Pharyngula

Einstein on gods and Judaism

Hey, we’ve heard theists cite the authority of Einstein in service to their superstitions often enough: practically every colloquial mention of a god by Einstein seems to get reiterated to support a claim that he was a fellow believer. There’s an obscure Einstein letter going up for auction that’s got some juicy stuff to fire back, though.

Keep this one in mind next time someone tries to tell you that Einstein was on their side:

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.

This comment will start a few flames:

For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

Note, please, that Einstein’s views are not a final authority here, and you’re nuts if you decide you should be godless because Einstein was — this is simply more useful information to oppose arguments from authority.

Comments

  1. #1 Nik
    May 12, 2008

    I’ve always found it ironic that the creationists are so quick to bring in folks like Einstein and even Darwin to bolster their arguments.

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    May 12, 2008

    Here’s a couple of my favorites, especially re ID–and Stein’s ignorance on Einstein:

    Einstein: It is this mythical, or rather this symbolic, content of
    the religious traditions which is likely to come into conflict with
    science. This occurs whenever this religious stock of ideas contains
    dogmatically fixed statements on subjects which belong in the domain
    of science. Thus, it is of vital importance for the preservation of
    true religion that such conflicts be avoided when they arise from
    subjects which, in fact, are not really essential for the pursuance of
    the religious aims.

    One could argue about what is this “true religion,” of course, but this “authoritative statement” (as they sometimes like to make Einstein’s assertions to be) certainly is no comfort to IDists.

    This is what really strikes at ID, and Expelled:

    [Einstein] To assume the existence of an unperceivable being … does
    not facilitate understanding the orderliness we find in the
    perceivable world.

    That would be agreed to by any scientist, atheist or theist. Only the pseudoscientists would dismiss this obvious truth.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  3. #3 Jason
    May 12, 2008

    I agree that any one person (Einstein or not) isn’t the final authority here, but I think arguments from authority of the right form are ultimately more likely to lead to correct opinions than personal consideration of the evidence.

    The vast majority of people don’t know enough about evolutionary biology to know exactly why Michael Behe is wrong, but they’re still justified in thinking his views have no merit because he hasn’t managed to convince evolutionary biologists (the authority in this case).

    Likewise, a good reason to be an atheist or agnostic is because 93% of the NAS are atheist or agnostic, and these are the people who best understand how the universe works.

    Everyone (theists and atheists alike) thinks they’ve fairly and dispassionately considered the evidence. One side is wrong – and the best way to see why they’re wrong is to consider what the appropriately chosen authorities believe.

  4. #4 RhysHole
    May 12, 2008

    Einstein is such an anti semite! More proof that science leads to the Holocaust.

  5. #5 Etha Williams
    May 12, 2008

    Note, please, that Einstein’s views are not a final authority here, and you’re nuts if you decide you should be godless because Einstein was

    What?! He isn’t?

    Well, it’s back to church for me, then!

    /sarcasm

  6. #6 Sili
    May 12, 2008

    Anyone wanna take bets that a creationist is gonna bid on that letter in order to ensure that history isn’t troubled with details?

  7. #7 Zeno
    May 12, 2008

    Is it any surprise that the god-botherers are hooked on authority figures? They are relentless recruiters of famous figures from the past for support of their beliefs, even when the historical record is thin (or even when it contradicts their claims). Einstein is a perfect example of a famous individual that the religious desperately want to count on their side. He’s our archetype of genius, so who better to use for an argument from authority?

    I just ran across a collection of arguments from authority: It’s my old copy of The Baltimore Catechism. (Aren’t you jealous?) I was paging through it when I discovered proofs that (a) God exists, (b) man has an immortal soul (and maybe even woman, too; she’s not mentioned much), and (c) man must have religion (or else!). Quite an inspiration.

  8. #8 Praxiteles
    May 12, 2008

    Did anyone else notice this from the article?

    Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Brooke said that Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism.

    Evangelists for atheism? What on earth is that?!

    Nice to see some balanced reporting in that article. Not.

  9. #9 Chironex
    May 12, 2008

    How is stating that Jewish people are just like anyone else the least bit antisemitic? I would not call Einstein an antisemite; an antisemitic Jew is a rare thing. I’m Jewish, and I can affirm that. Yet, I can’t say we’re completely the same as everyone else…I went to HCSSIM (www.hcssim.org), a 6-week summer math program, and if you weren’t Jewish or Asian, you were a minority. Also, I do admit that we tend to be more hasty and impatient when it comes to food.

    I think that Jews and Greeks have whole lot in common. There just seem to be so many parallels.

  10. #10 tinyfrog
    May 12, 2008

    I’ve read about Einstein’s opinions in the past. I think he did believe in God – but only as an aloof creator who was not terribly interested in humankind, and not the God described by any religion. Einstein didn’t believe in an afterlife, and didn’t think God cared about human morality. Based on his past writings, it’s not surprising that he thought religions were man-made.

  11. #11 jonathan
    May 12, 2008

    Einstein was an acknowledged secular Jew, like a significant portion of Jews in the world today. He had a belief in God, however – like many if not most secular Jews – but he clearly and openly felt that much of what constitutes Judaism as a religion is a bunch of human-made rules. The reference to “chosen,” by the way, is specifically meant by Einstein; he makes clear in his writings that he understood the actual Torah meaning. To explain, the Torah says the Hebrews were to be a holy people – chosen to undertake a set of duties and obligations the Orthodox have codified into 613 commandments (the mitzvot) and the rules of Halakah. Einstein did not agree with Orthodoxy – meaning Jewish Orthodoxy but the other meanings fit – and thus did not see how or why adhering to the mitzvot made Jews “chosen” or reflected some sense of “chosen.”

    The belief in God that Einstein did manifest was that of a secular Jew who believes in the God of the Torah without the accoutrements of organized religion. This is the God which in the most literal Torah sense is beyond knowing and beyond understanding, not a God which can be reduced to a set of rules (or folk wisdom).

    One must understand that Einstein believed much as many secular Jews do today; they reject the trappings of Orthodoxy while retaining what they believe is the core. Some pursue certain traditional forms and others don’t, but all of that is in the understanding that the forms are ways of approaching the core understanding (or inability to understand) and are not themselves “holy” acts which carry some God-manifested significance.

  12. #12 Glen Davidson
    May 12, 2008

    Then too, if anyone might stoop to question whether or not Stein was right to invoke Einstein to claim that science is the source of tolerance, here’s Einstein on intolerance:

    A man who is convinced of the truth of his religion is indeed never tolerant, and he is unable to be tolerant. At the least, he is to feel pity for the adherent of another religion but usually it does not stop there. The faithful adherent of a religion will try first of all to convince those that believe in another religion and usually he goes on to hatred if he is not successful. However, hatred leads to persecution when the might of the majority is behind it.

    In the case of a Christian clergyman the tragi-comical is found in this: that the Christian demands love from the faithful, even love for the enemy. This demand, because it is indeed superhuman, he is unable to fulfill. Thus intolerance and hatred ring through the oily words of the clergyman. The love, which on the Christian side is the basis for the conciliatory attempt towards Judaism is the same as the love of a child for cake. That means that it contains the hope that the object of love will be eaten up.

    No Xian dominionist he.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  13. #13 Glen Davidson
    May 12, 2008

    Then too, if anyone might stoop to question whether or not Stein was right to invoke Einstein to claim that science is the source of tolerance,

    Uh, yeah, getting sloppy here. It was supposed to be:

    Then too, if anyone might stoop to question whether or not Stein was right to invoke Einstein to claim that science is the source of intolerance,

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  14. #14 Christianjb
    May 12, 2008

    Oh no, an argumentum ad verecundiam (argument from authority).

    Oh, so just because Einstein said it, we’re meant to accord it more weight than a piece of text by (e.g.) Ann Coulter?

    I’m joking of course, but I’ve never understood the ad-hominem ‘fallacy’. It seems to me that it’s actually quite a good idea to pay more attention to the writings of super-smart people who have proven track records in coming up with super-smart ideas.

    Even Einstein was wrong on occasion. Not everything he said has withstood the test of time. However, I don’t understand why it’s a supposed fallacy to a-priori weight his writings with a slightly greater import than the words of proven liars or idiots.

    Elitism. It’s a good thing.

  15. #15 Ichthyic
    May 12, 2008

    The belief in God that Einstein did manifest was that of a secular Jew who believes in the God of the Torah without the accoutrements of organized religion.

    then why does everything that he has ever said imply he really thought of god as at best Spinozan in nature?

    indeed, much more like nature-as-god.

    so you’re either trying to imply that all secular jews are essentially espousing Spinoza’s god, or you’re simply wrong about Einstein.

    which?

    wrong about secular jews, or wrong about Einstein?

    choose.

    Frankly, most of the secular jews I am acquainted with are all atheists.

    http://atheism.about.com/od/einsteingodreligion/tp/EinsteinGodReligionScience.htm

  16. #16 jsn
    May 12, 2008

    So to counter theists’ quote mining, you do your own quote mining. Brilliant!

    “Like other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him,” said Brooke. “It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions … but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion.”

    Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Brooke said that Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility and once wrote. “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”

    Einstein is currently rolling in his grave.

  17. #17 Patrick Conley
    May 12, 2008

    Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. The article says nothing about his opinions when his views were appropriated by atheists for atheism.

  18. #18 Ichthyic
    May 12, 2008

    So to counter theists’ quote mining, you do your own quote mining. Brilliant!

    so to counter that quote mining, you do your own.

    Brilliant!

    lather rinse repeat.

    are you kinda getting the point now?

    “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”

    please interpret that for us in your own words.

    Einstein is currently rolling in his grave.

    dead people don’t move, unless you’re implying zombie Einstein.

    http://www.punkandpissed.com/images/areinzomws.jpg

  19. #19 Patrick Conley
    May 12, 2008

    An unrelated comment: jsn, did you know your signature url doesn’t lead anywhere?

  20. #20 Ichthyic
    May 12, 2008

    An unrelated comment: jsn, did you know your signature url doesn’t lead anywhere?

    …but it DOES say something about jsn, if you parse it correctly.

  21. #21 ekted
    May 12, 2008

    Even so, it doesn’t matter if Einstein was religious or not. The truth is not up for vote. Ken Miller is an amazing voice of reason, and he’s a Christian.

    “Don’t take refuge in the false security of consensus.” – Christopher Hitchens

  22. #22 Ichthyic
    May 12, 2008

    Even so, it doesn’t matter if Einstein was religious or not.

    good point, as regards his scientific output, but i rather think the idea here was to expose the idea that he was a champion of religion as false, and supported only via quotemining.

    Moreover, it’s also a generalized diss on authoritarianism.

  23. #23 Etha Williams
    May 13, 2008

    @#21 ekted —

    The truth is not up for vote.

    But is that really true?

  24. #24 SteveM
    May 13, 2008

    An unrelated comment: jsn, did you know your signature url doesn’t lead anywhere?

    Gee, who woulda thunk that fckff.com wouldn’t lead anywhere.

    But back to the original post…

    That first quote from Einstein’s sounds quite similar to this new book by Stuart Kauffman Reinventing the Sacred where he wants to accept the universe as “God” (which I interpret as different than saying God is the Universe)
    http://www.boingboing.net/2008/05/12/stuart-kauffman-call.html

  25. #25 Nik
    May 13, 2008

    It seems to me that it’s actually quite a good idea to pay more attention to the writings of super-smart people who have proven track records in coming up with super-smart ideas.

