say that there are strong parallels between the otherworldliness of quantum physics and Christianity. But students can run the double-slit experiment themselves and see the quantum strangeness that lurks within.
That aside, I respect your views and would love to better understand where you are coming from. I have a few questions that went unaddressed in your book. You note on several occasions about your quest for truth and understanding. On this front, was there something that religion offered you that science did not? You say, for instance, that “the Christian worldview best answers [your] questions.” And that “the Christian worldview, like quantum physics, was consistent with the best available evidence.” But what questions and answers do you mean? What is the “best available evidence” that you refer to? How did these answers lead you to Christianity over other systems of understanding? You were a little light on these points in your book.
Moreover, how literally do you interpret the Bible today as a Christian and a scientist? What do you make of the animals on Noah’s ark or Jacob’s fight with God? How do you rationalize outdated passages like “no one of illegitimate birth may enter the Lord’s assembly” (1 Timothy 2:11-12
)? How do you reconcile these proclamations with twenty-first century values and beliefs?
I hope these questions do not come across as ignorant or inflammatory. I too am on a quest for personal understanding. I am eager to understand the views of someone whose philosophy and life experience is radically different to mine. Hence my writing to you. I appreciate any details and elaborations you have to share on these questions.
Thank you Michael,