Re: There is enough light for those who desire to see (was evolution-digest V1 #930)

Stephen Jones (
Tue, 02 Jun 1998 05:18:38 +0800


On Wed, 27 May 1998 17:14:53 -0400, Brian D Harper wrote:

>SJ>God could have arrange craters on the moon to spell out "Jesus saves" but
>>He didn't. I think it was Pascal who said something like, "God has given
>>enough evidence to support belief, but not enough evidence to *compel*

BH>Off the top of my head I can think of two Pascal quotes
>along these lines:

>"There is enough light for those who desire only to see,
>and enough darkness for those with a contrary disposition"
>"We have an incapacity for proving anything that no amount
>of dogmatism can overcome. We have an idea of truth that
>no amount of skepticism can overcome."

Thanks. I think it was the first I had in mind. Clearly God
had to allow the possibility of disbelief if belief was to mean
anything. What good would it be if even those who hate
God, like the Dawkins' of this world, had no option but to
believe in God?

BTW, two items of old business:

1. Sir Richard Owen

You asked for evidence for my claim that Sir Richard Owen
may have been a "creationist" in the idealist philosophical
(rather than Biblical) sense. Here it is:

"A British anatomist and paleontologist, Sir Richard Owen is
remembered now for his many significant publications, his
reconstructions of giant flightless birds, his early recognition of the
difference between "homology" (fundamental agreement in structure
between parts of different animals regardless of their function) and
"analogy" (parts resembling one another only in function), his skill as
a lecturer, and his extreme hostility to Charles Darwin and the
concept of evolution by natural selection. He was the last British
speculative transcendental anatomist who held that the Platonic
"idea" of an object was more real than the object itself." (de Beer
G., "Owen, Richard", Encyclopaedia Britannica, Benton:
Chicago, 15th edition, 1984, Vol. 13, p800).

2. Maupertuis

There was an article in a recent New Scientist on Maupertuis' principle
of least action. Here is an excerpt:

Easy does it

Comets, light and even the information contained in DNA are all
players in a cosmic conspiracy to get more for less. John Casti takes a
short cut through the park


MIDNIGHT in Berlin, one night in the summer of 1753. A weary man in his fifties, well-dressed but unshaven, sits alone in his dark, quiet study. With trembling hands, he leafs through a thin booklet entitled Essay on Cosmology. It is a manuscript that has shattered his life. Three years earlier, Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis had published his pamphlet in a bid to prove the existence of God through a peculiar mathematical and theological reworking of Newton's laws of mechanics. He had anticipated acclaim. But instead, his arguments were ridiculed by intellectuals across Europe. Tonight, Maupertuis tries once more to reassure himself. Belt his faith is undermined. He decides to resign his post as president of the Berlin Academy of Sciences and flee the city.

Maupertuis's proof of the existence of God has by now been long forgotten. But in the 245 years since his hasty flight, Maupertuis has been vindicated. The mathematical portion of his repudiated text contained a curious and subtle twist on Newton's laws. The "principle of least action", as Maupertuis called it, has turned out to be one of the most influential ideas in theoretical physics.

To get a feel for Maupertuis's idea, imagine a comet in orbit around the Sun. In Newton's view, the comet moves along its particular path because of the way the sun's gravity pulls on it. Maupertuis saw the same thing quite differently. For him, there were no forces. Or, at least, he argued that you don't need to think that way. Maupertuis took Newton's equations and remoulded them into an entirely new form: a comet, he said, moves as it does because it tries to minimise something called its "action". This action, he claimed, is an abstract quantity, like energy but different, that depends on the path of the comet between a starting point and an ending point. In principle, a comet might follow any one of an infinite number of different paths-it might follow a straight line, for example, or a complicated path that wiggles back and forth. Every conceivable path has a different action, and of all these, the path actually taken has the least (see Diagram 1, p 46).

Maupertuis showed that comets or planets (or, in fact, anything moving according to Newton's laws) generally try to move so as to spend as little action as possible, as if action were some kind of precious fuel. So, in a sense, the world is lazy, and tries to do as little as it possibly can.

That was only the beginning. In the 1940s, the American physicist Richard Feynman showed that all the weird laws of quantum theory also follow from a version of Maupertuis's principle. Since then, physicists have found that least action also underlies the fundamental gauge theories of particle physics, such as the theories of the weak and strong interactions.

But the really surprising thing about Maupertuis's idea is that it applies even outside physics. From linguistics to finance, you don't have to look far to find one of these "least action" principles at work."

(Casti J., "Easy does it," New Scientist, 9 May 1998, pp44-47, p44) ----------------------------------------------------------------------


"Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented." --- Dr. William Provine, Professor of History and Biology, Cornell University.

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