“I want to know God’s thoughts”- Albert Einstein

Or “I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.”
Recently a personal letter written apparently by Albert Einstein has been sold for close to 3 million dollars here. In it, Einstein supposedly claims that belief in God is a representation of human weakness… If that is true, why so many other statements by Einstein seem to support his belief in at least a god?

“God doesn’t play dice” – in reference to the unpredictability of quantum mechanics…
Einstein also never questioned the existence of Jesus. When “Einstein was then asked if he accepted the historical existence of Jesus, to which he replied, “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.” here

So, what is going on here? Was Einstein mad? Was he bipolar? Some claim he had Asperger’s (ASD) because of his abilities to think in pictures (imagining space and time) as his thought experiments were beyond anything one could imagine…

Any thoughts?

120 thoughts on ““I want to know God’s thoughts”- Albert Einstein

  1. Kantian Naturalist: Robert Byers is still permitted to post here long after he was banned from Uncommon Descent for his anti-Semitism.

    Has he ever engaged in anti-Semitism on this forum? Hardly ever read him ,just curious

  2. newton: Has he ever engaged in anti-Semitism on this forum? Hardly ever read him ,just curious

    I believe so but I can’t provide a concrete example. I just let it go because there’s no point in engaging in dialogue with someone like him and it’s not a bannable offense at TSZ because it doesn’t involve doxxing or porn.

  3. Kantian Naturalist: Robert Byers is still permitted to post here long after he was banned from Uncommon Descent for his anti-Semitism.

    It is a feature rather than a bug that a poster’s prejudice, no matter how shameful or loathsome, remains in plain sight (allowing for one well-known exception).

  4. timothya: It is a feature rather than a bug that a poster’s prejudice, no matter how shameful or loathsome, remains in plain sight (allowing for one well-known exception).

    I don’t feel that way but since we’re unable to change the rules I don’t see the point of discussing it.

  5. Can the conversation about what some think racism or antisemitism are be moved somewhere else?

    It’s pretty pathetic that admins are doing nothing about the baseless acussations…
    Would it change if I emailed Lizzy and threatened with a legal action for libel?

  6. timothya: It is a feature rather than a bug that a poster’s prejudice, no matter how shameful or loathsome, remains in plain sight (allowing for one well-known exception).

    A sentiment that reminds me of the NYT position on their recent interview with Alice Walker. Slate got it right IMHO.

  7. By the way, in response to some objections raised up-thread by Phoodoo that I’ve been somehow vague or wishy-washy in my metaphysics: I don’t think I’ve ever concealed or presented with any ambiguity any of my metaphysical commitments.

    But for those keeping score at home: I don’t know think we can have any knowledge of existence (of what is or is not the case) that is not indexed to space and time. So I think the idea of knowledge “beyond” this universe is a fool’s errand. That’s one of the main things that the empiricists (and Kant) were right about.

    With regard to the universe, I think it’s misguided to ask “what is made of?” as if that’s the right way of doing metaphysics. I think that the universe is better understood in terms of processes than in terms of things or stuff.

    I’m not a materialist because materialism tries answer Parmenides’s problem: how to reconcile the reality of being with the appearance of becoming. The materialist says that what’s real — what has being — is “matter”, and whether that’s conceived of as atoms or extended substance or whatever is secondary.

    My point is that I simply disagree with the whole Parmenidean assumption that being is more real than becoming. On this basis I simply reject the whole project of Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Democritus, Epicurus, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Berkeley, etc.

    I think that the converse view is much closer to the truth: that becoming is real and being is illusion. In Western philosophy this has been the view of Heraclitus and a few minor process ontologists, like Whitehead. (I read Spinoza as a process ontologist but this is a minor and heterodox reading, though not unheard-of.) This is part of what motivates my interest in Buddhist metaphysics as well.

    So while I don’t think we can know anything about existence outside of the universe as a whole, I also think that dynamical processes and not “things” or “stuff” is how the universe should be understood. That’s sufficient for me to count as neither a theist nor a materialist.

