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Einstein's God
September 28, 2009 | Jean F. Drew

Posted on 09/28/2009 9:40:25 AM PDT by betty boop

Einstein’s God

by Jean F. Drew

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) — reluctant scientific revolutionary and one of the most prolific theoretical physicists who ever lived — continues to fascinate us as a world-class thinker and important public actor to this day. There has been much speculation regarding his religious views in particular over the course of many decades.

Some people nowadays maintain that Einstein was an atheist. Others, a pantheist. His great biographer Abraham Pais (in Subtle Is the Lord, 1982) averred that Einstein’s God was simply the God of Baruch Spinoza ((1632–1677), one of the most influential European philosophers of all time. Indeed, Einstein says as much himself: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”

He denied he was an atheist. As Walter Isaacson quotes him (in Einstein, 2007): “There are people who say there is no God,” he told a friend. “But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views…. What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.”

In fact, Einstein tended to be more critical of [religious] debunkers, who seemed to lack humility or a sense of awe, than of the faithful. “The fanatical atheists,” he wrote in a letter, “are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who — in their grudge against traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’ — cannot hear the music of the spheres.”

On his own testimony, it appears that Einstein did not regard himself as an atheist.

Before we can clarify whether Einstein was a devotee of Spinoza’s God (or a pantheist, since Spinoza is commonly classified as such), it seems some background about Spinoza may be helpful.

As the German-American philosopher Walter Kaufmann wrote (in Philosophical Classics: Bacon to Kant, 1961), “No other philosopher of the seventeenth and eighteen centuries, if of any century, has been so widely and so greatly admired both by professional philosophers and by non-philosophers as Baruch Spinoza. He has often been called Christlike and saintly, but he was literally a heretic, and in the twentieth century he has frequently been linked with Freud.”

Kaufmann points out that Spinoza was a man of strong moral and political concerns. One can hardly blame the man: Not only was his family the target of religious persecution, in this case Christian and/or Muslim vs. Jew; but all of Europe about him was inflamed in religious passion, Christian vs. Christian, playing out the dynamics of Reformation/Counter-Reformation “politics” in seemingly incessant, bloody warfare.

He was born in Amsterdam, a Jew, whose parents had fled there from Portugal to escape persecution. Trained in the Jewish tradition under the guidance of a celebrated Talmudist, Saul Levi Morteira, he also studied with Manasseh ben Israel, who persuaded Cromwell to allow Jews to return to England. Fluent in Hebrew, Spanish, and Portuguese as well as Dutch, the eight-year-old Spinoza studied Latin, science, and the philosophy of Descartes with a Dutch physician, Franz van der Ende.

Of key significance, Kaufmann notes that Spinoza, deeply studied in the great Talmudic thinkers, was keenly aware of the dispute between two great 12th-century Jewish biblical scholars — Abraham Ibn Ezra and his younger contemporary, Maimonides. Boiling it down, Ezra “hinted that some passages in the Pentateuch could hardly have been written by Moses,” evincing skepticism regarding the authenticity and truth of biblical texts. Maimonides, on the other hand, argued that Scripture must always be interpreted as agreeing with reason.

Spinoza rejected this idea no less than the idea that reason must be subordinated to Scripture. He proposed — writing soon after the Thirty Years War — that religion and truth should be separated altogether. That is the best safeguard against fanaticism. Pious conduct flourishes best in an atmosphere of free speech; and laws concerning speculative matters are quite useless, only promoting strife, and distracting attention from moral conduct.

Einstein and Spinoza seem to have much in common. First of all, neither man had any use for “speculative matters.” Though separated by well over two centuries, both were secularized Jews. Both were “heretics” when it came to the Talmud, denying its message of human freedom under a God who involves himself with men and the world.

Stripped down to its bare bones, pantheism is an anti-rational cosmological system. Pantheism holds that sense perception can give only bad reports on the real condition of things, and thus whatever reasonings we can apply to such can give us only illusions of the world, not the world as it is in itself. All is Maya, illusion, deception — and suffering. The noble path of Nirvana involves release from this systemic regime of untruth as told by sense perception, together with the further realization that human intelligence and free will have no meaning within such a system; i.e., are also illusions. Only when we realize this can we be “At-One” with God….

