Astrophysicist Maxim Zelnikov: need for contact with higher intelligence is a very human characteristic

Who are we looking for when you dream of cosmic distances will enslave us robots, how God helps an honest search for the truth and praying about what a real scientist says astrophysicist, bachelor of theology and a teacher of Maxim Zelnikov.

Maxim Zelnikov. Photo:

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Maxim Zelnikov – candidate of physico-mathematical Sciences, senior researcher of laboratory of problems of space physics Physical Institute. P. N. Lebedev Academy of Sciences; bachelor of theology, senior lecturer at Saint-Philaret’s Orthodox Christian Institute.

Without man the universe is really empty

According to polls, 45% of Russians believe in the existence of aliens. And you admit that in the Universe there is someone besides us?

– This is an interesting question. Theoretically, in other places, you may experience something similar to what is on the Ground. Although this is very unlikely: too many factors must coincide for the origin of life in General and intelligent life in particular. From the point of view of faith, it seems to me that human life, the human mind belong to the category of unique phenomena.

Life compared to non-living matter is very complex property, and a reasonable – even more mysterious. How many are there in the world of living beings, but they do not have mind. So the emergence of the human mind is not a necessary event in the evolution of life, so it would have been better to call it absolutely incredible. That is possible, but improbable event happened, I see the manifestation of God’s intervention.

– It turns out people are really very lonely in the vast blackness and the void.

– How can the feeling of loneliness of man in the Universe combined with the fact that on Earth there are several billion people? In this sense we are not alone. On the other hand, the human desire to find a different, higher form of life, apparently, is not accidental. Looking to the space given, we are not trying to find something hostile that enslave us. We are looking for some more perfect, but good intelligence that will help solve our earthly problems.

Maxim Zelnikov. Photo:

The thirst for contact with the Supreme mind is, I think, a very human characteristic.

And it is connected with the “sewn” in man the deep memory of some kind of higher authority that can put everything in its place. And so mankind will never rest in their quest for higher intelligence. Only it is necessary to look not in space, as above.

– Scientists searching for extrasolar planets with conditions similar to earth, including space for expansion. If you imagine that a suitable planet will find and people if necessary will be able to move there, how does this compare with the expectation of the end of the world?

– The idea of planetfall, in my opinion, unrealistic. Now Elon Musk wants to send an expedition to Mars, but they will need a few years to fly one-way to return in any case not to return. As for the more decent planets where people could be located – it is very far. They will be able to reach only generation born already in flight. But this idea – witness the reluctance to make human life ever stopped, recognizing the uniqueness and value of the community of people on Earth.

You can see this roll call with the ideas of Russian philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov, who believed the common vocation of all humanity the resurrection of past generations. But if we bring all of their ancestors, then there is a big demographic problem, so Nikolai Fyodorov seriously considered the options explore other planets it is in order to settle a resurrected humanity.

These ideas then inspired Konstantin Tsiolkovsky on the development of its spacecraft, and in this sense influenced the development of our space. We can say that the idea is old.

But pretty fantastic.

– It is in the realization of the fantastic, but also carries the feeling of the infinite value of the person and the human community, which is easily correlated with the Christian revelation that man is the crown of creation, without which our universe is really empty.

While it would be incorrect to directly correlate the end of the Solar system or the planet Earth with the Christian Eschaton (the end of the world – approx. ed.). The Christian revelation about the end of history means the end is in eternity. This eternal result will still be announced, even if humanity moved to other planets. This question is a little from another dimension.

The person becomes the application to your gadget

– From your point of view if artificial intelligence?

– I think artificial intelligence could pose a danger for humans and for humanity as a whole as well as any large opportunities. For example, nuclear energy which we have discovered in the last century has brought not only nuclear power but also nuclear bomb.

The danger of artificial intelligence is not that he will suddenly acquire free will, and how to write science fiction, robots will start to feel slighted, rise up and humanity will perish. I guess that will have artificial intelligence does not arise, but it is possible and without it, having only the programs behavior, cause quite serious technical damage to people.

A much greater danger is that people begin to behave like machines. The person becomes the application to your gadget.

He not only forgot to count, he begins to imitate the cars to dance a kind of “robot dance”. This is a serious distortion of human behavior, which is not the result of conquest, and naturally and voluntarily.

Is some kind of degradation? When slaves do all the work for you, you are corrupted and cease to be able to many things like that?

– It is not that people cease to know anything, he becomes dependent the dependence on information seriously discussed as one of the types of non-chemical dependencies. And most importantly, a person begins to think like a machine.


