Sometimes scientists come much closer to religion than they would care to admit. Here are the concluding paragraphs of Carlo Rovelli’s contribution to the 2006 Edge collection, What we believe but cannot prove. Rovelli is a theoretical physicist.
“Beliefs that one cannot prove are often wrong. But they are also often healthy, and they are essential in science. Here is a good example from twenty-four centuries ago: Socrates, in Plato’s Phaedo, says, ‘I know not what the art of Glaucus could prove the truth of my tale, which I myself should never be able to prove … [but] my conviction is that the earth is a round body .. .’
Finally, I also believe but cannot prove that we humans have the collaborative instinct. This instinct will eventually prevail over the shortsighted, egoistic, and aggressive instinct that produces exploitation and war. Collaboration has already given us long periods of peace and prosperity. Ultimately it will lead to a planet without countries, without wars, without patriotism, without religions, without poverty – and we will be able to share the world. Actually, I’m not sure I believe that I believe this, but I do want to believe that I do”.
Rovelli’s vision is not so far removed from words from the Old Testament prophet Micah,
“He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid”.
Perhaps, if we can detach ourselves from the fundamentalists on all sides, such a vision might become possible.