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Einstein's God is Irrelevant

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From http://www.flickr.com/photos/87310047@N05/8887032943/: I want to know God's thoughts. The rest are details... - Albert Einstein
I want to know God's thoughts. The rest are details... - Albert Einstein by QuotesEverlasting

Einstein's oft-repeated, and dogged insistence that "God does not play dice" is scientifically wrong-headed for a number of reasons. First of all, where science is concerned, God is irrelevant. Any references to God's presumptive influence on the design of the cosmos represent an abdication of scientific reason. God is a supernatural conceptual construct, whereas science seeks naturalistic explanations for enigmatic empirical phenomena. As such, science and theology operate in two entirely distinct ideological ballparks (Gould, 2002). This is why scientists and theologians tend to squabble: scientists and theologians do not talk to each other, they talk past each other. Supernatural explanations for natural phenomena are scientific non sequiturs: claiming that God created the universe is the scientific equivalent of saying, "I haven't got a clue." Allusions to the supernatural provide zero information about the naturalistic processes that have driven the origin and evolution of the cosmos (Dawkins, 2006). For scientists, it is no more enlightening to attribute cosmic origins to God, than it is to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Henderson, 2006).

Additionally, by repeatedly and adamantly insisting that "God does not play dice," Einstein betrayed a fateful conceit: Einstein immodestly equated his own thinking with that of a supernatural being. Presumably, Einstein evoked the notion of God in order to validate his critique of quantum physics in a fashion that (he hoped) would be more compelling than the bizarre empirical revelations that quantum scientists were generating. After all, God is the ultimate arbiter of truth, right? 

Therein lies the rub. For theologians, God always gets the last word, however, for scientists, citing God as a reference is akin to pleading insanity (Dawkins, 2006). 

For such a serious and gifted scientist, Einstein's invocation of God constituted a far more dubious theoretical maneuver than any of the novelties conjured up by his opponents in the quantum mechanics debate. For starters, Einstein's repeated references to God seem to imply a belief that he was graced with a form of superhuman insight that his colleagues lacked, i.e., it requires a superhuman intellect to comprehend the divine motives of a supernatural entity, no? Such hubris also emboldened Einstein to presume that anyone who failed to agree with his "superior" perspective was simply not smart enough to understand God's divine will. Sounding more like a prophet than a scientist, Einstein explicitly prioritized faith in what he perceived as the right way to think over an unwavering commitment to rigorous empirical science. When it came to quantum physics, Einstein remained self-destructively deductive to the very end. 

Deism and Determinism

Einstein's anti-empirical faith in a rational universe is similar to the delusion under which hard determinists operate. For hard determinists to sustain the claim that the universe operates, at all times and places, in compliance with an inexorable chain of causality, determinists would have to know more about the universe than any mortal human could possibly comprehend. From the outset, Pierre Simon Laplace emphasized that omniscience was a fundamental component of the determinist perspective: 

An intelligence knowing all the forces acting in nature at a given instant, as well as the momentary positions of all things in the universe, would be able to comprehend in one single formula the motions of the largest bodies as well as of the lightest atoms in the world, provided that its intellect were sufficiently powerful to subject all data to analysis; to it nothing would be uncertain, the future as well as the past would be present to its eyes (Quoted in Weinert, 2004, p. 197, emphasis added).


It would require nothing short of a god-like omniscience in order to be sufficiently well-acquainted with every aspect of the universe--large and small, known and unknown, and past, present and future--in order to make a compelling, fact-based claim that the universe uniformly adheres to deterministic principles. In the absence of such god-like omniscience, determinism is as unscientific as Einstein's insistence that God is not a gambler. 

Yet, even though humans are, by definition, not gods, even gifted scientists, such as Laplace, Einstein and Hawking, can fall prey to the delusion that they enjoy special access to deistically-inspired insights. Much as scientists often criticize theologians for dogmatically clinging to outmoded faiths, scientists also have a propensity for clinging to flawed but cherished deductive faiths (Kuhn, 1962). In this sense, determinism is very similar to many theological dogmas. Although their superhuman knowledge claims cannot be supported by empirical facts, determinists and theologians maintain an abiding faith in the "universal truths" that, they are convinced, their supernatural beliefs are certain to reveal.Indeed, it is because of such empirically-unjustified deductive dogmatism that many people have argued that, rather than being a rational antidote for religion, science is simply another form of religion (Miles, 2007). Hard determinism employs essentially the same type of teleological dogmatism as faith-based theologies, i,e., the universe is governed by an insuperable force that actively shapes the trajectory of events in such a way as to arrive at a predetermined outcome. Just as it is with Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc., either you believe in the basic tenets of determinism, or you don't. The problem with teleological dogmatism is that, even in the face of copious quantities of falsifying evidence (e.g., quantum uncertainty, the 4% universe, human super-adaptability, etc.), dogmatists often blithely reject any interpretation of the evidence that contravenes their faith.

References

Dawkins, Richard, 2006. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 

Gould, Stephen Jay. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. New York: Vintage, 2002.

Henderson, Bobby. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. New York: Villard, 2006.

McGettigan, Timothy. Evolution at the Speed of Thought. Los Angeles, CA.: WheelMan Press, 2013.

Kuhn, Thomas S., 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Miles, Grahame. Science and Religious Experience: Are They Similar Forms of Knowledge? Brighton, England: Sussex Academic, 2007.

Weinert, Friedel. The Scientist as Philosopher: Philosophical Consequences of Great Scientific Discoveries. Berlin: Springer, 2004.

