Re: [asa] Prophet of Science (Part One)

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Sun Jun 07 2009 - 08:50:38 EDT


There was in the late 19th and early 20th century a view, held by a number
of prominent physicists, known as the "electromagnetic" view of nature. It
built on insights (pre-Einsteinian, and to some extent influential on
Einstein) that inertia might result from forces on charged particles as they
move through e/m fields -- or, through the e/m ether to be more on target.
I don't have my old notes here to spell out chapter, verse, and authors, but
it was an influential view at the time. On that view, then the ultimate
physical realities are forces and fields, not matter. This may have tied
in, for some (such as Oliver Lodge), with the view that spirit is the
ultimate reality behind nature.

Whether Compton was into that, at the time, I cannot say--I have no evidence
to connect him with the e/m view of nature. But in spirit it would be
consistent with his expressed theological views. He was a huge fan of
Eddington, incidentally, and that will be evident in part two.
The main influence of QM on Compton, relative to his theology, was in
demonstrating that nature is not subject to determinism. He accepted
Heisenberg's view of this completely. That led him to reassert in a new
way, after Heisenberg, his youthful views on human freedom and
responsibility. He did almost nothing to apply that to divine freedom, but
for human freedom he jumped in with both feet. This is also a main topic of
part two.


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Received on Sun Jun 7 08:51:35 2009

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