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Richard Dawkins discusses Einstein's new letters - Comments

Oppomystic's Avatar Comment 1 by Oppomystic

Nail plus Coffin = Closed

Not that this will stop the quote-miners. They'll always have their wedges...

Tue, 13 May 2008 13:51:00 UTC | #170555

Mango's Avatar Comment 2 by Mango

Nothing new, but the interview's a good length to get in a few Tim Tam slams.

Tue, 13 May 2008 14:08:00 UTC | #170561

Whistler's Avatar Comment 3 by Whistler

I've just placed a bid on the letter. Wish me luck.

Tue, 13 May 2008 14:21:00 UTC | #170569

akado's Avatar Comment 4 by akado

yep tis old news but still it's awesome we got more stuff to shove in religious peoples face ;P
yay for einstien! ^.^

Tue, 13 May 2008 14:26:00 UTC | #170570

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 5 by HourglassMemory

I was thinking how wonderful the Internet is.
This letter thing only came out, what, yesterday? Two days ago?
And now here we are, listening to Dawkins' opinion in a matter of hours.

It's pretty cool.

Tue, 13 May 2008 14:28:00 UTC | #170571

ericross's Avatar Comment 6 by ericross

I'm not convinced that Einstein was an atheist. It seems more likely that he was a deist -- by saying that he did not believe in a personal god, he was implying that he did believe in some sort of a god. I also read in Time (in an article based on the recently published biography of Einstein) that he repeatedly denied being an atheist.

Anyone care to try to convince me?

Tue, 13 May 2008 14:30:00 UTC | #170575

Martini's Avatar Comment 7 by Martini

ericross, is the following YouTube video convincing enough?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qOsDR5sZTk

"It seems more likely that he was a deist -- by saying that he did not believe in a personal god, he was implying that he did believe in some sort of a god."

You're assuming that that sort of god must be a deity. He was referring to a pantheistic sort of god, which is just calling nature "God".


"I also read in Time (in an article based on the recently published biography of Einstein) that he repeatedly denied being an atheist."


He didn't like the word, but that's what he was, by strict definition. His problem with a lot of self-described atheists was that he thought they lacked "wonder."

Tue, 13 May 2008 14:50:00 UTC | #170585

Wosret's Avatar Comment 8 by Wosret

Saying that he didn't believe in a personal god meant that he didn't believe in a god that was a person. If me wants to call perhaps a singularity that bore the universe god, then fine, whatever. If he wants to call nature god, then that is fine.

Though if you really want to know what he meant by god it is extremely clear, as he said that he believed in Spinoza's god, and spinoza is quite clear on what that is and isn't. Spinoza was also no pantheist. Pantheists consider somethings sacred, and worthy of more than just awe and reverance, where Spinoza did not.

He could have perhaps considered himself a deist, but he would have just been using words differently. If he was refering to something that exists as god, like nature, then he could consider that deism, there is no law that says that he can't define "god" in that way. He would be an atheist though to people that don't share his definition of the word "god" though.

Tue, 13 May 2008 16:09:00 UTC | #170607

Matthew Shute's Avatar Comment 9 by Matthew Shute

[quote]I'm not convinced that Einstein was an atheist. It seems more likely that he was a deist[/quote]

Wasn't he a pantheist?

Dawkins made me chuckle when, in The God Delusion, he described pantheism as "sexed-up atheism". Belief in Spinoza's God certainly requires very little in the way of faith...

Tue, 13 May 2008 16:13:00 UTC | #170608

Friggertool's Avatar Comment 10 by Friggertool

God does not play dice - Einstein

But he plays a mean game of chess!

Tue, 13 May 2008 16:29:00 UTC | #170609

Tack's Avatar Comment 11 by Tack

It seems to me one could make a plausible case that Einstein was a deist:

His [the scientist's] religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. [The World As I See It]


(From http://members.aol.com/heraklit1/einstein.htm)

It's sometimes hard not to get the feeling that Einstein flipflops between deism and pantheism.

Tue, 13 May 2008 16:30:00 UTC | #170610

AnnRKeye's Avatar Comment 12 by AnnRKeye

I second what Tack said. I recently heard, if I remember correctly, that Dawkins thinks science can prove God does not exist. Haven't had a chance to research this, but for now, I tend to disagree.