 

http://goodscience.sociology.org/

Tim McGettigan is a professor of sociology at CSUPueblo. Tim's primary research interests are in the areas of science, technology, society (STS) and the future and Tim blogs about those topics at the following sites: The Socjournal, (more...)
 

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God is irrelevant. Any references to God's presump... by Timothy McGettigan on Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 7:04:46 PM
A joke about Dirac:"There is no god and I am his m... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:19:11 PM
By repeatedly and adamantly insisting that "God do... by Timothy McGettigan on Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 7:32:25 PM
So, you presume that "Einstein evoked the notion o... by Shireen Parsons on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 6:20:18 PM
no analytical mind can equate zealotry with natura... by MadAngel on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 11:47:56 AM
"the ultimate arbiter of truth, right?"Science and... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:22:08 PM
and it's theology that can't explain the world in ... by MadAngel on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 11:59:09 AM
Your religion is impressive.So who visited the Ali... by BFalcon on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 12:15:01 PM
It is not that we are that repugnant,  which ... by kanawah on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 5:30:40 PM
Some of us more than the others.You know, Buddhism... by BFalcon on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 9:17:41 PM
I agree with you on some things, but not on all.I ... by E. J. N. on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 6:05:16 PM
All the silly things that you heard before.Gibb in... by BFalcon on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 9:50:05 AM
That Divine, Creator is above comprehension and di... by BFalcon on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 9:57:06 AM
The Divine "Creator" or Holy One is above Man's co... by E. J. N. on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 12:32:41 PM
For he had better have a sense of humor by the tim... by Michael Dewey on Saturday, Jun 29, 2013 at 2:40:08 PM
of which story?... by BFalcon on Saturday, Jun 29, 2013 at 6:38:08 PM
There is no doubt in my mind that we all were ther... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 1:46:29 PM
You are thinking in a frame that is completely dif... by BFalcon on Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 5:49:18 PM
To people.  What was told in the Bible was on... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 7:07:43 PM
Ever since a kid have figured god must have been v... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 7:16:04 PM
If we don't make it.... by BFalcon on Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 8:13:23 PM
There is no heaven up above.  If one person s... by Michael Dewey on Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 10:05:35 PM
Your frame is very different from mine and I don't... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Jul 2, 2013 at 8:43:09 AM
clearly does not talk gender when he uses "He" for... by BFalcon on Saturday, Jun 29, 2013 at 6:50:33 PM
I agree with all that, except I think Abdullah may... by E. J. N. on Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 12:22:40 PM
"If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot ... by Daniel Geery on Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013 at 8:34:35 PM
I think so too. (See my comment below.)... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 3:01:34 PM
The good professor nails it on the head when he no... by Earl Smith on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 5:37:06 AM
Tim, I'm not quite understanding where you come in... by anna kakol on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:08:34 AM
To argue that denial of a Creator precludes a prop... by Christopher Gibson on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:39:01 AM
I have copied all of the translations done by The ... by MadAngel on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 12:26:31 PM
24-37At the word of his mother Namma, Enki rose up... by MadAngel on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 12:29:01 PM
69-71Fourth, she fashioned one who could not hold ... by MadAngel on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 12:30:18 PM
Trying to respond to someone who doesn't recognize... by Steve Dutch on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:59:59 AM
"God is a supernatural conceptual construct, where... by Joseph Green on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 12:02:26 PM
Thought the 'Planck' quote was by Thomas Kuhn.... by Paul Carline on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 3:13:35 AM
One of the great qualities of Albert Einstein was ... by Bob Johnson on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 1:43:09 PM
If you understand that creation stories are merely... by E. J. N. on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 2:55:57 PM
I've always considered Einstein's "dice" objection... by Jim Arnold on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 6:19:07 PM
Einstein' s famous dice quote was actually an argu... by Jeffrey Dach on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 6:56:27 PM
Man I wish Feynman was still with us. We could us... by Wil Masisak on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 9:38:10 PM
Quantum physicists are as guilty of dogmatism as a... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 11:17:53 AM
... by Jeffrey Dach on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 8:07:59 PM
People feel obliged to express opinions even when ... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:28:37 PM
enlighten us.... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 10:51:42 AM
You don't know how qualified all the readers are, ... by Richard Pietrasz on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 6:25:16 PM
This is a useful idea, but it misses the mark.&nbs... by Jeffrey Dach on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 3:19:29 PM
in their monotheism, you generalize too much.And w... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Jul 2, 2013 at 8:55:24 AM
Why are atheists more literal than Christian funda... by Nick Farrell on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 2:02:10 AM
Answer: No. Why? Because he routinely makes assert... by Paul Carline on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 3:25:01 AM
Dawkins' resume says he is a scientist, and approv... by Richard Pietrasz on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 5:20:35 PM
 Moves to a field that he does not quite unde... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Jul 2, 2013 at 9:04:17 AM
Einstein was a Pantheist, roughly agreeing with th... by Xarium Supreme on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 6:19:45 AM
With a caveat.At least some pantheists think that ... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Jul 2, 2013 at 9:10:14 AM
"Imagination is more important than knowledge" - t... by Guglielmo Tell on Thursday, Jun 27, 2013 at 3:52:35 PM
As I see it, Atheism in America has always risen i... by E. J. N. on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 1:16:45 PM
What is up above.  Well if "his" will is done... by Michael Dewey on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 5:04:17 PM
You miss Einstein's world view.He was an atheist... by kanawah on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 5:22:34 PM
As Moses and and Isaiah wrote, God is not a man, n... by E. J. N. on Saturday, Jun 29, 2013 at 1:51:28 PM
It is obvious that Einstein believed in God, but n... by E. J. N. on Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 2:22:37 PM