    Yes, but just because someone is smart in one field doesn’t mean they have any special insight into another field. I’ll trust Einstein’s insights into physics, but if he had made a statement about biology, I wouldn’t consider it any more authoritative than any other layman.

  26. #26 SteveM
    May 13, 2008

    Re #24:

    Nevermind, I completely misread the Einstein quote. Still recommend the Kauffman article though.

  27. #27 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    But is that really true?

    whee! the next poll to crash!

  28. #28 Doug
    May 13, 2008

    Wasn’t Einstein one of those scientists that Ben Stein tells me wants to gas a bunch of Jews? Thanks to watching Expelled I know that if Einstein ever had his hands on a nuclear bomb he’d immediately use it to kill a bunch of people. Since Einstein is obviously godless, there is no doubt he’d side with the Nazis.

  29. #29 Wowbagger
    May 13, 2008

    I glanced at the list of posts and though it said Einstein on goats and Judaism – which sounded hilarious; I just had to get in on this one.

    Sili #6: I agree. It makes me think of the Simpsons episode where Homer, after getting a crayon extracted from his brain, becomes super-intelligent and writes a mathematical proof for the non-existence of god and gives it to Flanders – who sets fire to it after realising its validity so it ‘doesn’t get out’.

  30. #30 Wowbagger
    May 13, 2008

    Something else Al had to say:

    It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

    Says it all.

  31. #31 Christianjb
    May 13, 2008

    Yes, but just because someone is smart in one field doesn’t mean they have any special insight into another field.

    I know a lot of people believe that, but I don’t.

    My experience is that great physicists more often than not do have interesting things to say about the human condition. It’s almost as if Einstein were actually *smarter* than most people.

    That’s not very egalitarian of me, but can’t we accept that some people are just very good at thinking?

  32. #32 Gilles
    May 13, 2008

    [...] although they [the Jewish people] are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power.

     
    This lack of power was probably true during Einstein’s time, but is not true anymore.
     

  33. #33 jsn
    May 13, 2008

    The article says nothing about his opinions when his views were appropriated by atheists for atheism.

    Posted by: Patrick Conley

    Do you have to work hard at that, or does being that stupid just come naturally to you?

  34. #34 jsn
    May 13, 2008

    An unrelated comment: jsn, did you know your signature url doesn’t lead anywhere?

    Posted by: Patrick Conley

    Absolutely, but that’s not what’s important.

  35. #35 Patrick Conley
    May 13, 2008

    Gee, who woulda thunk that fckff.com wouldn’t lead anywhere.

    D’oh! That’s what I get for not reading it aloud.

  36. #36 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    Absolutely, but that’s not what’s important.

    indeed.

    what’s important is that we return the favor, right?

    moron.

  37. #37 LanceR
    May 13, 2008

    I didn’t see this addressed anywhere, so I’ll throw in my $.02…

    The “argument from authority” in not necessarily a fallacy. When an authority is properly cited, and actually is an authority, the argument can be valid. In modern science, the argument from authority is crucial, because nobody can hold the whole of scientific knowledge at one time.

    When the argument is fallacious is when undue deference is shown to authority, or, and we *never* see this happen, when an electrical engineer (strictly for example) believes herself competent to speak on evolution. Also, if the argument is along the lines of “My big brother says X, and he’s a by-gosh real scientist, so you better shut up!”

  38. #38 E
    May 13, 2008

    @#37 LanceR —

    In modern science, the argument from authority is crucial, because nobody can hold the whole of scientific knowledge at one time.

    Speak for yourself :P

    When the argument is fallacious is when undue deference is shown to authority, or, and we *never* see this happen, when an electrical engineer (strictly for example) believes herself competent to speak on evolution.

    What about a park ranger?

  39. #39 Etha Williams
    May 13, 2008

    Stupid autofill.

    #38 was me.

  40. #40 Alex
    May 13, 2008

    It seems like John Brooke is trying to make Einstein look religious.

  41. #41 Latina Amor
    May 13, 2008

    Wowbagger #29 said, “…It makes me think of the Simpsons episode where Homer, after getting a crayon extracted from his brain, becomes super-intelligent and writes a mathematical proof for the non-existence of god and gives it to Flanders – who sets fire to it after realising its validity so it ‘doesn’t get out’.”

    We have a new equation: Albert Einstein=Homer Simpson
    Aude sapere

  42. #42 Christianjb
    May 13, 2008

    Lancer:

    The “argument from authority” in not necessarily a fallacy.

    I agree.

    What about the converse? Is ‘ad-hominem’ always a fallacy? I don’t think so. For instance, I feel pretty confident in ignoring the ‘research’ done by the Discovery Institute.

    Perhaps different standards apply in different situations. For instance, in peer review it is generally held that all papers should be judged on the merits of their arguments alone (as opposed to the status of the authors). However, I think that we as individuals can afford to be a little more prejudicial when it comes to evaluating the statements of others.

    Another example. I’m pretty happy to discount astrology as bunkum, but in the unlikely event that an astrologer ever did win Randi’s one million dollar prize, I would personally try to reevaluate my opinions.

  43. #43 Autumn
    May 13, 2008

    @Latina Amor,
    If Homer and Albert could be combined, I would have a new image of ideal living.
    Donuts, beer, beer (Einstein liked beer too), thinking about the universe, comical indifference to the attitudes of others toward me, and the appreciation of mistresses who only could be into me for my mind.
    Add to that list the fact that Einstein didn’t have to deal with an internet that recorded his thoughts, including the ones that, like mine, would make his wife extremely angry.
    Darn.
    I’ve hoisted myself by my own petard.

  44. #44 Moggie
    May 13, 2008

    #12:

    The love, which on the Christian side is the basis for the conciliatory attempt towards Judaism is the same as the love of a child for cake.

    Did… did Einstein just say that the cake is a lie?

  45. #45 qrl
    May 13, 2008

    What?! He isn’t?
    Well, it’s back to church for me, then!
    /sarcasm
    Posted by: Etha Williams

    Enjoy reading your comments.
    In this comment, I believe you meant irony: “the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.”
    “In sarcasm, ridicule or mockery is used harshly, often crudely and contemptuously, for destructive purposes.”
    It may have the form of irony, but is always meant to hurt, which I don’t believe was your intention here.

  46. #46 Spinoza
    May 13, 2008

    Note that thinking religion, and religious people’s use of the word God (that is, the object they take it to refer to, and its meaning for them) is stupid or false, is not the same as being an outright “Atheist” (capital A).

    Einstein, insofar as he was (and he CERTAINLY was) a Spinozist, would deny being an “atheist” in the same way any respectable philosopher denies “atheism” in the philosophical sense… That is to say, insofar as he takes the word “God”, properly used, to refer to Spinoza’s “Natura”, he’s not an atheist… But insofar as he takes it that “Natura” is CERTAINLY not “YHWH” or “Allah” or any other personalized supernatural deity, he is, like any Spinozist, “atheist” qua everyone else’s conception, and insofar as the word “God” most generally refers to some sort of supernatural entity worthy of worship, he’s an atheist.

    Bertrand Russell was once asked if he was an atheist or an agnostic, and he replied that he was, indeed, an agnostic… which is only to say that he did not think it certain that there is no God, rather, he was simply not compelled by any reason or logic to believe in any of the Gods or religions that had thus far been conceived.

    … which is all to say that Einstein was an atheist in one sense, a Spinozistic sort of “pantheist” (I’d rather call it Pandeism, or Anti-Supernaturalist though) in another.

  47. #47 Spinoza
    May 13, 2008

    By the way, Homer didn’t become “super intelligent” in that episode… he had a 105 IQ (after it was raised 50 points!!!).

    105 is not what I’d call “super intelligent”.

    The disproof of God part is sort of incongruous from that standpoint… but I do love that episode (it’s in my top 3 alltime faves, and I am a Simpsons fanatic).

  48. #48 bernarda
    May 13, 2008

    Let’s see. The Special Theory of Relativity was in 1905 and the General Theory was in 1916. Both before Mein Kampf. Does Ben Stein think that they led to Hitler and the camps?

    Who knows how many people those theories might have killed and Einstein must be held responsible.

  49. #49 Spinoza
    May 13, 2008

    … I just noticed the ending of that article, and it clarifies my point quite well.

    “Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Brooke said that Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility”.

    Indeed.

  50. #50 Helioprogenus
    May 13, 2008

    I’m sure it’s a tough balancing act by having to consider oneself a Jew, whilst also maintaining an atheist world-view. I guess it ultimately comes down to the concept of the Jewish religion and the Jewish people difficult to separate. One can be a Jew, but for example, ethnically African American (with no jewish heritage). Yet, one can consider themselves ethnically Jewish, but by choosing the high road of reason, be considered an atheist. So what happens to all the ethnic Jewish practices when they’re so intermingled with the religion over a few generations? Do these individuals, after a generation of atheism stop considering themselves Jewish?

    As an example, I’m ethnically Armenian, but although Armenians are closely associated with the Armenian Orthodox Church, I’ve distanced myself from it because of all the bullshit that religion, and the belief in the supernatural represent. I still happen to maintain my Armenian heritage, since I can dissociate it from the Christian religion, but it’s hard to imagine the difficulties in a Jew dissociating from the religion. I guess ultimately, it comes down to name confusion, and perhaps, Einstein, noting his pride in his heritage, has managed to dissociate himself from the religion. It’s a tough fruit to bear for the believers to realize that he’s distanced himself from their brand of bullshit.

    A final question I often ponder. Say that an African American, whose parents converted to Judaism decides that the religion’s bullshit, and becomes an atheist. Does that sever his/her ties to Judaism because this individual does not have a shared culture extending beyond the parents with other Jews? I figure the answer here would be yes, the ties are totally severed.

  51. #51 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    I’m sure it’s a tough balancing act by having to consider oneself a Jew, whilst also maintaining an atheist world-view.

    actually, they seem to be fine with it.

    what they tell me is that since Judaism is mostly centered on deeds instead of beliefs, it isn’t as much of a stretch for them.

    they just secularize all the holidays, and still enjoy many of the rituals, if just for fun.

    In fact, a Jewish-atheist buddy of mine in Jersey was just telling me yesterday about a rabbi friend of his who gave it all up and went atheist.

    no kidding.

    He said several other acquaintances also have done so, and he was starting a list just for fun that he would send me.

    *shrug*

  52. #52 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    …and yes, I think you are right that some Jews that have a long heritage of being Jewish tend to look at the heritage, and not the religion itself, as being the most important thing.

    they are rightly proud of the long history of their culture, and the many bits of knowledge obtained and stored away as wisdom.

    Even still, there was something my Jewish buddy told me about a man’s deeds being the sign of true wisdom, and knowledge being secondary to deeds traditionally.

    bottom line:

    Do these individuals, after a generation of atheism stop considering themselves Jewish?

    I’ll ask.

  53. #53 Andreas Johansson
    May 13, 2008

    I know a lot of people believe that, but I don’t.

    My experience is that great physicists more often than not do have interesting things to say about the human condition. It’s almost as if Einstein were actually *smarter* than most people.

    That’s not very egalitarian of me, but can’t we accept that some people are just very good at thinking?

    So, are you going to deny that Newton was very good at thinking, or will you take his religious opinions seriously?

  54. #54 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    So, are you going to deny that Newton was very good at thinking, or will you take his religious opinions seriously?

    touche!

    let’s explore Newton’s astrology!

    that will be fun.

  55. #55 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    astrology alchemy (probably more applicable)

  56. #56 Nick Gotts
    May 13, 2008

    The Special Theory of Relativity was in 1905 and the General Theory was in 1916. Both before Mein Kampf. Does Ben Stein think that they led to Hitler and the camps?

