Brian Greene — Reimagining the Cosmos
January 30, 2014

A thrilling, mind-bending view of the cosmos and of the human adventure of modern science. In a conversation ranging from free will to the meaning of the Higgs boson particle, physicist Brian Greene suggests the deepest scientific realities are hidden from human senses and often defy our best intuition.

comment

58 reflections
read/add yours

Share

Shortened URL

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

Would the Higgs boson exist without our thinking it existed in the first place. Is it possible that by thinking differently – about ourselves, about others, about our universe – we might begin to see things differently?

With the important news about the the Higgs boson particle, this excellent video explainer with comic sketches may even help us understand it one day!

Writing script explaining string theory isn't so easy. Thankfully, Brian Greene's TED talk provided just the right language. A revelatory video that will excite your imagination.

Krista Tippett reflects on her conversation with John Polkinghorne on quarks, creation, and God.

Put an astrobiologist and a mechanical engineer on the same stage and what do you get? One heck of an exciting conversation about how quantum physics realm holds sway and plays a pivotal role in our everyday experiences — in everything from bird navigation to our sense of smell.

Our interview with physicist and author brought about this fun and wide-ranging set of time-shift tweets. He brings an infectious excitement to the conversation about the frontiers of modern physics and how vital science is to understanding the nature of life and reality.

Of all the ideas Janna Levin presents, the most provocative and disturbing, perhaps, is her doubt that there is free will in human existence at all. She cannot be sure that we are not utterly determined by brilliant principles of physics and biology. Yet she cleaves more fiercely in the face of this belief to the reality of her love of her children and her hopes and dreams for them.

Listen to these sounds of black holes merging and falling into one another and the "white noise" of the Big Bang. A TED Talk with Janna Levin that stirs the mind.

Physicists have long sought to describe the universe in terms of equations. Now, James Gates explains how research on a class of geometric symbols known as adinkras could lead to fresh insights into the theory of supersymmetry — and perhaps even the very nature of reality.

Watch Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers sing a special song, since they say atheists don’t have any.

About the Image

Twin spires on the Navajo Trail Road in Arizona.

Your Comments

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><span><div><img><!-->
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Embed content by wrapping a supported URL in [embed] … [/embed].

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Comments

(Re: Brian Green on free will) There is no need to redefine choice in order to acknowledge free will. We have a sentient being that is aware of two or more alternatives and selects one (or more if they are non-exclusive). That’s what free will entails: what else could it? Let’s say selections made had nothing to do with predispositions and awareness of consequences—in other words a completely random event: How would this constitute a choice? Green and the theologians get tied up in knots because the target they both have in mind is a naïve, absolute (fantastic) idea of choice that is disconnected from anything physical (or any context in which the word is ordinarily used): the immaterial spirit influencing the laws of physics. That is all Green is denying, which in no way denies any defensible idea of free will. He says the elements of choice are made up of events governed by deterministic laws of physics, so those elements don’t constitute a “real” choice—which is why he speaks of merely “experiencing a choice”. Fine: let’s say the laws of physics were non-deterministic, the underlying processes completely random, and there was no regularity in the world whatsoever that could enable persistence and evolutionary change: would the elements of “choice” ever have got a foot hold? I would argue the only reason we have free will is because of those underlying deterministic processes.

It's so simple. What's called "free will" is simply the degree of choices available.
A rich kid on the Upper West Side has infinitely more life's choices ("free will")
than the child of a wellfare mother in inner city Philadelphia. To believe in
something called "free will" is to chase an illusion!

I'm afraid it's not so simple at all. Although the Upper West Side kid has more choices available, he will still have to select one from them, won't he? He couldn't go with all of them, right? So how would that selection take place? Through making a singular choice. And how is that done?

Yes, but who says we start from zero? Who says that choice isn't structured [even determined by] by past experience?

Listening to Brian's explanation of choice and free will, the thought occurs: perhaps God "IS" the law of physics. I think on the idea that we are thoughts in the mind of God, and from that perspective, I can see how as humans we simply have a sensation of choice that may be just that and not complete separation from God. It is my current belief that humanity is God's way of creating "separation" and "independence" necessary that we might "know" God. We can live purely by instinct - as animals - or we can live with insight, and both can look exactly the same on each end of the spectrum.

