Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Did Albert Einstein Believe In God?

A LETTER from ALBERT EINSTEIN to the philosopher ERIC GUTKIND in 1954 has been sold at auction in London for $404,000 to a private collector.  
In the letter, according to the A.P. account, he wrote that “the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”

As for his fellow Jews, he said that Judaism, like all other religions, was “an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.”

He claimed a deep affinity with the Jewish people, he said, but “as far as my experience goes they are also 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.”

The letter should add to the controversies created by certain statements of Einstein's, such as: 

"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings."
"In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views."

"I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangements of the books, but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God."

The winning buyer of the 1954 letter to Gutkind is identified only as somone having " a passion for theoretical physics and all that that entails.”

Among the wishful bidders for such a rare Einsteinian relic who were quickly abashed by the unexpectedly generous offers for it,  was evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins,  Oxford University's Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, whose ongoing crusade is to get atheists "to come out" -- much as gays once "came out of the closet."

Dawkin's intellectual posse includes some impressive thinkers and communicators like Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennet and Michael Schermer who are openly challenging the polite treatment of what they plainly regard as religious superstition involving institutions such as churches, schools and government. 

32 comments:

Jego said...

I give you Dilbert.

Now I know why Einstein invoked Spinoza when talking about his beliefs. Einstein discovered more than the theory of relativity. He also found a way to act like he believed in God, so all the God-lovers would accept him as their own, while simultaneously saying God is nothing more than semantics, so atheists would embrace him too. And he blamed it all on a dead guy, Spinoza. How many ways does Einstein need to keep proving he's a genius? I mean seriously, this is just showing off.

Dawkins would love to have Einstein on his side, seeing how the arguments he made in his book God Delusion was eviscerated by philosophers and reviewers, atheist and theist alike. But as Dilbert said, Einstein's God is a slippery chap, and his God even more so.

Jego said...

I meant "Einstein is a slippery chap..."

Madonna said...

Religion and art will live through because spiritual truth is revealed individually. No two living things are alike, i.e. unique DNA. In nature also no real event can be replicated, hence unique. The realm of science is generality or establishing laws -- but there will never be laws on the anomaly about uniqueness in nature. NEVER. Spinoza's God whom he calls Nature has infinitisimal qualities.

Einstein gets the drift. Dawkins doesn't. LOL. Dawkins is a lightweight. Memes? LOL.

cvj said...

Sounds to me that Einstein was more of an Agnostic.

blackshama said...

Einstein couldn't even grasp the idea that God can play dice with the universe. He believed in a deterministic God!

Einstein however wouldn't do theology. Good chap! He knew his limits. Never a fundamentalist, Einstein leaves yours and mine belief in a God open.


Dawkins on the other hand does theology. There is a principle that dates from Galileo that theologians shouldn't do science and scientists shouldn't do theology.

The result is a lot of stereotypical crap with shallow philosophical basis such as what has seen in print in "God Delusion". Dawkins analogue on the "other side" is no other than Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna. Schönborn doesn't know when to stop theologizing Darwinian evolution. Dawkins cannot stop when to stop making his science a theology!

Dawkins is not a lightweight.But he should read the Catechism of the Catholic Church first. Also Schönborn should read the latest findings on evolution.

What we should like to see is a confrontation between the Don of Oxford and the Don of Regensberg.

The Oxford Don on the Public Understanding of Science should debate with the Regensberg Don of Theology. I put my bet on the razor sharp Benedict XVI (who doesn't tolerate intellectual crap). He will make mincemeat of the Oxford don whose understanding of religion had been limited to the walls of Balliol College.

Atheists are already out! A comparison between gays and atheists is unfounded. Gays may have selection advantage in society, but in a cruel fate of Darwinian selection, atheists are selected against, unless directed selection happens, such as in the intellectual confines of Oxford!

Atheism is not adaptive. It doesn't confer fitness. That's why an overwhelming majority of Homo sapiens is theist!

Jego said...

Einstein couldn't even grasp the idea that God can play dice with the universe. He believed in a deterministic God

And yet he said we should act as if free will existed. I wonder how he managed it. My favorite reply to Einstein's dice quip was from Neils Bohr: "Einsten, stop telling God what to do!"

but in a cruel fate of Darwinian selection, atheists are selected against, unless directed selection happens

Directed selection against theists has been tried several times in the 20th century. Didnt work despite the millions killed.

Jego said...

Dawkins is not a lightweight.But he should read the Catechism of the Catholic Church first.

