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Cosmology, Quantum Mechanics & Consciousness Message Board › Einstein's view of religion

Einstein's view of religion

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 134

It (somewhat selfishly) occurred to me that one of my responses within the methodology .. thread is potentially so provocative -- particularly for you "spiritual" wallahs -- or predominantly wallahesses -- that I just couldn't resist posting it as an entirely new discussion thread.

Whether or not it provokes a skein of disbelief, support, rejection, acclamation, it's worth posting as a singleton because -- in the immortal words of that other great 20th century Jewish thinker Michael Caine: "Not many people know that". Here it is then:

Andrew wrote:

>"Maybe I assumed I would retain my authority as supreme dictator over the spin-off thread, but instead this thread has been liberated."

Yes: by the Physicalist Popular Liberation Front.

I don't know if it will really help to discuss philosophy of science here, it wasn't my intention and I really do agree with Einstein's approach.

My understanding is that it wasn’t exactly eclectic. When in 1905 Zur Elektrodynamik bewegen Körper was published, Einstein was in full-flood positivistic phase. The emphasis is entirely on measurements. He only began to adopt a “substantial” view of this new – and hitherto entirely unsuspected even by himself until Minkowski’s intervention – stuff, "spacetime"with the development of GR, for obvious reasons.

Speaking of quasi religious scientists, isn't there some sort of faith associated with believing in reductionism, emergence or whatever?

Einstein certainly wasn’t religious! One wonders how this kind of mendacious, populist calumny comes about. (Alright, I appreciate that you qualified “religious” by prefixing it with “quasi”!) Einstein was – on AJ Ayer’s testimonial authority, and they knew each other well for several months during the 1930s – a pantheist, after the manner of Baruch Spinoza, 17th century Portuguese-Jewish/Dutch philosopher. Nowadays, “pantheism” is regarded as a species of atheism, not religious belief, and Spinoza was repeatedly condemned for atheism -- particularly, as one might suspect, by the Catholics! -- throughout his life! Spinoza’s version was of an infinitely faceted reality, only 2 of which are known to humankind: the “mental” and the “physical”. Thus in his view neither "realm" is reducible to the other, but the old Cartesian “twin peak”, dualist conception of reality had been effectively marginalised, suburbanised into 2 insignificantly small villages within an incomprehensibly vast totality. Spinoza used the word “God” to label this totality, but he certainly didn’t personalise this “entity”, this mental-but-so-much-unimaginably-else-as-­well aggregate, any more than did Einstein.

In fact, this is Einstein’s view of religion (from The Guardian):

• James Randerson, science correspondent
• The Guardian, Tuesday 13 May 2008

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." So said Albert Einstein, and his famous aphorism has been the source of endless debate between believers and non-believers wanting to claim the greatest scientist of the 20th century as their own.

A little known letter written by him, however, may help to settle the argument - or at least provoke further controversy about his views.

Due to be auctioned this week in London after being in a private collection for more than 50 years, the document leaves no doubt that the theoretical physicist was no supporter of religious beliefs, which he regarded as "childish superstitions".

Einstein penned the letter on January 3 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. The letter went on public sale a year later and has remained in private hands ever since.

In the letter, Einstein states:

"The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."

Einstein, who was Jewish and who declined an offer to be the state of Israel's second president, also rejected the idea that the Jews are God's favoured people.

"For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

[Andrew again]: Isn't it slightly unscientific to limit one's world view to only one approach? ( but I'm not going to discuss this!)

Yes, but one doesn't believe in the methodology of science for ideological/"psychological"­ reasons. One follows procedure in the realisation that it is the only profitable way to proceed if one is involved in the enterprise of gathering and theoretically consolidating reliable knowledge!

(Flabbergasted once more!)

Northolt, GB
Post #: 86
"in the immortal words of that other great 20th century Jewish thinker Michael Caine"

When did Michael Caine become Jewish?
A former member
Post #: 85
I think Religion's view of Einstein would be more illuminating.
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 136

You've hoist me by my own petard, Adam. As a man who daily uses "The Knowledge" you're clearly more familiar with the real life of Londoners than I am -- or have I misremembered that as well? (As an "adopted East Ender" of 22 years' standing. Ba, ba-ah, do ah miss them Yorkshire sheep, lahk.)

I thought (honestly, until 3 mins ago) that he was Jewish, principally because one just doesn't, during the latter half of the 20th century and beyond, expect anyone to inflict the name "Maurice" on any of their male offspring. (The name "Micklewhite" struck me as a little artificial-suss, as well. Clearly an Anglicised version of some unpronounceable east European name, one would have thought. Either that, or some bloody immigrant from some bloody Yorkshire backwater.)

Anyway, long time no correspond, Adam. It's good to see people keenly picking out the essential thrusts of my posts. I stand corrected!

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 137

From Peter:

>“I think Religion's view of Einstein would be more illuminating.”

("Innerly" illuminating?)
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 138

>“I think Religion's view of Einstein would be more illuminating.”

Actually religions don't even need to "illuminate" (non-parodically).

All they need to do is to simply continue lying -- as they do concerning just every other conceivable matter .. particularly the circumstances of origin of their own religion!

(Well, how else could one reasonably expect 'em to stay in business? 1984, roll over!)

A former member
Post #: 91
I thought we had agreed some months ago that all religious faith is personal and not a matter for this message board. I mentioned Einstein in the context of his approach to scientific work, not his religion. I (or my automatic correcting word processor) might have typed a wrong word in an earlier message and this salvo is the bizarrre result!
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 139

THIS will be my most concise email on record! (Probably!):

Sorry, Andrew, religion is of course "a private matter" unless and until it butts into the public/political/police/armed forces domain, which it has a disreputable habit of doing just about all the time; and even when it is in the plotical sense "off-duty" such admirable private faith-based initiatives as the flying of aircraft into the World Trade Centre will take place from time to time. Of that you can be sure!! .. Or, indeed, consider the execrable track record of Christianity in successfully exterminating any opposition for the best part of 2,000 years. When Protestantism finally achieved secession from the control of the Catholic Church, inspired by, principally, Martin Luther, they thought that it would be a jolly good idea to carry on exactly as the Catholics had always been doing as well! (The Inquisition -- The Doctrine for the Congregation of the Faith -- is still alive and kicking under the present, increasingly conservative, succession of Popes.)

Alright, this mail's not so short'n'sweet after all, but it's a gem of a quote from Einstein, don't you think? .. Especially considering the irritancy factor supplied by one's co-discussants in pubs and so forth, trotting out that routinely predictable "Science without religion .. " blarney in a misguided attempt to persuade the rest of us as to Einstein's "true" allegiances!

Anyway, no offence intended. It's an unprofessional occupational hazard that attends reading bulletin boards on the net. You can all depart from this Board satisfied that you've read the truth about an important aspect of Einstein's views.

A former member
Post #: 90
I completely agree that if Einstein came here and started posting it would then become very rude and intrusive to continue discussing his religious views.

Please alert me if that happens.

A former member
Post #: 95
No I do not think it's a 'gem of a quote from Einstein'. Nor do I think you have portrayed Einstein's views at all properly.

Although I have no wish to extend this line of prattle, which is based on a mis-reading of two juxtaposed sentences about something else, I will just balance it with some other quotes from Einstein, from his better years (from 'The expanded quotable Einstein' by Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press 2000).

"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of human beings."

"If something is in me that can be called religious, then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as science can reveal it."

"In view of such harmony in the cosmos, which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views."

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