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Einstein’s Religious Philosophy

January 17, 2015 Leave a comment

Here is a short, sweet, and quick summary of some of Albert Einstein’s philosophy and religious views which I thought were interesting enough to jot down while I have that material fresh in mind. (I thought it’s good to read all these various views of Einstein’s in one fell swoop to get a good mental image of his views.) These can be found in most biographies on Einstein, but I included references [1] and [2] below for definiteness. (Throughout this note, ‘he’ refers, of course, to Einstein.) Let’s begin!

  1. Einstein began to appreciate and identify more with his Jewish heritage in later life (as he approached 50).
  2. He had profound faith in the order and discernible laws in the universe, which he said was the extent to which he calls himself ‘religious.’
  3. God had no choice but to create the universe in the way He did.
  4. He believed in something larger than himself, in a greater mind.
  5. He called nationalism an infantile disease.
  6. He received instruction in the Bible and Talmud. He is a Jew, but one who is also enthralled by “the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”
  7. He believed Jesus was a real historical figure and that Jesus’ personality pulsates in every word in the Gospels.
  8. He was not an atheist, but a kind of “deist.”
  9. He did not like atheists quoting him in support of atheism.
  10. He believed in an impersonal God, who is not concerned with human action.
  11. His belief in an impersonal God was not disingenuous in order to cover up an underlying ‘atheism’.
  12. He was neither theist nor atheist.
  13. He did not believe in free will. He was a causal determinist. (Not even God has free will! 🙂 )
  14. Though he did not believe in free will, nevertheless he said “I am compelled to act as if free will existed.”
  15. He liked Baruch Spinoza’s treatment of the soul and body as one.
  16. He did not believe in immortality.
  17. He believed that the imagination was more important than knowledge.
  18. He believed in a superior mind that reveals itself in world of experience, which he says represents his conception of God.
  19. He believed in a “cosmic religious feeling” which he says “is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research.”
  20. “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

There you have it, without commentary! 😉

References.

[1] Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions.

[2] Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe. (See especially chapter 17.)

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August Kekule’s Benzene Vision

June 30, 2013 2 comments

The first time I heard of August Kekule’s dream/vision was from my dear mother! (My mom is a geologist who obviously had to know a lot of chemistry.)  I am referring to Kekule’s vision while gazing at a fireplace which somehow prompted him onto the idea for the structure of the benzene molecule C6H6. And then I heard that the story is suspect maybe even a myth cooked up by unscientific minds. Now I have learned that Kekule himself recounted that story which was translated into English and published in the Journal of Chemical Education (Volume 35, No. 1, Jan. 1958, pp 21-23, translator: Theodor Benfey). Here is an excerpt from that paper relevant to the story where Kekule talks about his discovery.

I was sitting writing at my textbook but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background.    My mental eye, rendered more acute by repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes.    As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis. Let us learn to dream, gentlemen, then perhaps we shall find the truth.

And to those who don’t think The truth will be given. They’ll have it without effort.

But let us beware of publishing our dreams till they have been tested by the making understanding.

Countless spores of the inner life fill the universe, but only in a few rare beings do they find the soil for their development; in them the idea, whose origin is known to no men, comes to life in creative action.  (J. Von Liebig)

I believe it is unnecessary to rule out or ridicule dreams, trances, visions in the pursuit of scientific truth. Because, after all, they still have to be tested and examined in our sober existence (as Kekule already alluded). I see them as extensions of thinking and contemplation, and surely there is nothing wrong with these.

How I see prayer

August 28, 2012 2 comments

This is a brief outline of my many approaches / perspectives on prayer. I do not simply see it as making demands of a higher power and expecting a response according to your timetable.

I may pray out of a desire or wish for something, but I do not look nor expect it to occur – and in the way that I may expect. If things work out as I wished, that’s great, and I’m happy; and if they don’t, that’s ok too – I’m modest enough to take a No!

1. prayer has the effect of cleaning one’s heart and soul. It’s like when your very confused about a very troubling personal issue, but then you find a solution that settles it – no confusion. It’s like your house is dirty and now it’s clear and clean.


2. prayer as a way for organizing your life. Similar to meditation.

3. prayer reflects and affirms to yourself how you think about something (or maybe that you should rethink it!). Nurturing a healthy attitude by means of prayer (or meditation) could have a positive impact on how you relate to your circumstances. It could make a difference in your life.

4. when someone is told that I’m praying for them, it is a kindly act and affects how they feel in their hearts and how you feel for them. It is a human way of caring for others.

5. you know the expression “what goes around, comes around.” Maybe by praying and showing goodwill to others, those good things may come back to you. Just as when you care for others, others will show care for you.

6. prayer is also a form of love. When you pray sometimes you express love and affection for the people you think of when you pray for them. What you build in your heart and in your attitude toward people reflects in the way you become a person and how others perceive you and how you perceive them.

7. prayer is a time for ‘divine’ guidance. Or, a time for personal devotion to your thoughts about something and on which you are seeking wisdom and guidance. A way for your thinking to rethink itself, possibly by the help of a Higher source. (That’s what I think the Bible means by “not leaning on your own understanding” – a phrase that might seem confusing.)

8. prayer is also a time for seeking inner (or divine) strength and peace. Life is full of challenges. If prayer can be a tool or weapon for dealing with these challenges, even when we are down and weak, then it can’t be such a bad thing. Many people have been invigorated thru prayer when they were at their lowest moments.

9. why do some people pray when they’re facing a crisis or a stressful situation? Because it can be a life stabilizer; a ‘tool’ to get your mind around personal issues in depth, seeking foresight, and maybe seeking the proper perspective on it.

They say “perspective is everything”. If you’re facing a daunting perspective, you might find another perspective.