So was Baruch Spinoza a pantheist according to such terms? It seems the idea of at least an intellectual “At-Oneness” with God may have had strong appeal for him. Thus there may be some superficial resemblance to pantheism in Spinoza’s system. Yet in a certain way it seems he went 180 degrees in the opposite direction from its anti-rationalist view, asserting a sort of divinity for reason itself. You don’t need reports from reality at all, if you can just boil God and everything else down into a purely rational construction, by means of impeccable logic: a system of definitions, axioms, propositions, lemmas, notes, that can stand completely in the place of human religious traditions. And ought to. If only to save the public peace!

Spinoza’s philosophical system shows, among other things, that human freedom is an illusion (a view consistent with pantheism), that all that happens “on earth and in heaven” can rationally be explained as completely determined by the necessary (i.e., deterministically caused) internal activity of God. God himself has no “freedom” from his own eternal, infinite nature. And thus neither can it be said of man that he has any freedom, or that any phenomenon in nature can be said to have “degrees of freedom.” The physical universe at large, together with all its contents, is just the ineluctable inner working-out of divine necessity at any given point in eternal time. It is blind to the human condition that such working-outs necessarily entail. Man is simply helplessly, inexorably caught up in this process. His only release from it — his only “personal salvation” — is to love this God who, in principle, cannot love him back. Therein man shall find eternal bliss.

Indeed, Spinoza evidently thought it obscene for a lover of God to ask God to love him in return. For that would be to ask God to be other than he is. Moreover, it would be to establish a personal connection between God and man — and arguably, this is what Spinoza’s system ultimately forbids. For ultimately, Spinoza came to the conclusion that [to repeat the key point] “religion and truth should be separated altogether. That is the best safeguard against fanaticism. Pious conduct flourishes best in an atmosphere of free speech; and laws concerning speculative matters are quite useless, only promoting strife, and distracting attention from moral conduct.”

Instantly we see a “programmatical approach” to solving problems of the universal human condition in the offing, via the operation of pure logic. Spinoza’s construction would satisfy all criteria of reason, presenting universal truth stripped of all supernatural elements.

Spinoza’s God: The Ethics

The Ethics is an ambitious and multifaceted work. It is also bold to the point of audacity, as one would expect of a systematic and unforgiving critique of the traditional philosophical conceptions of God, the human being and the universe, and, above all, of the religions and the theological and moral beliefs grounded thereupon. What Spinoza intends to demonstrate (in the strongest sense of that word) is the truth about God, nature and especially ourselves; and the highest principles of society, religion and the good life. Despite the great deal of metaphysics, physics, anthropology and psychology that take up Parts One through Three, Spinoza took the crucial message of the work to be ethical in nature. It consists in showing that our happiness and well-being lie not in a life enslaved to the passions and to the transitory goods we ordinarily pursue; nor in the related unreflective attachment to the superstitions that pass as religion, but rather in the life of reason. To clarify and support these broadly ethical conclusions, however, Spinoza must first demystify the universe and show it for what it really is. This requires laying out some metaphysical foundations, the project of Part One. — Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

In Part I, “Concerning God,” Spinoza begins with eight definitions and eight axioms, whereby he postulates the existence of God. God “exists” — that is to say, classical questions about the relations of Being and Existence are not entertained in Spinoza’s system; neither is God seen as the I AM THAT AM of Judeo-Christian tradition. He is simply posited as eternally existent on grounds of logical necessity.

The eight definitions and eight axioms are the basic elements of which Spinoza’s entire construction is built. From these definitions and axioms, Spinoza commences to generate scores of logical propositions (together with proofs and notes), cross-correlated as need be, concerning God and man, each of which “has been set forth piece-meal, according as I thought each Proposition could most readily be deduced from what preceded it.”

It’s clear that what Spinoza is attempting to do, in a thoroughly systematic way, is to recapitulate the classical and Judeo-Christian conception of God in terms of purely rational categories of thought. He manages to construct an amazing cathedral of thought on strictly logical grounds, and names it “God.”