  8. J-Mac:

    “If things can travel faster than speed of light, as “the outer parts of the universe” do . . .”

    This is wrong.

    Matter and energy are constrained by the light speed limit as far as we know (no counter-examples have ever been found). But there is no such constraint on the rate of expansion of space. The “outer parts of the universe” are receding at a rate apparently greater than the speed of light because of the expansion of space, not because of the intrinsic speed of the “things” within it.

    I am unsurprised that you did not know this piece of cosmological knowledge.

  9. Kantian Naturalist,

    Kantian Naturalist: So I think the idea of knowledge “beyond” this universe is a fool’s errand.

    Right, right, that’s just what I have said. One can only have faith, get it?

    So you can reason through observation that there is probably something more to the universe than its material constituents, but you also have faith that the existence of that supernatural metaphysical world you talk about doesn’t relate to any God. No amount of naming of Greek scholars changes the fact that your faith is no more pragmatic or well informed than anyone else’s faith that the metaphysical must be tied to a metaphysical intelligence. So when you say Einstein’s view as a Spinozist (according to you), is correct, that is just you being ridiculous, right?

    In fact, your accepting of a metaphysical existence, yet rejecting that it is tied to a metaphysical intelligence actually tilts the balance of evidence towards the theists and away from the atheists. See, if no one accepted that there is highly likely the existence of metaphysics, then they don’t have to consider a God. But since so many here apparently do accept that obviously there must be something metaphysical going on, we now have the responsibility of explaining that metaphysical world, absent a metaphysical intelligence.

    Your way of explaining that is to say we can’t know, but you doubt it is a God based on your faith. Saying you can’t know is not a very satisfying answer to a lot of intellectuals, who say, even though we can’t know, we can speculate. So there is something there, but to you its not a God.

    And that is your faith.

    BTw, how can there be a rule against anti-semitism here, if there isn’t also a rule against anti-Christianity here? And there certainly isn’t that rule, right?

  10. Racist comments are unacceptable at TSZ. Please bring such comments to the attention of admins.

  11. newton,

    There are way too many non-sequitors, and wrong assumptions here to respond, but suffice to say, its not the lack of responding I am referring to (they have responded, their responses just lack any real explanatory power “Can’t know, etc…”) . I simply pointed out the observation that there are a whole lot of posters here who proclaim to believe in something beyond the physical, but “their choice” is to consider that supernatural world to be natural-somehow. At least in any way (and I do mean any way) that doesn’t spell God-Oh no!

    So we all are just choosing our faith, but we now must accept that the faith of the theist is based on evidence, namely that the supernatural appears to be something, which even many of you atheists reluctantly admit. They just say its not important. Which I think is funny.

  12. Alan Fox:
    Racist comments are unacceptable at TSZ. Please bring such comments to the attention of admins.

    Judaism is a religion not a race Alan. Are you unaware of that?

  13. A lot of semantic entanglement here. I hope nobody is saying that materialists deny that processes happen! I also hope that nobody is saying that because we can’t imagine how something might be observed, therefore it cannot be observed. It may well be the case that consciousness can be explained in terms of physics. At the very least, consciousness as we know it requires a physical substrate — as does the act of imagining some sort of consciousness as we don’t know it, whatever that might mean.

    The central issue in these discussions is that words like “god” and “supernatural” and “immaterial”, lacking any real-world referent, tend to mean whatever someone using them prefers them to mean, and communication is impossible. For me, things I don’t know or can’t understand reflect only on myself, and not on the nature of the universe.

  14. Alan Fox:
    phoodoo,
    Racist comments are unacceptable here. I am asking for anyone who thinks there are such comments to advise Admins..

    Right, but we can still make fun of Jews right?

  15. Alan Fox:
    phoodoo,
    Racist comments are unacceptable here. I am asking for anyone who thinks there are such comments to advise Admins..

    What about false accusations of racist or anti-Semitic comments?
    Are those allowed?

  16. I’m not interested in hypothetical scenarios. If there is someone reading here who has seen a racist comment, would they please advise admins (preferably by the private message system).