Tue, 13 May 2008 16:42:00 UTC | #170611

LeeLeeOne's Avatar Comment 13 by LeeLeeOne

#9 matt_shute 07

very wise indeed you are

(yoda speak - sorry - cheesey but it's sincere)

Tue, 13 May 2008 16:58:00 UTC | #170619

ericross's Avatar Comment 14 by ericross

I would refer people to this article on the Time Magazine web site. It is an excerpt from Walter Isaacson's recent biography on Einstein.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1607298,00.html

I think it is fair to call Einstein a pantheist (even if he himself seems to have denied it), but that does not really settle the question. Pantheism seems to be a fuzzy concept that is often used as a catch-all for positions that are vague and difficult to classify. The real question is, did Einstein believe in a god that is more than a metaphor for the natural? My answer is a tentative yes, but Einstein was maddeningly unclear. Certainly, though, he was no theist.

For the record, I regard the question as not much more than a curiosity. I don't hang my hat on what Einstein did or didn't believe, and nor should anyone else.

Tue, 13 May 2008 17:03:00 UTC | #170623

b0ltzm0n's Avatar Comment 15 by b0ltzm0n

I second what Tack said. I recently heard, if I remember correctly, that Dawkins thinks science can prove God does not exist. Haven't had a chance to research this, but for now, I tend to disagree.


You can never prove something doesn't exist, but you can surely come closer and closer to being sure something doesn't exist. The more we learn the less theistic gods stand up to scrutiny.

All we can do is continue to clear the fog of ignorance using the best tools at our disposal, and the scientific method seems to be a pretty good tool! Cheers!

Tue, 13 May 2008 17:21:00 UTC | #170625

MelM's Avatar Comment 16 by MelM

Walter Isaacson's view (not an atheist) on an MSNBC video:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/24579466#24579466



The MSNBC article about the letter:
If correct, Brooke's view would again imply that Einstein was not an atheist.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24598856/

John Brooke, emeritus professor of science and religion at Oxford University, said the letter lends weight to the notion that "Einstein was not a conventional theist" --although he was not an atheist, either.

...
Brooke said Einstein believed that "there is some kind of intelligence working its way through nature. But it is certainly not a conventional Christian or Judaic religious view."


If he wasn't an atheist, I'd be disappointed in Einstein, but, I'm with ( #179783 by ericross ) on this:
I don't hang my hat on what Einstein did or didn't believe, and nor should anyone else.

Tue, 13 May 2008 17:41:00 UTC | #170630

zenmite's Avatar Comment 17 by zenmite

"Pantheists consider somethings sacred, and worthy of more than just awe and reverance"

I'm not sure where you get this. It might be more accurate to say pantheists consider everything sacred rather than 'some' things. But even that is problematic since to consider something sacred you must also consider something else non-sacred or mundane. Saying that everything is sacred is like saying everything is up. But in my view, saying 'everything is god' amounts to the same thing. Might as well say; 'Everything is everything.'

Tue, 13 May 2008 17:46:00 UTC | #170633

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 18 by Styrer-

Having heard all sorts of quotes, and having read just a little, I conclude, rather boringly, I'm afraid, that Einstein was simply not interested in the idea of religion and of a supreme being's existence or non-existence.

I don't think he gave a flying fuck.

I think the whole God question was a distraction for him, from the scientific work he wanted to press on with.

I think he would think our musings here rather risible.

Richard's answers here quite nicely reflect this, though I am not sure that we can forgive Richard for presenting himself for such an interview without intimating even once that religion is a stinking load of fuck-eyed piss juice drained from the scrotums of faithoholics, spunked over by elderly perverted and grinning virgins, and served in kids' lunches the world over.

Just my take on it.

Best,
Styrer

Tue, 13 May 2008 17:47:00 UTC | #170634

Geodesic17's Avatar Comment 19 by Geodesic17

I've thought it before, and I've seen it written elsewhere, but I'll say it here: Ben Stein is no Einstein.


It is unfortunate that some people see a quote about god and automatically assume that it is about their own god. Thoughts?

Tue, 13 May 2008 18:59:00 UTC | #170652

MelM's Avatar Comment 20 by MelM

For what it's worth.

Turns out that John Hedley Brooke has already been discussed both on the Dawkins blog and at PZ's Pharyngula.

According to Wikipedia, he's involved with the Templeton Foundation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hedley_Brooke

In 1998 he joined the Templeton Oxford Seminars Steering Committee...

