What Einstein Never Understood
In terms of intellectual abilities it is fair to say that few of us can match Albert Einstein.
He devoted his life and intellect to nutting out the theory behind everything and he did pretty well. His perfect world would be entirely predictable and expressed in mathematical formulae.
The problem with his compelling urge to explain everything is that we don’t have all the information and so not everything conforms to the plans and ideas we have in our heads. His commitment to the quest to explain the universe reveals that at some level he did in fact have faith in some power/ planner behind all that exists. A unifying theory suggests a deliberately created system and that leads to the question of, “Who is the creator?”
He grappled with the concept of God that he had encountered in his upbringing as a Jew:
“I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”
- Albert Einstein, The World As I See
His struggle continued:
“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”
Einstein wrote a letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month, opening bid $3 million if you’re interested in tying up your money in a piece of history. If your struggle with poverty is so great that you don’t have a spare $3 million you’ll just have to let the opportunity pass. Sigh.
This letter was written to Jewish philosopher Eric Gutkind, one year before Einstein died, as a response to Gutkind’s book, “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.”
Here’s part of what Einstein wrote, “For me the Jewish religion like all other religions 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 also no better than other human groups … I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”
Having a phenomenal IQ is a bit like having too much money – after a while (or so I’m told) you get used to having resources other
people don’t have and you come to rely on your assets for your answers. Pretty soon, the things that don’t bow to your assets come into question and the usual response is to go with your assets, rejecting what doesn’t fit neatly with them. Rather than have faith that there might be things beyond our perceptions and control, we just deny their existence or refuse to think about them. It’s easier that way, we can avoid the implication that we are finite beings. Denial has definite advantages.
The old saying goes, “When you have all the answers, it’s because you haven’t asked all the questions.” That is a tough admission if you are really smart.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
Think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things to shame the strong . . . so that no one could boast . . . it is because of God that you belong to Christ Jesus, who has become wisdom from God to us . . .”
So a smart guy like Einstein had trouble matching what he knew about God with what he knew about the universe. This just tells us two simple things: 1. he didn’t know enough about the universe, and 2. he didn’t know enough about God. Both are worth exploring.
Posted on October 6, 2012, in Communicating faith and tagged Albert Einstein, Bible, faith, faith struggles, God, Jewish philosophy, Judaism, Knowledge, science, Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.