There is no God and Dirac is His prophet – Wolfgang Pauli

I recently came across this wonderful article by Werner Heisenberg capturing discussions between some top physicists in the 1920s on Science and Religion, http://edge.org/conversation/science-and-religion. The primary discussion was between Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg and Paul Dirac, and their discussion involved views of Einstein and Planck on Science and Religion. Later in the article Niels Bohr’s views on the matter are brought in. These names are the iconic figures of Quantum and other “modern” Physics areas. During my Physics graduation days in the early 80s in a college rather well known (then – I don’t know the position now) in Mumbai for science, http://www.ruiacollege.edu/, these names were mentioned with awe by some of the faculty, and that rubbed on to the students including me. Even today I am awed by the intellectual accomplishments of these top physicists and I also recognize that my knowledge of Physics is too limited to even properly appreciate their awesome contribution to it.

Today I guess I am more a man of religion than of technology (software development) let alone science. So I thoroughly enjoyed reading their views on science and religion! If you are into the science and religion conversation I think the above mentioned article is a must-read.

I loved one particular quote from this article. Dirac argued against belief in God and Heisenberg argued against a simple dismissal of religion. Pauli was silent but when asked for his opinion said, “Well, our friend Dirac, too, has a religion, and its guiding principle is: ‘There is no God and Dirac is His prophet.'”

I just loved it! This one-liner, IMHO, applies very well to some scientists and rationalists today who are convinced that there is no God and that its time humanity gives up God and religion, and aims for a post-theistic society.

Very interestingly, after Pauli’s punch-line, all three, Heisenberg, Dirac and Pauli laughed and brought the discussion to a close. It is so nice to note the polite and friendly environment in which this discussion took place.

The impression I have is that most Indian scientists tend to avoid publicly discussing the science and religion topic. It perhaps is too sensitive to critically examine religious views of iconic science figures like Einstein or Planck and critically appreciate the publicly espoused Christian faith of a current day top scientist like Francis Collins. Perhaps Indian scientists have had some unhappy experiences in this connection in the past. I certainly acknowledge that criticism of religion (and it surely does have many flaws, IMHO) by well meaning Indian scientists and rationalists is not politely accepted in many sections of Indian society.

I think we should endeavour to change the charged atmosphere for such debates and have polite and civilized debates like what Heisenberg, Dirac and Pauli had. IMHO, such a change will help people get the best of both science and religion.

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