“God, or substance (see definition above), consisting of infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality, necessarily exists…. A thing necessarily exists, if no cause or reason be granted which prevents its existence.” Spinoza’s God is “there” for two reasons: (1) there’s nothing to stop him from being there. (2) He is logically necessary.

“Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived.” Thus the conventional identification of Spinoza with pantheism. “[N]ature has no particular goal in view, and … final causes are mere human figments…. [E]verything in nature proceeds from a sort of necessity, and with the utmost perfection.” To posit final causes — objects, purposes, or goals — as relevant to God “does away with the perfection of God: for, if God acts for an object, he necessarily desires something which he lacks.” But God lacks for nothing — by Spinoza’s definition.

“All things, I repeat, are in God, and all things which come to pass, come to pass solely through the laws of the infinite nature of God, and follow … from the necessity of his essence. Wherefore it can in nowise be said, that God is passive in respect to anything other than himself….” That is, God is “passive” with respect to his own nature only, meaning that God himself is ineluctably determined by his own nature, and being thus determined by it, has no freedom in himself.

In short, God is “in” the system of nature; for he is governed by the same rule of deterministic causation which governs all of nature. God has no purposes, thus nature can have no purposes. To believe otherwise is to court illusion.

Spinoza elaborates this point. Perhaps anticipating resistance to his idea, he says that “false opinion” about God and the world is bound to occur when “such opinions spring from the common notion, that all things in nature act as men themselves act,” namely with an end — i.e., a final cause — in view. Yet man is fooled when he thinks he can cause anything:

“In the mind there is no absolute or free will; but the mind is determined to wish this or that by a cause, which has also been determined by another cause, and this last by another cause, and so on to infinity.”

Aristotle criticizes the idea of an infinite regress, implicit in Spinoza’s idea of natural causation. Aristotle asserts that there would be no reason in the world, if men were incapable of acting for an end, a telos, or purpose or goal. Indeed, for Aristotle, the entire point of reason is that it always operates towards the accomplishment of a purpose. For Aristotle, reason is embedded in the very structure of the world and thus of all truthful perception of natural reality; and works from there towards securing the freely-willed goals of intelligent actors.

Yet Spinoza rejects all such considerations of natural reality. Everything is determined, even God [by Spinoza himself!]. Free will is an illusion. According to him, all final causes in nature are merely “human figments.”

Indeed, Spinoza categorically denies free will. He says that human beings get the “false notion” of free will by observing their own seemingly free actions, and then impute to God that his own actions must be similarly free. But the observation of “free action” is an illusion; for even God is not himself “free.”

“God does not act according to freedom of the will.” Rather, “will and intellect stand in the same relation to the nature of God as do motion, and rest.” Motion and rest are generically observable phenomena; will and intellect are not. Yet here Spinoza effectively “equates” them.

Neither does Spinoza’s God act for ends: He simply “moves” and “rests.” “[F]or if God acts for an object [i.e., an end, telos, purpose or goal], he necessarily desires something which he lacks.” Which is impossible, according to Spinoza’s doctrine. God lacks for nothing, not even man. He is perfectly alone, and needs to stay that way.

Thus Spinoza’s God does not have the freedom to create from and for love, but only from infinite divine necessity. “…[T]here is in the mind no absolute faculty of understanding, desiring, loving, &c. Whence it follows, that these and similar faculties are either entirely fictitious, or are merely abstract or general terms, such as we are accustomed to put together from particular things.”

Spinoza’s conception of God entails something else: “He, who loves God, cannot endeavor that God should love him in return…. For if a man should so endeavor, he would desire that God, whom he loves, should not be God….” Which is “absurd,” &c.

To sum up, Spinoza explains “the nature and properties of God” as follows: “I have shown that he necessarily exists, that he is one: that he is, and acts solely by the necessity of his own nature; that he is the free cause of all things, and how he is so; that all things are in God, and so depend on him, that without him they could neither exist nor be conceived; lastly, that all things are predetermined by God, not through his free will or absolute fiat, but from the very nature of God or infinite power.”

