The Einstein Argument!

There are people who believe in God because their parents or community does so. There are some who follow the “because there is something, someone must have created it” logic. Yet some others believe because they are not sure but do not want to take “risk“. However, recently I heard an interesting preposition. It basically preys on my keen interests in astronomy and astrophysics and states that as I learn more about the universe, some day I would realize that there is a God and leave my atheistic point of view.

The source of this partially ignorant preposition is even more interesting. It uses Albert Einstein as a yardstick to measure the highest level of intellectual achievement and then uses that as an argument against atheism saying, “Even Albert Einstein believed in God. And you are talking about atheism.” The words “even” and “you” are the problem sin this sentence, which you will understand as you read on. The preposition also takes its position from a very popular urban legend where Einstein as a student seemingly “proved” God to his atheist professor.

There is no doubt that Einstein is one of the greatest scientists of all times. However, using him as a yardstick of intellectual achievement in my opinion grossly demeans other great scientists who lived during his time, before him and after him. The fact is Einstein actually never believed in a God. Of course he was not an atheist. He preferred to be an agnostic, which is good as a scientist since agnosticism is in many ways like atheism except for the part where it accepts the lack of surety as to whether a supernatural creator created this universe and then interferes with the events happening in it.

Hence, touting up his nameĀ  in order to sell one’s religious point of view doesn’t make sense. There are other issues in using Einstein’s name in this case of a supreme God who has influence over how events unfold in the fabric of reality. First of all when we talk about an intelligent creator being, it is a scientific hypothesis. We are talking about an intelligent being that has the capability of various feats. Then the question that would naturally follow would be “Where did this being come from?

Secondly, Einstein had big problems with quantum mechanics. The world as we know can be divided according to two models. The one for which Einstein is famous for which is general relativity and the other is quantum mechanics. Now, in order to describe reality completely, we need both the theories.

General relativity goes about explaining the universe at a macroscopic scale. It is very beautiful and elegant and describes a predictable universe. It appears that Einstein’s obsession with predictability of the universe is one of the reasons why he is an agnostic. Unfortunately, at the most fundamental levels, the universe is totally unpredictable. The works of Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, Wolfgang Pauli and a whole bunch of other scientists during Einstein’s time and afterwards conclusively prove that the quantum mechanical nature of our universe at the fundamental level is unpredictable.

It is obvious that Einstein had a problem with it because he wanted his predictable view of the universe to work at all levels, which it didn’t. If quantum mechanics was just a theory that couldn’t be verified experimentally, then he would have easily brushed it aside and moved on. But that was not the case. Experiments after experiments kept proving the quantum mechanical nature of reality at the fundamental level. This is where Einstein had a problem and he went on making the famous statement, “God doesn’t play dice with the world.”

To his death, Einstein didn’t accept quantum mechanics even though he knew that it was a true way of understanding nature at the microscopic scale. In fact, towards his later years, he became a recluse and refused to read the papers of new scientists who were making excellent progress in the field. It is said that he wasn’t even aware that two new forces viz. the strong force and the weak force were discovered. He spent his remaining few years of life working on one particular problem, which is combining electromagnetism and gravity, which were the only two forces known to him.

So, as a scientist, his achievements in relativistic mechanics, gravity, photoelectric effect etc. are excellent. However, he had this exceptionally biased point of view towards quantum mechanics, which was the other half of reality. It is funny to know that it was his own earlier works in physics that lead to the creation of quantum mechanics. That probably might have disturbed him further.

To summarize, touting up Einstein’s name in religious arguments is futile because of two reasons. First, he never believed in a God and was an agnostic. Second, he was biased enough to discard one half of reality that describes the universe in order to favor the other half. Further, he was never the only intellectual of his time or anytime for that matter. Thomas Edison, Paul Dirac, James Chadwick, Paul Ehrenfest, Sigmund Freud, Niels Bohr, Pierre Curie, George Gamow, Julian Huxley, Frank Whittle, Alan Turing, William Shockley, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Erwin Schrodinger etc. are some of the scientists and inventors during Einstein’s time who were confirmed atheists. Other famous historic and contemporary atheist scientists and inventors include Jim Al-Khalili, Svante Arrhenius, Subrahmanyan Chandrashekhar, Francis Crick, Richard Dawkins, Sandra Faber, Richard Feynman, Alan Guth, Wilhelm Ostwald, Edmund Halley, Stephen Hawking, Peter Higgs, Lawrence Krauss, Joseph Louis Lagrange, Alfred Kinsey, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Alfred Nobel, Sir Roger Penrose, Carl Sagan, Leonard Susskind, Steven Weinberg, Richard Stallman etc.

We can’t in anyway say that Einstein was somehow more intelligent than them or his contributions are greater than all these people or that his religious point of view is somehow better than them. Einstein himself is known for his seemingly ambiguous statements about God and religion. Hence, to conclude, it is a futile attempt to use Einstein’s religious point of view as an argument against atheism.

The thought process…

 

Star dust – The stuff that eventually makes people like us!

Life is full of mysteries eagerly waiting for our wits to grow sharper. But how do we draw the line between our state of consciousness, the consciousness called life and physical reality that we are all made of star dust?

It is confusing. We all know that the atoms that make up our bodies were cooked at the core of stars that exploded as supernovae millions of years ago. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I state that the carbon in my right hand was cooked in one star and the carbon in my left hand was cooked in another. The ultimate truth is that we are all made of star dust.

Life as we know, is just what matter does given the proper environment. Then why do we revere it so much? Does our reverence to life have its origins in religious indoctrination? Why was I called a Hindu when I was born? What if I were kidnapped by a Muslim or a Christian when I was born and raised in a Muslim or Christian family? The fact that my faith was arbitrary because of my family of birth caught me thinking at a very early age.

 

Charles Darwin – A genius in the making!

I strained my cognitive abilities to deduce answers to this conundrum that we call life. We obtain answers from all odd places. Thirteen years of search led me to nothing other than frustration and more queries in mind. I got the answer in a theory that I had not considered as fact for a long time.

I was introduced to Darwin when I was in second grade. I knew that it is one of the theories in existence. But when I read and thought about it, I really got it. I realized that this incredibly simple theory was really capable of explaining everything about life, its beauty, complexity and diversity. As I grew old and amassed a wealth of knowledge, I thought that if science could explain life so elegantly, probably it can do better and that made me an atheist.

Wait a minute. Why am I talking about why I became an atheist? Because this the confession of a maverick philosopher. Why do I call myself a maverick philosopher? What is maverick and what is philosophy?

Maverick is an iconoclastic person who doesn’t like to belong to any particular clan or sect and philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom.

Yin-Yang – The Unity of Opposites!

The Taoist sages say that we have to empty our cup to see the light of wisdom. It is very true. We are often filled with ideas and speculations that we never open our mind to perceive reality as it is. We blame the circumstances, we blame the people. We hardly blame ourselves. It is easy to preach that we have to accept people as they are and accept the situation as it is. But how many people even try doing it?

What wisdom do we derive by close mindedness? Can we be 100% open minded? I don’t think so. There are certain things in life where we have to hold a stance. And that is the part of philosophy that I want to tell the world.