With the rise of Christianity, which embraced Plato and Aristotle philosophically if not theologically, the works of Epicurus and Lucretius were suppressed during the thousand-year period from roughly the fifth to the fifteenth centuries. It was only by sheer luck that a copy of De rerum natura survived to be rediscovered in a German monastery in CE.
After another copy was taken to Florence where more copies were made, it became a sensation that played an important role in the nascent Renaissance and the scientific revolution that was soon to follow. Although atoms would not be directly observed until the twentieth century, most physicists, including Galileo Galilei — , adopted the atomic theory as the basic model for the primary structure of matter.
While there was little speculation about the actual nature of atoms for lack of empirical data, the notion that point-like corpuscles move through space, colliding with one another and sticking together to form structures, was given a theoretical foundation by Isaac Newton — and those who followed. With Newtonian physics based on atomism, or at least on particle mechanics, the scientific revolution exploded on the world. Not that there weren't doubters. Even by the late nineteenth century, after the atomic theory had proved enormously successful in explaining many observed phenomena involving gases and other fluids, the philosopher and physicist Ernst Mach — was prominent among many who refused to accept the reality of atoms.
Mach held to the philosophy called positivism, in which only observable entities should be treated as real. Perhaps he would have changed his mind about atoms had he lived in the late twentieth century when he would have witnessed them as imaged on the screen of a device called the scanning tunneling microscope.
Today we include many directly unobservable objects, such as quarks and black holes, in our theories. Besides, as we will see, deciding on what is real and what is not real is no easy task. My basic position as an experimental physicist is that all we know about is what we observe with our senses and instruments. But, does it matter? All we need to concern ourselves with is what we observe. If whatever is really out there produces no observable effect, then why should we worry about it?
When the Reformation and Renaissance undermined Roman Church authority, new avenues of thought were opened up and science came into its own. Atomism—as a useful model— became an important part of the scientific revolution and eventually both Catholic and Protestant churchmen no longer saw it as the atheist threat it once surely was when articulated by Epicurus and Lucretius.
Their theology was simply ignored by churchmen. After all, the ancients did not know Christ. This book chronicles the empirical confirmation of atomism, from Leucippus and Democritus to Peter Higgs and others , which reached its current form in the field where I spent my forty-year research career—that is, elementary particle physics.
I will argue that the reduction of all we observe to the interaction of tiny bits of matter moving about mostly randomly in empty space is irreconcilable with the common belief that there must be something more to the universe we live in, that human thoughts and emotions cannot be simply the result of particles bouncing around. We will see how attempts to uncover evidence for immaterial ingredients or holistic forces in nature that cannot be reduced to the interactions of elementary particles have been a complete failure.
Before we begin our story, a few clarifications are needed. The term atom arises from the Greek word for uncuttable. The original notion of the ancient atomists was that the ultimate particles that make up matter cannot be further divided into more elementary parts. Once much higher energies became available with nuclear radiation and particle accelerators, it was discovered that the chemical elements were not elementary after all but that each element is composed of a tiny nucleus surrounded by a cloud of electrons.
It did not end there. Nuclei were found to be composed of protons and neutrons and these, in turn, were discovered to be made of more elementary particles we identify as quarks.
At this writing, the set of elementary particles in the standard model includes quarks, electrons, and other particles such as neutrinos and photons for which no substructures have yet been identified in experiments. This model has been in existence since the s, agreeing with all observations, and only now are experiments reaching sufficiently high energy where further substructure might be revealed.
This book is being written just as the final gap in the standard model, the Higgs boson, seems to have been filled at the Large Hadron Collider LHC in Geneva, Switzerland. No one is stopping there. More data from the collider will surely, even necessarily, point us in the direction of new physics beyond the standard model. It is felt by most physicists that ultimately we will have to reach the point where the ultimate uncuttable constituents of matter will be established.
