July 3, 2014

In Their Own Words VIII: Science Without Religion is Lame

[An ongoing series about the profoundly ironic theological / philosophical quotes that scientists or those in academia make.]

Albert Einstein is considered by many to be one of the most intelligent men to have ever lived. Having been raised by secular Jewish parents, he abandoned his faith early in life. It was also clear that he was metaphysically or spiritually conflicted as evidenced by this quote…
“…a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance of those super-personal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation ... In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be...”  ~ Albert Einstein [Religion and Science-New York Times Magazine (1930)]

Einstein more succinctly summarized the previous statement as follows…
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

Einstein believed in causality or a regress of causality that pointed back to an original cause or God (Aristotle's Uncaused Cause explains this theory nicely). He conceded that the idea of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science because religion can always take refuge in areas that science cannot explain. Science, the way it is defined today, can only explain the physical or empirical realm, religion epistomologically belongs in the in the metaphysical realm and explains the supernatural.

Most likely his apostasy or falling away from belief in God occurred because he had very little intellectually or spiritually to root his faith in to begin with. He said he believed in a pantheistic God of Baruch Spinoza which defined god as a singular self-subsistent substance, with both matter and thought being one of this god’s attributes. He did not on the other hand believe in a personal god which he would later criticize.

What is really interesting about Einstein is that he also considered himself an agnostic, while disassociating himself from the label atheist. It is here again I sense the metaphysical conflict I mentioned earlier. To me it is surprising that a man who seemed to be so gifted by God with extraordinarily intelligence would be so troubled by a faith driven issue so easy to understand in the Bible. It was as if he refused to see it or believe it by choice. At least he was intelligent enough not to deny the idea of God outright and even said so by criticizing his contemporaries that would adhere to a militant form of atheism. He even went as far as to appreciate the stories of the Hebrew Bible and the Passion of Jesus [3]

In rejecting atheism outright Einstein made the following statement:
"I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being."[2]

Additionally, Einstein is also stated…
"In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views."[1]

Albert was indeed a smart man. Perhaps not smart enough to have read his Bible and found the true God but smart enough not to deny the existence of God outright. Many atheists could learn a lesson from Einstein’s tact. Unfortunately, many will not because of their intellectual arrogance.

[1] Clark, Ronald W. (1971). Einstein: The Life and Times. New York: World Publishing Company, p. 425.
[2] Isaacson, Walter (2008). Einstein: His Life and Universe. New York: Simon and Schuster, pp. 390.
[3] Sachs, Andrew and Peter Jones (1930). Albert Einstein. Taylor and Francis, p. 32.
[4] Einstein, Albert (1930). "Religion and Science" New York Times Magazine (Nov. 9): 1-4.

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