Merton speaks of the inability to define/describe contemplation. That moment of clarity that comes from contemplation that intuits the larger beneath the mundane. This is the moment the non-God proponents miss entirely. The vastness and complexity of what they endlessly quantify is merely a formula, and they miss the obvious intelligence behind it all.

I love this broadcast because I find it so provocative. I am becoming more and more comfortable with some of these concepts and find comfort in them as I go through my daily life. I am a school counselor and encounter many frustrations all day long but I don't feel anything is out of control. Everything is evolving. Sometimes I wish I could influence students more. Yesteday I found a boy wandering the halls as he was avoiding Algebra class. I asked him how that would help him achieve his goals because my goal is that he graduate. He told me his goal is to drop out and that he doesn't need Algebra. The big questions discussed in this show don't seem to address this kind of situation but somehow I hope that student ends up in a good place and I hope it includes Algebra and a high school diploma.

Brad,
This contact that you are having with this boy, this interest in talking with him, the connection you and others are making with him is the invisible substance that he needs and may guide him on to that
diploma.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could instill in our students this excitement for Algebra and Science that Brian Greene has experienced? I think this will eventually happen.
But I also think that there is something really important that should never be lost, and that is the connection with all our kids so that they can experience empathy and understanding at times when they so need it.

If we're all just a product of a mathematical equation how do we differ from the computers we're building?... Or do we ?

dear natasha:
computers don't have consciouses (consciousness). we would have to program it for them and with the human minds, brains and variations and crosspaths of other influencing categories influencing our conscience. it wouldn't work.. what about feelings? we have, computers can't have feelings, computers and machines can only solve problems we put into them...we are the ones that give them direction and programs to find answers. a computer doesn' t have a soul, a spirit, a mind,...but a computer has a programs and those are its brain.
liz

Greene seems full of it. Depends on what the meaning of the word "the" is. In that case, the professor can't hold conversations bc you have to define every word for him. Math is math. Religion is religion. People know what those words mean. If someone asks you a direct question, why not answer it without the Clintonion rhetoric? Or saying"this is uninteresting to me." No one asked you about what was interesting to you. Quantum mechanics has NOTHING to do with free will. Free choice has nothing to do with apples falling from trees. What a bunch of total B.S.!

Greene saying "this is uninteresting to me" is very much to the point in all of this - namely that scientists choose - subjectively - their involvement with a physical, material sense of what they regard as reality. However, while they don't need to be interested in any other version of reality, they don't seem to realize that the practice of science is nothing other than their own individual subjectivity… which they insist on labeling (subjectively) as being objective. In only choosing what can be observed and verified by their limited senses, they will hardly have the last word on "reality."

Greene spoke condescendingly at points, especially considering the forum in which he was appearing. He, and I'm afraid sometimes Krista as well, falls victim to the fallacy that expertise in one field implies competence in another.

It is clear that he has any training, basic understanding, or even interest in learning about the theological concerns he took on. That's fine, but then he should develop the grace to defer.

If puzzle-solving satisfies something akin to a personal need for him or other scientists, then that is wonderful. But neither he nor we should be deceived into thinking that such an endeavor specially qualifies him in the fields of philosophy, theology, or ethics.

Krista, why do you keep giving this kind of overweening scientism a platform? At least toss them a real challenge now and again.

Totally agree with you. The danger, however, that Greene and countless other scientists pose for our cognitive evolution is that they have already assumed that everything can be explained by one of sciences or another, and in due course of time. Also, there are still far too many people whose thinking is conditioned by them, and by our overwhelmingly materialistic education system, and have not been able to see just how much subjectivity is determining their views and projects… I could get more metaphysical than this, but in a forum as compromised as "On Being" it's not worth it.

Those last two sentences sum up my disappointment with this interview and with how Krista tends to conduct interviews with proponents of scientific materialism. I am eager to hear from scientists who are adept at speaking about the philosophical and/or theological implications they draw from their work, but scientists such as Greene seem completely blind to their own underlying philosophical commitments and condescendingly dismissive of those who don't share these commitments (most evident in this interview, I think, in his back-and-forth with a woman theologian who tried to engage him on a series of questions). And Krista, usually a fabulous interviewer who asks evocative questions, doesn't appear to have the ability to name and challenge the underlying assumptions behind Green's responses. And we, the listeners, are expected in the end to discover meaning in a worldview that reduces the human person to a mere purposeless accident in a mathematically precise, rigorously deterministic universe, the totality of which reducible to mere laws of physics? Krista, please wake up and pose challenging questions here!!!