The ancient atomists introduced the notion that atoms move around in otherwise empty space—a vacuum or a void. As mentioned, Aristotle attempted to prove that such a void was impossible, but when Evangelista Torricelli — and other seventeenth-century scientists began producing vacuums in the laboratory, Aristotle's views fell out of favor. Of course, these laboratory vacuums, then and now, are hardly empty space. But at least the notion was established that a chamber empty of particles is conceivable.
Today we often hear it said that, according to quantum mechanics, we can never have completely empty space, as particle-antiparticle pairs flit in and out of existence. While this is true, at any given instant a volume will contain these particle pairs with empty space in between. The basic atomic model remains part of quantum physics. The matter we observe on all scales is mostly empty space with tiny particles mostly randomly moving about constituting the visible universe and perhaps its invisible parts as well.
Even if these models ultimately succeed they haven't so far , the elementary structures will be so small that they will remain particulate in the eyes and instruments of experimenters for the foreseeable future. For my purposes, I have no need to bring in these speculations and will stick to what is already well established. Some confusion may also arise when we discuss the issue of reductionism. I will claim that the atomic model exemplifies the notion that we can reduce everything to its parts.
Despite desperate opposition from those wedded to holistic philosophies, reductionism has triumphed. If that is the case, then how can atomism be reducible? The reducibility of the atomic model refers to the fact that the observations we make about matter, such as the wetness of water or the color of copper, and perhaps even human intelligence, can be reduced to the motions and interactions of elementary particles that themselves do not possess such properties.
The anti-reductionists have always objected that this is impossible. We will give examples showing that it does indeed happen. And, as I said, nothing is stopping us from considering the current elementary particles as ultimately reducible to even smaller parts.
This is physics, not philosophy. What matters is data, not words. Finally, we will find that the expedient of describing an observed phenomenon in terms of the behavior of constituent particles of the material bodies involved not only greatly simplifies the understanding of these phenomena but also removes much of the mystery that confounds much of modern life in the physical world.
A note to the reader: This book starts out mostly historical and philosophical, but as it progresses chronologically, it becomes increasingly scientific. Some of the latter material is somewhat technical with a few equations at the level of high-school algebra, but it still should be accessible to nonscientists who have at least some familiarity with the subjects from reading popular books and articles.
I feel that a minimum amount of technical detail is necessary to establish the validity of my thesis, that modern science has fully confirmed the model of the world first proposed 2, years ago. I would also like to thank the staff of the public library in Louisville, Colorado, for the efficiency with which they provide me with books from other libraries throughout the state.
The universe consists of bodies and void: that bodies exist, perception itself in all men bears witness; it is through the senses that we must by necessity form a judgment about the imperceptible by means of reason. A commitment to indivisibles, particles of matter either conceptually indivisible i.
Reductionism: explanation of the coming-to-be, ceasing-to-be and qualitative alternation of sensible bodies in terms of the local motion of atoms which lack many most of the sensible properties of those bodies. This is the thesis about the nature of physical agency: it claims in effect that no body is ever moved except by an external impulse from another body. Its chapters deal with each of the above four issues over three periods: classical antiquity ca. We will see how material atomism was resisted by many of the greatest thinkers of all time, from Aristotle and Plato to Augustine and Aquinas, and then on to the present day, where we find it under attack by those who refuse to believe that matter and natural forces are all there is to observable reality.
The reductionism in item 3 that forms a part of the doctrine of atomism is highly unpopular. As Alex Rosenberg notes in Darwinian Reductionism; or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology: [The] whole has properties which no individual part has: the property of wetness that water has is not a property that any H2O molecule has.
But this is no reason to deny the reducibility of wetness to properties of H2O molecules. Wetness is identical to the weak adhesion of these molecules to one another, owing to the polar bonds between the molecules; and these bonds are the result of the distribution of electrons in the outer shells of the constituent atoms of the H2O molecules.