The epistemological problem involved in Spinoza’s general approach is that if any of the presuppositions on which his system is built is found to be false — the definitions, axioms, and postulates — then anything built on them will likewise be false. Modern science has called into question several of his assertions about the structure of reality. For example, quantum mechanics calls his causal theory into question. He denied the existence of the vacuum, and argued that any notion of differently-sized infinities is absurd.

The ontological problem is that the rationalization of God drains all life, love, free will, and justice out of the universe. For those very qualities, if perceived to exist at all, are not susceptible to quantification or rationalization; and thus cannot come within the range of Spinoza’s construction. They are thus effectively denied in principle: God does not create a universe out of love, but out of the necessity of his own divine nature — which of course has been “determined” by Spinoza. God himself has no will independent of his own infinite divine nature. Thus God himself is not “free” — he is bound by his own infinite nature, just as all earthly phenomena are bound (determined) by him.

All things that come to pass in the world of men and nature do so according to the strict determinism of God’s “activity”; to think that man can ever freely choose anything apart from the inexorable out-playing of the divine activity is a grotesque illusion: Man is completely determined by the unfolding of God’s “nature,” as is the universe at large.

So, where does Einstein fit into this picture?
It’s well-established that Einstein did not believe in a personal God; that is, a God who takes an interest in human persons and affairs. We also know that Einstein was a “classical” causal determinist and scientific realist. He was prepared to defend Newton’s strict causality to the dying breath. For this reason he distrusted quantum mechanics on principle — because its dependence on statistical methods seemed to cast God into the role of a dice-player, which Einstein refused to accept; and perhaps because he found pervasive quantum indeterminacy in the absence of an observer inconsistent with his realist position with respect to natural causation.

Thus he might have been inclined to draw comfort from Spinoza’s model of a completely rational God who must obey the laws of his own nature. As Walter Isaacson wrote, “For some people, miracles serve as evidence of God’s existence. For Einstein it was the absence of miracles that reflected divine providence. The fact that the world was comprehensible, that it followed laws, was worthy of awe.”

On the other hand, Einstein himself had direct experiences of human freedom in the conduct of his work and was a life-long champion of it. He said human creative freedom is absolutely essential to the conduct of theoretical science.

“Just before his death,” wrote I. B. Cohen (Sci. Amer., July 1955), “Einstein said he had always believed that the intervention of scientific concepts and the building of theories upon them was one of the creative properties of the human mind. His own view was thus opposed to Mach, because Mach assumed that the laws of science were only an economic way of describing a large collection of facts.” The present writer does not know how to conceive of a creative power that is not in some important sense “free.” In a final autobiographical note (1956), Einstein wrote: “Invention is not the product of logical thought, even though the final product is tied to a logical structure.”

Einstein, as already noted, was a philosophical realist. To put it crudely, that is the position of the person who answers the question, “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?” in the affirmative. Which is to say that natural phenomena are not in any way dependent on an observer for their reality. Spinoza, on the other hand, could be called a thorough-going rationalist: His entire system is the product of his mind and thus is wholly dependent on him. “Reality tests” aren’t part of his program.

But to Einstein, reality tests — actual experience — are absolutely necessary:

“The skeptic will say, ‘it may well be true that this system of equations is reasonable from a logical standpoint, but this does not prove that it corresponds to nature.’ You are right, dear skeptic. Experience alone can decide on truth.” [Einstein, Sci. Amer., April 1950]

But what is really difficult is trying to find a way to “square” Spinoza’s God with Einstein’s deeply-convicted sense of the “mysterious” or miraculous in nature, of which he spoke throughout his life.

“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.” — Einstein’s Credo, 1930

"Science can be created only by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding,” [Einstein] said. “This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion.” The talk got front-page news coverage, and his pithy conclusion became famous. “The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” — Walter Issacson, Einstein, 2007.

What Spinoza wrought has nothing to do with religion, but rather was a deliberately, carefully constructed system intended to stand in the place of religion. It is a pure abstraction, deliberately drained of any sense of the mysterious, of the miraculous, of Spirit….

