Friday, July 24, 2009

Albert Einstein on the importance of faith in the reality of what we see

Einstein himself was a pantheist (everything is part of God), but he was quite clear on the importance of believing that what we perceive as meaningful in the world around us really is so. It is not an illusion created by the buzz of neurons in our brains.

Consider some of his remarks on these subjects:
"Science can only be created", Einstein said, "by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, 1954.
In a letter to V. T. Aaltonen (7 May 1952), Einstein explained his opinion that belief in a personal God is better than atheism. Einstein said, "Mere unbelief in a personal God is no philosophy at all." [Einstein Archive 59-059]
Here I think Einstein spoke more wisely than many realize. A certain sort of atheism comes quite easily to many urbanites today. Milk, in their view, comes from the store (not the cow or the grass or the earth in which the grass seed falls. Same with fruit and vegetables, and pizza and ...

They don't realize that they are the last link in an intricate, intensively designed chain; they think it all somehow just happens. So they don't deny only God, they deny nature as well. And worse, in the case of nature, they often undertake poorly-thought-out "environment" causes that simply benefit one weed rather than another, one form of urban wildlife rather than another. Not necessarily a big problem, but not especially useful either.