Sunday, 16 February 2014

Einstein's notions of G*d

Below is an exchange between a young girl and Einstein that was featured recently on Huffington Post. I don't know if the link still works but I've copied the text for you, my readers.

Einstein clearly believed in G*d, but he didn't believe that G*d made personal intervention in the lives of people. There is a touching, unguarded admiration for Christ documented in Walter Isaacson's biography of Einstein where an interviewer asks him whether he accepts the historical existence of Jesus:

Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. (Isaacson, p. 386)

He had said earlier to the same interviewer that he "is a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene" that brought the question of the historical Jesus.

This is not to suggest that Einstein's notions of G*d are typical of what most people believe as he was a determinist and thought (or claimed) that the notion of free-will a merely useful fiction. Einstein had spent part of his schooling in a Catholic school and would have been exposed to the Gospels though he was not required to participate in the rituals of the Catholics:

January 19, 1936

My dear Dr. Einstein,

We have brought up the question: Do scientists pray? in our Sunday school class. It began by asking whether we could believe in both science and religion. We are writing to scientists and other important men to try and have our own question answered.

We will feel greatly honored if you will answer our question: Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?

We are in the sixth grade, Miss Ellis's class.

Respectfully yours,




January 24, 1936

Dear Phyllis,

I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science.

But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

With cordial greetings,

your A. Einstein


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