Shortly after his 50th birthday, Einstein gave a remarkable interview to George Sylvester Viereck, a rather notorious journalist who Einstein took for a fellow Jew. (He wasn’t; Viereck proudly claimed kin with the Kaiser’s family, and was jailed during World War II for pro-Nazi propaganda.) In this interview, it is plain that Einstein personally resonated to “spiritual things.” As Walter Issacson reports (Einstein, 2007):

Viereck began by asking Einstein whether he considered himself a German or a Jew. “It’s possible to be both,” replied Einstein. “Nationalism is an infantile disease, the measles of mankind.”

Should Jews try to assimilate? “We Jews have been too eager to sacrifice our idiosyncrasies in order to conform.”

To what extent are you influenced by Christianity? “As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”

[Note: At Age 6, Einstein was enrolled in a large Catholic school in his neighborhood, there being no Jewish schools nearby. There he received traditional Catholic theological instruction. Family members reported that he enjoyed it immensely.]

You accept the historical existence of Jesus? “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”

Do you believe in God? “I’m not an atheist. I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”

Is this a Jewish concept of God? “I am a determinist. I do not believe in free will. Jews believe in free will. They believe that man shapes his own life. I reject that doctrine. In that respect I am not a Jew….” [Italics added for emphasis]

What Einstein found most attractive in Spinoza was his strict determinism. This was probably the reason Spinoza was excommunicated from the Amsterdam Sephardic Community in 1656 (Kaufmann mentions this ban was lifted when Israel became a nation, in 1948); for Jews believe in free will. Einstein claims he doesn’t. But then he lands in impossible conundrums such as this one:

“I know that philosophically a murderer is not responsible for his crime,” he said, “but I prefer not to take tea with him.” The murderer is not responsible for his crime, because he couldn’t help himself; his act was determined by an infinitely regressive causal chain. Yet Einstein believed that the murderer should be held responsible for the evil deed nonetheless. In short, a man should be held responsible for actions he did not will, for civil society pragmatically and quite sensibly depends on holding people accountable for their actions, even when they’re not the cause of them. Einstein must have been prepared to accept a colossal inversion of the classical and Judeo-Christian idea of Justice to defend such a position.

And then seems to flat-out contradict himself here, in speaking of human freedom:

“While it is true that an inherently free and scrupulous person may be destroyed, such an individual can never be enslaved or made to serve as a blind tool.”

From what we know about Einstein’s deep and lifelong commitment to classical (i.e., Newtonian) causation, Spinoza’s relentless determinism may have been appealing to him. But in his personal life — that is, in actual experience — Einstein does not appear to behave in a manner consistent with the logic of Spinoza’s God. Here is Einstein, addressing his friend Max Planck on his sixtieth birthday:

“The longing to behold … preestablished harmony is the source of the inexhaustible persistence and patience with which we see Planck devoting himself to the most general problems of our science…. I have often heard that colleagues would like to attribute this attitude to exceptional will-power and discipline; I believe entirely wrongly so. The emotional state which enables such achievements is similar to that of the religious person or the person in love; the daily pursuit does not originate from a design or program but from a direct need.”

In the end, it seems an irreconcilable difference between Einstein and Spinoza is that the former believes the “preestablished harmony” evident to him in nature had an “extra-natural” — one might even say “non-existent” — source. Spinoza makes it the product of the human mind — his own.

Einstein does not ever “make man the measure.”

But such a motive appears at the very heart of Spinoza’s philosophy.

TOPICS: General Discusssion; History; Religion & Culture; Religion & Science
KEYWORDS: atheism; einstein; pantheism; scientism; spinoza
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1 posted on 09/28/2009 9:40:25 AM PDT by betty boop
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To: betty boop

sounds as if Einstein was a deist. Believed in a Higher Power or Creative Intelligence, but didn’t think it participated in worldly affairs.

I’ve found that astronomers and physicists are more open towards a deity than biologists. I have read that, in Einstein’s case, creative intelligence was the only possible way to explain how such cosmic marvels could exist.

