Editors Note: According to media reports, Zhang Shousheng, a Chinese-American scientist and tenured professor in the Departments of Physics, Electronic Engineering and Applied Physics at Stanford University, died on December 1 at the age of 55. Zhang Shousheng is the discoverer of angel particle and quantum spin Hall effect, and is regarded as a powerful candidate for the Nobel Prize in Physics.
He has won the Outstanding Young Scientist Award of the Global Chinese Physics Society (1992), the Outstanding Innovation Award of IBM Research Department (1993), the Guggenheim Foundation Award (2007), the Humboldt Research Award (2009), the European Physics Award (2010), the Gutenberg Research Award (2010), the Qiushi Outstanding Scientist Award (2011). Oliver Buckley Condensate Physics Award (2012), Dirac Medal (2012), Frontier Physics Award (2013), Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate Award (2014), Franklin Medal (2015) and other awards. He is also a member of the American Physical Society, the Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.
Zhang Shousheng is a Christian. He wrote an article in Taiwans Campus magazine about his views on science and Christianity. OC Overseas Campus Wechat Public Number allows full text reprinting in memory of Brother Zhang Shousheng. Thank you for Campus Magazine. May God comfort Zhang Shoushengs relatives.
Wen Jie Zhang Shousheng
(This article is the first issue of Campus Magazine)
Science and belief
Science has its eternal limitations, which can not be changed in the future. Science and belief are not contradictory today, and will never be contradictory in the future.
The issue of science and belief has been a major issue in human development for thousands of years. Religious belief is supernatural, and scientific research is the objective law of nature. What is the relationship between the two is a matter of concern to believers, and it is also the only way for many friends of scientists to enter the door of faith. With the rapid development of science and technology, it is necessary for us to think deeply about the relationship between modern science and belief.
Galileo faced the popes trial
Modern science began in Renaissance Europe. At that time, there was a major case of conflict between science and religion, which was often raised every time the issue of science and belief was discussed. The scientist Galileo proved the rotation of the earth through many scientific experiments. But the Pope claimed that the earth was the center of the universe and had an eternal position. The Pope abused his power and blamed Galileo. But after reading his trial in the Holy See, Galileo said unyieldingly, Its still spinning.
Four hundred years later, history has undoubtedly proved Galileo to be right. The Holy See also formally apologized to Galileo. But the case raises a thought-provoking question. Of course, the important reason why the Pope condemned Galileo was that Galileo threatened the personal authority of the Pope. However, any belief must form a world outlook, a view from belief to nature. Although belief itself is subjective and abstract and comes from the world outlook of belief, it has something in common with scientific research. At that time, the Holy See really believed that the earth was the center of the universe, forming a conflict with science at that time.
So when we think about the relationship between science and belief, we must answer several important questions: What is the Christian world outlook? Does this world outlook conflict with scientific knowledge and future scientific knowledge? What is the difference between Christianitys world outlook and other religions? Galileos right and wrong to understand the relationship between belief and modern science, we must first understand the knowledge brought about by modern science. Galileos most important contribution to science is not to discover the rotation of the earth, but to lay the foundation for modern scientific research methods. Galileo believed that all knowledge came from experiments, not from subjective thoughts. With enough time and precise experimental instruments, we can measure everything and understand everything in nature.
Galileos point of view led to the rapid development of science. But it also brings a crisis of faith deeply. If we can understand everything in nature by experimental means, why do we need faith? Galileo was right about the rotation of the earth, but his belief that experiments can measure everything in nature has been proved wrong by physics in the twentieth century. If we want to know the position of an object, we must measure it experimentally. However, there must be some errors in the measurement process, so that we can not understand the real position of the object. Galileos point of view is that our experimental methods will always improve and experimental errors will become smaller and smaller, so that we can gradually move into the real position of the object. This seems to be true in the macro world, but the study of the atomic world has proved to be wrong. Because the process we measure changes matter itself. This change is insignificant in the macro world, but obvious in the micro world. For example, if we want to measure the position of an object, we can use a microscope; but a microscope must use a light source. When the light source acts on the object, although the position of the object can be seen a lot, but its speed has changed, uncertainty.
Quantum mechanics in atomic physics finds that no matter how precise an experimental instrument is used, the error of measuring the position and velocity of a substance is always greater than a constant. That is to say, we can never understand the position and speed of matter at the same time. It is not impossible today, impossible tomorrow, but impossible forever.
In physics, position and velocity are the most basic properties of describing matter. So this uncertainty principle is very shocking. Albert Einstein, a great physicist, was deeply distressed at his death. This principle fundamentally limits Galileos belief that experiments can understand everything in nature. Measuring the position and velocity of matter is a scientific question, but it can not be answered by experiment.
There is such incompleteness in hairdressers mathematical proposition physics as well as in mathematics. Mathematics is based on some axioms. From these axioms, many theorems can be deduced to form the structure of mathematics. It does not need experiments to judge the correctness of mathematics, but it needs to prove that there is no self-contradictory theorem in the structure of mathematics. Mathematicians believe that propositions of any axiomatic system can ultimately be proved to be correct or wrong. However, this belief for more than two thousand years is also wrong. In the 1930s, the mathematician Godell proved that in any mathematical axiom system, there are some mathematical propositions that can not judge their correctness. Godells proof is profound, but his principle can be illustrated by a simple example: there is a barber in a village who says, I want to haircut all the people in this village who dont haircut themselves. When it comes to other people, there are simple answers, but when it comes to the barber himself, it is contradictory. If we assume that the barber cut his own hair, we come to the conclusion that he should not cut his own hair. If we assume that the barber doesnt cut his hair, we come to the conclusion that he should cut his own hair. So whether a barber wants to cut his hair or not is a contradictory proposition. Perhaps readers will think that this is just a word game, the contradiction comes from the inaccuracy of human language. But surprisingly, there are equally contradictory problems in the most rigorous and precise mathematical language.