    Of course they did! After all, if you believe in “relativity”, then that means there are no absolutes, so there is no basis for morality, so we might as well murder a few million people! How can Stein blame the holocaust on Darwin, when the REAL culprit is clearly THE iconic SCIENTIST – the evil Einstein?!!

  57. #57 Michael
    May 13, 2008

    this is simply more useful information to oppose arguments from authority.

    Einstein was more of a “religious” person (not Christian) in his early years, but he drifted away, as this quote points out in 1954, “I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

    The little known letter written by him discovered by the media is pretty much in line what has been known already…

    “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”

    I find Einstein’s background on religious issues not that important (he’s dead now), for some it is. But it doesn’t prove nor disprove the debate about Creationism and Evolution.

  58. #58 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    But it doesn’t prove nor disprove the debate about Creationism and Evolution.

    so why do you even mention it then, since it’s entirely irrelevant?

    I know why. you want to imply that there is some debate that really only exists in creobot’s minds, and drag that bait in here to try and draw interest in your inanity.

    *yawn*

  59. #59 Sam
    May 13, 2008

    The argument from authority question is interesting. I suspect it’s not so much that authority is not a good thing to seek out the opinion of, it’s that it isn’t a slam-dunk case. The opinion of valid authorities is certainly evidence, but it’s not necessarily a case closer – the reasons why a given authority holds that opinion must be the final arbiter.

  60. #60 Christianjb
    May 13, 2008

    So, are you going to deny that Newton was very good at thinking, or will you take his religious opinions seriously?

    (Nice try)

    If I were alive at the time of Newton, then I hope I would have carefully considered Newton’s opinions on religion.

    Some of his opinions might be laughable by today’s standards, but for the time, I think he had some very good observations to make about ‘God’ and the universe. For instance, he believed in a rational order to things- his God didn’t just randomly swing planets around on arbitrary trajectories, but instead ordered gravity according to a precise inverse square law.

    Arguably, we have never killed Newton’s God, rather we have slowly transmogrified ‘Him’ into a general feeling about a rational universe. In a similar way, the real descendants of alchemists are modern chemists, and the real descendants of astrologers are modern astronomers.

  61. #61 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 13, 2008

    The article says nothing about his opinions when his views were appropriated by atheists for atheism.

    That seems literally true. It makes a claim on atheism, but it backs it up with a complete apologist quotemine by the purported “leading expert[s] on the scientist” John Brook in Oxford’s faculty of theology at Harris Manchester College (with no publications on Einstein, but on Evangelicals and Science):

    PHYSICS AND REALITY.

    BY
    ALBERT EINSTEIN.
    (Translation by Jean Piccard.)
    § I. GENERAL CONSIDERATION CONCERNING THE METHOD OF SCIENCE.
    It has often been said, and certainly not without justification,
    that the man of science is a poor philosopher. Why
    then should it not be the right thing for the physicist to let
    the philosopher do the philosophizing? Such might indeed
    be the right thing at a time when the physicist believes he
    has at his disposal a rigid system of fundamental concepts
    and fundamental laws which are so well established that
    waves of doubt can not reach them; but, it can not be right
    at a time when the very foundations of physics itself have
    become problematic as they are now. At a time like the
    present, when experience forces us to seek a newer and more
    solid foundation, the physicist cannot simply surrender to the
    philosopher the critical contemplation of the theoretical
    foundations; for, he himself knows best, and feels more surely
    where the shoe pinches. In looking for a new foundation, he
    must try to make clear in his own mind just how far the
    concepts which he uses are justified, and are necessities.
    The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of
    every day thinking. It is for this reason that the critical
    thinking of the physicist cannot possibly be restricted to the
    examination of the concepts of his own specific field. He
    cannot proceed without considering critically a much more
    difficult problem, the problem of analyzing the nature of
    everyday thinking.

    On the stage of our subconscious mind appear in colorful
    succession sense experiences, memory pictures of them, representations
    and feelings. In contrast to psychology, physics
    treats directly only of sense experiences and of the ” understanding
    ” of their connection. But even the concept of the
    ” real external world ” of everyday thinking rests exclusively
    on sense impressions.

    Now we must first remark that the differentiation between
    sense impressions and representations is not possible; or, at
    least it is not possible with absolute certainty. With the
    discussion of this problem, which affects also the notion of
    reality, we will not concern ourselves but we shall take the
    existence of sense experiences as given, that is to say as psychic
    experiences of special kind.

    I believe that the first step in the setting of a ” real
    external world ” is the formation of the concept of bodily
    objects and of bodily objects of various kinds. Out of the
    multitude of our sense experiences we take, mentally and
    arbitrarily, certain repeatedly occurring complexes of sense
    impression (partly in conjunction with sense impressions
    which are interpreted as signs for sense experiences of others),
    and we attribute to them a meaning–the meaning of the
    bodily object. Considered logically this concept is not identical
    with the totality of sense impressions referred to; but it
    is an arbitrary creation of the human (or animal) mind. On
    the other hand, the concept owes its meaning and its justification
    exclusively to the totality of the sense impressions
    which we associate with it.

    The second step is to be found in the fact that, in our
    thinking (which determines our expectation), we attribute to
    this concept of the bodily object a significance, which is to a
    high degree independent of the sense impression which originally
    gives rise to it. This is what we mean when we attribute
    to the bodily object ” a real existence.” The justification
    of such a setting rests exclusively on that fact that, by means
    of such concepts and mental relations between them, we are
    able to orient ourselves in the labyrinth of sense impressions.
    These notions and relations, although free statements of our
    thoughts, appear to us as stronger and more unalterable than
    the individual sense experience itself, the character of which
    as anything other than the result of an illusion or hallucination
    is never completely guaranteed. On the other hand, these
    concepts and relations, and indeed the setting of real objects
    and, generally speaking, the existence of ” the real world,”
    have justification only in so far as they are connected with
    sense impressions between which they form a mental connection.
    The very fact that the totality of our sense experiences is
    such that by means of thinking (operations with concepts, and
    the creation and use of definite functional relations between
    them, and the coördination [sic] of sense experiences to these concepts)
    it can be put in order, this fact is one which leaves us
    in awe, but which we shall never understand. One may say
    ” the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”
    It is one of the great realisations of Immanuel Kant that the
    setting up of a real external world would be senseless without
    this comprehensibility.

    In speaking here concerning ” comprehensibility,” the
    expression is used in its most modest sense. It implies: the
    production of some sort of order among sense impressions, this
    order being produced by the creation of general concepts, relations
    between these concepts, and by relations between the
    concepts and sense experience, these relations being determined
    in any possible manner. It is in this sense that the
    world of our sense experiences is comprehensible. The fact
    that it is comprehensible is a miracle.

    In my opinion, nothing can be said concerning the manner
    in which the concepts are to be made and connected, and how
    we are to co6rdinate them to the experiences. In guiding us
    in the creation of such an order of sense experiences, success
    in the result is alone the determining factor. All that is
    necessary is the statement of a set of rules, since without such
    rules the acquisition of knowledge in the desired sense would
    be impossible. One may compare these rules with the rules
    of a game in which, while the rules themselves are arbitrary,
    it is their rigidity alone which makes the game possible.
    However, the fixation will never be final. It will have validity
    only for a special field of application (i.e. there are no final
    categories in the sense of Kant).

    The connection of the elementary concepts of every day
    thinking with complexes of sense experiences can only be comprehended
    intuitively and it is unadaptable to scientifically
    logical fixation. The totality of these connections,–none
    of which is expressible in notional terms,–is the only thing
    which differentiates the great building which is science from alogical but empty scheme of concepts. By means of these
    connections, the purely notional theorems of science become
    statements about complexes of sense experiences.
    We shall call ” primary concepts ” such concepts as are
    directly and intuitively connected with typical complexes of
    sense experiences. All other notions are–from the physical
    point of view–possessed of meaning, only in so far as they
    are connected, by theorems, with the primary notions.
    These theorems are partially definitions of the concepts (and
    of the statements derived logically from them) and partially
    theorems not derivable from the definitions, which express at
    leastindirect relations between the ” primary concepts,” and
    in this way between sense experiences. Theorems of the
    latter kind are ” statements about reality ” or laws of nature,
    i.e. theorems which have to show their usefulness when applied
    to sense experiences comprehended by primary concepts.
    The question as to which of the theorems shall be considered
    as definitions and which as natural laws will depend largely
    upon the chosen representation. It really becomes absolutely
    necessary to make this differentiation only when one examines
    the degree to which the whole system of concepts considered
    is not empty from the physical point of view. [My bold.]

    Einstein goes on to describe a hierarchy of scientific concepts in the second subchapter. The rest of the article desribes how mechanics, general relativity and quantum mechanics relate according to this. The point of the paper seems to be:

    I try to demonstrate, furthermore, why in my opinion
    the quantum theory does not seem likely to be able to produce
    a usable foundation for physics: one becomes involved
    in contradictions if one tries to consider the theoretical quantum
    description as a complete description of the individual
    physical system or happening.

    On the other hand, up to the present time, the field theory
    is unable to give an explanation of the molecular structure of
    matter and of quantum phenomena. It is shown, however,
    that the conviction to the effect that the field theory is unable
    to give, by its methods, a solution of these problems rests upon
    prejudice.

    I.e. Einstein is busy with his later day project of replacing quantum mechanics with a field theory. I can’t find a discussion or even mentioning of religion anywhere in the text.

    Einstein isn’t alone in his observation of the efficiency of science. There is a famous article by a mathematician who exclusively treats this. (And of course I can’t find it. :-P)

    Who is John Brookes and why is he allowed to conflate science with religion by a journalist writing on a scientist ‘s view on religion?

  62. #62 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 13, 2008

    Who is John Brookes

    I found him. He has one article on Einstein: “‘ “If I were God”: Einstein and Religion’, Zygon , 41 (2006), 941-54.” among a long list of other publications.

    He is also a co-director of the Templeton Science and Religion in Schools Project, so I will stick close to my original question – why did the journalist think this person would make a reasonable and/or expert claim and quote on Einsteins science and religion? Considering the public infatuation with Einstein I’m fairly sure there are real experts on him out there.

  63. #63 marco sch.
    May 13, 2008

    “Yes, but just because someone is smart in one field doesn’t mean they have any special insight into another field”

    You are smart or you are not. You may have more experience in one field than another, but if you are smart you probably have smart things to say about anything you’re interested in.

    See Richard Feynman for instance.

  64. #64 gyokusai
    May 13, 2008

    “Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Brooke said that Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility”.

    Where did he become angry when.

    Would those who eagerly slapped their saddles on this bold assertion please consider providing some decent & reliable sources? The quoted soundbyte “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility” does not support this assertion at all, not even if granted for a second that quote mining indeed ever proves a thing.

    And how, while we’re at it, is John Brooke of Oxford University “[o]ne of the country’s leading experts on the scientist”?

    Here’s a self-description (rather outdated, though):
    [ http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/282/5396/1985 ]

    John Brooke is professor of the History of Science at Lancaster University. He authored the prize-winning Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge University Press, 1991), and, with Geoffrey Cantor, Reconstructing Nature: The Engagement of Science and Religion (T. & T. Clark, 1998).

    Which is all very nice but try to find “john brooke on einstein” and you will come up with practically nothing. If you check his above-mentioned book Science and Religion on Amazon, the book’s author turns out to be one “John Hedley Brooke,” which puts things in perspective indeed for several reasons the most important of which will become clear in a minute. One review (out of three) complains that the author consistently fails to provide sources for quotations, and that the style is “convoluted and exhausting to read.” Examples are amply provided, and you can check them out with the “search inside” function.