2 posted on 09/28/2009 9:51:12 AM PDT by Retired Greyhound
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To: betty boop

I’ve always wondered why it seems so important for people to have labels attached to their beliefs.

3 posted on 09/28/2009 9:54:28 AM PDT by stuartcr (If we are truly made in the image of God, why do we have faults?)
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To: betty boop

Very interesting and worthy of future study. Thanks!!

4 posted on 09/28/2009 10:01:36 AM PDT by RichardW
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To: Alamo-Girl; r9etb; xzins; metmom; spirited irish; hosepipe; TXnMA; MHGinTN; GodGunsGuts; ...


5 posted on 09/28/2009 10:07:08 AM PDT by betty boop (Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. —Pope Benedict XVI)
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To: Retired Greyhound; stuartcr; Alamo-Girl
I’ve found that astronomers and physicists are more open towards a deity than biologists.

Me too, Retired Greyhound! Very curious....

Though we dislike "labeling" people, Einstein's views do have a deistic flavor....

I have read that, in Einstein’s case, creative intelligence was the only possible way to explain how such cosmic marvels could exist.

Indeed. Einstein may indeed have believed there is a creative intelligence behind the "pure marble of geometry" that lay at the root of "the base wood" of material phenomena. He calls him/it the "Old One," or the Lord....

Thank you so much for sharing your insight, Retired Greyhound!

6 posted on 09/28/2009 10:16:09 AM PDT by betty boop (Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. —Pope Benedict XVI)
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To: betty boop
I caught YOU.. you are trying to sneak up on me.. AND TEACH ME SOMETHING..
Well Nyah.. I'm too smart for you..
7 posted on 09/28/2009 10:20:15 AM PDT by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole....)
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To: betty boop

It doesn’t seem to me that we dislike ‘labeling’ people, that’s all we hear is a____________, especially when it comes to religion.

8 posted on 09/28/2009 10:30:03 AM PDT by stuartcr (If we are truly made in the image of God, why do we have faults?)
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To: betty boop; metmom; xzins
Thank you oh so very much for this outstanding, illuminating essay, dearest sister in Christ!

Truly, I suspect Einstein's strong determinism was rooted in his vision of the "lofty structure" of "all that there is."

Clearly he was a geometer of the greatest insight. And I very strongly agree with his dream of transmuting the base wood of matter into the pure marble of geometry.

But he had an astonishing prejudice in favor of physical causation (as do most scientists) and I imagine that might have clouded his cosmology.

Or to put it another way, he accepted that God must be in order for "all that there is" to become - the initial cause or first cause.

But beyond that, perhaps because he had a greater appreciation for the magnitude of the universe, he could not envision God being bothered with the small things to cause anything else (non-physical causation.)

He certain saw God's hand in the "lofty structure" - as I often do in the "unreasonable effectiveness of math" (Wigner.)

Then again, Einstein didn't live to gain the insights of information theory (Shannon et al) or how it applies to biological life. Had he known these things, perhaps he would have expended his cosmology to include non-physical causation.

Under Shannon this would be called "successful communication."

But we Christians recognize the cause as God Himself, Jesus Christ, Logos,Creator not just Alpha but Omega as well.

God's Name is I AM.

9 posted on 09/28/2009 10:33:54 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop

If we didn’t ask Einstein what he believed in life, why try to squeeze it out of his dead bones now? Does it even matter? He can not know anymore than the garbage man. He too merely had his opinion.

He was a great physicist though. RIP.

10 posted on 09/28/2009 10:34:31 AM PDT by HospiceNurse
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To: stuartcr

Perhaps because the wrong label at the wrong time might get you burned at the stake, or worse.

11 posted on 09/28/2009 10:35:04 AM PDT by Unassuaged (I have shocking data relevant to the conversation!)
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To: HospiceNurse
Your chances of getting an illuminating and particularly insightful answer asking a physicist about theology is about as likely as getting the same asking a theologian about physics.

Brilliance in one endeavor doesn't necessarily translate into every endeavor, especially one taken on in such a cursory and ad hoc fashion.