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Krista if I were you... If she were to interview someone like Ervin Laszlo, for example, that would be a sign that she is ready to engage with something quite different than the round of usual suspects which fully meet the standard safety requirements of NPR, PRI, etc. But it is unlikely, at least in this particular universe...

If math proves that the universe is ordered why would we disturb it? Its vastness and design are beyond our natural human makeup. Scientist are boundary pushers. They are not God(s). Men are prone to error along the path of discovery. They have no right to gamble with humans lives.

Dr. Brian Greene's hypothis that there is no free will, or that free will is merely a sensation, needs to be further examened. I propose an experiment; dr Greene will attempt, using the laws of physics, to predict my selection of a color (one out of six stated options). If he is correct 80% of the time, his hypothis will be given some credibility. If not, he has much work to in fortifying his hypothis.

Brian Green's comments that free will is not part of the equations of physics is disturbing to many but we must keep in mind that we are dealing with the exact meaning of words (which is an oxymoron to begin with). Green's comments are within a particular hypothetical interpretation of quantum theory proposed by Hugh Everett a half century ago called the many worlds theory (hypothesis to be more accurate). There are many other competing interpretation and the dust has yet to have settled on this issue. But even within this way of viewing things the concept of predestination, which is traditionally coupled with a lack of free will, is not at all part of the concept. The many worlds hypothesis is the opposite of predestination in that every thing that can happen happens in at least some of the many worlds. Predestination assumes that there is only one world, not many. The question of free will in the the many worlds interpretation is whether or not the odds of a particular world (its probability relative to the total ensemble) can be influenced by our conscious decisions. The question then is can our decisions tilt the odds of one world outcome verses another? Just choose to run a red light at 100 mph at rush hour to answer this one.
This then leads to the discussion of Camus' issue of whether life is worth living or should we just choose a pleasant suicide. Green's approach to this is right on. He finds inspiration in the amazing structure of the physical reality from which we evolved. I am totally in tune with this approach. Like Green, I have published on the intricate nature of the physical substructure of the universe that was necessary for the raw energy of the Big Bang to have evolved into anything like ourselves anywhere in the vast visible universe (see ImprobableUniverse.com , Our Improbable Universe, ISBN 1-56858-301-X, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2004 and also go to http://vimeo.com/35172497 for a 1 hour video presentation). Here I identify more than 14 physical laws (or phenomena) that had to be more or less exactly as they are for intelligence to have evolve anywhere. If these laws were set up by a deity after much contemplation (and perhaps computer simulations), the great effort of the creator implies that life has value (i.e. derived value) and must be taken seriously and helped to flourish. A non-deistic approach is a many universes hypothesis which is not the same as the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. In this approach one hypothesizes a huge metal universe in which our visible universe (what we can see) is one of a zillion pocket universe each of which has a different set of physical laws (String Theory implies 1,000, .... with 500 zeros potential structures) . With this hypothesis we have gotten the one universe in a zillion with the built in spontaneous creativity that can result in beings such as ourselves. We won a rare gem in the rough that has inherent value based on its huge creative potential.
So either way(a deistic or non-deistic hypothesis) life and the universe has unimaginable creative value. This is my answer to Camus' paradox.

I wrote this a few months ago while contemplating the motivations of the main antagonist in my novel:

"Consider, for a moment, the notion that how we think, what we say and how we behave is not simply a function of all of our experiences and gained knowledge. Indeed, these are gathered via our senses, in regions of our brains and then processed by synaptic junctions - they are imbedded in masses of biological tissue, and are regulated - not necessarily consistently so, however - by biochemical electronic impulses. Our thoughts, words and behavior are simply the outcome of this biological process. Who we are is defined by the chemistry of our cells: we are a compilation of the chemical reactions of our collective thoughts, feelings and actions, which have been nurtured by the senses - of which, even those are based on cells. We don’t have free will. We have chaos will."