    [ http://www.amazon.com/Science-Religion-Historical-Perspectives-Cambridge/dp/0521283744/ ]

    Now, this “John Hedley Brooke,” if you google that, turns out to have switched jobs in the meantime:

    [ http://users.ox.ac.uk/~theo0038/biogbrooke.html ]

    The Andreas Idreos Professorship of Science and Religion within the Faculty of Theology at Oxford is held by Professor John Hedley Brooke, formerly Professor of the History of Science at Lancaster University

    And while we’re at it (again), here’s another nice quote by Brooke which puts things even more in perspective (from the first source provided above, last paragraph):

    Darwin thought the Christian doctrine of damnation damnable, yet in his response to the sublime still supposed he deserved to be called a theist.

    The term “quote mining” doesn’t even begin to describe this.

    Does anyone smell rats here? I do.

    ^_^J.

  65. #65 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 13, 2008

    Comments on the (overlong) quote: the bolding was supposed to continue the next paragraph, where Einstein digs deeper into comprehensibility. Still no religion though.

    In fact, as Einstein argues that ” primary concepts ” are “such concepts as are directly and intuitively connected with typical complexes of sense experiences” one can make this an atheist quote mine just as easily. I’m sure that Brookes as a theologist would have to accept such authority. :-P

  66. #66 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 13, 2008

    Thanks gyokusai, great finds!

  67. #67 gyokusai
    May 13, 2008

    Thanks, Torbjörn :-)

    … and I was just about thanking you for the “Templeton” bit I managed to overlook!

    ^_^J.

  68. #68 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 13, 2008

    More stink:

    Index for Books Reviewed in the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation and Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith March 1950 – September 1989

    SCIENCE AND BELIEF: COPERNICUS TO DARWIN published by the Open University of Great Britain, distributed through Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., New York, N.Y. 10022. Paperback, 8″ x 111/2″ (1974).

    Volume 1. The Conflict Thesis and Cosmology by C. A. Russell, R. Hooykaas and D. C. Goodman, 128 pp., $6.00.
    Volume 2. Towards a Mechanistic Philosophy by D. C. Goodman and J. H. Brooke, 96 pp., $5.25.
    Volume 3. Scientific Progress and Religious Dissent by R. Hooykaas, C. Lawless, D. C. Goodman, N. Coley, and G. Roberts, 112 pp., $5.75.
    Volume 4. New Interactions between Theology and Natural Science by J. H. Brooke, R. Hooykaas, and C. Lawless, 88 pp., $5.00.
    Volume 5. The Crisis of Evolution by J. H. Brooke and A. Richardson, 128 pp., $6.00.
    Volume 6. The New Outlook for Science by R. Hooykaas, C. Lawless and C. A. Russell, 72 pp., $4.50.

    These books, together with additional reading (Genesis and Geology by C. C. Gillispie, Science and Religious Belief: A Selection of Primary Sources by D. C. Goodman, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science by R. Hooykaas, and Scien-ce and Religious Belief: A Selection of Recent Historical Studies by C. A. Russell), and radio and TV programs, constitute a course by the Open University of Great Britain. They are a resource which is invaluable to anyone involved in understanding the historical relationships between science and Christian thought, and particularly to anyone who is teaching a course or seminar in this area. Taken as they stand, supplemented with external reading, the books form an excellent basis for a year-long course that would provide profound insight into many of the controversies that still exercise those seeking to relate science and Christian faith.

    [...]

    A very brief sample of the topics covered would include: four historical treatments of the science and belief theme, biblical exegesis and the motion of the earth, Galileo and theology, a thorough analysis of Descartes including his account of living things, mechanical philosophy and the Providence of God, three pitfalls of historiography, English deists and freethinkers, Voltaire, evolution vs creation in the 18th century, Quaker contributions, the rise of natural theology, reigious attitudes of geologists, uniformitarianism vs catastrophism in the early 19th century, the nature of life, the balance of nature, Darwin, difficulties in the reception of the Darwinian hypothesis, history of nature, historical and physical causality in nature and history, and the specific challenge of Darwinism to religion.

    Even worse than rat, it smells creationist. Seemingly nothing on the neo-darwinist “crisis of evolution”, but plenty of “challenge of Darwinism”.

  69. #69 Christianjb
    May 13, 2008

    Thanks TL and others.

    You should solve murders, you could be the next Columbo (well, except the original Columbo was a fictional character).

    BTW, I spent the last 15 minutes actually reading that Einstein essay that T linked to. Of course, I skipped all those GR/SR equations.

    He really really didn’t like QM. Though, to give him credit, I’ve read several times that QM is in fundamental opposition to GR. One (or both) of them has to give, and it’s by no means clear that when the dust settles that GR won’t ultimately be regarded as the more fundamentally true theory. (I don’t understand GR, so that’s just me waffling.)

  70. #70 gyokusai
    May 13, 2008

    Christianjib, LOL, my father was a policeman and I once indeed considered joining the force … but being overworked and underpaid while being shot at wasn’t my idea of a life after all ;-)

    ^_^J.

  71. #71 Judaisme
    May 13, 2008

    Quel grand maitre!

  72. #72 Fernando Magyar
    May 13, 2008

    Chironex re; #9,

    Yet, I can’t say we’re completely the same as everyone else…I went to HCSSIM (www.hcssim.org), a 6-week summer math program, and if you weren’t Jewish or Asian, you were a minority.

    As a catholic raised atheist and divorced father of a recently Bar Mitzvahed son I can attest to the fact that my son’s well documented competence in mathemathics has absolutely nothing to do with his Jewish ancestry, I’m Hungarian and every knows that Hungarians excell in Mathematics. I mean everyone knows that Einstein actually wasn’t so great with math, Now Paul Erdos, that’s a whole nuther Rubik’s cube.

    As for you, you are obviously exactly the same as everyone else who has not yet gone to one of those summer “logic” programs. Check back in after you have!
    Cheers

  73. #73 Matt Heath
    May 13, 2008

    Here’s a wooly pseudo-philosophical take on the letter: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/andrew_brown/2008/05/faithless_einstein.html
    Fortunately the cif godless are tearing him a new hole.

    @Fernando Magyar #72
    You know Erdos was a Jew, right? Well ethnically he was Jewish, anyway. In terms of religious beliefs, he was an agnostic maltheist of an entertainingly bonkers sort.

  74. #74 brokenSoldier
    May 13, 2008

    Even so, it doesn’t matter if Einstein was religious or not. The truth is not up for vote. Ken Miller is an amazing voice of reason, and he’s a Christian.
    “Don’t take refuge in the false security of consensus.” – Christopher Hitchens

    Posted by: ekted | May 12, 2008 11:41 PM

    The first sentence spells out the existence and efficiency of the ad-hominem attack. Such an attack is necessarily on the person, while purposefully evading the intellectual points they put forward in the belief that discrediting their character will somehow invalidate the statements they have made. While true in many cases, Einstein is definitely not one of those types of personas vulnerable to such misguided and malicious attacks, due to the sheer inovation and progressive nature of his personality and intelligence. He stringly opposed QM until the evidence proved him wrong, after which he became a pioneer in the field.

    The second statement is specious ay best. Even though it is entirely possible for a person to be a voice of reason while also proclaiming to hold a religious belief, Ken Miller is not the ideal example of someone like this. Perhaps a better example would be Francis Collins. At least he didn’t help write that waste of money and intelligence called Expelled.

  75. #75 bernarda
    May 13, 2008

    I come from a nordic Lutheran background and was baptized and confirmed in that religion. My ancestors come from Scandinavia, in fact not so far from PZ’s digs. I still “celebrate” xmas and easter with family. However I don’t see myself as being ethnically Lutheran.

    Not to compare myself, but is Salmon Rushdie ethnically muslim? Why the double standard only for judaism? Either one believes in the religion or one doesn’t.

    A good film to see about this is Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors”. In my opinion, his best film. There is a great scene where a middle-aged brother and sister argue about god at a family dinner.

    The sister is atheist and the brother a rabbi. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it on youtube although there are several other extracts.

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=crimes+and+misdemeanors&search_type=

    This film shows how brilliant Woody Allen is.

  76. #76 Nick Gotts
    May 13, 2008

    You are smart or you are not. You may have more experience in one field than another, but if you are smart you probably have smart things to say about anything you’re interested in.

    See Richard Feynman for instance. – marco sch.

    Not to mention John F. Nash Jr.!

  77. #77 Christianjb
    May 13, 2008

    He stringly opposed QM until the evidence proved him wrong, after which he became a pioneer in the field.

    No, it’s the other way round. Einstein never fully accepted QM as the ‘ultimate truth’, though he certainly appreciated that the theory worked well enough in its domain.

    The funny thing is that Einstein could reasonably be credited with the invention of QM, since his paper on the photo-electric effect convincingly demonstrated that the energy of a photon is proportional to its frequency, which became one of the cornerstones of quantum theory.

  78. #78 Bart Mitchell
    May 13, 2008

    Most of the comments don’t surprise me too much. My own idea about Einstein was that he was a closet atheist who didn’t want to loose his popularity. And thus all the deist quotes christians are so fond of framing next to passages from the bible.

    What really caught my eye was “..they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power” It makes me wonder what he would think of the Jewish community now that they have waged 7 wars, and own nuclear weapons. The only value I see for Israel in this world is to show the other middle east countries what democracy, tolerance, and working together can achieve. Unfortunately, they don’t have the best of examples to work with…

  79. #79 Iain Walker
    May 13, 2008

    brokenSoldier (Comment #74)

    Even though it is entirely possible for a person to be a voice of reason while also proclaiming to hold a religious belief, Ken Miller is not the ideal example of someone like this. Perhaps a better example would be Francis Collins. At least he didn’t help write that waste of money and intelligence called Expelled.

    Er, the way you phrase this, you make it sound as if you think that Kenneth Miller helped write Expelled.

  80. #80 Pablo
    May 13, 2008

    It needs to be reiterated that atheists don’t use Einstein as any basis for their (lack of) belief. Atheists aren’t the ones using the argument that “Einstein was smart, and he was an atheist, so you should follow his lead.” That is completely in the domain of theists. THEY are the ones to whom it is important to establish that Einstein was theist, so they deny the piles of evidence to the contrary and rely on silly comments like “God does not play dice” and make stuff up (see above). Sure, atheists are going to blast out with piles of evidence that Big Al was not a believer in any sense, but not because it empowers the atheist but because it counters the believer nonsense.

    I always love the juxtaposition of the religious. Hitler, who said things like, “By killing the Jews, I am doing the work of the Lord” is called an atheist, but Einstein, who says “I do not believe in a personal god” is called a theist.

  81. #81 Matt Heath
    May 13, 2008

    @bernada #75
    There’s no double standard, it’s just a quirk of language. The word “Jewish” has always referred to an ethnic group (or various ethnic groups claiming common ancestry) as well as the religion traditionally followed by members of this group. “Muslim” and “Lutheran” don’t refer to anything but religious positions so it doesn’t make sense to be “ethnically Muslim/Lutheran” (maybe you can be “culturally Muslim/Lutheran” but I’m not a big fan of those expressions).

  82. #82 SteveM
    May 13, 2008

    Bertrand Russell was once asked if he was an atheist or an agnostic, and he replied that he was, indeed, an agnostic… which is only to say that he did not think it certain that there is no God, rather, he was simply not compelled by any reason or logic to believe in any of the Gods or religions that had thus far been conceived.

