How Einstein Reconciled Religion to Science

What Einstein said was nearly as scathing as any contemporary critique of religion you might hear from Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Christopher Hitchens. Photograph by spatuletail / Shutterstock
I recently heard an echo of Albert Einstein’s religious views in the words of Elon Musk. Asked, at the close of a conversation with Axios, whether he believed in God, the CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla paused, looked away from his interlocutors for a brief second, and then said, in that mild South African accent, “I believe there’s some explanation for this universe, which you might call God.”

By Brian Gallagher | NAUTILUS

Einstein did call it God. The German-Jewish physicist is famous for many things—his special and general theories of relativity, his burst of gray-white hair—including his esoteric remark, often intoned in discussions of the strange, probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, that “God does not play dice.” A final or ultimate equation, describing the laws of nature and the origin of the cosmos, Einstein believed, could not involve chance intrinsically. Insofar as it did—it being the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics—it would be incomplete. (The consensus now among physicists is that he was wrong; God is indeterminate. “All evidence points to him being an inveterate gambler,” Stephen Hawking once said, “who throws the dice on every possible occasion.”)

But what was with Einstein’s God-language in the first place? The question may be considered anew, in light of the auction at Christie’s, on Tuesday in New York, of a 1954 letter Einstein wrote that is expected to sell for up to $1.5 million. For the occasion the Princeton Club is hosting a panel discussion on the conflict, or lack thereof, between science and religion, featuring theoretical physicist Brian Greene, philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, cognitive psychologist Tania Lombrozo, and Rabbi Geoff Mitelman, founding director of Sinai and Synapses, an organization dedicated to fostering respectful dialogue about religion and science. The event, today, is open to the public, and I am excited to attend. (Full disclosure: I am a current Sinai and Synapses fellow.) I believe Einstein can still offer some insight on how to think about religion and science.

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