Try as they might, the anti-reductionists have been unable to find any evidence to support their distaste for atomism. Little is known about him, and none of his writing has survived.
More is known about Democritus of Abdera, who is thought to have been Leucippus's student, or at least a much younger colleague, and he appears in the anecdotes of many ancient texts.
He is reported to have produced a large number of works on many subjects, but these have only survived in secondhand reports. That reality breaks up into an infinite number of infinitesimal parts—atoms and the void.
In this way, the concept of a unique elementary substance is retained while accounting for diversity and the potential for change. According to these early atomists, the atoms themselves are hard, incompressible, and indivisible. They have no parts.
Although lacking any substructure, they have different gross geometrical characteristics: size, weight, shape, order, and position. It is not clear whether the property of weight was introduced by Democritus or later by Epicurus. They argued that the motions of atoms are endless and largely random, with a tendency to move toward some point such as the center of Earth.
Everything happens by either chance or necessity. When they collide, atoms either recoil from one another or coalesce according to their various shapes. For example, they may have hooks that enable them to grab onto one another. When they join to form new, compound identities, individual atoms still retain their original identities. In the third century of the Common Era, the historian Diogenes Laertius summarized Democritus's atomic model as follows: The principles of all things are atoms and the void, and everything else exists only by convention.
The worlds are unlimited and subject to generation and corruption. Nothing could come to be from nonbeing, and nothing could return by corruption to nonbeing. Atoms are unlimited in size and number, and are the seat of a vortex motion in the universe, which results in the creation of all compounds: fire, water, air, and earth, which are simply organizations of certain atoms, themselves resistant to change and alteration by virtue of their hardness.
The sun and the moon are composed of such particles, smooth and round, as is the soul, which is the same thing as the intellect.
Even in the Middle Ages, alchemy was based on the principle that you could combine these elements to make other compounds. In particular, by adding fire to earth stone , you could make gold. That never succeeded, but in the twentieth century, physicists were able to combine the nuclei of baser elements, what I will call chemical atoms, to make gold.
Unfortunately, they couldn't make enough of the precious metal to pay for the experiment, much less generate riches. The vortex mentioned above is suggestive of the swirling nebula of interstellar matter that contracted under gravity to produce our solar system.
Atoms tended to move in that direction. We will have more to say later about whether nothing can come from nonbeing. The basic point here is that atoms, as described by Democritus, always existed and are indestructible, while the compounds they form, including the soul, can come and go. According to philosopher David Sedley: Atomism [is] the first Presocratic philosophy to eliminate intelligent causation at the primary level. Instead of making intelligence either an irreducible feature of matter, or, with Anaxagoras, a discrete power acting upon matter, early Greek atomism treats atoms and void alone as the primary realities, and relegates intelligence to a secondary status: intelligence, along with color, flavor, and innumerable other attributes, is among the properties that supervene on complex structures of atoms and the void.
However, he assigned a limited role to the gods. They did not intervene in a world governed by natural laws.
Furthermore, since the soul is made of atoms, it is not immortal and humans can never become gods. Only atoms and the void are real, and these he could not see. Although he quite correctly questioned the reliability of the senses, Democritus hardly ignored them.
In fact, he proposed an atomic mechanism to explain how the senses operate. According to Democritus, visual perception results from atomic emanations from the body colliding with atoms in the eye.
This is essentially as we understand sight today. Particles, or atoms, of light called photons are emitted from bodies.
If the body is the sun or a lamp, the photons are energetic enough to excite electrons in the chemical atoms of the eye and produce a signal to the brain. Colder bodies, such as you and I, also emit photons, but these are in the lower energy infrared region of the spectrum, where our eyes are insensitive.
In order to see human bodies directly by their emissions, our eyes must be aided by special night-vision goggles that detect infrared light. Since most of the objects surrounding us are not as hot as the sun, we see them by means of the higher energy photons from the sun or lamps as they scatter off the object and into our eyes.