  17. Alan Fox:
    I’m not interested in hypothetical scenarios. If there is someone reading here who has seen a racist comment, would they please advise admins (preferably by the private message system).

    This not a hypothetical scenario… False accusation of racism or antisemitism carries the same weight of legal responsibility… It’s administrator’s responsibility to decide that and not ask others what they think…

  18. Alan Fox:
    I’m not interested in hypothetical scenarios. If there is someone reading here who has seen a racist comment, would they please advise admins (preferably by the private message system).

    Why do you keep talking about racists comments, did someone mention racist comments?

    Do you also have similar confusion with evolutionary theory Alan? Does that explain your misunderstandings?

  19. phoodoo: Why do you keep talking about racists comments, did someone mention racist comments?

    Do you also have similar confusion with evolutionary theory Alan?Does that explain your misunderstandings?

    Read the thread… some think my comments about Einstein being the hero of Jews was racist and anti-Semitic. I say that these are false accusations and demand this to be rectified…Alan seems lost as the admin and asks others for advise…

  20. phoodoo: So when you say Einstein’s view as a Spinozist (according to you), is correct, that is just you being ridiculous, right?

    I don’t understand the line of reasoning that leads up to this objection.

    It seems to me that you are using the word “metaphysics” to mean “whatever transcends the universe”. So there’s “physics” for the observable universe, and then there’s “metaphysics” for whatever transcends the universe.

    I don’t use those words in that way, because that’s not how “metaphysics” is used in academic philosophy.

    In academic philosophy “metaphysics” is “whatever one takes to be ultimately real”. So naturalism or materialism are metaphysical views. That’s not to saddle those views with any claims about what transcends the universe (if anything does) or what can be known about it (if anything) or speculation plays any valuable role in our lives.

    It’s probably right to say that faith in the supernatural does involve speculation about what transcends the observable universe. But it’s also perfectly coherent to have a faith that’s decoupled from the supernatural, as religious naturalism does.

  21. Kantian Naturalist: It never made any sense to me that thoughts or desires could be good or bad.

    So when Jesus, as a Jew, focused on thoughts and desires in his teachings, he introduced something previously unknown to his Jewish audiences?

    What does Judaism teach about whether thoughts and desires can be good and bad?

  22. phoodoo: KN seems to believe that good means correct, and therefore correct means good.

    KN seems to believe that good means worthy of being congratulated for, without even pausing to think why it should be worthy of congratulation. Certainly not because it is good, because that would be circular.

    This is what happens when someone tries to deny the obvious. Which in this case is the connection between what it is good to believe and why certain beliefs are worthy of congratulation and why other beliefs are worthy of condemnation.

    You see these things played out constantly on these pages, without any explicit acknowledgement of the role of morality in acceptance and condemnation. Even now I see comments about Robert Byers and anti-semitism, as if it is morally wrong to hold such beliefs.

  23. newton: Always thought it more an emotional thing.

    And the alternative is not emotional, but what, rational? Not if the exchanges here at TSZ are any indication.

  24. Rumraket: If God is actually the explanation for something, then great, I’d just like to know how one can determine that.

    How do we determine anything? How did you determine that your parents are the explanation for you being here?

  25. Kantian Naturalist: I don’t feel that way but since we’re unable to change the rules I don’t see the point of discussing it.

    We can change the rules. But why ought we do that? Objectively morally wrong comes to mind. And nothing prevents us from discussing that.

  26. phoodoo: Do you also have similar confusion with evolutionary theory Alan?

    Darwin’s theory is not racist! In spite of the subtitle:

    “or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”.”

  27. Mung: So when Jesus, as a Jew, focused on thoughts and desires in his teachings, he introduced something previously unknown to his Jewish audiences?

    That is my understanding, yes. I might be wrong, as the history of religion is not my forte. There are important Hellenistic philosophers who emphasize our ability to discipline our thoughts — Stoicism in particular — but it’s not, to my limited knowledge, a Jewish idea. But Jesus’s audience consisted of Hellenized Jews and Philosemitic Hellenes so I would conjecture that the idea wasn’t unknown to them.

