Archive for November 27, 2009
OK, I’ve read Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and General Theory now (or rather listened to it over at the wonderful site librivox.org), but I must say that I found other people’s summaries of Einstein’s thoughts more helpful than Einstein himself.
Could it be that others are more gifted in explaining Einstein than he was in explaining himself? Or is it simply that I am a bit obtuse when it comes to science – at least on the microcosmical and macrocosmical level?
Maybe something of both. I certainly find philosophy much easier than the details of cosmology. Sure, there are rather difficult philosophers like Hegel and Kant, but for the most part philosophy isn’t hard to grasp at all. The reason, I think, is that philosophy is purely human. Everything in philosophy springs from the human mind – from reason and imagination. There is nothing in philosophy that is foreign to human nature. As a human of average intelligence and basic education, most philosophy should therefore pose no great problem.
With modern science, it’s another matter. Here we actually gather data that is foreign to our experience and intellectual capabilities – data about atoms and the speed of light and the relativity of time and the possible curvature of space. We then use a language that we do not employ in everyday life – namely mathematical, completely abstract language – to express this data and form theories about it.
No wonder it’s so difficult. It’s like a visitation of aliens who look completely unlike any terrestrial being, aliens whose sensory organs are not even all in the same dimensions as ours. We might be able to detect the existence of such beings and learn many things about them, but would we ever truly understand them? Probably not.
It’s the same with Einstein’s theories: I can intellectually assent to them; I can try to understand them. But I don’t think I have the capacity to ever truly grasp them. And I doubt any member of the human species does.