The senses of sound and smell were also correctly viewed in ancient atomism as the emanation and absorption of atoms. The sense of touch was also accurately described as a collision of the atoms of the hand, for example, with the atoms of the object being touched. Democritus: It took place in the mind.
Imagine a knife of polished bronze. We ask our servant to spend an entire day honing the edge until it can sever a blade of grass held at its distant end. Finally satisfied, I begin to act. I take a piece of cheese… Lederman: Feta?
Democritus: Of course. Then I cut the cheese in two with the knife. Then again and again, until I have a speck of cheese too small to hold. Now, I think that if I myself were much smaller, the speck would appear large to me, and I could hold it, and with my knife honed even sharper, cut it again and again.
Now I must again, in my mind, reduce myself to the size of a pimple on an ant's nose. I continue cutting the cheese. If I repeat the process enough, do you know what the result will be? Lederman: Sure, a feta-compli. And a little later in the dream… Lederman: Today we can almost define a good scientist by how skeptical he is of the establishment. Democritus: By Zeus, this is good news. What do you pay mature scientists who don't do windows or experiments?
Lederman: Obviously you're applying for a job as a theorist. I don't hire too many of those, though the hours are good. Theorists never schedule meetings on Wednesday because it kills two weekends.
Besides, you're not as anti-experiment as you make yourself out to be. Whether you like it or not, you did conduct experiments. Democritus: I did? Lederman: Sure. Your knife. It was a mind experiment, but an experiment nonetheless. By cutting a piece of cheese in your mind over and over again, you reached your theory of the atom. Democritus: Yes, but it was all in the mind.
Pure reason. Lederman: What if I could show you that knife? Democritus: What are you talking about? Lederman: What if I could show you the knife that can cut matter forever, until it finally cut off an a-tom?
Democritus: You found a knife that can cut off an atom? In this town? Lederman: [nodding] We're sitting on the main nerve right now. Democritus: This laboratory is your knife? Lederman: The particle accelerator. Although more closely tied to religion in very important ways than Greek atomism, enough similarities exist to lead one to suspect some contact between the two distant cultures. According to historian Bernard Pullman, six major philosophical systems emerged from Hindu Brahmanism. Of these, the Nyaya-Vaisheshika movement was the strongest defender of atomism.
A doctrine of atoms can be found in the Vaisheshika sutra, written by Kanada in the first century BCE. Other Hindu schools were receptive to the idea, while Vedanta was opposed. However, they included the classical four elements—fire, air, water, and earth —along with aether, space, time, and two kinds of souls. Gods and individual humans contain eternal, omniscient souls, while another form of soul called manas is an organ of thought that acts as the link between the god-human soul and external objects.
It also regarded the four elements as atoms, although it considered soul and conscience to be outside the realm of atoms. Jainism, on the other hand, seemed to hold views similar to the Greek atomists in not regarding the four elements as atoms. All these philosophies viewed the soul as eternal and incorruptible, while the Greek atomists said the soul was a composite of atoms and thus disintegrates upon death along with the rest of the body.
The Burden of Proof Game in Science vs. Summary example of positive, neutral and negative assertions of physical and metaphysical claims. Grayling and J. Mackie have fallen into the trap of believing that atheism is the default position after having reviewed and dismantled certain proofs of God. It is in this context that local atheism and global atheism provide clarity.
If a specific conception or concep- tions of God or gods is denied, then local atheism should be the only logical conclusion — not global atheism. However, even here, one would have to remain agnostic with regards to options — as yet unconsidered — for God more on this in the next section. Since it has been demonstrated that negative claims need to be proven, a distinction must be made between universal negatives and existential negatives. It has been well argued that universal nega- tive claims are more difficult to prove than existential negative claims.
The absolute denial of all gods or God requires a tall order that would seem insur- mountable if not impossible. Atheists should at least acknowledge the difficulties with universal negation and thus realise the tenability of local atheism over the more difficult position of global atheism. However, if the atheist succeeds in negat- ing a certain conception of a deity or deities, this only concedes a local atheism that is dependent on the negated conception of gods or God and should not become a logical impetus to deny all forms of gods or God.