If who you are is defined by the chemistry of your cells, which are a product of random mutation and natural selection through the mindless process of evolution leaving you with chaos will, then why should anyone attribute worth to a word you say? If that is the worldview to which a physicist submits, then why should anyone attribute any worth to his or her claims and musings? Intelligent people rejecting to acknowledge their Intelligent Creator end up as fools making irrational and self-refuting statements. How we think and what we say and how we behave is a function of our rebellion against the God of Creation. Only when we submit to Him and His love demonstrated through His Son Jesus Christ, the Creator, who came to rescue us from our rebellion against Him, can we experience a rebirth that you are longing for so much but will never find outside of a relationship with Him.

I am holding an apple. And your discourse refers to an orange. I also failed to identify a segue; you initially disregard the reality of biochemistry which comprises us, and then shift abruptly, atop your podium, to lament some "lost soul looking for rebirth." While I do not wish to belittle or critique your religious zeal, let me propose that one's lack of commitment to Christianity - or any religion, for that matter - has nothing to do with one's understanding of the perceptual environment, as it is transferred through the medium of biochemistry. I admire your interest in my salvation, but, sir, no, thank-you. Now can we please get back to the subject at hand?

Many years ago I was a physicist and part of a group, the head of which won the Nobel Prize. After a few years I quit my job and physics because "something" in me was not being nourished in that work and in the way I was able to be in that environment; something was missing. As I listened to Brian Greene I heard that same emptiness that I had to leave in order to find, what I might call a "Greater Life." Greene speaks from a heady place and does not yet realize how limiting this is. He proclaimed the verities of science and was indignant and even hurt that science is not adequately appreciated in our culture; this is a common theme with many science "true believers," but in his conversation with Krista he was not open and reflective in response to her questions and offerings. Marcelo Gleiser was not like that. The status of science and how it is held in our culture is changing and I'm not talking about the latest exciting, seductive theories. There is more to every phenomenon than can be accounted for by our explanations, whether scientific, ideological or theological. This is the most compelling understanding and basis for humility I have found.

While Dr. Greene was discussing his definitions of choice, and where free will may or may not exist, I could only think of Lao Tzu. In Lao Tzu's teachings of Taoism there are two "ways." Our way which is imperfect implementation of life and The Way of the divine. It seems to fit quite well in this discussion of choice, Free Will, and their relevance within string theory. I can't fully explain this idea at the moment, I star work in 15 minutes, but I chose to post this in its incomplete form for future discussion.

Other interesting ideas on this topic I've listened to come from Dr. John Hagelin, a Quantum Physicist. As a layman, I can't expound upon hypothetical or tested theories. What I do know is what I experience. I am a long time meditator so come from a different angle. Sometimes I loose the experience of time/space altogether in a linear fashion as if all that has, is or will be is happening at the same time. Hard to describe, but I'm sure many have experienced this.Sometimes I do have an inkling that everything is predestination (karma?, multiverses? hard to know for sure) in the time/space reality we experience. It's a fascinating subject. I thoroughly enjoyed Krista's interview with Brian Green!

Dr. Greene, as many others like him who operate in submission to the philosophy of naturalism, limit science to an investigation of our reality within the confines of the Big Bang Theory and the Grand Theory of Evolution. These are foundational axioms to which an individual does not have to submit. In fact, hundreds of cosmologists and physicists have signed an open letter rejecting the Big Bang Theory and many have attended 2 recently held conferences on the Crisis in Cosmology which acknowledge significant and multiple contradictions with what we observe and what the Big Bang Theory predicts. They have gone as far as saying that we need to get rid of the Big Bang Theory and start with a clean slate, at the least challenging the consensus cosmology. The BBT has been propped up time and again with ad hoc assumptions and "theories" that are not supported by evidence, as Dr. Greene admitted with String "Theory" when answering an audience member's question. Why are they called "theories" when a Theory in science is something that has so much evidential support that it's practically a law. There are other cosmologies as solutions to Einstein's equations with different starting assumptions that are supported by what we observe and do not need to invoke ad hoc assumptions like Inflation, Dark Matter or Dark Energy--read about the cosmologies of Moshe Carmeli, John Hartnett or Russell Humphreys. Regarding the Grand Theory of Evolution, he assumes that molecules evolved to man and man is still evolving. This requires an earth history of millions and billions of years. This kind of discussion is outside the realm of scientific observation. Conclusions about evidence collected, whether it be fossils, DNA or radiometric dating, are inherently dependent upon the worldview of the observer. For example, DNA, collagen, blood cells, osteocytes, etc. have been found in dinosaur bones. From what we know though objective science, these products do not last in the environment for more than tens of thousands of years. Some scientists see this as supporting evidence that dinosaurs and humans co-existed only thousands of years ago. Other scientists conclude that these products do last for tens and hundreds of millions of years, even though that is contrary to what we observer in the laboratory, because their worldview requires the dinosaurs to have existed 65 million years ago or more. Some German scientists have carbon dated dinosaur bones and found the radiocarbon ages to be in the tens of thousands of years with the radiocarbon concentration highest in the bone and decreasing as one digs away from the bone, arguing against external sources of radio carbon. A purely objective scientist would consider these findings and do further and more extensive research, possibly finding more evidence in support of the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs. However, most scientists operating in submission to the consensus position that radiometric dating of rock layers is irrefutable will reject the radiocarbon ages of dinosaur bones outright, acting not as scientists but as philosophers protecting their strongly held worldview that is not open to scientific scrutiny. If Dr. Greene's beliefs about how his brain works and how we are simply operating according to laws of physics and the consequences of random mutations and natural selection over billions of years of directionless evolution, then why should anything he says be attributed worth by the rest of us who apparently have no free will anyway?

