Idle questions for Steven Weinberg.

At the moment I’m reading Steven Weinberg’s new book, To Explain the World, The Discovery of Modern Science. In a Preface he does “explain” what he means by “explain the world,” so I won’t repeat here what he says there.


Steven Weinberg, btw, is one of the probably thousands of people (and more if I knew more) I would have liked to have been, or rather would have liked to have had his, for lack of a better word, intelligence, (or in the case of all those musicians or artists I would have liked to have had their talent).

For most of us intelligence means IQ, and it may mean that, but I’m not smart enough to know if the element referred to is real. But I do know that in reference to whatever it may be we are not all equal. Whatever it may be is not well distributed among us.

I do know that I would have liked to have been smart enough to follow Weinberg throughout his life, as he, what, “explained the world,” as he “discovered Modern Science,” as he went about what to him was his ordinary life trajectory as a theoretical physicist.

But I couldn’t, meaning that while he’s been to all those places, done all those things, I haven’t. Wasn’t smart enough. The best I could do was to listen to him, or as now, and as many times in the past, read him, and take what I could comprehend from the stories of explanation he gives us of those places he has been.

Weinberg is a scientist, and as such he has added whatever he could, in his case much, a lot more than the proverbial two cents worth, to whatever science had given him at the start of his own exploration of the world.

I’d like to ask him whether science is mostly, if not all about things that can be measured. How big and how strong things are, how close and how far away they are from one another, how they move, how everything moves, and when they’re seemingly not moving what keeps them in one place, and are things always like they are today, or have they changed, and how much etc.?

At the same time I’d like to ask him what we can know about all the things that we can’t subject to any of our units of measurement, that is to say, and for most of us, about most things, —our feelings and thoughts of course, our sense of right and wrong, our understanding of the political left and right of which we have so much to say, love and friendship, youth and aging, our lives for the most part.

For none of these things can be measured probably at all, let alone to everyone’s satisfaction, say as the temperature of the atmosphere, the obit of a satellite, the speed of light etc.

I’d also like to ask him if it can’t be measured can we even talk about it? Well of course we do, all the time. But while science progresses by measuring and thereby to some extent “understanding” or knowing the environment, we go on, without the ability to measure, making statements and judgements that are mostly without foundation.

And the peoples of the world go on waging war with one another, since without reason, without their being able to measure rightness or wrongness in any objective manner, force is their only method of reaching a (forced) conclusion to whatever may be their differences.

So there are always those who claim to know, even when there is no proof or evidence in support of their knowledge claim. That’s the way of the world. Dinesh D’Souza is one, whom I cited in an earlier blog, who claims to know. He confidently states:

“I have not in the slightest departed from my belief in those traditional institutions. My argument was that radical Muslims are able to point to the moral and cultural decay of America as displayed in Hollywood and use it as a recruiting tool. That is still my belief.”

What would Steven Weinberg say about the moral and cultural decay of America? First, is it even real, that which not only D’Souza but countless others have in the past and continue to speak of? Could whatever is being referred to, moral decay in this example, be isolated and measured, making thereby its reality, its truth evident?

Of course there have always been those who have cried out against the moral and cultural decay of society, any society, our society, all societies. But that of course has never been enough, as now, to make it real.

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