I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Einstein's God

I have been reading through the Walter Isaacson biography of Albert Einstein. I am about halfway through, and I have enjoyed the read. It has helped me familiarize myself a bit better with the scientific transition from a Newtonian universe to an Einsteinian (if we can call it that) universe. For those interested in Einstein or the scientific advances of his time, I highly recommend this biography.

I thought you might appreciate a few of Einstein's thoughts on God and religion.

"Science without religion is lame.
Religion without science is blind."

"At the heart of this realism was an almost religious, or perhaps childlike, awe at the way all of our sense perceptions--the random sights and sounds that we experience every minute--fit into patterns, follow rules, and make sense.....'The very fact that the totality of our sense experiences is such that, by means of thinking, it can be put in order, this fact is one that leaves us in awe,' he wrote."

Even though Einstein helped lead the way in quantum theory, he balked at the results of a chaotic universe. Einstein was ever and always a determinist, believing that the universe behaved according to a pattern that was set. He differed with many of his fellow religious Jews who tended to believe in free will. Einstein's determinism also put him at odds with his colleague and friend Niels Bohr; together they engaged many lively discussions on the topic of the random nature of quantum theory versus the determinism and predictability that was Einstein's dogma. In this context, Einstein would say, "God does not play dice." Bohr would respond in frustration: "Einstein, stop telling God what to do!"


aeyn said...

so... i'm a fan of Einstein. i've read two biographies on him, and have a pretty good understanding of both the general and the special theories of relativity.

Einstein's god is, muchly, the same god that I believe in and accept - the laws of the universe and the awe and mystery that they inspire. so when he says that "God does not throw dice," he really means that the laws of the universe are ordered and set in such a way that there is no room for chance. his determinism and his struggle to accept the randomness of quanta... i sympathize with his feelings here.

and you, Mr. Jon, have placed one of the more controversial quotes of Einstein right in your blog! the "science without religion is lame..." has caused more than a few heads to be scratched over the years. i don't have a good understanding of it myself... but from people who know more than me (most do!), it's probably that the word "religion" here really is talking about the mystery and awe that the grand universe, and all her laws and orders, can/should inspire in a person.

anyway... YAY for reading about Mr. Einstein. and i look forward to drinking a beer or two with you this weekend and discussing this in more depth. (that'd be grand indeed!)

cheers, my friend.

Jonathan Erdman said...


Which Einstein biographies have you read? And recommend?

Yes, I tend to agree that "religion" as Einstein is using it here refers to the sense of awe and mystery seen in the cosmos. From my reading, Einstein was never affiliated with any religion or religious movement, so it seems unlikely to me that he would suggest that science without some sort of religious affiliation is lame.

I will definitely be missing your company, this winter especially. We will freeze and you will be toasty warm in Tucson. Ah, but we will appreciate the spring all the more, won't we!?