    That is not the definition of “agnostic”. “Agnostic” is not just “I don’t know”, it means “cannot be known”, which is a much stronger statement. Stronger, I think than even atheism. I think atheism has a range of interpretation from the idea that whether god exists or not makes no difference so no need to include god in one’s understanding of the universe, to the “God does not exist, period”, view.

    When you wrote, “…he was simply not compelled by any reason or logic to believe in any of the Gods or religions that had thus far been conceived.”, was that your own interpretation of his use of “agnostic” or is that how Russell explained it?

  83. #83 bernarda
    May 13, 2008

    Matt, I understand what you are saying, but if you include Finland(not technically nordic), Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, officially the percentage of Lutherans is 85 to 95 percent. Of course many of these are actually atheists.

    Since all my grandparents came from there, I should be called ethnically Lutheran. But I am simply atheist.

    Israel, for example, is only officially about 75% Jewish. And that is including the hundreds of thousands of ex-Soviet atheists.

  84. #84 SteveM
    May 13, 2008

    Quite right. He did not oppose QM so much as felt it must be incomplete if it was ultimately based on probability, the source of the famous “dice” quote. He was convinced that QM just didn’t go “deep enough” and left behind “hidden variables” that would account for the seeming random behavior of quantum particles. This was indirectly a great contribution to QM in that Bell was able to devise a test that could disprove the existence of “hidden variables” in response to the Einstein-Polsky-Rosen paradox.

    And let it not be forgotten, Einstein got his Nobel for the photoelectric effect, not the Theory of Relativity.

  85. #85 amancay
    May 13, 2008

    Why the double standard only for judaism? Either one believes in the religion or one doesn’t.

    One answer to your question is that the Nazis (and all the other anti-semites who came before and after them) did not bother to check if people adhered to the tenets of Judaism before shipping them off to the camps.
    My rabbi assures me that my atheism does not conflict with being a “good Jew” and that often the best Jews are atheists. While it may seem really weird for an atheist to belong to a religious congregation, there is very little discussion of God as an entity, much less any demands or exhortations to hold particular beliefs. And unfortunately, history tells me that my children and I can’t simply choose to shed our Jewish identity.

  86. #86 Colugo
    May 13, 2008

    On the topic of science and religion, has anyone else seen Hedges’ latest?

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080511_render_unto_darwin_that_which_is_darwins/

    “Science is often as inexact and intuitive as theology, philosophy and every other human endeavor. …

    Science is not governed by absolute, immutable laws. …

    [I think Hedges means 'reality' here rather than 'science.']

    The New Atheist writers from Richard Dawkins to E.O. Wilson to Sam Harris have become the high priests not of science but the cult of science. …

    [E.O. Wilson is not a 'New Atheist' but a conciliatory atheist reaching out to people of faith.]

    Science, limited to what can be proved and disproved, is a morally neutral discipline. … There are times when it empowers ambitions that are immoral and deadly. …

    Evolutionary science … swiftly became for many a surrogate religion. It was used to promote racism and pseudo-science, such as eugenics …

    The atheists … continue to create moral hierarchies among human beings and use these hierarchies to sanction violence. …

    There is nothing in science that implies that our genetic makeup allows us to perfect ourselves. Those who, in the name of science, claim that we can overcome our imperfect human nature make a leap of faith.”

    It’s provocative. Some of what he says is off-base and uninformed. Apparently he has read only the most popular authors on evolution of human behavior. Hedges conflates New Atheism with human sociobiology with memetics with transhumanism. His arguments are a mix of right wing, left wing, and theistic critiques of evolutionary biology, atheism, and associated movements. Some of it is worth considering, but his errors taint the whole essay.

  87. #87 Colugo
    May 13, 2008

    Einstein was one of the greatest physicists of all time, but based on the way in which he explains his views I don’t believe that he had any particular genius in the realm of human affairs, social science, or philosophy. On those matters, outside of his field expertise, he was wrestling with those issues in the same manner as the rest of us, and his conclusions and perspectives were informed by the same kind of biases and illusions that anyone has when considering them. He may or may not have been correct on any given issue, but not because was endowed with special insight.

    Outside of their intellectual comfort zone, even brilliant people are prone to the same kind of mundane fallacies and mediocre analyses as are non-geniuses. The same goes for Russell. Or Newton or Crick and Watson. Just do a brief survey of the views of Nobel Prize winners on topics that they did not earn Nobels in to see my point.

  88. #88 Ken Miller
    May 13, 2008

    Just to make things perfectly clear for “Brokensoldier” in comment #74:

    I DID NOT help to write “Expelled.” That was a guy named KEVIN Miller.

    I did, however write this:
    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/05/08/trouble_ahead_for_science/

    Got your Millers straight, now??

    Ken Miller

  89. #89 Christianjb
    May 13, 2008

    Why the double standard only for judaism? Either one believes in the religion or one doesn’t.

    I agree with amancay.

    Being Jewish is not simply a matter of adherence to religion. It’s just as likely to be a cultural or ethnic identification.

    Also, I sometimes get queasy to see people willy nilly attack Judaism (or Islam) because it’ is genuinely difficult to separate out their religious views (fair game) from the cultural traditions (to be respected, up to a point).

    Like it or not, prejudice against Jews does exist. I have seen many instances where people have gone too far in blaming all Jews as a group for the perceived wrongdoings of a minority. The same goes for Muslims. Sometimes even well-meaning criticisms of injustice can bleed into anti-semitism.

    Of course- it cuts both ways. There are also religious people who hide behind the defense that their ridiculous actions are in fact due to their cultural or ethnic identity and so can’t be criticized. Unfortunately, for every justified claim of anti-semitism, there seems to be an equally unjustified claim that’s designed to throw of criticism.

    I don’t know what the answers are, but I generally prefer to criticize Christians, since I’m the product of a Christian culture. I feel on much shakier ground when debating the rights and wrongs of Judaism. Maybe that makes me a coward.

  90. #90 Matt Heath
    May 13, 2008

    bernada, you say you “should be called ethnically Lutheran” as if English is logical, but natural languages aren’t. For someone living in a Jewish village in (say) central Europe at the start of the last century being Jewish wasn’t just the analogue of the next village being Christian but ALSO of the next village being German or Polish of Gypsy. It was their “nationality” within a transnational empire, reflecting language and customs as well as religion – even for the village atheist. It was the only name there was for their ethnicity and it is just a nuisance that it is same as the name of their religion (in various languages)

    I don’t know what country you are in, or if you call yourself “Scandinavian” if asked your ethnicity, but I know people (particularly Americans and Canadians) sometimes do such things. Being ethnically Jewish in that setting is really just the analogue of being ethically Polish or Swedish based one’s ancestors. What it isn’t saying is that they are “ethnically followers of Judaism” which is more the analogue of what “ethnically Lutheran” would be understood as.

  91. #91 negentropyeater
    May 13, 2008

    Prof. Miller,

    “Trouble ahead for science”

    And what should we do about it ?

    BTW, rephrase “Trouble ahead for American science”

  92. #92 Michelle
    May 13, 2008

    Oh I’m not Godless because Einstein was (I’m godless cuz… um… God doesn’t exist. It’s just that simple really.) … But that was sure funny. A big slap in the face of the creationists.

  93. #93 Noah
    May 13, 2008

    I can certainly understand the desire to point out that Einstein was not the God botherer that theists make him out to be, but is using stuff like this to, “combat arguments from authority,” really appropriate?

    Wouldn’t it be better to explain the fallacy behind the argument from authority rather than spend so much time trying to ‘disprove’ the authority reference? I think perhaps we give it too much credit when we try to argue against it when we should really be showing why it’s not a valid argument.

  94. #94 JustaQuestioner
    May 13, 2008

    Can someone explain this to me? What did he mean by:

    As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

    What “cancers” was/were he referring to?

  95. #95 Blake Stacey
    May 13, 2008

    Feynman botched the experiment which would have made him known as a great biologist as well as a great physicist, because he didn’t actually have practical knowledge of how to do biological laboratory work. All your brains won’t help you when your samples go bad.

  96. #96 Glen Davidson
    May 13, 2008
    I know a lot of people believe that, but I don’t.
    My experience is that great physicists more often than not do have interesting things to say about the human condition. It’s almost as if Einstein were actually *smarter* than most people.

    That’s not very egalitarian of me, but can’t we accept that some people are just very good at thinking?

    So, are you going to deny that Newton was very good at thinking, or will you take his religious opinions seriously?

    Honestly, one arguably should take Newton’s ideas seriously–he was smart, quite well educated, and could have a good deal of wisdom in his religious writings. Unless, that is, one has good reason to doubt such religious beliefs, and many of us do, precisely because we have taken religion seriously up until the point where it proved not worthy of such considerations (OK, I still take religion seriously, but not in the way meant by the poster).

    Or let’s put it this way–arguably I should take Feynman’s atheism seriously, or Weinman’s, Nietzsche’s, and Ernst Mayr’s.

    See, the trouble is that argumentum ad verecundiam has become confused on this thread. Certainly in its stricter sense, it states that one cannot simply use the declarations of an “authority” to back up a universal claim. As it is typically related, it does not deny that there are bodies of experts to whose opinions one should pay more attention, at least in their areas of expertise. This does not mean that the experts are always collectively correct, not by a long shot, but it does acknowledge the fact that well-studied experts tend to have better judgment on specific matters than does the average slob off of the street.

    I don’t think anyone should deny that the fallacy of the appeal to authority does warn against taking the collective word of the experts as absolute, but most understand it as not denying the probabilistic value of expertise. Argumentum ad verecundiam is indeed a fallacy, however, and bringing up a Newton or other theist is clearly a meaningless argument for theism, because no one expert is considered to be the final authority on almost anything (perhaps a few highly specialized matters have individual “final authorities” in the lesser sense), and even the collective opinions of experts may be wrong.

    What is obvious is that practically anybody who knows about didactics and learning does not think that listening to the experts is pointless or a fallacy. It’s bringing up Newton, Einstein, or Bill Gates as if they are the trump cards in an argument that is fallacious indeed.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  97. #97 Moggie
    May 13, 2008

    #84:

    This was indirectly a great contribution to QM in that Bell was able to devise a test that could disprove the existence of “hidden variables” in response to the Einstein-Polsky-Rosen paradox.

    Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen.
    /nitpick

  98. #98 frog
    May 13, 2008

    What do people mean by “fallacy”? We mean an illegal step in a proof, correct?

    But most arguments aren’t strictly logical proofs – they may use elements of logic, but they are very often political struggles or specialized rituals like court cases. I don’t see how the concept of “fallacy” applies outside of logic – there are good arguments and bad arguments to listen to, and there are arguments that win and arguments that lose (and those two groups are not co-extensive). An argument from authority is not “fallacious” in the sense that saying A & B -> ! A.

    I think the problems is one from pre-mathematical logic. There were attempts to give logic a firm footing, and these descended into these fuzzy verbal arguments about the n different forms, and the m categories of fallacies. But then we discovered that logic is simply a set of transformational rules for symbols – nothing less and nothing more. We no longer need the philosophical texts on argumentation – they have become irrelevant outside of law school and court.

    So maybe it’s time to simply abandon the concept of “fallacy” – and call things as they are. It may be a cheap trick to use an argument by authority (it may, depending on the situation). But just like the ad-hominem nonsense, there are rhetorical devices that aren’t strictly logical, but do have a place in arguments, particularly when there are agendas beyond a simple proof.

