About Me

When not at work with students, I spend my time in my room either reading, calculating something using pen and paper, or using a computer. I read almost anything: from the pornographic to the profound, although my main interests are mathematics and physics. "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." -Erasmus

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Einstein and the Atheist Professor

One of the things that irritate me is a shared wall post that's making the rounds in facebook. The post is a variation of the "atheist professor is humiliated by the Christian student" meme. The last one I've seen on my wall adds the line "The student was Albert Einstein.".

A good biography of Einstein ought to dispel the myth that Einstein was a Christian. There are a lot of quotations from Einstein showing that he did not believe in a personal god. In any case, belief or unbelief in god should not be supported by arguments from authority.

A good link on the post that got my ire is here. To my Christian friends, please: before you post anything like that, get the facts right.


Tim said...

A very good and entertaining read on Einstein is "The Unexpected Einstein" by Denis Brian, who wrote other books on the subject.

The book explores most of the popular (and egregious) misconceptions surrounding Einstein, ending with his beliefs in "God" (chapter 7).

When Einstein mentioned "God", he never meant the word to mean a supernatural being in the business of answering prayers. His quote, "[sic]All thoughts come from God.[sic]" is probably what started this misconception from his adult life, artificially supported by some ill harvested circumstances from his childhood.

He was most decidedly never a Catholic or Christian of any kind. He was raised in a non-religious house, his father was very proud to not subscribe to a single organized religion. However, German law at the time did require religious instruction. Yes, his school peers were overwhelmingly Catholic, but he himself (at that age) was an Orthodox Jew. There was no available Rabbi, so he received his instruction through correspondence with a distant relative. At the age of twelve, he concluded that he had been duped, and developed his own personal, heavily skeptical views on "God."

Isn't this the same group of Facebookers that were sure we'd all be dying of radiation sickness after the Japan earth quake?

Mike said...

@Tim A different set of my facebook friends, although they do share the weakness of reposting without due diligence. It's irritating to have to ask my friends to at least check on their sources. Some of them were physics majors, and ought to have known better!

My adviser, I think, has a copy of the Unexpected Einstein, but I haven't gotten around to reading it.

Of the Einstein biographies, I have one by Ronald Clark--- but I read it about 13 years ago. The other one I've read, although heavy-going because of the technical details, was the biography Subtle is the Lord, by Abraham Pais.

thenewgreen said...

Relevant: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2009/10/word-god-is-product-of-human-weakness.html