Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Gifted Einstein

The trio of gifted scientists beginning with Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell ends with Albert Einstein, the 20th century contributor to the revolutionary “field” concept. Einstein, who died in Princeton, NJ in 1955, contributed his theories of relativity, extending his reputation as one of the most brilliant scientists ever to tackle long unsolved problems in physics. Many science writers have speculated on how many members of humanity actually understand Einstein’s theory of relativity. Analysts point out the number is small. Non-scientists at some level realize these deep concepts have an important connection with the coherence of the universe even though the ideas are beyond their grasp.

People who do not understand proposals of this genius scientist may understand giftedness with reference to other talents we may easily comprehend. I illustrate with a personal story of my conversation with a former student after she performed a benefit piano concert at our school. The musically gifted girl was the winner of top keyboard competitions in many national venues. She performed several enormously demanding, lengthy compositions by memory to the delight of her audience. When I inquired how she memorized hundreds of pages of music and interpreted them flawlessly, she replied, “I see the pages.” That comment signaled her intuitive intellectual grasp of the total structure of the musical composition even more than an exercise in memorization. Her flawless performance further indicated comprehension of the composer’s musical concept.

Most concertgoers appreciate the beauty and significance of concert level music even though they may not grasp the nuances of music theory and performance. This analysis is analogous to the non-scientist’s appreciation of Einstein’s conception of physics: He may not understand the principles of special and general relativity and the mathematics bringing those principles into focus for the scientist, but he understands and appreciates the order and predictability of the universe.

We wonder at the progression of Einstein’s personal development as a young person. Some accounts describe him as “slow,” not a trait we would attribute to the manifestation of genius in later life. As a high school dropout he failed the entrance exam to the Polytechnic Institute at Zurich and was later judged “hopeless at physics.” But he was a deep thinker as a boy, having the ability to describe a complex problem in simple terms. He once speculated on the appearance of a beam of light if he rode a bicycle next to it at the speed of light. Perhaps this was a prelude to his later understanding of light-related topics.

Einstein’s vision of the connection among light, gravity, energy, and matter has come into renewed focus one hundred years after his general relativity theory was proposed. The theory provided that massive objects cause a distortion in space-time. The recently detected gravitational waves provided proof. Space and time were interwoven in the popular phrase “space-time continuum.” Graphic artists illustrate images of a “warped fabric” of space-time. Gravity results when objects with mass follow the curvature of this space-time fabric.

Recently Lauren Green, host of Spirited Debate on, interviewed Dr. Jeff Sweerink as a result of the publicity given to Albert Einstein and the recent detection of gravitational waves he predicted. Sweerink and Dr. Hugh Ross from the Reasons to Believe organization have been guests of Dr. John Ankerberg’s JAShow. Green asked Sweerink if the detection of gravitational waves proves the existence of God, noting that if the universe had a beginning, a Beginner was indicated. Sweerink responded that the universe has been found to be a dynamic place as evidenced by its observed, ongoing expansion. In addition, the relativity theory provides that the laws of physics are constant everywhere in the universe. God established constant physical laws by which the universe is governed—an apt metaphor for the reliability and constancy of the Creator. One of the strongest points in Sweerink’s analysis was evidence that the universe had a beginning and was created by God from outside, not inside our space-time dimensions.

The evidence points to a Creator who transcends our space-time dimensions and acts as the cause of all that exists. Our universe could not have “self-created.” God fashioned  a universe where life could exist. The presence of life in our space-time continuum is evidence of The Creator. Albert Einstein did not pinpoint the God of scripture as the designer of the space-time continuum but he expressed “rapturous amazement” at the harmony of natural law. Einstein used his giftedness to explain the reality and characteristics of space-time. For those gifts we are thankful.

We link a previous post dealing with Einstein: