Do Scientists Pray?
Meet Einstein's God.
An elementary school teacher was giving a drawing class to a group of six‐year‐old children. At the back of the classroom sat a little girl who normally didn’t pay much attention in school. In the drawing class she did. For more than twenty minutes, the girl sat with her arms curled around her paper, totally absorbed in what she was doing. The teacher found this fascinating. Eventually, she asked the girl what she was drawing. Without looking up, the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” Surprised, the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” The girl said, “They will in a minute.”
I heard this story from Sir Ken Robinson. Ken is most famous for his 2006 TED Talk, called “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” And if you haven’t heard it, you’re in for a treat.
Hi there, and welcome to the latest issue of Abandoned Curiosities. If I ever have to choose a spirit animal to represent this newsletter, it will be a child, naturally — and joyfully — inquisitive. Just like this little girl in the sixth grade, who asked Albert Einstein a very interesting question:
“Do scientists pray?” she asked.
Before I proceed with Einstein’s God, please note that the goal of this discussion is not to make any contributions toward your faith — good or bad. It’s just that I too have felt the child’s curiosity and enjoyed reading Einstein’s views on the matter.
“Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and this holds for the actions of people,” Einstein explained to the child. “For this reason, a scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a supernatural Being.”
But a lack of prayer did not correlate with the lack of a God. As Einstein would go on to explain — to the little girl and on various occasions to the world at large:
“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.”
“I prefer the attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being,” he adds, in a statement I find particularly fascinating.
Einstein isn’t just any scientist after all. The German-born theoretical physicist is widely regarded as one of the greatest minds of all time. His most famous works include his theory of special and general relativity, his discovery of the photoelectric effect, for which he won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics, and his mass-energy equivalence formula, E = mc², considered to be science’s best-known equation.
Einstein’s intellectual achievements and his extraordinary brilliance overall have forever made his face a symbol and his name a synonym for genius. Yet — and it’s probably a lesson in itself — that this genius still somehow carries the attitude of “humility” corresponding to some “intellectual weakness.”
And it isn’t merely about faith. We are all entitled to our faith or a lack of it. All of us, however, could use a little humility in our acceptance of not knowing.
Also, if it helps, remember that even Einstein didn’t have all the answers.
In case you want more, there’s an entire chapter titled ‘Einstein’s God’ in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Einstein. As far as I’m concerned, I found the whole book to be immensely inspiring. And I would gladly recommend it to you.
I’m currently reading The Republic by Plato. Along with his teacher, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato laid the foundations for the western philosophical thought. As for the book, Ralph Waldo Emerson once rewarded to it Omar’s remark about the Koran: “Burn the libraries, for their value is in this book.” So stay tuned as it will only be reasonable to expect something remarkable for the next issue.
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Also this week: I rented The Lost Leonardo from Apple TV. I talked about Leonardo da Vinci in our last issue. And I mentioned the Salvator Mundi, the most expensive painting ever sold at a public auction. The Lost Leonardo documents the rise of the painting’s value from its original purchase price of $1,175 in 2005 to its auction in 2017 for $450 million. The film also introduces us to the myriad, and often hidden, elements behind the art world — money laundering, world politics, clever marketing, and whatnot. In the end, it was one-hundred-percent time and money well spent.
I’ll leave you with the painting for now, in case you’re curious. As the legendary auction house Christie’s likes to label it, The Male Mona Lisa:
And that’s it! Thanks for reading. I’ll see you next week.