What does that mean?

– The degree of involvement of different electronic devices in our lives has become so great that in some situations the person already is in a computer context. And he begins to live by the rules, which are incorporated in a computer system, is increasingly losing freedom.

And there is no stopping it?

– Artificial intelligence will not be dangerous if people become truly human. We need to restore and develop the exclusively human quality – the ability to discover the meaning of his life, and then freely and creatively to embody. You need to live in accordance with that meaning.

But true humanity does not exist outside of human communication with God. If you do not restore the connection, then his human freedom, true creativity, the ability to love too not to find. Artificial intelligence is a danger only for mankind separated from God.

Can we assume that artificial intelligence will go to the government and will shift a person?

– Yes, it is possible in some areas this will happen, for example, artificial intelligence is already replacing the person from medicine, from banking sector. But if a person will conform to his vocation, the danger in this is not.

God remains behind the scenes of science

– Can we control science or it is uncontrollable?

– Attempts to control science made always. In Soviet times, our science was cut off from the world. Communication with foreign colleagues was artificially restricted. Scientists were forced to deal with some application issues. For example, it was applied by many state efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and it appeared faster than it would happen naturally.

While science always has an internal motor and internal logic of development, which is not subject to external factors. This logic is very simple: science is aimed at knowledge of the truth everywhere, wherever possible, regardless of the consequences.

I am convinced that science should develop more freely. And if the spiritual development of mankind will be faster than scientific progress will not bring danger.

– What inspires people to do scientific work?

Science, particularly fundamental, exists solely because inherent in the human desire to know the truth. This desire is absolutely not pragmatic, it is indifferent to the fact whether these findings have any useful or harmful effects. In particular, knowledge of outer space – that’s really the most useless of all useless things. We try to understand a subject that can never physically grasp. Nevertheless, now there are a lot of projects to study outer space. Humanity spends a lot of money.

– Interests are directed in all directions.

– The desire to know all truth is not something artificial, invented activity, it is a deep human need. Thus, Einstein wrote that there is no algorithm for scientific discovery. There’s no manual, which could be guaranteed to make the opening.

– Scientific discovery – this kind of work?

– Yes, it is a creative process, which sometimes are born fundamentally new concept. There is always a moment of Epiphany. We analyze the information, considering different assumptions, and at some point, suddenly “the puzzle come together” and there is clarity.

In this moment there is the presence of God?

– Still I think that God is behind the scenes of science. Both believers and unbelievers, scientists make great discoveries, although debatable, one more among the great physicists – believers or atheists.

A scientist must, above all, to master the scientific method.

The ability to know the truth God gave to each, and then we must honestly look for her, not trying for something customized. But in honesty, by the way, faith helps.

And faith gives inspiration.

Scientists often say that they are incapable of irrational feelings that they have no “apparatus of faith”.

The God we perceive is not the mind, and, above all, heart. It is a different experience. I’m talking about the heart as a physiological organ, but how about the ability to perceive the meaning, love, freedom. These abilities, according to Christian theology, are manifestations of God’s image in him, they are traditionally associated with the heart, with the spirit.

Maxim Zelnikov

– Can meet God to be a person who is not looking for this meeting, not committed to the faith?

The chance, of course, but it’s really important for people want to open up. Faith is not belief in the existence of God, it is the openness of heart to perceive love. Maybe people are closed because they are afraid to respond to love. Or perhaps fear of losing myself. In any case, it all starts with trust.

I was not looking for consolation, I was missing some important element

– How did you get “into space” and that you were looking for?

Space, or rather physics, I am interested in school – studied in physical circles, then graduated from MIPT. At the Institute we had a very good teacher of General relativity Valery Frolov. And my older brother dealt with the theory of gravity apparently, these two men inspired me to move in the direction of space. I finished graduate school, he defended his thesis and began working in the Physical Institute named Lebedev Academy of Sciences, and still work there.

– What are you investigating?

– First was engaged in global issues – cosmology, that is, the structure and development of the Universe. And then moved on to the motion of stars in galaxies. That is, from cosmology moved on to astrophysics. I am a pure theorist. Now studying the movement of large numbers of stars in galactic nuclei. System consisting of very many stars, I wonder behave – some phenomena in their behavior still can’t explain. For example, we examine in star clusters the effect is similar to superfluidity: usually caught in the congestion of heavy object due to the gravitational field is hampered by the stars, but under certain conditions, the friction goes away. This is shown in the numerical simulation, and the task of theorists to explain this effect.

