Wednesday, November 16, 2005
A Matter of Perspective?
The PBS show Nova aired a program, Newton’s Dark Secrets, about Sir Isaac Newton last night. It covered the standard biographical data such as he was the inventor/discoverer of the calculus, with all due apologies to Leibniz. It talked about his work with optics and his discovery that visible white light was not pure and homogenous as believed since Aristotle but that it was composed of light of the different colors which combined to give white light. It told of his work with telescopes, and of his confrontation with a falling apple which he said led to his theory of gravity. Of course it also included his three laws of motion.
Most people familiar with Newton are acquainted with his scientific life. But few are aware of his deep commitment to religion and alchemy. He was deeply religious and felt there was a fundamental unity to the universe. One of his primary reasons for writing his monumental work, Principia Mathematica, was to show that the laws of nature and science gave proof and evidence of God.
His work with alchemy was not for the standard desire of changing different minerals into gold but for understanding the unity of the world and to give him a better understanding of some of the inherent problems in his theories. Perhaps the most glaring was his concept of absolute time and space. Despite the fact that an absolute space and time were necessary for his theories of dynamics and motion, he never was completely reconciled to them. This intuition was later borne out by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century with his Theory of Relativity.
How strange, or perhaps not, that Newton one of the cornerstones of the Ages of Reason and Enlightenment was so deeply immersed in the metaphysical. How brilliant that he did not fall into the accepted dualism of reality that was not seriously scientifically challenged until the rise of quantum theory. Though he was doomed in his desire to prove God, for it is not provable, he held on to his belief that there was no separation between God and his creation.
The Bush Credo - No Sacrifice Is Too Great For Others To Make.
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