Einstein and religion

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Einstein and religion

Postby mitchellmckain on December 18th, 2017, 8:03 pm 

This topic was broached in a thread of the Metaphysics section, but I thought it was worthy of its own thread. Plus I have more to say on the topic.

Having read a bit Einstein's writings, I knew that attempts by theists to paint him as a theist were totally bogus. The Wikipedia article on this topic (Einstein and religion) is interesting. There you can read that he specifically opposed the theistic idea of a personal God and says his idea of God was more like that of Spinoza. But the more I read of him to understand his specific beliefs, the more I came to the conclusion that, for Einstein, the meaning of the word "God" had more to do with the rational (i.e. scientific) order of the observable universe than anything else. The article also has him claiming to be an agnostic.

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

The order here is crucial, for the religious very much like to reverse this and you will see it misquoted this way often: Science without religion is blind, religion without science is crippled. But for Einstein, science is the source of knowledge and truth NOT religion! He was not an atheist and he did acknowledge a role for religion in human civilization in that of providing moral guidance and motivating people to do good, I suppose. Let us not forget that Einstein was not completely unreserved about his admiration of science. He was well acquainted from personal experience that science could be a source of tremendous danger and destruction. Thus he often became an advocate of peace and called upon scientists to take responsibility for how their discoveries are used by at least educating the public about the dangers.

Then there is the following which is merely attributed to Einstein:

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

No evidence supports this attribution and some have suggested that Einstein was too smart to make such a comment. Why? On the surface it sounds good, so what is wrong with it. Well it is not infrequent that we have to fight for ideals no matter how often we fail to achieve them. Frankly, the above is a fairly good definition of "faith." It is the intended meaning of the Biblical definition of "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." For the Biblical definition was never intended to support the willful ignorance of blind faith which ignores contrary evidence, but is rather about the things we hope for which requires a stubborn dedication in order to be realized. The fact is, the Bible ALSO has lessons against such willful approaches to the world such as when Israel ignored all warning of the impending danger of conquest by Babylon. Problems don't go away just because you have decided that God is protecting you.
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Re: Einstein and religion

Postby Asparagus on December 18th, 2017, 11:11 pm 

mitchellmckain » December 18th, 2017, 8:03 pm wrote: But the more I read of him to understand his specific beliefs, the more I came to the conclusion that, for Einstein, the meaning of the word "God" had more to do with the rational (i.e. scientific) order of the observable universe than anything else. The article also has him claiming to be an agnostic.

You seem to be saying that "rational" means "scientific." Is that right?
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Re: Einstein and religion

Postby mitchellmckain on December 19th, 2017, 4:32 pm 

Asparagus » December 18th, 2017, 10:11 pm wrote:
mitchellmckain » December 18th, 2017, 8:03 pm wrote: But the more I read of him to understand his specific beliefs, the more I came to the conclusion that, for Einstein, the meaning of the word "God" had more to do with the rational (i.e. scientific) order of the observable universe than anything else. The article also has him claiming to be an agnostic.

You seem to be saying that "rational" means "scientific." Is that right?


No. The equivalence in this statement is contextual, i.e. between "rational order of the observable universe" and "scientific," and it is an equivalence I see in the thinking of Einstein. I personally do not generally equate "rational" with "scientific."

As for me personally, I would give the word "rational" a three tiered definition as follows, from the first only, as the most exclusive definition, to all three for the most general meaning of the word.

1. Logical coherence, which is required for a belief to even be meaningful.
2. Consistent with the objective (scientific) evidence, which is required for a belief to be reasonable.
3. Compatibility with the ideals of a free society, which is required for a belief to be moral in the type of society I want to live in. The ideals support maximum freedom and tolerance limited only by the same rights of others and what can objectively be established as harmful.

An important thing to notice is that even all three of these requirements are far from determining the truth about all things and thus the third implies the acceptance of a wide diversity of belief as rational. So, for example, I support and defend both theism and atheism as completely rational belief alternatives -- and this means that I will oppose all proofs for or against the existence of God as lacking objective validity.

Another thing implied by this is two types of beliefs, those which are supported by the objective evidence and those founded on subjective reasons only. The latter, whether about things outside the observable universe or about what you personally feel is moral (like being vegetarian or a pacifist), are things which only reasonably apply to the living of your own life and you cannot expect others to abide by such sentiments.
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