Einstein’s God

Einstein_karsh Michael Shermer in Big Question:

What did Einstein mean by “God” playing dice, or “us believing physicists”? Was he speaking literally or metaphorically? Did he mean belief in the models of theoretical physics that make no distinction between past, present, and future? Did he mean belief in some impersonal force that exists above such time constraints? Was he just being polite and consoling to Besso’s family? Such is the enigma of the most well-known scientist in history whose fame was such that nearly everything he wrote or said was scrutinized for its meaning and import; thus, it is easy to yank such quotes out of context and spin them in any direction one desires.

When he turned 50, Einstein granted an interview in which he was asked point-blank, do you believe in God? “I am not an atheist,” he began. “The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The 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. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”

That almost sounds like Einstein is attributing the laws of the universe to a god of some sort. But what type of god? A personal deity or some impersonal force? To a Colorado banker who wrote and asked him the God question, Einstein responded: “I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals or would sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we can comprehend about the knowable world. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

The most famous Einstein pronouncement on God came in the form of a telegram, in which he was asked to answer the question in 50 words or less. He did it in 32: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”