What do the above two examples illustrate? These two discoveries have fundamentally changed our world outlook.
In the past, we thought that scientific knowledge and experimental methods could be developed indefinitely, and todays ignorance could become the knowledge of tomorrow. If so, on the one hand, we can prove that todays beliefs are outside science and are not contradictory to todays science; however, after the development of science, todays beliefs will become superstitions of tomorrow, which will form the contradiction between belief and science, and make the tragedy of the Holy See and Galileo repeat. But these two examples have fundamentally changed our conception of science. The uncertainty principle tells us that the error of measuring the position and velocity of matter is always greater than a constant. It is not that todays instruments are not accurate enough, but that they will never be accurate. Similarly, Godels theorem tells us that some propositions in mathematics can not be proved or disproved.
Its not that we dont have enough knowledge of mathematics today, but that we can never be proved or disproved. These two principles tell us that science has eternal limitations and limitations that cannot be changed in the future.
Is it meaningless beyond limitation? These two principles tell us that science has eternal limitations. Since they are scientific principles, they certainly cannot tell us what is beyond this limitation. Many scientists believe that the problem beyond this limitation is meaningless. But human beings always pursue unity and perfection at a higher level. These two principles cant tell us what the higher-level principle is, but they can tell us that the higher-level principle will not conflict with todays science, nor with future science, because the higher-level principle is built outside the eternal limitations of science.
What is the principle of this higher level? We can see that the success of science is due to the separation of subjectivity and objectivity. But the biggest limitation of science is also due to the separation of subjective and objective. The uncertainty principle is due to the influence of the observer (subjective) on the observee (objective). Similarly, when a barber applies his proposition to others (objectively), there is no contradiction. Contradictions arise when he applies propositions originally applied to others (objectively) to himself (subjectively). So we can understand that beyond the limitations of science, it must be the unity of subjectivity and objectivity. In the past, people thought that matter and energy were two different quantities, but Einsteins formula E = MC2 unified them. Einsteins lifelong dream was to unify all the forces of the universe. So the pursuit of the unity of subjectivity and objectivity, although not a scientific issue, is the extension of the ideal of scientific pursuit of unity.
What is the unity of subjectivity and objectivity? Of course, the answer to this question is subjective. The following is the authors own feelings. The highest pursuit of human beings is nothing more than truth, goodness and beauty. Science can answer the difference between truth and non-truth, and only subjective ideas can judge good and beauty. To pursue the unity of the three is to pursue the unity of subjectivity and objectivity. Einstein E = MC2 is a scientific truth and can be judged by experiments. However, when scientists see the unity of energy and matter and the magnificence of the universe, they can be described by such a concise formula. They can not help but shout at each other and see the beauty of the truth. This feeling is subjective and cannot be verified by experiments. But it comes from science, beyond science, is the unity of subjectivity and objectivity, and also the unity of truth and beauty.
If the universe is disorderly, it is hard to imagine such a simple formula to describe the laws of the universes motion. If the existence of the universe has no purpose, why can objective truth cause such a wonderful subjective aesthetic feeling? The Christian Bible tells us, In the beginning there was Tao. Tao was with God, and Tao was God. The law of the existence and movement of the universe is the way of Gods creation, which is not only objective truth, but also the subjective feeling of the most beautiful. It is because God is the unity of truth and beauty, and the unity of subjectivity and objectivity, because Tao is God.
True brings beauty, beauty brings love, love brings goodness. The simplicity and beauty of Gods way of creating the world make us deeply believe that God will love the universe he created and the human beings he created. It also convinces us that Gods way of saving the world will be as simple and all-embracing as his way of creating the world. The Christian Bible tells us that Gods way of saving the world is justified by faith. Word. Mans salvation depends not on deeds, but on faith. What a simple and all-embracing way! God loves the world and wants to save all the world. Its not such an all-embracing way to save the world. Behavior is the standard of the times, which is not eternal and beyond everyones reach, but the standard of confidence is personal, eternal and within the reach of people. Looking at the way of Gods salvation, just like the way of Gods creation, it is simple and comprehensive. In the way of creation, we can see the unity of truth and beauty, and in the way of salvation, we can see the unity of good and beauty. It can be seen that the way of seeking God is precisely the high-level unity of subjectivity and objectivity that we pursue, the combination of truth, goodness and beauty, and the natural extension of scientific pursuit.
So we can see that there is no contradiction between science and belief today, and there will never be any contradiction in the future. Science has eternal limitations, which are always limited by the separation of subjectivity and objectivity. Belief is the principle of building on this limitation and the unity of subjectivity and objectivity. In this higher level of principle, we can see the unity of truth, goodness and beauty. Gods way of creating the world is as simple and beautiful as his way of saving the world. The pursuit of truth beyond the limitations of science is not science in itself, but comes from science and goes beyond science. As a scientist, we can see the magnificence of the universe, understand the truth of Gods creation, see everything, read Gods love for the world, wake up the pain of loss, thank God for saving the world, and enjoy it endlessly.
Yes, belief is a choice beyond science. It is everyones subjective choice. But what a wonderful and beautiful choice it is!