Tue, 13 May 2008 20:06:00 UTC | #170675

MarcLindenberg's Avatar Comment 21 by MarcLindenberg

Comment #179771 by AnnRKeye

I recently heard, if I remember correctly, that Dawkins thinks science can prove God does not exist.


I don't believe Dawkins thinks that science can prove that god doesn't exist, in the God Delusion I think he makes that clear. He refers to the teapot example (suppose there is a teapot orbiting somewhere between Earth and Mars, but it's so super tiny that our most powerful telescopes cannot pick it up ext... You cannot prove that there isn't a teapot there, but you almost certainly know there isn't) , and the aptly named chapter Why God Almost Certainly Doesn't Exist.
So he shows that the chances that there actually is a god are really slim, but there is always chance, because you don't know.

Tue, 13 May 2008 21:03:00 UTC | #170692

mmurray's Avatar Comment 22 by mmurray

I recently heard, if I remember correctly, that Dawkins thinks science can prove God does not exist.


Have a look at the wikipedia article

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability

on a 1-7 scale where 1 = 100% certainty God exists and 7 = 100% certainty that God does not exist Dawkins rates himself a 6.8

Michael

Tue, 13 May 2008 21:12:00 UTC | #170695

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 23 by mordacious1

Einstein was an atheist. What bothers me is that the god-folk are always trying to label brilliant people as "believers". This is so they can say, "see, smart people believe in god too". It is really pathetic of them. I'm sure that several decades from now we will be reading "Dawkins was really a christian". That is why Richard has said that he will have to tape his last words so there won't be any of this BS after he is dead. I repeat, pathetic.

Tue, 13 May 2008 21:30:00 UTC | #170697

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 24 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Einstein was a Spinozist... an atheist about all the gods of all religions, but used the word "God" to refer to the infinite natural universe.

It's a kind of usurping of the term away from idiots.

So there are two ways to look at it:

1. Einstein was a particular sort of Spinozistic atheist.

2. Einstein and Spinoza both believed in the ONLY possible God, the one that actually DOES exist. In this case, everyone ELSE are the atheists.


We atheists could have a little fun with the believers.

Just try this one: "You're the atheist, not me." :)

Tue, 13 May 2008 22:05:00 UTC | #170710

MIND_REBEL's Avatar Comment 25 by MIND_REBEL

Einstein wasn't an athiest. He explicitly stated that several times, and actually warned people against stating that he was.

I really wish people would stop trying to rewrite history.

Tue, 13 May 2008 22:45:00 UTC | #170723

MaxD's Avatar Comment 26 by MaxD

MindRebel,
I think that you could in no way call him a deist either. Perhaps a pantheist but it is clear that whatever stuff Spinoza's God (the only God Einstein even seems to have fancied) is, it is not the kind of Godstuff the religious tend to like, endorse or even tolerate very well.

Tue, 13 May 2008 22:52:00 UTC | #170724

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 27 by mordacious1

What Richard said in the interview, that Einstein used god and religion as metaphors, is correct. It made him sound pantheistic or even deistic, but I have no doubt, nor does Richard, that he was an atheist. Atheist, atheist, ATHEIST. That is E=A3, Einstein=atheist cubed.

I use metaphors like this all the time, it is part of our culture. I try not to, but the word god slips out once in awhile. When something goes wrong I've been known to say "god hates me because I'm an atheist". This doesn't mean I believe in any of this nonsense, and neither did Einstein.

Tue, 13 May 2008 23:36:00 UTC | #170730

born-again-atheist's Avatar Comment 28 by born-again-atheist

Einstein was Einsteinian.

Tue, 13 May 2008 23:45:00 UTC | #170733

Silent.Bomber's Avatar Comment 29 by Silent.Bomber

I think Dawkins is being slightly disingenuous here. Einstein explicitly stated that he was not a theist, but he also explicitly stated that he was not an atheist. We should just leave him and start arguing about it: its as if each side is battling for this genius and trying to claim him for their side. He was neither: let's stop fighting over him.

Wed, 14 May 2008 00:16:00 UTC | #170738

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 30 by mordacious1

I've read most, if not all, of Einstein's letters and I do not recall any that came close to him saying he was not an atheist. I would love to know what your source of this statement is.

Wed, 14 May 2008 00:20:00 UTC | #170739