A while back I discussed Albert Einstein’s views on God.  Today I’d like to address what others have stated about Einstein’s views on God.

Richard  Dawkins

This has been a topic of discussion in the world of science and religion for over 75 years.  Many atheists, scientists, and naturalists have labeled Einstein as either an atheist or agnostic.  Take this quote from the atheist evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, for example.

“Einstein sometimes invoked the name of God, and he is not the only atheistic scientist to do so, inviting misunderstanding by supernaturalists eager to misunderstand and claim the illustrious thinker as their own.”

So according to Dawkins, Einstein was an atheist.  But according to biographer Walter Isaacson he wasn’t.  When asked if he believed in God, he said:

“I’m not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. 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 the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”   

From this quote we see that Einstein not only believed in God, he saw God as both the author of the laws of the universe and the arranger of the universe.

Max Jammer

Israeli physicist Max Jammer was friends with Einstein, and in his book Einstein and Religion” he quoted Einstein as saying:

“I am not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist.”

“In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”

“Every scientist becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men.”   “The divine reveals itself in the physical world.”   “My God created laws… His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking but by immutable laws.”

“I want to know how God created this world.… I want to know his thoughts.”

From these quotes we can see that Einstein expressed the belief in a supreme being who designed and created the universe and the laws of the universe.  Dawkins got it wrong.  In fact, Einstein was more tolerant of people of faith than he was of militant atheists.    




Einstein and God (part 2)

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4 thoughts on “Einstein and God (part 2)

  1. “What did Einstein believe wrt God?” is a perfectly reasonable question (and I’d say Rod’s answer to that is also reasonable). But, a more interesting question might be: why do people care? If you are a believer and found that Einstein was an atheist would that make you stop believing? Or if you are an atheist and found that Einstein was a believer would that make you one? I am pretty sure the answer to those questions is “no” for pretty much everyone. Yet you do see this commonly brought up in atheist/believer debates.

    I suspect its just a bit of feel-good-ness. If a really smart guy professes the same viewpoint that you do that makes you feel good, but actually it does little to nothing to really bolster your case. If we are looking to science for an answer to something the issue is whether or not hypothesis X is a better explanation of what we observe then hypothesis Y and what a particular scientist believes on the issue is pretty much irrelevant by itself. Maybe a scientists believes X or Y as that has indeed been shown to be the better explanation but then it would be the reason for their believe that is key, not just the fact that they believed on one or there other that matters.

    So why did Einstein believe in some sort of God? I don’t know and it does not seem like he offered much of an explanation. People believe things for all sorts of reasons. The human brain makes up stories about the world and we tend to discount data that does not fit our story and accept data that does fit. That is not a rational way to come to a determination about what is so in the world, but it seems to be how our brains work much of the time (thus the requirement in science for double blind trials, peer review, experimental replication and so on). Einstein’s vision of the library seems to me to be him just telling his story about God, but it doesn’t carry any scientific weight despite being a story told by a brilliant physicist. That does’t mean is view is false, or true, but is just his story.

    1. Hi John. Good to hear from you again. The point of writing these articles is to address the misconceptions and misinformation that are so common regarding this subject. Peter Dawkins was a good example, although in fairness he referred to Einstein as an atheist before Walter Isaacson wrote his book in 2008. I’m not trying to prove the existence of God by using Einstein. I’m just establishing the fact that Einstein’s views don’t support the atheist’s views any more than they support the Judeo-Christian worldview, and that believing in God in whatever form doesn’t mean you’re stupid. You can’t prove that God exists or doesn’t exist via the scientific method, and that isn’t the biblical standard anyway. The Bible says that His eternal power and divine nature are clearly visible, which leaves us with no excuse if we don’t know God. (Romans 1:20) I realize that standard won’t fly in the world of science, but that’s the standard nevertheless.

  2. Hey Rod, Happy New Year!

    I agree with you except for this

    “You can’t prove that God exists or doesn’t exist via the scientific method, and that isn’t the biblical standard anyway. The Bible says that His eternal power and divine nature are clearly visible, which leaves us with no excuse if we don’t know God. (Romans 1:20) I realize that standard won’t fly in the world of science, but that’s the standard nevertheless.”

    (feel free to move this if you don’t want to have it in the Einstein thread since it doesn’t have much to do with that).

    Of course you can to “prove” anything via the scientific method. You can only show that what we observe is better or worse explained by various hypotheses. This is a point well made by Sean Carol’s The Big Picture. If we are properly following bayesian reasoning, then for all the events that if they did occur would clearly support the God exists hypothesis, since they have not occurred that must detract from that hypothesis and lend support for the Got does not exist hypothesis. If God’s nature is “clearly visible” should not science be able to observe it?

    Another thing Carol talks about (that was news to me) is that modern experimental physics has shown it is extremely unlikely that supernatural powers exist. This is pretty technical, and I would never claim to understand quantum field theory, but that theory (at the core of modern physics) says there must be a particle for every force. Claimed supernatural forces (religious or mystical) like moving objects with one’s mind, or turning water into wine, or anything that effects objects in our normal 3 space reality without invoking one of the known forces, would have to have an associated particle that we would have to have observed by now given how much atom smashing we have done with all the particle accelerators in use. Of course that is not a 100% proof that such can not exist (as I said above we can not get to 0% or 100% for any hypothesis), but it does make it extremely unlikely. There just is not any “room” left that we have not probed for such a particle, and hence a related force, to exist.

  3. “I want to know God’s thoughts” “I am not interested in this phenomenon or that phenomenon,” Einstein had said earlier in his life. “I want to know God’s thoughts – the rest are mere details.” But as he lay there dying in Princeton Hospital he must have understood that these were secrets that God was clearly keen to hang on to. The greatest scientist of his age died knowing that he had become isolated from the scientific community; revered on the one hand, ridiculed for this quest on the other.

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