Global atheists, however, make this very assertion. They claim to have certain arguments that undermine all religions alike or believe that negating one religion is similar to negating them all.
In this case, each doctrine is simply a variable and it does not really matter which doctrine is being negated Figure 4b. In this scenario, since specific conceptions of gods or God of any religion are no longer relevant to the discourse, the BOP is on the atheist. Global atheism is a form of atheism that is no longer a parasite but a bacterium; it is no longer host-dependent.
If, however, the atheist were unable to provide suf- ficient arguments for global atheism, he or she would then need to recede their stance to local atheism and thus admit agnosticism with regards to options not considered. In both cases — of local atheism and global atheism — the default position is agnosticism. This ignorance itself then becomes the justification for not requiring any BOP.
Only after a thorough inves- tigation does the agnostic become a theist or an atheist. However, if one chooses to remain an agnostic because he or she believes it is the most viable option, then he or she needs to defend the position of agnosticism. In summary, all three positions atheism, theism and agnosticism can — depending on the context — potentially bear the BOP.
The only situation in which one is free from any BOP is the uninitiated. In the next section I demonstrate how, when atheists fail to qualify them- selves as either global or local atheists, and how, when they conflate atheism with agnosticism, it becomes unclear on whom the BOP lies. This occurs through one of two ways. I call the former approach seman- tic fusion and the latter morphological fission. Both attempts will be addressed and discussed. Semantic Fusion I shall first start with the work of David Silverman, who has Jewish heritage but is an atheist.
As stated perfectly at defineatheism. Atheism is without that belief, not against it. Got it? Firstly, OED does not actually give the definition Silverman quotes. He has confused the two websites, which have slightly different objectives. OD includes the main usage of the word alongside contemporary and lesser known usages of the words. It states gods, the finite details of the universe, etc.
Again, when Santa lands on my roof. I will believe. Until there is proof, Santa, like God, is a myth. In the background, here, we should note that it is easy to see that — when ontological con- cerns are confused with epistemological ones — confusion of these terms arises.
Silverman is not an isolated example. This keeps the burden of proof on the side of the claimant where it belongs. In some situations, it becomes difficult to even understand if the author has actually created any significant difference between 42 Silverman Fighting God op.
However, if I were shown sufficient evidence to warrant belief in such an entity, then I would believe. The central problem with this approach is that, either intentionally or unintentionally, it captures two exclusive positions under one label. This distorts the discourse.
One cannot not disbelieve in God and lack belief in God at the same time. With this confusion in place, the atheist can knowingly or unknowingly switch from one pos- ition to the other, which makes it all the more difficult to determine with whom the BOP lies. A summary of semantic fusion is provided in Figure 6. Flew and Michael Martin use negative atheism to refer to someone who withdraws the belief in God without conscious rejection, and positive atheism as outright denial of God. Summary of semantic fusion.
First, a meaning- ful taxonomy and the acknowledgement of varying taxonomy are two different things. Unless categories are critically filtered some terms become redundant and may unnecessarily overlap — as is the case with negative atheism and agnosticism. A rationale must be provided whenever new terminology is introduced. Furthermore, Bullivant himself notes that the prefix a- in atheism was traditionally under- stood as the definite rejection of God in the English language, and is the most common understanding in contemporary literature.
It seems there is an advantageous gain in widening the net of atheism as a more inclusive position because it could help gain social and political currency. For example, it surveys several countries one of which is Australia. It records that in Australia, in , there were 2,, positive atheists and 2,, negative atheists — which gave a grand total of 5,, atheists. Says Stenger, Here again, Christian philosopher Robin Collins misapplies physics to claim fine- tuning.
