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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! ūüôā )
  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! ūüėČ

References.

[1] Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions.

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

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Einstein and Pantheism

January 3, 2015 Leave a comment

Albert Einstein’s views on religion and on the nature and existence of God has always generated interest, and they continue to.¬†In this short note I point out that he expressed different¬†views on whether he subscribed to “pantheism.” It is well-known that he said, for instance, that he does not believe in a personal God that one prays to, and that he rather believes in “Spinoza’s God” (in some “pantheistic” form). Here are two passages from Albert Einstein where he expressed contrary views on whether he is a “pantheist”.

I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages.‚ĶThe child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.” (Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica article on Einstein.)

Here, Einstein says that he does not think he can call himself a pantheist. However, in his book Ideas and Opinions he said that his conception of God may be described as “pantheistic” (in the sense of Spinoza’s):

This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God. In common parlance this may be described as “pantheistic” (Spinoza)” (Ideas and Opinions, section titled ‘On Scientific Truth’ – also quoted in¬†Wikipedia with references)

It is true that Einsteins expressed his views on religion and God in various ways, but I thought that the fact that he appeared to identify and not identify with “pantheism” at various stages of his life is interesting. Setting aside¬†that label, however, I think that his general conceptions¬†of God in both these quotes¬†— the mysterious order in the books, a universe already written in given languages, a superior mind that reveals itself in such ways —¬†are fairly consistent, and also consistent with other sentiments he expressed elsewhere.

August Kekule’s Benzene Vision

June 30, 2013 6 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.

Islamophoooo

August 5, 2012 1 comment

http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT_g1D0EGOhNnsSev9IErtpX5R-t9Ifss_nuzea6eGKcq5dSTOM

This is a short rebuttal to op-eds that wish to suggest that Americans (or Westerners in general) are suffering from a psychosomatic illness called “Islamophobia.” (The picture to the right is an image of what they have in mind; it’s one of my uncles by the way.)

First, they cannot explain why there would be concern or fear toward one radical form of one religion, while no such “phobia” is present toward nearly all the other religions in America (such as Judaism, Buddhaism, Hinduism, Bahais, and many others).

Secondly, they don’t consider the fact that in the Arab/Muslim world itself — in the Middle East! — there are many people (both secular-minded and religious) who have that same concern/fear that Americans/Westerners have toward radical Islam. For example, anyone who has been following developments in Egypt since Mubarak’s demise would know that many Egyptians (including Muslims!) are worried about and suspicious of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. So we’ll have to say that these Egyptian Muslims are “Islamophobic”!

Egypt is just one example, but that same concern/fear exists in Iran (against their Islamist regime), in Lebanon (against Hizbullah), in Jordan, Syria, Iraq (against alqaeda and other Islamist radicals who want to impose Sharia law), in Pakistan, in India, and certainly in Tunisia.

Egyptian women in dire straits

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

https://i0.wp.com/www.globalpost.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/gp3_full_article/photogallery/gallery_5613947/Egypt5.jpgListen to what the women’s secretary to the Muslim Brotherhood (in Egypt),¬†Manal Abul Hassan, had to say regarding Egyptian women who marched to protest the Military’s brutal treatment of women:

the [Muslim Brotherhood women] refused to participate in the march because participants were funded and had a particular agenda.  When a woman marches to defend her rights, this affronts her dignity.

That’s the kind of ‘democracy’ that’s in store for Egyptian women, Muslim brand.¬† You defend your rights, you’re undignified. This is getting to be quite tragic. And Egypt stands to lose the most when they treat their women with such indignity & disrespect — the indignity legalized by their Sharia law. What is more tragic is when other women think women should be subjected to Sharia law.

Categories: News, Politics, Religion

The Refugee Problem in the Muslim World

December 31, 2011 Leave a comment

There is an obsession in the media about the Palestinian refugee problem at the expense of several other refugee problems in that part of the world that are only given casual cursory interest.¬† Let’s briefly cite some of these other ones.

  • Saddam’s Al-Anfal Campaign in the 1980s led to a million Kurdish refugees. A clear case of ethnic cleansing.
  • Human Rights Watch says that “By the mid-1990s, more than 3,000 villages had been virtually wiped from the map, and, according to official figures, 378,335 Kurdish villagers had been displaced and left homeless.
  • Assyrian Christians have constantly been leaving Iraq over the last few 100 years (unlike Muslims who have grown in number). Now their number is only a small fraction.
  • The Lebanese civil war caused around 900,000 Lebanese to be displaced.
  • The 1974 Cyprus Crisis led to around 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees and 65,000 Turkish Cypriot refugees (UN figures). These are near half the populations of both groups.
  • Nearly 800,000 Jews have been made refugees by Muslim states that they lived in for generations, thru persecution and intimidation. Most of them were sheltered and given a home in Israel; others fled to Western nations.
  • There are also many refugees from among the minorities living in Muslim states, such as the Bahais in Iran, who sought refuge in Western nations, in Israel, Turkey and others.
  • 100,000s Algerians have fled and taken refuge in Europe during the Algerian War of Independence.
  • The current Syrian civil war has led to the creation of 19,000 Syrian refugees near Turkey’s border; some 8,000 refugees fled to Lebanon, 1500 to Jordan, and 6,000 to Libya.
  • The Armenian refugees under the Turks, as well as the genocide against the Armenians.
Categories: History, Israel, News, Politics, Religion

Can the West affect change in the Middle East?

