Irreversibility — A Lay Sermon (On the Occasion of Professor K. Beuler’s Sixtieth Birthday, as a Token of Esteem and Friendship) [1977b]

  • Robert S. Cohen
  • John J. Stachel
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 21)


I am not sure whether a lay sermon demands a text, but if so, I would choose the report (Acta 17, 16–34) of Paul’s preaching to the Athenians. Curious of novelties as they were, they quietly let him talk — until he came to mention the resurrection of the dead. Then they laughed at him and went away, saying: “We’ll listen to this another time”. Religious people will not appreciate the Athenians’ humour; Marxists, for instance, will severely tax them with positivism. Yet, did they not just apply the supreme scientific criterium of truth, or plausibility, namely common sense? as physicists do, or ought to do. Now, the physicists’ reaction to the flow of time is not as simple-minded as the Athenians’: while they acknowledge the irreversibility of all processes they directly observe, they do assume strict reversibility in ‘another world’ — the world of atoms, of which until recently they had no better knowledge than the apostle could have of the paradise or the other place. This ambiguous attitude has a long history, on which it will not be irrelevant to look back.


Celestial Body Ambiguous Attitude Religious People Sixtieth Birthday Reidel Publishing Company 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert S. Cohen
  • John J. Stachel

There are no affiliations available

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