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Lecture 25: Creation

The 20th century dawned with physics at its zenith. Not one, but several famous luminaries made predictions that all the basic physics was understood and mathematically described with a few minor puzzles that just needed a little tidying up. This triumphalism meshed perfectly with the spirit of the age. In Germany, Hegel could write about the high spiritual attainment of civilization. In England, hymnwriters were extolling the immanent arrival of the Millenium, the 1000 years of peace and prosperity promised in the final book of the Bible. Mark Twain commented on the turn of the century as "the gilded age", when net world trade had reached a peak not exceeded until the late 1980's. So it is not surprising that physicists should have gotten so cocky, everyone was.

So in 1905, when Albert Einstein published his papers on "special relativity" and "the photoelectric effect", it had the impact of a bombshell on smug scientific complacency. The world was not as advertised, indeed, not even as it appeared. The full consequences of these two papers were not appreciated by the young, 24-year old Einstein, but grew greater with each passing year culminating 40 years later in a fireball that outshone the sun in the high desert of New Mexico. Although the full significance wasn't immediately appreciated, nonetheless, all of the great physicists of those decades: Bohr, Einstein, Fermi, Pauli, Heisenberg, were unsettled by the metaphysics revealed in these discoveries. For both papers deeply undermined scientific materialism.

Last modified, April 29, 2002, RbS