Also, he should read the latest findings in evolutionary theory. Natural selection as the driving force for evolution it coming under question from staunch evolutionists like Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, Jerry Fodor, Michael Lynch, and the so-called Altenberg 16 which includes Pinoy Michael Purruganan of NYU. These are staunch evolutionists and critics of intelligent design (which has been getting all the press) and yet Lynch said:

...the uncritical acceptance of natural selection as an explanatory force for all aspects of biodiversity (without any direct evidence) is not much different than invoking an intelligent designer

It is only through dogma that the Darwinian Orthodoxy is succeeding.

blackshama said...

Actually natural selection is beginning to look like just one of the drivers for evolution. It could be due to scale.

At the scale of viruses,Lamarckian evolution may be the norm. (heresy!)

Sexual selection may be not what it is. If Joan Roughgarden is right then sexual selection may be just a construct of the one observing sex!

However, consistency of theory and its power to explain disparate natural phenomena are the benchmarks for its acceptance. So far natural selection has been most consistent to explain biodiversity. It builds upon the Mendelian idea of heredity (experimentally demonstrated). Unless a more consistent theory to explain biodiversity is found, then Darwin-Wallace evolution theory would stand.

For macroevolution, nothing has been found more convincing and consistent than Darwin-Wallace natural selection.

Of course Intelligent Design is the unchallenging alternative!

"Directed selection against theists has been tried several times in the 20th century. Didn't work despite the millions killed."

Proves my point. Theism is adaptive. Example: Elie Wiesel, Viktor Frankl, Edith Stein, and all martyrs of atheistic Communism!

Niels Bohr was right. None of us have the right to tell God what to do or how He/She interprets sacred scriptures. That's why I find fundamentalists silly!

But reason is enough to tell us that God has more tricks up his/her sleeve!

Madonna said...

Dawkins, I should paraphrase, my referring to him as a "lightweight" is power tripping IMO -- offering a theory on culture. This is social Darwinism which has been already rejected. Memes -- "memetic" means replicating which leads to my argument that no two things in nature are alike. A memes theory is reductionist. Also, fundamentally every person is a unique culture onto himself. A piece of information gets digested uniquely from person to person. Hence, the modern dictum that every person is entitled to his own opinion or thoughts. No taking away that right. Dawkins' theory has become ironically one of those theories that will become a rationalization for fundamentalism and absolutism -- things freedom lovers hate about religion.

There is no free will according to Spinoza. He was a determinist, which Einstein also was. Free will is a myth -- there is only the laws of Nature. Most organized religions bandy about free will. When human beings learn finally to align themselves according to the laws of nature, then they truly see and realize themselves.

cvj said...

Human Consciousness perceives the world (including its own body) half a second after the fact so any free will we have is in the form of veto power.

Madonna said...

A sensible guy like Einstein knew that power tripping erases the facility to become rational. Research 101: it is imperative to limit one's scope of study.

Jego said...

blackshama: For macroevolution, nothing has been found more convincing and consistent than Darwin-Wallace natural selection.

I will take you at your word, blackshama, as I am not being well-read in the scientific literature. But notice, a working scientist has stated thus:

...the uncritical acceptance of natural selection as an explanatory force for all aspects of biodiversity (without any direct evidence) is not much different than invoking an intelligent designer

Biodiversity is his point. Natural selection doesnt promote diversity in general. It promotes uniformity. I think it was someone named R.A. Fisher who first quantified how much natural selection there is in a population using mathematics too sophisticated for me. The point was the higher the amount of natural selection that acts upon a population, the diversity decreases in proportion. Biologists with little math skills tend to poo-pooh the population geneticists because they actually try to quantify things using math. Dawkins's math skills arent exactly exemplary, according to the French mathematician Marcel-Paul Schutzenberger. I think the physicist DJB can run rings around Dawkins as far as numeracy is concerned. Dawkins's rival Stephen Jay Gould had great admiration for Price. I think Price's equation supported Gould more than Dawkins.

However, consistency of theory and its power to explain disparate natural phenomena are the benchmarks for its acceptance.

That indeed it does. However, science demands evidence not just explanatory power. If explanatory power is the only requirement, then we can go ahead and teach Multiple Universes as a true scientific theory instead of just science fiction. :-D (Dawmins in his book endorses Multiple Universes for its explanatory power. That just goes to show he'll grab anything despite the absence of evidence for it to further his dogma.)

cvj: Wow. That's interesting. Can I have a link or something? So according to that, nothing originates from consciousness? It's all a reaction to outside stimuli? I dont think I like the sound of that.

cvj said...