December 30, 2011 6 comments

http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQdlKPfNBmqNMjr_YZ1Laa56l9fxAId5olvpwW5QLj5Ob86OiWNThere is a piece in the Guardian on Tony Blair’s proposal that the Western World should do more to:

help “liberal and democratic” elements in the Middle East and north Africa following the Arab spring ‚Äď or risk the formation of new Islamist governments that are not “genuine” democracies.

Blair makes these points:

Britain and the US had previously been “too reluctant to push dictatorships on a path to democracy because the trouble really in the region is the more religious and extreme elements are very well organised and the liberal and democratic types basically aren’t”

– there was a battle between competing elements in the Middle East as to what is democracy?

– “Then you have got this Islamist movement, in the Muslim Brotherhood, which is very well organised, and where frankly, it is not clear that they want the same things as us and it is not clear that the type of democracy they would create would be a genuine democracy.”

I think it’s too late and anything we do will be construed by them as “colonial interference,” a charge which the Islamists have previously exploited and can reiterate.

In Egypt, for example, back in February 2011 the demonstrators all seemed to call for freedom and democracy, without any Islamist banners. And yet, now, look who they voted for: the Muslim Brotherhood, and to make matters worse, they gave an unexpected boost to the more extreme Salafist group. There we have it: that is their definition of “freedom and democracy.”¬† … Are the Syrian protesters the same, I wonder.

Are the only two possible practical/political alternatives in the Muslim/Arab world a secular tyranny or an Islamist tyranny? So far that is what we have been seeing — as well as a cycle of violent competition between the two. (Sometimes between an Islamist tyranny against another Islamist tyranny, such as the case in Saudi Arabia since the Royal House of Saud is Islamist.)

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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Tidbits on Christmas

December 26, 2011 Leave a comment

In WWI, Allied and German troops took a break Christmas eve, sang carols and called out “Merry Christmas” to one another. The Christmas Truce of 1914.

In the second half of the 1600s, Christmas was illegal (where the Puritans settled in America). After the American Revolutionary war, the US Congress didn’t take the day off. It was only in the late 1800s that Congress called Christmas a federal holiday.

Every Christmas I read articles on who Christians ‘stole’ it from, and every year I read a different story. Here’s a very short Britannica article that cites three ways it may have come about (I think there are more such speculations by other authors.) In the end it’s a matter of opinion and faith. I think that Christmas was instituted to mark the birth of Jesus Christ.

Christian Art – Piero della Francesca

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment
https://i0.wp.com/writeforgod.stblogs.com/files/2009/04/resurrection1.jpg

Resurrection

If the spirit is the 6th sense, then my 7th sense would have to be one that can ‘see’ Christian Art.¬† I have a love for it.¬† Here are a few by the 15th century painter Piero della Francesca that illustrate the inspiration that I glean from them.

The first one “Resurrection” has been on the news today — about a British Officer who saved this painting during wartime Italy. (Right clicking the image will produce an enlarged image.)

Have a Happy Hannukah and a Merry Christmas.

https://i0.wp.com/magicstatistics.com/wp-content/pictures/art/Francesca_Exaltation.jpg

Exaltation

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1c/Piero,_battesimo_di_cristo_04.jpg/300px-Piero,_battesimo_di_cristo_04.jpg

Baptism of Christ

Egypt is the loser in this election, not Israel

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Mr Hamed Bitawi has got it backwards when he said that Israel is the loser in the apparent Islamist win.

It is in fact Egypt that stands to be the biggest loser, and for several reasons.

First, if they meddle with the Peace Treaty they could lose the Sinai. Israel could decide to take it back if the Treaty is abrogated. Indeed, it would be expedient to do so in order to isolate Hamas regionally from an Islamist Egypt – esp. if Egypt becomes yet another state sponsor of terrorism.

Second, a war with Israel will devastate Egypt.¬† Would Tantawi allow that given that he knows what a war with Israel would mean to his troops? So if the Islamists want war or confrontation, they’ll be decimated — along with their Hamas brothers in Gaza.

Third, Egypt’s economy and tourism industry are already losing big time and will continue to under an Islamist regime (just like Hamas in Gaza and Shias in Iran). Tourists are afraid to visit Egypt after Mubarak’s fall.

Fourth, women — half of Egypt’s population — are the biggest losers when they will be subjected to the oppressive Sharia laws that the Islamists have in store for them.

In sum, with an Islamist win, Egypt is set on the losing course toward regression.

Categories: Israel, News, Politics, Religion

Can God be scientifically tested?

January 10, 2009 5 comments

This is a follow-up on a discussion on this topic from another blog but which I think could be moved here.

In the first reply post here, I responded to a post of some intelligent soul screen-named ‘irritable‘.