I’ve been making my way slowly through Walter Isaacson’s Einstein: His Life and Universe (furthering my attempt to not fear physics…) It’s an engaging biography and turns Einstein into a real person rather than this mythological genius. I’ve had several discussions about physics with my grandfather, an engineer, about my fascination with physics. It’s a delicate balance between imagination and math in a way I never thought they could go together. I love the imaginative aspect that seems to trigger the development of theories that are then tested. This has led to interesting conversations between boy and me about what we would do if stranded in space without a chance of getting back to earth. (I’d want to build up as much speed as I could so I could see how far I could go, but then the risk of getting hit! Too high..)
Anyway, I’ve just reached the point where Einstein is now 50 years old and very much a celebrity, and the public keeps picking at his beliefs. I know I have heard several times that Einstein believed in God, but it didn’t entirely seem to jive with being a scientist. Reading his comments, I have to say I agree with what he says. He always shunned authority and hated being type-casted. I know the feeling – I hate being pigeon-holed. I always want to leave room for change. So here are some passages that I struck me as very non-specific, yet say so much about how he thought regarding religion:
The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.
Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe — a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.
..science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.