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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Thinkquote of the day: Did Einstein believe in detectible intelligent design?

This explanation of his religious beliefs appeared in his 1955 New York Times obituary.:
My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive With our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible Universe, forms my idea of God.

Einstein explicitly denied being an atheist in a number of places, though many have insisted he was. Apparently, when getting on in years, he told a friend:
You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or an eternal mystery. Well a priori one should expect a chaotic world which cannot be grasped by the mind in anyway. One could (yes one should) expect the world to be subjected to law only to the extent that we order it through our intelligence. Ordering of this kind would be like the alphabetical ordering of the words of a language. By contrast, the kind of order created by Newton's theory of gravitation, for instance, is wholly different. Even if the axioms of the theory are proposed by man, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the "miracle" which is being constantly re-enforced as our knowledge expands.

There lies the weaknesses of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but "bared the miracles." (That is, explained the miracles. - ed.) Oddly enough, we must be satisfied to acknowledge the "miracle" without there being any legitimate way for us to approach it . I am forced to add that just to keep you from thinking that --weakened by age--I have fallen prey to the clergy …
— From a letter to Maurice Solovine; see Goldman, p. 24

Based on his views, one only wonders what Einstein would have made of the current anti-God crusade, waged by Darwin's village atheists.

Meanwhile, this which advances the view that this commonly quoted Einsteinism might have been spin doctored:
I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but admire even more his contributions to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and the body as one, not two separate things.

My own sense is that Einstein wanted design without a designer, but he hated chance (which is why he hated quantum physics (and may not really have understood it), so he settled for design with (maybe) a designer, but he sure wasn't having anything to do with religion as such.)

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