10. prayer can shape a person. You can shape yourself from the inside out. How you are on the inside reflects on how you are on the outside. (Jesus said something like this.)

11. you don’t have to be religious or even spiritual to pray. Prayer is a very human activity. It’s a mode of self-communication. A reflection of an evolved mind that knows to seek venues in its mind or outside Source from which it can glean solutions.

I’m sure there are many other ways to express prayer, but these are probably enough to give a flavor of my philosophy on prayer.

Children of older fathers

August 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Sometimes when you put separate studies together you could get what seems a confusing picture (or maybe no picture at all?) — particularly seeing how they word their conclusions. Here is an example on studies related to offspring of older fathers.

Study 1. Older fathers have longer telomeres in their chromosomes as they age, so the offspring of older fathers inherit these longer telomeres, enhancing the life expectancy of the offspring.  This was reported by the BBC and is based on a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Study 2. Children born to older fathers have a greater likelihood of developing autism or schizophrenia.  Reported by Nature Magazine (here’s Nature’s summary of the actual Nature study) and also quite recently by the BBC.

Study 3. The life expectancy of people with schizophrenia is lower than average, and can be lower by as much as 10 to 15 years. Reported by the BBC and based on a study done by the British Biomedical Research Centre for mental health, and published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

 
These conclusions aren’t necessarily in contradiction to one another (even if verbally they seem to be). It depends on the various rates (such as the smaller fraction of schizophrenics, for example, compared with the many who don’t get mental illness). So if you’re normal and descended from an older father ‘the chances’ are better that your longevity will get a boost (statistically!) if you don’t get a mental illness like schizophrenia. (Barring a Study 4 and Study 5, about which I know nothing and which could wreck my post!)

I’ve often wondered if in some societies around the world these effects and results could be varied depending on the people being studied. There are still numerous factors beyond our control. (Anyway, whatever your condition, I hope this makes you feel better!) 🙂

US Unemployment

August 7, 2012 Leave a comment

During 28 of the 38 months Obama has been in office (till ~ March 2012) the US unemployment rate was in the 9%-10% range. Under Bush most rates were in the 5%-6% range. Source: Bureau Labor Statistics.

US youth unemployment (ages 16-24) under Obama = 18.5% in 2009; 19.1% 2010; 18.1% 2011 – up from 14.0% in 2008.

California unemployment rate averaged to 11%-12% under Obama. Under Bush it averaged 6%.

Florida’s unemployment rate mostly in 10%-11% range under Obama. Under Bush they were mostly under 6%.

African American unemployment rates increased by 6+ points under Obama: 31-33% in 2009-2011 – up from 24.8% in 2008.

Some wonders of Natural History

August 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Some wonderful stuff I read about on Natural History magazine, I thought to share in my own simple ways. (Some don’t seem to have link references online, so I have cited them in red.)

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Recent research suggests that some groups of dinosaurs were already on the road to extinction before an asteroid impact — about 150 species of them.
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Did you know that the planet Uranus has its axis of rotation nearly parallel to its orbital plane? At one point it was pointing toward the sun! Secondly, its magnetic pole is some 60 degrees off its rotation axis! (Unlike earth where the magnetic north and rotation axis north are fairly close.)

The problem however is explaining the auroras near the magnetic poles of Uranus. It was believed that they could be explained by huge coronal mass ejections from the sun, but this seems in question. That’s an open question for anyone who wishes to research it.
Aurora Uranus, by Harvey Leifert, Natural History, May 2012, page 6.
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It may sound like a myth to read stories about people using pigeons to send messages in ancient times. But in fact pigeons have flight patterns that are based on their GPS sensing the earth’s magnetic field. There’s a part of the pigeon brain closely connected to their inner ears that interacts with the magnetic field, giving them this GPS ‘6th’ sense to navigate. Neuroscientists are still studying this interesting phenomenon.
“GPS: Global Pigeon System,” by Adam Hadhazy, Natural History, May 2012, page 8.
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The amazing ants are back! An ant leaves its colony and goes on an unknown journey. It gets infected with a fungus that is contagious. It returns to its colony. What do the ants in the colony do when it returns? Do they kill it? Ostracize it? Contain it? No. They welcome it back home and they come to its rescue, licking it clean of the infection; they share the infection; but because each gets a little of the infection they don’t get as affected as much and eventually get over it. All is well. They heal their friend and as a bonus they develop their immune system to make it stronger. No wonder I loved ants when I was a boy!! 🙂
“Ant-i-fungal,” by Judy Rice, Natural History, May 2012, page 8.

Positive impact of religiously active Americans

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Interesting statistics from PEW Internet comparing religious and non-religious Americans in various activities. There is a PDF file available of other related stats as well. Here is a sample:

Some 40% of Americans say they are active in a church, religious, or spiritual organization. Compared with those who are not involved with such organizations, religiously active Americans are more trusting of others, are more optimistic about their impact on their community, think more highly of their community, are more involved in more organizations of all kinds, and devote more time to the groups to which they are active.

– 53% of religiously active Americans believe that other people are generally trustworthy, compared with 43% of those not involved with religious groups

– 45% of religiously active view their community as an excellent place to live, compared with 34% of those not active with religious groups

– 38% of religiously active Americans believe that they can have a major impact on their communities, compared with 27% of those not active with religious groups

– 35% are active in sports or recreation leagues for themselves or for their children (versus 17% for the non-religious).

– 34% are active in charitable or volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or the Humane Society (versus 15% for the non-religious).

– 30% are active in community groups or neighborhood associations (versus 11% for the non-religious).

– 68% of Americans who are active in religious groups (internet users and non-users alike) said the internet has had a major impact on the ability of groups to communicate with members.

– 58% of Americans who are active in religious groups said the internet has had a major impact on the ability of groups to impact society at large.
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