Home > Religion, Science > Einstein's letter

Einstein's letter

Albert Einstein held some complex views about religion in his time. That hasn’t stopped the religious from trying to use favorable quotes of his to bolster their arguments. Maybe that talking point will go away now:

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. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.

Sounds a bit like Richard Dawkins, doesn’t he?

The contents of the letter aren’t that surprising, as they don’t really conflict with other quotes of his. He was a pretty vague pantheist, who believed there was a spiritual force of some sort in the universe, which is what drove him to be a scientist: discovering the workings of the universe meant discovering that force. Theism and its incarnations are primitive human inventions. That’s my interpretation, anyway.

What does this all mean? Largely nothing. Quote wars are a sad part of arguments about religion. You shouldn’t believe anything because one smart person said so, nor should you assume an intelligent person holds intelligent views about all subjects. Einstein himself said some pretty stupid things about communism and the Soviet Union. Religion in particular lends itself to compartmentalization; people can require rigorous standards in everyday life and then proudly abandon them when thinking about a higher power. It’s curious, but it’s why our society isn’t overrun to the point of collapse by superstitious nonsense. Religion probably won’t ever go away, but we can make its compartment smaller and smaller.

About these ads
Categories: Religion, Science
  1. Bob
    May 17, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Religion in particular lends itself to compartmentalization; people can require rigorous standards in everyday life and then proudly abandon them when thinking about a higher power.

    One of the many things that Einstein accomplished was to break down compartmentalized walls of scientific positivism. Emotional responses to human experience, such as expressed by “love” or “hate” and “fear,” etc., as well as certain religious “beliefs,” are part of our emotively “scientific” project as human beings. As Antonio Damasio eloquently describes, human “reason” derives from human “feelings,” not vice versa.

    There will always be mysteries, unknowns, and so there will always be something akin to emotional “religions” in various cultural forms, if perhaps tamed a little, or articulated more inclusively, by scientific knowledge that is not so self-certain as it was before Einstein, Heisenberg and others added their two cents to this ongoing, infinite dialogue.

  2. May 17, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Fundie talking points aren’t ever vanquished by evidence to the contrary. The simply pretend it doesn’t exist.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: