Einstein's “Spirituality”

To illuminate the truth of the mathematical basis of existence, we will be examining a number of relevant ideas and concepts. We will begin by examining the viewpoint of someone who is universally recognized as a “great thinker:” Albert Einstein.

Einstein's “specialty” in the realm of thought was obviously science, but it would be very mistaken to assume that his thinking was strictly limited to science. Like any truly great thinker, Einstein thought deeply about many things, and worked very hard to integrate his thinking into a consistent and accurate whole. This most certainly included his philosophy regarding such things as “God,” “morality,” and related topics. Of particular relevance to our current speculation concerning the answer to “the question of existence,” is how Einstein integrated his views regarding God and science.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Germany. His parents were secular Jews. Despite his parents' irreligiosity, Einstein came to have rather strong biblically based religious beliefs as a young child. He abandoned these beliefs at about the age of twelve, however, after having read several popular scientific works and realizing that many of the stories in the Bible simply could not be true, in the light of scientific knowledge.

Einstein never again had a belief in any sort of anthropomorphic or personal God. He said, "It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously.” This rejection of a personal God would have made him an atheist in the eyes of most people. In the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), as well as many others, “God” is explicitly thought of as a “supreme being” who intentionally created the cosmos, the Earth, and all of the forms of life on Earth (including humanity) in accordance with goals and purposes largely beyond the range of human understanding. This God is thought to have created a various “laws” or sets of “rules” which humans were expected to obey, typically with promises of some sort of reward for obedience, and threats of punishment for disobedience. It is often held that this God would intervene in affairs on Earth, sometimes quite dramatically and in ways which violated the otherwise natural order of things.

Einstein expressed his complete rejection of this concept of God many times throughout his life:

"The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve." – In a letter to Beatrice Frohlich on 17 December 1952.

"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.” – In a letter to Eric Gutkind, after Gutkind sent Einstein a copy of his book “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.”

"I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it." – In a response to a letter from a Baptist minister, asking Einstein about his concerns regarding his “immortal soul.”

"I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature."From Einstein's book, “The World as I See It,” published in 1935, concerning his thoughts on various subjects, including science, ethics, religion, politics, and the meaning of life.

While Einstein rejected a belief in any sort of anthropomorphic or personal God, he did profess a sort of religious-like reverence for the underlying rationality and order in nature which he perceived to exist everywhere, throughout the universe. He did sometimes use the word “God” in a sort of “metaphorical” way, in conjunction with this sense of religious-like reverence, to refer to this underlying rationality and order, and to his sense mystery regarding its origins or cause. In this context, Einstein sometimes called himself “pantheistic” and a “believer in Spinoza's God:”

“My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem – the most important of all human problems."

On another occasion he said:

“Scientific research can reduce superstition by encouraging people to think and view things in terms of cause and effect. Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality or intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order.

“This firm belief, a belief bound up with deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God. In common parlance this may be described as 'pantheistic' (Spinoza).”

Perhaps the single most famous of Einstein's quotes was one in which he used the term “God” in the metaphorical sense above, i.e., to refer to the underlying rationality and order of the universe: “God does not play dice with the universe.” This was said by him (more than once, in fact) in the context of the “uncertainty principle” from quantum mechanics.

When Einstein said “God does not play dice with the universe,” however, he was not imagining some anthropomorphic or personal God, who occupied himself by intervening in every quantum event, at every moment, all throughout the universe. Such a thing would be patently absurd, and Einstein, of course, recognized it as such. What he was referring to was his belief in the underlying rationality and order of the universe, and his belief that all events, from the largest to the smallest, are ultimately completely deterministic in nature. Even quantum events, he held, are ultimately governed by completely deterministic principles, which might eventually be understood by humanity.

Those who have heard this quote about God and dice, as well as other similar statements in which Einstein used the term “God” to refer to the underlying rationality and order of the universe, may be understandably mislead into the belief that Einstein was using the word “God” in the more ordinary and conventional sense, rather than as a metaphor for the underlying mathematical order and logic of the universe. This is very understandable, provided they were unaware of his other pronouncements specifically denouncing the existence of such a being.

It is also understandable that those who have a conventional belief in an anthropomorphic or personal God might be eager to be able to claim that even the great Einstein, universally regarded as one of the greatest geniuses of all time, shared their belief. This however, as has been shown above, is most certainly not the case.

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6 Replies to “AE-DOC: scion-einsteins-god”

    1. I’ve heard about this. The mass/energy at any given point in space or time is subject to a degree of uncertainty. Even empty space is not really completely empty, because if it were then its mass/energy would be exactly zero. Instead, it always has to be some uncertain, but non-zero amount. This is the source of virtual particles. Their existence is precisely the manifestation of this uncertainty.

      Why this uncertainty exists in the first place is another matter. I think this is a mystery in modern physics, but based on this book, it seems that it could have something to do with the hedonic response of scions. I’m speculating here, but maybe their activity creates some underlying fluctuation which is the source of quantum uncertainty.

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