  99. #99 Andreas Johansson
    May 13, 2008

    If I were alive at the time of Newton, then I hope I would have carefully considered Newton’s opinions on religion.

    This sounds suspiciously like a goalpost on the move. Your original statement certainly didn’t indicate that the authority of smart people is temporarily limited.

    (And anyway, Einstein died a generation before I was born. How long more before I get to discount his opinions on religion?)

    Some of his opinions might be laughable by today’s standards, but for the time, I think he had some very good observations to make about ‘God’ and the universe. For instance, he believed in a rational order to things- his God didn’t just randomly swing planets around on arbitrary trajectories, but instead ordered gravity according to a precise inverse square law.

    You’re making it sound as if Newton was some sort of deist. He wasn’t – he believed in a meddling god who continually interfers with the workings of the universe, and whose purposes can be explored in the Bible.

  100. #100 J
    May 13, 2008

    People always say, “Einstein sucked at math”. They do realize, I hope, that he was an extremely good mathematician compared with an average person (or even an average scientist).

    When compared with professional mathematicians and theoretical physicists, he was surprisingly (given his great success) rather average in mathematical skill. This is the source of these rumours.

  101. #101 Andreas Johansson
    May 13, 2008

    Or let’s put it this way–arguably I should take Feynman’s atheism seriously, or Weinman’s, Nietzsche’s, and Ernst Mayr’s.

    Perhaps you should take Feynman’s, Weinmann’s, and Mayr’s atheism seriously, but if so, it’s because of the merits of their actual thoughts on the subject, not because of their competence as scientists. Nietzsche’s a bit different in that as a philosopher the issue is arguably part of his job description.

  102. #102 SteveM
    May 13, 2008

    #84:

    This was indirectly a great contribution to QM in that Bell was able to devise a test that could disprove the existence of “hidden variables” in response to the Einstein-Polsky-Rosen paradox.

    Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen.
    /nitpick

    No, not a nitpick, names are important. Sorry, I botched it, I can’t ever seem to get it right, thanks for the correction.

  103. #103 Glen Davidson
    May 13, 2008

    Perhaps you should take Feynman’s, Weinmann’s, and Mayr’s atheism seriously, but if so, it’s because of the merits of their actual thoughts on the subject, not because of their competence as scientists. Nietzsche’s a bit different in that as a philosopher the issue is arguably part of his job description.

    I tend to think that the more original scientists often are fairly knowledgeable in philosophy. Einstein and the other QM physicists were. Mayr in biology, perhaps not as much as physicists on the cutting edge, but I would at least hope that he would know epistemology and other issues in philosophy.

    I didn’t check out my list of scientists to see how well each knew philosophy, of course, but on the whole I believe that your better scientists are not ignorant of philosophy, and your better philosophers are not ignorant of science.

    So yes, I do believe that philosophy is a better means to deal with issues surrounding theism, but I would pay attention to a good scientist as well–Kant was clearly paying heed to Newton, the non-philosopher, in his work (Kant’s work has many flaws, but his basic solution for epistemology was impressive). Cross-disciplinary approaches are often superior, though often not well respected in practice.

    So I take your point and certainly agree out to a certain distance, yet I do not have as sharp a cutoff point for who counts as an expert as I understood yours to be. I do agree that competency in a matter is important, which seems to be your major principle.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  104. #104 Helioprogenus
    May 13, 2008

    With all this confusion between ethnic and religious Jews, it ultimately comes down to semantics. There must be some way to describe the people whose background happens to be ethnically Jewish, whilst they’re non-believers. It’s a load of confusion and must be controlled. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to imagine doing. For one thing, very few Jews identify themselves as ethnically Hebrews, so you can’t use that. Can’t use Canaanites either, because it would leave a whole mess of Jews out of the equation. This is something that Jews have to come together to figure out to avoid this confusion on the masses. My idea would be to rename the religious Jews as something, and keep the designation Jewish as an ethnic heritage. So maybe you can call the religion Hebronism, and then reserve Judaism for the ethnic bridge.

    Any Jews here want to entertain that thought? Granted you’re probably going to find this offensive coming from a non-Jew, but really, think it out; it might help.

  105. #105 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 13, 2008

    He was convinced that QM just didn’t go “deep enough” and left behind “hidden variables” that would account for the seeming random behavior of quantum particles. This was indirectly a great contribution to QM

    Another indirect contribution may have been the debates with Bohr. As I understand it, the intense back and forth between them realized the robust Copenhagen interpretation (CI) so much sooner, which arguably has been a better paradigm than the parsimonous “shut up and calculate” as regards education and acceptance.

    [OTOH one may possibly blame the CI for much woo as well for delays in accepting decoherence as a phenomena (as it opens up for other interpretations).]

    Einstein was one of the greatest physicists of all time, but based on the way in which he explains his views I don’t believe that he had any particular genius in the realm of human affairs, social science, or philosophy.

    Perhaps not. But his activism and influence, as an early proponent of european unity and critic of nazism or as regards nuclear weapons for example, has been wider and deeper than most, which he should have credit for.

    And come on, at least refusing to be a bad president is clever, just ask Bush. :-P

  106. #106 Cliff Hendroval
    May 13, 2008

    Can someone explain this to me? What did he mean by:

    As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

    What “cancers” was/were he referring to?

    I can’t speak for the man myself, but it seems fairly logical that he’s referring to what are sometimes referred to as “cancers on humanity”: war, injustice, etc. Since Jews were a transnational group subsumed within larger states, they did not make war, colonize other cultures, etc., except as individuals within the state they were resident in.

  107. #107 Etha Williams
    May 13, 2008

    @#75 bernada —

    I come from a nordic Lutheran background and was baptized and confirmed in that religion. My ancestors come from Scandinavia, in fact not so far from PZ’s digs. I still “celebrate” xmas and easter with family. However I don’t see myself as being ethnically Lutheran.

    I think the issue here is that Judaism is a religion for a “chosen people” (Isaiah 65:9) — a certain ethnic group — whereas Xianity is an evangelical religion, telling its followers to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). So even though certain cultures may be more prone to specific branches of Christianity than others, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to say that you’re ethnically Lutheran (or Baptist, etc) since it’s a “conversion religion” rather than an “inheritance religion.”

  108. #108 Andrew Brown
    May 13, 2008

    Just to point out that JH Brooke is not a creationist at all, though I think he may be a Christian. He is certainly the most respected historian of the relationship between science and Christianity in the nineteenth century. The essential fact about that relationship is that large numbers of educated Christians welcomed Darwin, for reasons which made perfect sense from their theological perspective as well as a scientific one.

    But to understand that, you would have to make the effort to try to see what people are talking about when, in any given instance, they talk theologically. That is almost impossible to do unless you know someone who does talk that way well enough to have a real conversation with them. It’s not going to happen on the internet.

    Yours, all woolly yet still with the only arsehole he was born with.

  109. #109 Christianjb
    May 13, 2008

    AJ:

    This sounds suspiciously like a goalpost on the move. Your original statement certainly didn’t indicate that the authority of smart people is temporarily limited.
    (And anyway, Einstein died a generation before I was born. How long more before I get to discount his opinions on religion?)

    Oh, sorry I didn’t put in every conceivable qualification in my initial statement.

    You seem to be confused, so let me make it clear.

    It’s generally worth reading what the best thinkers have to say, but *of course* if their statements are later contradicted by better evidence then you would be a fool if you still ascribe any weight to those statements.

    I’m not advocating that modern day people slavishly follow Einstein or Newton’s every word, or form a cult around his writings. I’m also not arguing that either were infallible.

    Being an authority doesn’t automatically make you right, but it does perhaps give you the right to be taken seriously- at least until better evidence comes along. Even then, it’s still interesting to see what the smartest minds of a previous time thought about the issues.

    Also- if the only reason that you form an opinion is because of authority, I agree that you are making a blunder. Ultimately, the only test of the validity of a statement is the evidence which can be found to support it.

  110. #110 Hematite
    May 13, 2008

    A quick general comment about ad hominem/argument from authority.

    In science or logic these are rightly considered fallacies, but in everyday life they are useful heuristics. Who reads primary sources outide of their field(s) of expertise? We all accept various statements as sufficiently supported for everyday use based on the quality of the source we learned them from. Whether the person is skilled in the field, known by reputation as a good thinker or known as a liar and manipulator are all important in judging casually acquired information as distinct from scientific information.

  111. #111 Paul Crowley
    May 13, 2008

    Is it possible that Brooke actually brought the story to the Guardian’s attention, knowing that it would come from another source if he did not and preferring to control the spin?

    There may be other reasons he was first in the Rolodex under “Einstein and God” of course. His name’s early in the alphabet for a start :-)

  112. #112 Dan
    May 13, 2008

    Of course, Einstein was also a socialist, but I imagine you don’t see too many of the creationist lot keen to point that out.

  113. I’m not sure how P.Z concluded this letter proves Einstein is godless. Einstein definitely was not a theist, atheist nor an agnostic.

    I’m assuming that P.Z juggled up a new definition of an atheist before he submitted the O.P.

    Remember P.Z, the definition of an atheist is someone who doesn’t just lack the belief in god/s, but denies its existence altogether.

    Thats what the atheists tend to emphasize constantly don’t they.

    In light of that, I don’t see anything in that letter that says “I Albert Einstein, deny the existence of god/s altogether”. If you find it, gimme a shout! I also can’t find anything in that letter that says “I Albert Einstein, am a chance worshiper like P.Z Myers”. Maybe its MD5 encrypted, hell knows…

  114. #114 melior
    May 13, 2008

    In light of that, I don’t see anything in that letter that says “I Albert Einstein, deny the existence of god/s altogether”.

    People might laugh at you slightly less often if you read the post before commenting.

    Albert E: “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses…”

  115. “People might laugh at you slightly less often if you read the post before commenting.”

    Albert E: “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses…”

    If I have missed the point P.Z was trying to make then what exactly is that? The letter doesn’t say anything new about Einstein’s religious beliefs, it merely adds on a snippet of what we already knew in non-written form.

    Whats happening here is the same situation with the “Machine Video”, the atheists believe it favors they’re side. In this case if favors neither side.

    Or is P.Z Myers drawing parallels between himself and Einstein in terms of intelligence. I am really not buying that, what has P.Z Myers done to increase our knowledge about the universe? Random ejaculations? Anyone?

  116. #116 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    If I have missed the point P.Z was trying to make then what exactly is that?

    here it is:

    we’ve heard theists cite the authority of Einstein in service to their superstitions often enough

    and

    this is simply more useful information to oppose arguments from authority.

    meaning the fact that xians quotemine Einstein is easily countered, and this little bit is just one more counter.

    and

    Note, please, that Einstein’s views are not a final authority here, and you’re nuts if you decide you should be godless because Einstein was —

    meaning that in general, if one decides to be an atheist based on referral to others that are (or a xian, muslim, etc.), then you’re a fool for not bothering to actually look at the real issues.

    I am not failing to note that there are certain individuals here that seem to deliberately miss such simple, clear, statements.

  117. #117 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    Do these individuals, after a generation of atheism stop considering themselves Jewish?

    I’ll ask.

    here was the answer I received, verbatim:

    Good Question.
    Depends on the person answering. According to Jewish law, accepted by all branches of Judaism, if the person in question was birthed by a Jewish woman that person is Jewish. In Reform Judaism they now accept that if the father is Jewish so is the offspring, however this is a bone of contention with Orthodox and Conservative law established by committees of authoritative rabbis.