I too am a believer in Free Will, for many reasons, but I record one of my suspicions here, as it applies to Brian Greene's specialty.
=
HOW
Can an expert in Quantum Mechanics, which is deterministic mainly in many-particle interactions, apply that determinism to
brain action, which is microscale - possibly viewable as amplified (through network) single particle interactions, which are
not deterministic, as I recall QM physics.
- - -
There are other attacks to use too, but this one is from physics so I record it here possibly for Mr Greene or another Physicist to see.

As I see it, "free will" is simply the number of choices available to an individual.
The child of rich parents living on the Upper West Side and going to an exclusive prep school has infinitely
more choices in life (infinitely more "free will"). Than a child of an impoverished family in inner city Phila.
Someone severely crippled by accident has many less choices (much less "free will") than before the accident.
Ain't no such thing as "free will", per se, just the degree of choices you have. Believing in "free will" is
chasing an illusion!

One danger in destroying the concept of will contained in the individual (freely) is the danger of destroying the legal sovereignty of the individual - He can not be seen as responsible. Guess what? that's the basis of the entire legal system. Anti free will philosophers (with followers accepting them as true prophets) are really playing with the destruction of society. Will is where things that get done come from - guess there's a rash of anti free will types in Congress too, not that that should be tolerated.

Cool show.

It's understandable that one of the portions of the discussion that has attracted the most attention (and ire) is the question of Free Will. There are many occasions in history where scientific discoveries have forced us to re-examine our own cherished assumptions. In such situations it is not unusual for people to initially seek ways to reject this information, and even to attack those who present it, as a sort of protective disgust-reflex, instead of engaging with this new data in order to ask questions and consider new possibilities (good as well as bad).

Apparently the way Dr. Greene himself handles this sense of intuitive conflict in his own life, is to go on living with a healthy dose of curiosity and humor, accepting that things may not always be quite as our intuition tells us they should be, while recognizing that we can honor the importance of Free Will as a part of our subjective experience of living, within our limited ability to sense and intuitively grasp the underlying physics at work in each moment. Ironically, he as a scientist seems more willing to accept a certain amount of paradox in life than some religiously-minded folks are.

The question of Choice is a thorny one for us humans, and similar issues (and strong opinions) arise in discussions of psychology and neuroscience, and of crime, mental illness, and punishment. Not to mention theological discussions surrounding ancient notions such as "karma" and "sin". We can be sure that as artificial intelligence continues to develop, there will even more discussion of the intersection of science and Free Will.

It is deeply offensive to see the interviewer Krista Tippett throughout the interview in her incessant grasping for her god of the (her) gaps repeatedly misappropriate and distort the legacy of one of history’s greatest men of reason - Albert Einstein.