    What does Judaism teach about whether thoughts and desires can be good and bad?

    I don’t know. I do know that Judaism teaches a distinction between two natural inclinations, a yetzer hara and a yetzer tov. But it’s our actions that are evil when we choose the yetzer hara beyond its natural limits.

  28. phoodoo: So you can reason through observation that there is probably something more to the universe than its material constituents, but you also have faith that the existence of that supernatural metaphysical world you talk about doesn’t relate to any God

    This is really amazing to behold, and you do it constantly. In so far as we don’t jump to the conclusion that the unknown is God, you take that to be equivalent to having faith that it definitely isn’t God.

    Please understand for just one fraction of a moment that NOT jumping to the conclusion that it IS God when we don’t know, is not the same as definitely insisting that it ISN’T God responsible for that which we don’t know.

    Consider the case that you’re asked to deliberate on whether some person is guilty of a crime. You have been given a set of facts and you are to determine whether those facts constitute sufficient evidence to find the person guilty.
    The time to believe the person is guilty is when the evidence shows it beyond a reasonable doubt.
    But you don’t find the evidence compelling enough for a beyond reasonable doubt verdict. Now someone says to you that you have faith that the person is innocent. Ridiculous!

    Not jumping to the conclusion that the person is guilty, is not the same as definitely insisting that the person is innocent. All you have really said is that the evidence did not suffice to find the person guilty. You still don’t know whether the person is guilty, you just know that going only by the evidence you were provided, establishing the guilt of the accused could not be done beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Now, the existence of God is sort of analogus to this, except that the standard of evidence isn’t beyond reasonable doubt. It could simply be “more likely than not”. Beyond reasonable doubt is a very high standard so let’s dispense with that.

    God is accused of the “crime” of existence, and we are being asked to deliberate on his possible “guilt”. We are provided a set of facts(we don’t know X), and we try to determine whether those facts constitute sufficient evidence to find God guilty of existence. The time to believe that God is guilty of existence is when the evidence shows it to be more likely than not.
    But we don’t find the evidence to show that God’s existence is more likely than not. Now you come along and claim that we have faith that God doesn’t exist.

    It gets even worse when we look at what kind of evidence we are given. They’re all just gaps in our knowledge. Why are the laws of physics the way they are? How did life originate? Where does consciousness come from?

    Unknowns aren’t evidence. They don’t render the existence of God more probable at all. They’re just unknowns. They are evidence for nothing. Something you don’t know can’t be evidence for something.

  29. Rumraket: Unknowns aren’t evidence. They don’t render the existence of God more probable at all. They’re just unknowns. They are evidence for nothing. Something you don’t know can’t be evidence for something.

    Then again, people have been “finding” gods since before recorded history, and while they have found at least hundreds, nobody has yet found any god they didn’t believe in before they began searching. And oddly enough, although gods are ubiquitous, powerful and undeniable, no society has ever chanced upon another society’s gods. There’s probably a pattern hidden in there somewhere…

  30. Flint: And oddly enough, although gods are ubiquitous, powerful and undeniable, no society has ever chanced upon another society’s gods.

    Not within one or a few generations, no. But religions and cultures do change slowly over time.

    Before the spread of christianity, most norsemen believed in norse mythology. Religions and cultures change over centuries. But it’s not like suddenly one day everyone found another religion more compelling. Interconversions between faiths also do happen to individuals. Individuals might leave christianity to become jews or muslims or hindus or buddhists, or and the other way around of course. But generally speaking, people assimilate the dominant religion of their surrounding culture, mostly directly through their upbringing.

    Chances are if you’re raised in a christian home, you’re going to become a christian, and that is no accident. Once you’ve become a christian as a young child, you’re going to stay a christian and not find the case for Judaism or Islam or anything else compelling. Same with Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and so on. The reason most people believe is that they were directly raised to believe.