Jeg, i first read about it in Torr Norretranders' book "The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size" about the experiments of Benjamin Libet. Here's a link which references that finding:

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/local/scisoc/time/time.html

It says that "Conscious sensation requires ~ 500 msec of cortical or thalamic activity".

As far as i'm aware, 'Multiple Universes' is legitimate scientific theory (to rival Bohr's Copenhagen interpretation) and is defended by physicist David Deutch.

BTW, can point me to the R.A. Fisher computations?

Jego said...

I will, cvj. As soon as I get back home next week. I knew you'd be interested. A lot of sites here are blocked so I can't access the links.

There is a difference between the Many Worlds Theory of Quantum Mechanics, and the Multiple Universe. The Multiple Universe theory addresses the anthropic principle in cosmology while as you said, Many Worlds addresses Copenhagen. Both, through consensus alone, are declared 'scientific' despite the lack of evidence for them.

Multiple Universes addresses the observation that the universe seems fine-tuned for life. As Joao Magueijo calculates it, it's like winning the lottery 11 times in a row. That was in the late 90's. Current count is now at over 100 lottery wins in a row. 'Scientists' then posit an enormously large number of universes to account for this, with the idea that most of the universes 'failed' to produce life. As you can see, this isnt Many Worlds. In Many Worlds, you and I are there in each and every one of them.

But like I said, no evidence, but interesting and has 'explanatory power'. If you like science fiction that is.

cvj said...

Jeg, thanks for the clarification. I thought you were referring to Many Worlds.

cvj said...

BTW, from my undersanding, both Many Worlds and Copenhagen are alternative interpretations of quantum phenomena, so in the absence of further evidence ruling one or the other out, isn't it just right that we consider both interpretations as 'scientific'?

Karl M. Garcia said...

Famous Scientists Who Believed In God.

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencefaith.html

Did Einstein Believe In A Personal God?

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/einstein.html

Jego said...

Dont get me wrong, cvj. Im perfectly willing to accept what the scientific consensus declares 'scientific'. They just have to be clear that it isnt supported by any kind of scientific evidence. Multiple Universes even has the distinction of not only being unsupported by evidence, it is patently untestable. It's just an idea, a science-fictiony one, concocted because some people cant come to grips with the anthropic principle.

As for Many Worlds vs. Copenhagen, indeed both could be said to be scientific by default since we cannot directly observe what happens to subatomic particles. But Ockham's razor limits the number of premises to the barest minimum needed to explain something, let alone the number of worlds.

Jego said...

Oh by the way, about this:

As Joao Magueijo calculates it, it's like winning the lottery 11 times in a row. That was in the late 90's. Current count is now at over 100 lottery wins in a row.

I read it again and it's possible I made a wrong comparison. Magueijo I think was calculating the odds of those 100+ coincidences and came up with the odds for winning the lottery 11 times in a row.

Jego said...

Hi, all. Here's a link to Fisher's equation that will actually open from here. Unfortunately it isnt annotated for the layman, so you math geeks can have all the fun.

cvj said...

Thanks for the link Jeg! I'll also need an annotation to understand it so i'll try to look for one. (If DJB can help, it'll be much appreciated.)

As to Copenhagen and MWI, i think the scientific community is always open to the possibility that they may be wrong. What they don't tolerate are ideas that are 'not even wrong'.

I agree with you on the value of Occam's razor but at this subatomic scales, i don't think we can use the everyday world as a benchmark. After all, the wave-particle duality which is the most basic observation of Quantum Mechanics would not have passed the razor.

Karl M. Garcia said...

Fisher's Theorem without the equation

Karl M. Garcia said...

Messed up on the link, sorry.

kaya eto long cut ulit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fisher's_fundamental_theorem_of_natural_selection

tagal ko nang di nag bloblog nagkaamnesia na ako kung pano maglink

cvj said...

Karl, thanks for the links! I clicked through the wikipedia entry and found that Fisher's theorem was reformulated as the Price Equation.

This Price Equation theorem in turn explains how it is that traits that are disadvantageous (and even fatal) to individuals are passed on because it gives the group (i.e. the species) an advantage. It used sickle-cell anemia (found among blacks) as an example. It is potentially fatal but nevertheless exists because the sickle-cell anemia gene also offers protection against Malaria.

According to the wikipedia entry, the same equation could also explain the presence of altruism in communities.

Finally, the wiki says that the equation was made a basis for a thriller released early this year.

Jego said...