Einstein did NOT not “necessarily” mean a creator god. He ABSOLUTELY and unequivocally did not mean a creator god. Throughout his lectures, conversations, correspondence and publications he categorically rejected a creator god and viewed ALL religions as “an incarnation of the most primitive superstitions” and the word God as “nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses”

As to the effects of organized religion whose methods he described as “mass indoctrination” Einstein had this to say (just to scratch the surface): “…the unspeakable crimes of the Church for 2,000 years…” and "If I were allowed to give advice to the Churches I would tell them to begin with a conversion among themselves, and to stop playing power politics. Consider what mass misery they have produced in Spain, South America and Russia."

To "believe" in "free will" is to chase an illusion.
What many call "free will" is simply the number of choices one has.
A rich kid on the Upper West Side has infinitely more "free will" (choices available)
compared to the child of an impoverished, ill-educated inner city welfare mother.
There's no such thing as "free will", per se, only choices available.

Herman, I agree with you on that. I call that phenomenon "bandwidth of choice". Some have a greater bandwidth than others. I'd like to call this "karma" which is to a large extent pre-determined with a variable bandwidth of ability to change it, or not.

There is a saying that if a handyman only carries a hammer, then he'll treat everything as if it's a nail. Similarly, if all that scientists want to acknowledge and work with is a material, physical reality, then they won't discover anything else. (And no, the universe doesn't make you "choose" it either, Mr. Greene).

As human beings, scientists are like everyone else limited beings, who don't want to appreciate the extent of their own limitations. All their "expertise" has been highly conditioning, producing an inability to see through to how much of their methodologies are already the complex products of assumptions (which are comprised of what is already "known" or established). In this sense, Greene's disavowal of subjectivity is a good example of a blind spot which appears unable to recognize that one is already fully speaking from within the universe - since this "within" is already positing you contextually as subject.

Nonetheless, while methodology is over-controlled at the expense of a greater openness (which might inspire views of other, less material possibilities), it also seems clear that in the end, the necessary methodologies which would either verify or disprove various unexplained things - such as psychic phenomena - are nonexistent. And will never likely exist.

Why? Because they lie outside the ability of science to determine either their causes or even their very nature. Consciousness is a good case in point. The science has been good with explaining what consciousness does in the body, but not how to get it IN the body in the first place. And it won't, because it doesn't originate in the body… something a mystic or yogi would actually know experientially.

I'm afraid that the materialistic "seeing is believing" of science is just attempting to judge the Book of Reality by its cover - the physical, material surfaces of existence through the limitations of various measurements - but it's the book within that science is actually unable to read: because it doesn't understand the language… while a "mystic" or an adept does. Or, at the very least, someone who is open to allowing the contributions from that quarter.

Mr. Greene can say he is simply not interested in metaphysical questions, but it seems disingenuously offered to cover his scientific behind… which I accept. In the end, while it is true that everyone has a right to their opinions, there are opinions which provide more meaning and value than others. And those will not come from science.

On the topic of free will, perhaps dr. Green has some new england puritans in his ancestry. They certainly believed that "free will" was of little consequence in this life, and that one's fate in the afterlife was utterly and completely predetermined, even prior to one's birth. Thank goodness that the majority of colonists believed in free will! Otherwise, we would still be clinging to the coattails of king george, and probably be drinking tea every afternoon at 4 pm.

Yes, we can do without the clinging to coattails... but I do like tea at 4... ;-)

While I won't wade in to the free will debate (though I do think he is a bit cavalier in general about science), one of the aspects that disturbed me in the interview was the story of the soldier in Iraq who was comforted in the midst of war by going to the theoretical bigger questions of science. To my mind, this is an ethical failure of science if it used in this manner. Science should lead us to a deeper reality with all of its ethical quandaries rather than allow us to zoom out far enough that our actions in war don't seem to make much difference. Perhaps despair is the correct emotion that leads us to question our ethical choices in regards to war and the devastation it causes.

I thought he was clutching at straws on this point, suggesting that science has the capacity to answer the big questions, even moral questions. That is a dubious assertion and, just as you mentioned, I was disturbed by the implication that we might throw in to an unjust mass-killing like the Iraq War and absolve ourselves because, hey, turns out quarks don't care. Religion has a mixed track record indeed and I tend towards moral skepticism, but this portion of his presentation only reaffirms his thorough-going scientism.

The program was as one of the best, lot of to think about; thanks a lot.

Dr Green is certainly the leading thinker between the modern physicists. It is special interesting when Professor talks about new physic, however he considers “free will” in Newtonians approach. He does not give any attention to “the principle of uncertainty”.