Or as Heinlein pointed out “expertise in one narrow area doesn't translate into other areas, and yet the narrower the area of expertise, the more likely the expert is to think that it does.”

12 posted on 09/28/2009 10:39:44 AM PDT by allmendream (Wealth is EARNED not distributed, so how could it be RE-distributed?)
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To: HospiceNurse
If we didn’t ask Einstein what he believed in life, why try to squeeze it out of his dead bones now?

But people did try to "squeeze it out of him" during life. That's the reason we have Einstein on record discussing such matters, illuminating his own view of things.

If you don't think Einstein's cosmological views are relevant to his practice of theoretical physics, then of course you're entitled to your opinion, HospiceNurse! And I'll respect it, too.

13 posted on 09/28/2009 10:46:12 AM PDT by betty boop (Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. —Pope Benedict XVI)
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To: allmendream

Devining what Einstein thought after his death is similar to “reading” chicken entrails or tea leaves. Like most mortals, I’m sure he believed different things at different times. Again, may God bless him, but what difference does it make what he believed? He was a scientist who rejected belief as a methodology for establishing truth.

14 posted on 09/28/2009 10:53:57 AM PDT by HospiceNurse
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To: Unassuaged

I guess you’re right. Seems the best label, is the most common for where&whenever you’re living. I’ve never experienced anything like that, so I hadn’t looked at it that way, thanks.

15 posted on 09/28/2009 10:56:40 AM PDT by stuartcr (If we are truly made in the image of God, why do we have faults?)
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To: HospiceNurse

I like your answer, thanks.

16 posted on 09/28/2009 10:57:46 AM PDT by stuartcr (If we are truly made in the image of God, why do we have faults?)
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To: stuartcr; Alamo-Girl
It doesn’t seem to me that we dislike ‘labeling’ people, that’s all we hear is a____________, especially when it comes to religion.

Actually, I thought I was very careful not to "label" either Einstein or Spinoza in this article. And this as a matter of principle: No person is reducible to a single descriptive term. Or so it seems to me.

These are two towering thinkers. To understand something about their respective views on ultimate reality I personally find helpful to my own thinking about the world. I tried to let these men speak for themselves, not through me.

And I do agree with you, stuartcr: All too often, "labeling" is counterproductive. Too often it serves as a distraction away from matters of substance.

17 posted on 09/28/2009 11:04:21 AM PDT by betty boop (Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. —Pope Benedict XVI)
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To: stuartcr
I’ve always wondered why it seems so important for people to have labels attached to their beliefs.

Same reason we have money, instead of a barter economy: it makes for convenient shorthand.

Labels work fine for a lot of things ... so long as we don't hold on to them too tightly.

It can go too far, of course ... to the point where the labels supplant the ideas themselves. Just check into one of those Calvinist threads on premillenial dispensational whatsis-ism and you'll see the point.

18 posted on 09/28/2009 11:13:28 AM PDT by r9etb
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To: stuartcr
It doesn’t seem to me that we dislike ‘labeling’ people, that’s all we hear is a____________, especially when it comes to religion.

Or a RINO when it comes to politics....

19 posted on 09/28/2009 11:15:33 AM PDT by r9etb
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To: Alamo-Girl
But he had an astonishing prejudice in favor of physical causation (as do most scientists) and I imagine that might have clouded his cosmology.

Indeed — physical causation of the Newtonian type. Whose theory Einstein himself realizes is not "the last word" in physics, any more than quantum mechanics (in his oft-stated view). Newton's mechanics, you'll recall, forbids the idea of final cause. Thus we are not entitled to inquire into what Einstein's "lofty structure" is for, or what the "pure marble of geometry" — the ultimate cause of all that there is — is there for....

I'd love to know what Einstein would have made of, not only Shannon's information theory, but also of Rosen's relational biology.

I dunno; maybe I'm reading too much of myself into the picture here; but it sure looks to me that Einstein's "pure marble of geometry" is closely related to the idea of Logos....

The Word, Alpha to Omega.

All glory be to God!

20 posted on 09/28/2009 11:18:30 AM PDT by betty boop (Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. —Pope Benedict XVI)
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