Saturday, June 30, 2018

Einstein, Maxwell’s Equations, and Relativity

“But if light, a form of electromagnetic waves, was propagated in a medium at absolute rest, the type of rest synonymous with the ether, then those equations [Maxwell’s] did not retain their form (beauty) if expressed in a frame of reference moving at a steady velocity with respect to an observer assumed to be at rest. Unlike leading physicists of the time, young Einstein seemed to have been led by the conviction that by safeguarding the invariability of Maxwell’s equations he saved their essential beauty and that this was of far greater importance than absolute rest and ether. Beneath his subconscious dissent from the prevailing preferences there lay a commitment to the beauty of the universe, a commitment with a distinctly metaphysical character of which Einstein became aware of only years later.

"In the eyes of many physicists Einstein’s move emptied the universe not only of the ether but also of its intelligibility and unity which, in the form of a hallowed scientific dogma, had been equated for the previous 300 years with mechanical interaction. Actually, Einstein’s move made the genuine content of the term universe more unified than ever, and also far more intelligible and meaningful. Indeed, the first step in saving the beauty of Maxwell’s equations was the unification of the speed of light by the postulate that its value remains in a vacuum always the same, regardless of the velocity of the emitting source, a postulate inconceivable within classical mechanics. An equally startling though logical consequence of Einstein’s procedure was the unification of matter and energy. Their equivalence became a common place through the formula E = mc2 . Another, and no less important consequence was Einstein’s almost immediate interest in extending his work from frames of reference that moved with respect to one another at any given velocity, to frames of reference accelerated with respect to one another. Such an acceleration was exemplified by the gravitational field produced by any mass. Unlike Special Relativity, General Relativity had therefore to have momentous cosmological consequences. They were spelled out by Einstein himself in 1917 in a paper in which for the first time cosmology came into its own, that is, achieved the status of a scientifically consistent discourse.”

~S.L. Jaki: Cosmos and Creator, Chap 2—The Cosmos of Science.  

Monday, June 25, 2018

Christ and Creation

“AT THE HEART of Christian message stands the person of Christ, who is ‘the image of the unseen God’ (Col 1:15), and he ‘has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom’ (1 Cor 1:31). Jaki makes it clear that ‘the Christian certitude about the rationality of nature, about man’s ability to investigate its laws, owes its vigour to the concreteness by which Christ radiated the features of God creating through the fullness of rationality which is love.’[13] Christian rationality was something very different from the Greek variety, for the Greeks tended either to extreme mechanism or to pan-teleologism (the stance which saw purpose everywhere). From Socrates onwards, it was the problem of pan-teleologism which prevailed, bringing with it a cosmology which was ‘a mixture of rank subjectivism and inescapable determinism’. Lacking in the Greek conception of the rationality of the cosmos was an understanding of the freedom of man and the contingency of things. ‘Conviction on both points was secured only by Christianity for which the freedom of man is an indispensable tenet,’ as is also ‘the contingency of a world which is created.’[14]

According to Jaki, the crucial contribution of the New Testament to the doctrine of creation is pivoted in the efforts of John and Paul to safeguard monotheism by attributing to Christ the work of creation, a work most specifically tied to the Father in the Old Testament. Such is the gist of his quoting St. John’s portrayal of Christ in whom ‘all beings came to be; not one being had its being but through him’ (Jn 1:3). The same is true of his quoting Paul: ‘For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and invisible; . . . all things were created through him and for him’ (Col 1:16). This notion of creation through Christ eliminated the specter of a duality between the Father and the Son while the portrayal, specific to John, of Christ as the ‘only-begotten Son,’ posed a powerful barrier within Christianity to those inroads which pantheism made within other forms of monotheism.”

—Paul Haffner: Creation and Scientific Creativity: A Study in the Thought of S.L. Jaki, Chap. 4. (Christendom Press; 1991)