The application of this principle is much more interesting on our human scale, when we are dealing with the real natural, engineered and social systems.

This conversation reminds me of George MacDonald (1840-1905):
“There is no word to represent that which is not God,
no word for the ‘where’ without God in it; for it is not,
could not be.”
Just acknowledge the absence of mathematical evidence of free will (and a small 'g') and this could be Brian Green

Brian mentions that there is no room for freewill mathematically, which I'm ok with, but what about the notion that a perceiver can change the outcome of the perception? Isn't that perceiver or freewill, then mathematically accounted for? Or is it just a random reaction that is a natural part of quantum physics?

excellent

Leaving the question of choice and free will aside (no logical resolution possible in my mind), I want to express a sigh of relief and appreciation for Greene's integrity in stating his perspective on the question of "God's role." Clean and forthright, his view seems to be founded in the same essential wonder driving whatever pursuits hold a person's passion: "Not that it’s wrong, I don’t find it interesting." It's a respectful personal statement unencumbered by self-doubt or approval-seeking. Hearing this part of the interview hit me in the place of YES.

I'm afraid that Greene's ostensible "integrity" (as you'd have it) matters little in the overall trajectory of his - and scientists' in general - continual disingenuity regarding their own unacknowledged subjectivity, in all matters. Your response is merely an attempt to cover his disingenuity with your own… The question of raising "God's role" tends to be a dishonest trump that has become truly tiresome, as it posits the metaphysical in the most simplistic yet unanswerable terms, and which therefore can neither be successfully defended nor removed from the premises; however, even as such, it hardly remains the elephant in the room. Until scientists have the courage to admit their inadequate efforts (or their convenient lack of interest) in accounting for the many various (so-called) paranormal phenomena at large - which indeed remain pristinely undefiled by their "expertise" - I'm afraid their supposed integrity is quite transparent.

As Louise said here, meditation does take you to a place of suspended time..

Does anyone know which equations are depicted on Dr. Brian Green's children T-shirts referenced in the broadcast? I'm not aware of any quantum mechanics equations that sum up reality.

In the Q and A session which accompanied the recording of the interview with Brian Greene as presented over the airways I was hoping that two questions could have been asked in response to Greene's assertion that the mind is the brain and its processes and that choice is merely the "sensation" of choice.

Question One: What about out of body experiences. Although there is no way to induce this phenomenon in a lab, we have tons of anecdotal evidence that it is a reality. People have reported what the doctors actually said while attempting to revive the patient from death in the operating room.. If consciousness is limited to the brain, how can these people do this?

Question 2:

If choice is but the "sensation" of choice, why can we not say that discovery in the realm of physics is not itself the "sensation" of discovery.

Synapses firing in the brain that provide the sensation of choice which, according to Greene is the effect of physics manifesting itself in the cranium, can be seen likewise as the same thing when we claim that the brain has made some sort of breakthrough in the intricacies of scientific awareness.

Why do you not say that physics reveals itself to us when and where it pleases. Our choice of the time and place we conduct an experiement is a matter of only the sensation of choice, i. e. an illusion.

Greene is positing a scenario in which physics acts as a god if not God himself, herself, or itself, in that physics induces in us the sense that we are free but really are not.

How can a new discovery be seen as a human accomplishment if it is physics that is choosing to reveal it to us?

Greene's atheism has gotten itself mixed up with the notion of physics as God or God as physics which sounds a lot like a quest to discover what the nature of God is rather than a rejection of the idea that there could be a God at all.

I think that the boredom he describes as his experience with "church" growing up can be attested to by many Christians, myself included. But boredom in the act of corporate worship does nothing to diminish the sense of adventure a Christian can have when he or she also.discovers a central meaning for one's life that is nurtured in religious community..

Is this incredible underlying order in the universe a Proof of Purpose?

If free will existed, we would be living in a paradise. Because free will doesn't exist, we continue destroying ourselves, others, and the world we live in.

Pages

Voices on the Radio

is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University. He is also co-founder of the World Science Festival. His books include The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos and The Hidden Reality.

Production Credits

Host/Executive Producer: Krista Tippett

Head of Content: Trent Gilliss

Technical Director: Chris Heagle

Senior Producer: Lily Percy

Associate Producer: Mariah Helgeson