He asks us to image what would happen if there were no gravity. There 11 For example, see Victor J. Right, and there would be no universe either. However, physicists have to put gravity into any model of the universe that contains separated masses.
A universe with separated masses and no gravity would violate point-of-view invariance. A few pages later, Stenger equates point-of-view invariance with a model being objective: The space-time symmetries I have discussed I have termed point-of-view invariance. That is, they are unchanged when you change reference frames or points of view.
If our models are to be objective, that is, independent of any particular point of view, then they are required to have point-of-view invariance. He then goes on to claim that physicists must hypothesize the great conservation laws, because otherwise their models will be subjective, that is, will give uselessly different results for every different point of view. So, Stenger is claiming that any objective account of the universe must include the gravity.
A little thought shows this must be false. First, it is possible for the gravitational constant G to be zero. In such a universe, there would be no gravity, contrary to what Stenger says. Second, point-of-view invariance could not possibly allow us to derive anything about the actual distribution of mass-energy. Any distribution of mass-energy in space and time will satisfy point-of-view invariance, since all distributions will be objective. But, there are other units one could use.
Yet, the existence of gravity does tell us something about the world: it tells us that, everything else being equal, regions of higher mass density will have more of a tendency to clump together. It is easy to imagine an objective distribution of mass-energy in space and time in which this is false, and hence in which there is no gravity. For example, consider a distribution of mass-energy in which some areas have very high density of mass and others have a very low density of mass. Further, imagine that all the particles are moving away from each other, with the rate at which they move apart being independent of the density of the region they find themselves in.
Such a universe would be one without gravity.He asks us to image what would happen if there were no gravity. The best way to see this is from the point of view of an observer on the ship. For my purposes, I have no need to bring in these speculations and will stick to what is already well established. Using telescope lenses provided by Galileo, to whom he wrote letters of support, Gassendi made numerous observations that helped establish the validity of Kepler's laws of planetary motion.
This is precisely the point J. Democritus: It took place in the mind. A summary of the two different conceptions of atheism is illustrated in Figure 4. It is enormously unlikely, given the large number of molecules in the room, but technically not impossible. Bullivant and M. If atheism, theism and agnosticism are collapsed into a flat continuum see Figure 2 in contrast to Figure 1 with atheism and theism on each end, with a range of intermediates being made available in between, this would create innumerable positions, the boundaries of which would become ambiguous and meaningless.
Nor is it myth or history, but a philosophical and scientific treatise written in Latin hexameter. The Burden of Proof Game in Science vs. For electrons, protons, and neutrons in our universe, this is prevented by the conservation of electric charge and the conservation of baryon number. Nor does Time exist in its own right. Before the literature is dissected I will clarify four preliminary points.
As long as the atomists paid lip service to gods of some sort, they could avoid serious trouble. Colder bodies, such as you and I, also emit photons, but these are in the lower energy infrared region of the spectrum, where our eyes are insensitive. As Alex Rosenberg notes in Darwinian Reductionism; or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology: [The] whole has properties which no individual part has: the property of wetness that water has is not a property that any H2O molecule has. A rationale must be provided whenever new terminology is introduced. They did not intervene in a world governed by natural laws. James P.
While Gassendi agreed that we can't know anything for certain, he said we can still use indirect empirical evidence to support hypotheses about the invisible.
In the Brownian motion observed in other media, currents are negligible. Stenger never tells us, and thus evades the real issue. Other Books by Victor J. A visual summary of the division of ontological and epistemological posi- tions.
In , he became the first to observe a planetary transit of the sun in this case, Mercury , providing strong confirmation of the Copernican model.
This is physics, not philosophy. Democritus: I did? Unless categories are critically filtered some terms become redundant and may unnecessarily overlap — as is the case with negative atheism and agnosticism. As we will see, the atomism of 2, years ago was essentially, in principle if not in detail, the model of the universe that modern science brings to us today. In such a universe, no masses would ever clump together, and hence no complex life would ever form.