    They were told the scriptural stories as young children (for me it began before elementary school), at an age where the default was to believe their parents, and it was told to them in such a way that it was made clear that to believe these things was “the ring thing to do”. Even if you’re not taught specifically about hell and punishment, all the religious stories come packed with some moral story about the rightness of belief, and the wrongness of disbelief. The Bible is basically one long parable about how not believing in, worshipping, and following God, is bad and wrong. That’s how it begins, with the story of Adam and Eve. Disobeying God = bad things happen. Over and over and over again.

    What we eat, who we love, how we have sex, when to rest and when to work, what thoughts we are allowed to think, how we should treat one another, what is right and wrong. Marriages, babtisms, feasts, sabbaths, religion has infested all of it and all of it viewed through the lens of God somehow standing in a judgemental authority over how, when, where, and whether it is practiced.

    Religions are very directly, even if unintentionally, weaved into everything people find to be of significance. No wonder people who are brought up with such stories are resistant to letting them go.

  31. Just look at some of the arguments against evolution being advanced, they are essentially psychological. So you believe we’re “just accidents”? There’s an implicit horror in that statement. It’s emotional more than it is logical. What is being expressed in such statements is that the thought of being merely an “accident” is repulsive. It plays on the disgust instinct. One can see the percieved fear of all the consequences.

    If I’m just this “accident”, then all these things which I have believed for my entire life only hold significance through the will of God, are gone? Que all the secondary rationalizations for why it just can’t be true that we’re accidents.

  32. Mung: We canchange the rules.

    Up to now it has been the sole prerogative of the owner to change the rules of conduct, what changed?

    But why ought we do that? Objectively morally wrong comes to mind.

    Hardly necessary, the subjective view of ownership is sufficient.

    And nothing prevents us from discussing that.

    Sounds like moderation, would it be objectively immoral not to guano one’s own post? Or at least a strong reprimand.

  33. phoodoo:
    Rumraket: So you believe we’re “just accidents”?
    No no, not horror at all, hilarity.

    This is the secondary rationalization. Thank you for so succinctly demonstrating it.

  34. Mung: And the alternative is not emotional, but what, rational?

    Not suggesting an alternative motive. Emotions are powerful things. Sense of belonging, to ability to overcome the fear of non- existence. In some cases , the negative emotional palette .

    Not if the exchanges here at TSZ are any indication.

    No one is stopping you.

  35. Mung: How do we determine anything?

    Mostly by the combination of observation and inference.

    How did you determine that your parents are the explanation for you being here?

    I can’t say I have ever put that to a particularly in-depth analysis, but I think generally the data (shared characteristics, our relationships, corroboration by many different souces, pictures from my birth, my birth certificate and so on and so forth) is more probable on the hypothesis that they are. Then there’s this whole collection of background knowledge about other people and their parents.

  36. Mung: How do we determine anything? How did you determine that your parents are the explanation for you being here?

    Revelation.

  37. Mung: Some of those ideas are false. Are those the people who you want to be in power?

    I guess that depends on the idea. We are finite beings. Most ideas are false in some sense, you may think you are smart and attractive. Don’t think that should disqualify you from being a moderator.

  38. newton: I guess that depends on the idea. We are finite beings. Most ideas are falsein some sense, you may think you are smart and attractive. Don’t think that should disqualify you from being a moderator.

    If a contributor’s dominant mode of discourse is either:
    1. word salad; or
    2. word games
    then a site such as this should treat them as trolls rather than rewarding them with moderator privileges or allowing them to pollute the original post stream with demonstrable nonsense.

    However, since there appears to be no workable mechanism to decide on whether any contributor actually belongs to either category, then we will have to tolerate the trolls and struggle on.

  39. newton: Up to now it has been the sole prerogative of the owner to change the rules of conduct, what changed?

    Haha, first time visiting?

    Let me introduce you to Alan Fox, former moderator, turned dictator. And his commandant, and Head of Propoganda, DNA Jock.

  40. phoodoo:
    timothya,

    Maybe they should just do like UD then.

    Who is “they”? And what does UD do “just like”?
    Your comment is somewhat unclear. It would help if you would clarify your meaning.

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