– In hungry 90-e years, you will not be tempted to leave science?

– From a scientific point of view, I was developed successfully. Just a year or two it was difficult financially, but we survive on grants. Our Institute is quite famous, we received grants from the American astronomical society, from the Soros Foundation, then started to receive Russian grants.

The faith you came from before you became a scientist?

Immediately after graduate school. Prior to this my brother was looking for the meaning of life – read the Strugatsky, was fond of seminars Georgy Petrovich Shchedrovitsky, discussed various philosophical issues. In the late ‘ 80s brother became acquainted with Christianity. In our former circle, they were not. Parents were baptized as a child – they are from peasant families, but to Church no one went, and the topic was banned.

First brother met with the teacher-innovator Anatoliy Garaevym, now he’s a priest. From him we learned about the father Georgy Kochetkov, I started going to his lectures on Christian ethics, and aesthetics. After each lecture, I flew as on wings, and hurried on to the next. I was surprised by the people who came there, I never seen before. Was struck by their openness, sincerity and an abnormally low level of fear. It turned out that among the believers there, and my fellow physicists.

– Then you believed?

– Not immediately. Then I had a lot of questions, mostly intellectually. I perceived through our Soviet education. I remember a great secret given to read the samizdat version of the gospel of Matthew printed on a typewriter. I don’t like it, thought it was some stories unrelated to my life. Held for decency few days and returned. Nevertheless, I continued to search.

Maxim Zelnikov. Photo:

– Why were you looking for?

– It’s hard to explain, I acted intuitively. Formally I didn’t have any vital disasters or tragedies, so I sought solace. Rather there was a feeling that life lacks some very essential elements. And after defending his thesis in 1992, there was my first personal meeting with God, quite sudden. It was spring, I was resting after a busy period, was home alone and suddenly felt the presence of God. He is really present, that He is.

– As Anthony of Sourozh!

– Yes, I then read about the experience of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. He describes it in other words, but very similar. I got a very strong sense of presence, an absolutely clear and undeniable. I distinctly felt that God really was there, He loves me and I’m totally free. These two first thoughts, you might say, of the revelation of God for me was that He loves and that He gives freedom.

Believer physicist is a shock

– How has your life changed after this meeting?

– Looks like nothing has changed. After graduation I was accepted in the theoretical Department of the Institute, a job I really liked. While my inner life has become infinitely richer. Meeting with God opened the one desired meaning. The task was, how this meaning is realized. I began a serious study of Christianity, thank God, in Moscow, then such a possibility was not enough where it was possible.

– You have worked in the physical Institute, with its secret life?

– At first, I had a desire to be a partisan at work, to avoid unnecessary questions, but conscience would not allow. At first was afraid to talk with people on this, as it seemed to me, a private matter. But on the other hand, any conversation about the faith created a sense of some past events, not wasted time. Do not hide your faith in front of other people, I confirmed that it was real for me. This was to overcome fear.

The Director of our theoretical Department was academician Vitaly Ginzburg. When he learned that in his Department there are believers of physics, he was in shock. He invited his friend, a wonderful person and scientist, now too late academician Evgeny Lvovich Feinberg, and gave us “straight talk”. They tried to find out from me and my believer colleagues, how can physics to believe in God.

Scientists often suspect the believers in ignorance.

– Maybe, but if the person has the education and successful experience in the field of theoretical physics, clearly his head is. To think he means something else, but what? Unfortunately, the conversation came to nothing lead. But over time, Ginsburg has softened its attitude to believers. He began to recognize that not all believers bigots, and although it is for faith place in life did not see, but treats her with respect.

– It seems that your life is moving along two rails that do not intersect. One of them is science and the second the service of God and of the Church.

Son. Photo: Vk

On the contrary, the dichotomy I was before I became a believer. I was carried off in different directions, different fears and desires. The main pleasure was then scientific activity. When my life became God, all of it somehow eventually fell into place. The most important discovery that I made – that my vocation in the service of God and people. And in that light it all makes sense.

– You turn with a prayer for God’s help in research projects?

– When I was doing scientific work, then pray first of all that the Lord gave me clarity of thought. I try to be obedient to the logic of research. In the past, before my churching, I was in science much “skid”. I’m so addicted to the process of research that often forgot what to do now. And decided a lot of side tasks that do not lead to the goal.

Now, since for me the value of time has increased dramatically and because of their age, and the fact that I have many other classes – I pray that the Lord led me by the right way, not to be distracted. And pray for obedience, that my thought was as obedient to the logic of the study. It helps to move more precisely.

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