Nice. I cant open wikipedia from here. Does it give any info on why they changed it to the Price equation? What's wrong with Fisher's original? Too many 'unwanted' results? (Fisher-Price. Haha.)

According to the wikipedia entry, the same equation could also explain the presence of altruism in communities.

Me [raises eyebrows]. Claims like that are best taken with huge amounts of salt, I reckon, as with any reductionist explanation of us humans.

i think the scientific community is always open to the possibility that they may be wrong.

That's the theory. But as Thomas Kuhn wrote in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that's not how it is in practice. Scientists have to dragged out and killed -- figuratively, of course -- before they will admit theyre wrong. That's why revolutions are needed and are inevitable. Sometimes it takes the passing of an entire generation of scientists before the rival paradigm gains prominence. Alas, scientists are humans too and have egos, reputations, and grant money to protect and compete over.

The scientists such as the Altenberg 16 and the other 'heretics' such as Lynch et al. are treading on dangerous ground. The Orthodoxy still controls the journals, the grant-giving bodies, and the universities. Jessica Zafra reports that her pal Michael Purruganan told her that they are being accused of "drinking the Kool-Aid," that is, siding with the Creationists, a veritable kiss of death in the community.

After all, the wave-particle duality which is the most basic observation of Quantum Mechanics would not have passed the razor.

Yes. The razor isnt thin enough to slice wave-ness from particle-ness. However, I like to think it is thin enough to slice this world from the others. ;-)

cvj said...

Wikipedia says that Price's equation is a generalization of Fisher's. I also read in this link:

www.business.aau.dk/evolution/esapapers/esa04/popthinkEIER.pdf

"For these and any other evolutionary process, Price’s equation states that
Total evolutionary change = Selection effect + Innovation effect."


Wikipedia uses altruism as an example of a trait that is subject to the above equation, with altruism being defined as "the genetic predisposition to behavior which decreases individual fitness while increasing the average fitness of the group to which the individual belongs".

I'm in agreement with Kuhn as well on the sociology of the scientific community, but what i wanted to point out was that in the addition to the categories 'right' and 'wrong', there is another which is 'not even wrong', the domain inhabited by crank science and superstition. An example would be that 'electron is positive' guy you posted about in your blog.

cvj said...

BTW, i don't think altruism is found only among humans as shown by the example of that subspecies of spider which allow themselves to be eaten (literally) by their female partner after sex.

Karl M. Garcia said...

CVJ,Jeg;
Glad that I could help kahit paano.

Fisher-Price, I like that. The toys I grew up with were made by them.

Sad news about the recall, though.

Jego said...

...but what i wanted to point out was that...there is another which is 'not even wrong'

I see. However, scientists seem perfectly willing to accept things that belong to the category of 'couldnt possibly be wrong' as scientific. That's what Evolutionary theory has become, not a theory of everything, but a theory of anything. (Maybe I'll expand on this on the blog if I can.) Suffice it to say for the time being that I dont think you can take something specific to biology and apply it to everything else. Unfortunately that's what happened to Darwin's theory, an example of which is Fisher's theory being used for everything else. And altruism as a function of the good ole selfish gene. And dont get me started on that font of science fiction called evolutionary psychology.

And the cheapening of altruism exemplified by the wikipedia definition, with its selfish gene component doesnt work for us. After all, humans have been known to 'decrease their individual fitness' for the sake of other species; something that the 'selfish-gened' blackwidow spider and praying mantis dont do. And we can choose to be or not to be altruistic.

Herein we see Dawkins's inconsistency. In The Selfish Gene, he writes that although we are just vehicles for our selfish genes, we can exercise autonomy over them -- like you said, we have veto power. He said, if I remember correctly, 'We alone on earth can rebel against the tyranny of our selfish genes' or something like that. Ano ba talaga, kuya? (To be fair to him though, when pressed by an interviewer, he admitted to the inconsistency. And it is to his credit that he doesnt advocate living our lives based on Darwinian evolution.) Altruism in humans is not solely a function of our 'selfish genes'.

I guess Dr. Dawkins and I are 'speciesists.' :-)

Jego said...

Wow Karl. Ako mga lata lang ng sardinas mga laruan ko e. Haha.

lateralus said...

By the looks of things, it seems like Einstein seemly holds physical forces in high regard. Whether he personifies them in a deistic form is unclear. Even if he does, it's apparent that his personification of the so-called god is very different from how every other major religion paints this god to be.

To most religions, what he is doing is still akin to heresy.

the jester-in-exile said...

deist rather than theist? something along the lines of a jeweler building a watch, winding it up, then letting it run without further interference?