    The question of whether one believes or not is not an issue in Judaism since the main thing that matters is what one does, not what one thinks as the latter is not accessible or verifiable. This tradition derived in the past as a result of children being born resulting from rapes in Europe and not being sure who the father was but it became sufficient if the mother was known, to accept the baby. Of course adoption is accepted with the stipulation that conversion is accomplished. So a Jew who claims to be an atheist is still accepted by other Jews to be Jewish. My sons consider themselves to be Jewish, as I do.

    Many consider Judaism to be a peoplehood or a culture, not a religion. I think the idea of religion, which by definition stipulates a belief in a deity or system of deities, is not strictly speaking applicable to Jewishness. For example, a Jew has the right of return to Israel without declaring whether he or she believes in God or keeps kosher etc., just the lineage.

    Never heard of Spinoza being identified as anything but a Jew even though he was excommunicated. Scholars consider that was a political action by the Jews of Amsterdam who were afraid of trouble with the Christians as a result of his writings and to have been shamefull. Remember they were very tender from their experience with the Inquisition. In NY there used to be a “workman’s circle” with a paper that was socialist made up of atheistic Jews who were never considered not to be Jewish.

    To my knowledge, an undercurrent of atheism composed of liberal socially conscious Jews has always been part of Jewishness.

  118. #118 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 13, 2008

    The point is that Einstein was not a theist, but a pantheist, so that the many theists who claim Einstein was a theist are wrong. If you don’t know what those terms mean, look them up.

    what has P.Z Myers done to increase our knowledge about the universe?

    Ehem.

    And apart from that, he teaches. He directly, actively increases his students’ knowledge about the universe.

  119. #119 Kseniya
    May 13, 2008

    It appears that UhDuh has been heard from.

    I thought the meaning and intent of the post were pretty obvious. *shrug*

  120. #120 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 13, 2008

    I thought the meaning and intent of the post were pretty obvious.

    Two words: Uncommonly Dense.

    Sorry for being blunt, but I really don’t know how else to explain this gem of stupidity:

    Or is P.Z Myers drawing parallels between himself and Einstein in terms of intelligence.

  121. #121 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    Hedges conflates New Atheism with human sociobiology

    that would indeed explain why he labeled Wilson a “new atheist”.

    such is the value of the term “new atheist” to begin with.

    IOW: It has no worth.

  122. #122 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    And apart from that, he teaches.

    …and apart from that, he’s written popular science articles for Seed for years now, as well as some excellent articles that have appeared on this blog on a regular basis.

    I’d say he’s contributed more than the likes of Dembski, and the entire Disinformation Institute combined, ever will.

    I’m eager to put money on it, or maybe just a bottle of scotch?

    what has P.Z Myers done to increase our knowledge about the universe?

    shine that light on your own “luminaries”.

  123. #123 Kseniya
    May 13, 2008

    David: yes, exactly.

  124. #124 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    In this case if favors neither side.

    that’s right: charge in, lose horribly, then claim the false middle as victory.

    whee!

    fucking delusional twit.

  125. “And apart from that, he teaches. He directly, actively increases his students’ knowledge about the universe.”

    Really, and what is that exactly? Is it called the Model of Random Ejaculations or MORE for short? Are you sure students need MORE of that to increase knowledge about the universe?

    John A. Davidson wouldn’t approve.

  126. #126 Sven DiMilo
    May 13, 2008

    John A. Davidson wouldn’t approve

    And neither (it goes without saying) would VMartin.

    so?

  127. #127 Kseniya
    May 13, 2008

    Now, Ichthyic – be chartitable. The DiscoInsto has increased our knowledge, too. We now know to what depths an educated person will descend in the intellectually dishonest pursuit of the goals that comprise their underlying faith-based agenda.

  128. #128 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    John A. Davidson wouldn’t approve.

    you mean the guy you invited, then banned, then invited, then banned again from UD?

    that guy?

    you’re a fucking twit.

    Is this Davescott the autodidactic ex Dell windfall employee, I wonder?

    sure sounds like it.

    Really, and what is that exactly?

    why don’t you attend one of his classes on developmental biology and find out, eh?

    naw, if you really are Davescott, you’re too chickenshit to challenge yourself.

  129. #129 Wowbagger
    May 13, 2008

    I posted this Einstein quote earlier; here it is again:

    It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

    Not much room for doubt there.

  130. #130 Christianjb
    May 13, 2008

    Hematite: I think you’re right.

    Ultimately, ad-hominem and ‘argument from authority’ are labor saving devices.

  131. #131 Etha Williams
    May 13, 2008

    @#113 Those Pesky Darwinists —

    I’m not sure how P.Z concluded this letter proves Einstein is godless. Einstein definitely was not a theist, atheist nor an agnostic.

    I’m assuming that P.Z juggled up a new definition of an atheist before he submitted the O.P.

    Remember P.Z, the definition of an atheist is someone who doesn’t just lack the belief in god/s, but denies its existence altogether.

    This is a really rather perplexing piece of stupidity and/or dishonesty. In the first paragraph, you ask how PZ could have come to the conclusion that AE was godless; but in the second two paragraphs, you focus on the word “atheist,” which isn’t used once in PZ’s post. And to make matters worse, in the third paragraph you as good as admit that AE was godless: “…the definition of an atheist is someone who doesn’t just lack the belief in god/s” — which at the very least strongly suggests that you acknowledge the fact that AE “lacks the belief in god/s” and is, therefore, godless.

  132. No, I’m not DaveScot, I’m just another computer engineer who has trouble swallowing Darwinian dogma.

    I’d agree that Einstein was more of a deist or pantheist.

    Theists argue Einstein proved the beginning of time, ie: the big bang model. Misinformed theists argue Einstein was a theist.

    His newly discovered letter adds nothing to either side. It doesn’t state whether he actually believes in the god of chance or not.

    Einstein could have been more upfront about it. Whatever religious beliefs he had, he did a good job covering them up.

  133. #133 Etha Williams
    May 13, 2008

    @#132 Those Pesky Darwinists —

    No, I’m not DaveScot, I’m just another computer engineer who has trouble swallowing Darwinian dogma.

    Really? I’m a biologist who has trouble swallowing the concept of Perl. I just don’t see how a language like Perl alone could possibly be enough to write some of the complex Perl programs I’ve used. There’s got to be some witchcraft or something going on on the side….Intelligent Programming, if you will….

  134. #134 Jim Lippard
    May 13, 2008

    Einstein wrote some similar letters in 1945 to Ensign Guy Raner of the U.S.S. Bougainville, in which he stated that “From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.”

  135. #135 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    I’m just another computer engineer who has trouble swallowing Darwinian dogma.

    shocker. of course whatever “darwinian dogma” is, it has nothing whatsoever to do with this thread, unless you want to add it in?

    yes, I know you do want to add it in. So, go on, make another strawman and tear it down for our amusement.

    Einstein could have been more upfront about it.

    more up front about it than saying he didn’t believe in god, you mean? You did read the multiple times what Einstein said on this issue was posted, like #129, right?

    man, you fuckers sure love living in denial, dontchya?

    why do YOU insist on trying to defend the use of Einstein as a religious figure?

    nobody here is defending him as an atheist.

    why are you even here, eh?

    …as if it wasn’t bloody obvious.

    fucking troll.

  136. #136 Sven DiMilo
    May 13, 2008

    Etha, that’s probably not the best metaphor to use with these guys…it’s kind of their only point: “looks designed, so it must be designed.”

  137. #137 Kseniya
    May 13, 2008

    It doesn’t state whether he actually believes in the god of chance or not.

    You mean the god that does-or-doesn’t play dice? The metaphorical god that he used as an alias for creation and for the order found therein? I think if you’re looking for some confirmation that believed or disbelieved in that particular “god”, you may have misunderstood what he meant by that famous phrase. On the other hand, there’s a good chance that I’ve misunderstood you.

  138. Okay, you still haven’t figured it out have you?

    Surely, if Einstein was godless, then he would probably have been more upfront with it. If Einstein makes the clear distinction that he doesn’t believe in a “personal” god (*read that twice), then logically what we can extract from that statement is:

    I don’t believe in a personal god
    I don’t believe there is no god

    Now you fill in the blanks

    I Albert Einstein am not an _______ but I’m definitely not a ________ , that probably makes me a _________ .

    Not too hard now was it?

  139. #139 Sven DiMilo
    May 13, 2008

    Yay, Mad-Libs!!
    OK…
    “Assyrian”
    “butt”
    “freakin Genius”

    hee hee! Next?

  140. #140 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    I Albert Einstein am not an _______ but I’m definitely not a ________ , that probably makes me a _________ .

    Ooh! we’re playing Mad Lib now?

    Hmm…

    I Albert Einstein am not an owl but I’m definitely not a penis , that probably makes me a tree .

    *titter*

  141. #141 Helioprogenus
    May 13, 2008

    What is it about software programming that causes people to reject “darwinism” #132. Besides, by calling it Darwinism, I can see how your views are already slanted. In case you have to be told a millionth time, Charles Darwin did NOT invent evolution through natural selection, he just uncovered a natural process that was unknown and groundbreaking in millions of possible ways. It’s as though you call us oxygen dependant orgranisms Priestlinism because Joseph Priestly gets credit for discovering the elemental properties of it. Or I remember PZ making a sarcastic post on “newtonism”. That bastard’s responsible for thousands of gravity dependent deaths (your parachute didn’t open, newton killed you, your wife fell from the 12th story apartment, newton killed you, etc.) Anyway, back to the point, the fact that you can’t accept evolution through natural selection, and resort to calling it Darwinism, as if he invented the process is beyond stupid. You can program software, yet cannot imagine a process that through billions of years has resulted in the diversity of life that we see around us? Utlimately, it’s possible you’re blinded by your computer engineering, perhaps because you view that since an intelligence created computers, and computer programs, then you apply the same standard to biological life forms. I had to piss on your little fantasy world, but life is not a computer program, and your authority coming from a “computer engineering” background is laughable.

    Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what Einstein’s religious beliefs were because he’s long dead. Yes, he was a brillian physicist and mathematician, but he wasn’t a biologist. Believers who constantly attempt to pile famous scientists and thinkers into their illogical shit pile have to realize that as we move forward, a lot of those arcane beliefs have evolved. We now have irrefutable evidence, across many fields of science that evolution through natural selection does exist. The only excuse these days into believing some bullshit religious or spiritual crap is indoctrination, ignorance, stupidity, credulity, and perhaps an inherent need to feel comfort like a suckling vulnerable infant. Go back go programming you ignorant idiot.

  142. When have I argued for Einstein’s religiosity?

  143. #143 Sven DiMilo
    May 13, 2008

    Ooh! we’re playing Mad Lib now?

    Ha! That’s what I said!

    Where’s that damn Brownian when you need him, anyhow?

  144. #144 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    Ha! That’s what I said!

    yes, parallel recognition of the obvious, rather like Wallace’s parallel recognition of the obviousness of selection during Darwin’s time.

    It was inevitable.

    ;)

  145. #145 Wowbagger
    May 13, 2008

    My view on this is as follows:

    Einstein was above all other things, a scientist. If science had proved (or demonstrated, if you prefer) god existed during his lifetime then I believe he would have accepted it – as would anyone who claims to be rational would do.

    That didn’t happen. Therefore he died as he had lived – believing in the majesty of the natual order of the universe as revealed by science.

    If god was unable to be seen by science then he/she/it wasn’t of interest to him – as he/she/it isn’t to many of us.

