Re: The Cosmological constant (was Re: [asa] Predestined Fame:)

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Wed Jul 16 2008 - 12:17:00 EDT

Hi George,

Two related points occur to me in respects of the the below - both
related to the observation that a static universe was the generally held
view of astronomers c.1915.

First is that I had never thought to ask what broader considerations had
moved Einstein to add the cosmological constant. Up until now I had
always labored under the impression that the addition was somewhat
arbitrary as though the desire to "defend" a stationary universe was
merely a personal agenda on Einstein's part. I'm influenced here by the
fact that Einstein is well known to have adopted Spinoza's metaphysical
position and presuming that Einstein knew what he was talking about when
he espoused his commitment to Spinoza's philosophy/theology (fair
assumption?), this entails the commitment to an eternal (hence static?)
universe. But I see now that whatever Einstein's personal metaphysical
commitments, he was ALSO tipping his hat to the prevailing scientific

Second is that this is quite unlike Einstein! Polanyi showed that
Einstein had constructed Relativity Theory as an "intuitive" exercise
which largely flew in the face of prevailing scientific data and
opinion. Polanyi thereby concluded that Einstein was wont to give
deference to an elegantly formulated proof over either the empirical
data or the prevailing scientific consensus. Curious, then, that
Einstein should feel the need to "tweak" the equations in deference to
astronomers' views re a static universe.

Putting these two observations together, I wonder if we could not
perhaps conclude that the reason Einstein was so ready to bow to the
prevailing astronomical consensus was precisely because he held to a
Spinozan metaphysic? Seems a reasonable view to take, particularly if we
take Einstein seriously when he spoke of his Spinozan point-of-view.

All very interesting, really!

Murray Hogg
Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology

George Murphy wrote:
> Murray -
> I'm glad you pushed me on this & perhaps saved me later embarassment,
> for looking back at the footnote in Einstein's 1915 paper I see that he
> didn't say what I remembered him as saying. So my comment about that
> should be stricken from the record. OTOH it raises the question why at
> just that point he didn't recognize the possibility of what would come
> to be called the cosmological term.
> For the argument that he made for the left side of the field
> equations outside a matter distribution was that it be formed from the
> metric tensor and its first and second derivatives, and be linear in the
> second derivatives. He then said that the contracted Riemann tensor was
> the only tensor satisfying that condition. But in reality the metric
> tensor itself, multiplied by an arbitrary constant (i.e., the
> cosmological constant) can be added to the Riemann tensor & the
> conditions will still be satisfied. This continues to be the case when
> the necessary changes are made to include matter.
> It's hard to know why Einstein didn't at least comment on that
> possibility in 1915. In any case he did realize and exploit it in 1917
> when he first dealt with the cosmological problem. There he wanted a
> static universe 1st because the general belief of astronomers at that
> time was that the universe _was_ static on a large scale.
> But Max Jammer has also argued (in _Einstein and Religion_) that
> Einstein's commitment to Spinozistic pantheism may have played a role
> here. For if the universe and God are different names for the same
> thing, & if God is immutable, the universe must be immutable. That
> Einstein may have had extra-scientific motives is suggested by the facts
> that he was quite slow in accepting both observational and theoretical
> arguments for a non-static universe.
> I think it's pretty well agreed that Einstein did tell Gamow that
> introducing the cosmological term was his "greatest blunder." One
> reason for that is that that term does from one standpoint make the
> field equations more complicated and less "elegant." But Einstein
> probably also realized that if he hadn't introduced it he might have
> been forced to realize that the universe wasn't static - that it was
> either expanding or contracting, & already by the early 20s there were
> enough galactic spectra to indicate expansion. Thus the expansion of
> the universe could have been announced as a "fourth test" of general
> relativity. (Although Newtonian cosmology gives the same result.)
> Shalom
> George

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Received on Wed Jul 16 12:17:41 2008

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