At a recent evening for “the unbelievers”, organized by The Sceptic Magazine, Richard Dawkins, in conversation with Lawrence Krauss suggested that we should create a “cosmic tombstone” that is beamed into space and which contains humanities greatest achievements.
This is what he said:
“I sometimes think that even now actually we should be sending out what you could call a ‘cosmic tombstone’ because eventually the human species is going to go extinct and it would be nice to think that Shakespeare and Bach and Darwin and Einstein – the achievements of the great humans of history – would not die with us. And so sending out a cosmic tombstone in the vague, faint, infinitesimal hope that it might one day be picked up, it really is infinitesimal by the way, I think that might well be a good idea.”.
Interesting that Dawkins chose Einstein instead of Newton. I wonder if this has more to do with Dawkins own thoughts about religions and the religious, knowing Newton’s own sense of God’s importance. However, taken at face value it again illuminates the influence Einstein has as a flag bearer of what is best about us.
Dawkins’ words remind me of a quote in the introductory essay by Richard Price to the book – The Future of Spacetime – when talking about Einstein’s relativity revolution.
“It was the enormity of the conceptual leap, not the complexity of its contents that spoke of Einstein’s genius. Other jumps forward had required revolutionary changes in a view of the world: the sun, not earth, was the center of the solar system. But in these changes we were replacing knowledge that had been learned. Einstein’s revolution required us to abandon what our eyes, heads, and hearts knew to be true.”
Marcus Chown in – Quantum Theory cannot hurt you – summed up Einstein’s contribution beautifully: “…the “general” theory of relativity, arguably the greatest contribution to science by a single human mind”.
Both of these quotes are confined to his contributions to science through relativity and don’t even take account of his work in Quantum theory, the forgotten aspect of Einstein’s work and which has had such a profound effect on the way we live our lives (through the technologies that rely on quantum theory such as computing and lasers) and our view of the universe.
Perhaps Dawkins may have thrown out the addition of Einstein to his list on a whim, but often we say the most important when we don’t sit back and think about them. For me Einstein would be the first on a list of humanities greatest achievements that we want the universe to celebrate.