Albert Einstein, arguably the best known scientist of the twentieth century and well deserving of the title of genius. He was a Nobel Prize winner in 1921, according to Time Magazine in 1999 he was the Person of the Century , and he’s also the creator of the special theory of relativity, which I kind of understand, but not really. Pretty impressive CV.
This week I’ve discovered that I have something in common with him. It’s not genius, as much as I’d like to think that, every time I do those mental quizzes that people forward around in emails I never solve them quick enough to fall into that category. Another thing I’d like to have in common is hair, because it seems Albert kept his for a very long time, and anyone who’s met me knows that I’m getting a little thin around the edge.
Instead, it’s our views on religion. In particular with this quotation:
“A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.”
This sums up things pretty nicely for me, though I would say that there are a couple of other ‘senses’ by which I am religious.
I made this discovery because one of Einstein’s letters (funnily enough about religion) was sold at auction in London this week for around $425,000, after spending more than 50 years in a private collection. It was expected to go for about $16,000. That’s a pretty big profit for somebody.
The letter was written to philosopher Eric Gutkind and has some choice quotes, including this one:
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.
There is apparently some debate out there over the extent of Einstein’s religiousness. The two quotes above seem pretty conclusive to me, but still the Creationists want to twist things around. For example, Rich Deem on godandscience.org writes that his goal for us is: “to recognize what Albert Einstein understood about the universe – that its amazing design demands the existence of a creator God.”
This is rubbish – Deem has no grasp of logic or rationality whatsoever, not if he’s going to make logic jumps like this. First of all, just because the universe is ‘amazing’ (and it truly is), doesn’t mean that it has to have been designed. The second jump is from Einstein accepting that the universe had a beginning to therefore someone must have created it. Wrong answer.
I really don’t understand Creationism. Do these people just need to believe that there is a meaning and purpose behind their existence? Hmm, that’s the wrong way to put it. What I mean is: does it make them feel safer at night believing that some being consciously sparked the universe into motion? Personally, I find the alternative (the universe beginning by pure chance out of chaos) much more liberating.
Whatever floats your boat I suppose.