  146. “You can program software, yet cannot imagine a process that through billions of years has resulted in the diversity of life that we see around us? Utlimately, it’s possible you’re blinded by your computer engineering, perhaps because you view that since an intelligence created computers, and computer programs, then you apply the same standard to biological life forms. I had to piss on your little fantasy world, but life is not a computer program, and your authority coming from a “computer engineering” background is laughable.”

    Whats this, another random ejaculation from Darwinland?

  147. #147 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    When have I argued for Einstein’s religiosity?

    first post:

    I don’t see anything in that letter that says “I Albert Einstein, deny the existence of god/s altogether”

    move those goalposts farther back, yo.

  148. #148 spurge
    May 13, 2008

    I Albert Einstein am not an “pygmy” but I’m definitely not a “dwarf” , that probably makes me a “Darwinist” .

    This is fun!

  149. #149 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    Whats this, another random ejaculation from Darwinland?

    projecting again?

    what are you but a random ejaculation from Uncommonly Dense?

    there’s little point to even bothering to clean up the mess anymore.

    all dried up.

  150. Okay, to make you all happy.

    Einstein was a chance and luck happy worshiper, he rolled dice and then jotted the results in his mathematical equations, gradually those equations became more complex and specified until he ran out of paper. He then finally, randomly selected a 4-letter combination consisting of numerical and alphabetical characters + symbols, out of the thousands selected, e=mc^2 was chosen. All this done blind folded of course.

  151. #151 Sven DiMilo
    May 13, 2008

    Okay, to make you all happy.

    I was happier when we were playing Mad-Libs.

  152. “I was happier when we were playing Mad-Libs.”

    Well, you were way off the first time.

  153. #153 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    Okay, to make you all happy.

    here’s what would make me happy, coming from you:

    get it?

  154. #154 Sven DiMilo
    May 13, 2008

    “IDiot”
    “‘Darwinist'”
    “Rational, educated skeptic.”

    or

    “abalone”
    “guitar pick”
    “can of Mountain Dew”

    …not sure what you’re going for here…

  155. #155 Helioprogenus
    May 13, 2008

    What would you like to have happened?

    Oh, I know, God created Einstein in his image, then ejaculated some physical and mathematical equations into his brain? Yeah, that sounds about right.

    We’re all done with you here because you’ve clearly showed your immense ignorance. The fact that you claim to be a computer engineer is unbelievable, but even in the case that you truly are what you say you are, then I’m sure every intelligent software engineer is feeling deeply ashamed to have an idiot like you involved in their line of work.

  156. #156 Etha Williams
    May 13, 2008

    Taking words at random (somewhat) from Uncommon Descent:

    I Albert Einstein am not an African Eve, but I’m definitely not a Scholar, that probably makes me a Darwinian.

  157. #157 Etha Williams
    May 13, 2008

    There’s an anecdote (possibly entirely apocryphal) that at one point, in response to AE’s famous “God does not play dice” comment, Bohr responded, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”

  158. I doubt any Engineer would visit Pharyngula on any circumstance/occasion.

    Consider yourselves lucky that I even bothered…

    Goodbye!

  159. #159 Ichthyic
    May 13, 2008

    I doubt any Engineer would visit Pharyngula on any circumstance/occasion.

    why are you here, again?

    Consider yourselves lucky

    …that you left without further trying to berate strawmen from your self-made soapbox?

    we do.

    Goodbye!

    good riddance.

  160. #160 spurge
    May 13, 2008

    “I doubt any Engineer would visit Pharyngula on any circumstance/occasion.”

    It is quite clear that what you doubt is of little interest to anyone.

  161. #161 ThirdMonkey
    May 13, 2008

    Ummm… I’m a software engineer and I’m an atheist and I accept the ToE.
    So what’s all this talk of software engineers not accepting Evolution?!?

    Screw off Kenny… I mean “Those Pesky Darwinists”.

  162. #162 Kseniya
    May 13, 2008

    I, Albert Einstein, am not an “boy” but I’m definitely not a “secretary” , that probably makes me a “store”.

    Sigh. That’s what I get for leaving it up to The Raconteurs.

    All this done blind folded of course.

    Wow. You really don’t get it, do you. You forgot the fitness function. And you call yourself a software engineer?

    UhDuh strikes again.

    This sort of Ignorance is treatable, perhaps even curable, Mr. NotDaveScot. The choice is yours.

  163. #163 Kseniya
    May 13, 2008

    That was definitely not Kenny.

  164. #164 scottb
    May 13, 2008

    Please don’t think that a significant number of computer engineers/programmers/designers/etc. are IDiots – at least not the good ones.

    During my 30 years of experience as a software consultant, I’ve observed that there is a strong correlation between the best engineers and the best critical thinkers. The most important skills – logic, ability to reason and think abstractly, and problem solving – are inherent in both.

    I did run across a sysadmin one time who honestly believed that fossils were put there by his god as a faith test. I think he was home-schooling his kids too which at the time (20 years ago) seemed pretty strange to me. Of course, it makes perfect sense now as he was obviously more than a little reality-challenged.

  165. #165 Ichthyic
    May 14, 2008

    Please don’t think that a significant number of computer engineers/programmers/designers/etc. are IDiots – at least not the good ones.

    no worries.

    the issue is that while the vast majority of engineers are not creationists, there does seem to be a fairly large percentage of creationists that claim themselves engineers.

    there is no mistaking the direction, though.

    like Mill said:

    “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”

  166. #166 DonZilla
    May 14, 2008

    Thanks for this, PZ. I’ve often wondered if mankind developed what we call “religion” simply because humans are, as children, SO dependent (and vulnerable) for SO long.

    Religion helps extend that “carefree” time for those that were lucky enough to have one growing up, and offers comfort to those that didn’t.

    All the other arguments are just wallowing in the details.

  167. #167 SteveM
    May 14, 2008

    I see it has already been said, but I would still like to also add that as an engineer, I am embarrassed to be associated with the likes of “Pesky”. I too am completely mystified by the proportion of creationist dimwits that have managed to get themselves an engineering degree. Maybe because there is not much discussion of biology and so they don’t need to confront their religious fantasies.

  168. #168 SteveM
    May 14, 2008

    #113:Remember P.Z, the definition of an atheist is someone who doesn’t just lack the belief in god/s, but denies its existence altogether.

    no.

    ^ religioustolerance.org’s short article on Definitions of the term “Atheism” suggests that there is no consensus on the definition of the term. Simon Blackburn summarizes the situation in The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy: “Atheism. Either the lack of belief in a god, or the belief that there is none.”

    yes, it’s from Wikipedia. reference 4 in the “Atheism” article.

  169. #169 Roman Werpachowski
    May 14, 2008

    “I think that Jews and Greeks have whole lot in common. There just seem to be so many parallels.”

    I hope not, because Greece — together with Poland — is one of the most fucked up countries in the EU.

  170. #170 Owlmirror
    May 14, 2008

    I’m a bit surprised that no-one pointed to this site, which does attempt to collect many of Einstein’s words on religion spirituality, etc, with citations and references and a bibliography:

    http://einsteinandreligion.com/

    It does, particularly, have some of Einstein’s more explicit grumpiness against atheism:

    http://einsteinandreligion.com/atheism.html

    Yet, looking at his words, the phrase that comes creeping unto my mind is “concern troll”. You know, the sort who says things like, “Well, I reject all of that traditional religion stuff as well, but you Neo-Atheists are all so mean and arrogant.” When Einstein says that he rejects freethinking because it is “an attitude nourished exclusively by an opposition against naive superstition” — what the heck is he trying to say? That naive superstition is a good thing? That maybe it isn’t good, but one shouldn’t be exclusively against it? What?

    I think the problem is that no matter how smart he was, he wasn’t that great at articulating what he meant, and perhaps his own ideas about metaphysics and such were simply too incoherent to articulate clearly at all. Which doesn’t make him a whole lot different from many other people, of greater and lesser intelligence. Certainly other scientists that I have read and admired have seemed to sometimes express false notes, or indeed, very discordant ideas, while trying to communicate. Including our inestimable host, after all.

    I can sympathize with Einstein’s grumpiness somewhat. I dislike the word “atheist” myself, simply because it is indeed a basically negative concept. I think it is more important to emphasize positive concepts such as rationalism; secular humanism; secular ethics, and so on, than to use the strict word meaning what one doesn’t believe in. Yet “atheist” to mean “one who has no belief in god” seems reasonably accurate as well; why reject it? Einstein’s qualification that he disbelieves in specifically a personal god, and is therefore not strictly an atheist, seems like unnecessary semantic quibbling. Perhaps he meant “agnostic with occasional pantheistic and deistic tendencies”, which is a bit too long, and would require excessive explanation if stated explicitly, so he preferred to avoid making clear and specific statements about personal beliefs.

    It may also be that somewhere along the line, Einstein picked up the idea that “atheist” was a very pejorative term, and preferred to avoid it on that basis. I dunno.

    I suppose everyone will have their own ideas on how to best articulate their personal ethos and metaphysical ideas, if any.

  171. #171 Ichthyic
    May 14, 2008

    I dislike the word “atheist” myself, simply because it is indeed a basically negative concept.

    no…

    ANTI-theism would be a negative concept.

    atheism is a neutral concept, like a-stampcollecting (no I’m not going to go back and look up the proper term).

    that atheists can define themselves as anti-theist (I do), doesn’t mean the term itself is a negative concept.

    , Einstein picked up the idea that “atheist” was [misused as] a very pejorative term

    and it still is.

    so is “liberal”.

  172. #172 Daniel R
    May 14, 2008

    Owlmirror: “atheist” is negative only in United States, because most of people distrust or hate atheists. Here, in France, it is absolutely not negative. I can say “I am atheist” without problem (almost).

    Perhaps, in USA, atheists need “comings out of the closet” and perhaps it would be interesting to organize “atheist pride” marches.

  173. #173 Owlmirror
    May 14, 2008

    no…

    ANTI-theism would be a negative concept.

    atheism is a neutral concept, like a-stampcollecting (no I’m not going to go back and look up the proper term).

    That’s not quite what I meant by “negative” — I meant “a trait that is lacking”, not “something (necessarily) in opposition”. So “hairless” is also a negative concept.

    If there’s a better term that expresses “lacking a trait”, I can’t think of it right now.

  174. #174 Ichthyic
    May 15, 2008

    I meant “a trait that is lacking”

    ah.

    If there’s a better term that expresses “lacking a trait”, I can’t think of it right now.

    umm, typically adding “a” as a prefix does the trick.

    A-Theism = lacking theism

    *shrug*

  175. #175 Owlmirror
    May 15, 2008

    If there’s a better term that expresses “lacking a trait”, I can’t think of it right now.

    umm, typically adding “a” as a prefix does the trick.

    No, I meant a meta-level descriptive term to refer to the general class of terms that signify “lacking a trait”.

    I see that even “no” is defined as being “a negative”. Hm.

    And, after all, it depends on the word. “-less” as a suffix, for example. And while “a-;an-” are correct, there’s also “non-“, and “in-; im-; ir-“. There’s also “-free”, in some cases.

    Does “atheist” mean something different from “nontheist”? I don’t think it does, strictly speaking, but perhaps “nontheist” might be less likely to be confused with “antitheist”. It might be a matter of difficult-to-pin-down connotation.

  176. #176 Ichthyic
    May 16, 2008

    Does “atheist” mean something different from “nontheist”?

    nope.

    different etymology to the prefixes maybe?

    “a” is greek, non is latin, IIRC.

    a meta-level descriptive term

    ack. drawing a blank, sorry.

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