Friday, March 2, 2012

Sir James Hopwood Jeans about universe

 Sir James Hopwood Jeans (1877-1946)

The online dictionary wikipedia is such an enormous thing that some stuff may get lost in there. For your convenience I therefore copy here three interesting statements by Sir James Jeans that definitely belong to the realm of Astrotheology.

1 Great thought
The stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter... we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.
Sir James Jeans "The mysterious universe" page 137.

-- IMHO It helps us to understand 19th century scientists when we keep in mind that in the perfect world of Newtonian Physics they tended to have what could be called a mechanistic view of the world. Sir Jeans is living in the period when this old world was rapidly breaking up in light of new discoveries and insights.

2 Consciousness
Sir James Jeans, in an interview published in The Observer (London), when asked the question:

    Do you believe that life on this planet is the result of some sort of accident, or do you believe that it is a part of some great scheme?


    I incline to the idealistic theory that consciousness is fundamental, and that the material universe is derivative from consciousness, not consciousness from the material universe...

In general the universe seems to me to be nearer to a great thought than to a great machine. It may well be, it seems to me, that each individual consciousness ought to be compared to a brain-cell in a universal mind.

    What remains is in any case very different from the full-blooded matter and the forbidding materialism of the Victorian scientist. His objective and material universe is proved to consist of little more than constructs of our own minds.

To this extent, then, modem physics has moved in the direction of philosophic idealism. Mind and matter, if not proved to be of similar nature, are at least found to be ingredients of one single system. There is no longer room for the kind of dualism which has haunted philosophy since the days of Descartes.
Sir James Jeans addressing the British Association in 1934.

-- IMHO Here is a valid warning worth keeping in mind that we should not mix reality with the "constructs of our own minds". Least of all the divine reality of the God of Israel.

3 Painting in time and space

    Finite picture whose dimensions are a certain amount of space and a certain amount of time; the protons and electrons are the streaks of paint which define the picture against its space-time background. Traveling as far back in time as we can, brings us not to the creation of the picture, but to its edge; the creation of the picture lies as much outside the picture as the artist is outside his canvas.

On this view, discussing the creation of the universe in terms of time and space is like trying to discover the artist and the action of painting, by going to the edge of the canvas. This brings us very near to those philosophical systems which regard the universe as a thought in the mind of its Creator, thereby reducing all discussion of material creation to futility.
Sir James Jeans "The universe around us" page 317.

-- IMHO Great mental picture and worth keeping in mind.

Quotes taken from the wikipedia



  2. there is a very good article exploring this very subject in depth at: