We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Monday, February 3, 2014

Einstein On Prayer

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
In 1936, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to a sixth grader named Phyllis who had written him on behalf of her class asking, "Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?"  In his reply (see here), dated January 24, 1936, Einstein wrote, "Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish." He went on to say, however, that, "everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive."

An appreciative thought: whether we capitalize it as Spirit or not as spirit, there is here a recognition of a higher "something."  Einstein avoids the word, God, but no matter.  "Something" lurks behind the physical world and its laws, dimly perceived in a corner of science's pursuit of knowledge.  In some vague sense, it seems to us to be a "phenomenon" parallel to the "phenomenon" of the human spirit, but vastly greater.  "Something" is there.  Science alone will never figure out what that something is.

A critical reflection: a couple of years ago, I shared with readers a series of four postings (beginning here) on the relationship of prayer to science, making the point that non-theistic scientists often dismiss prayer on the basis of their own theological bias against the idea of god rather than on the basis of the nature of prayer itself.  Einstein does precisely that here.  Since for him there is no personal god involved in the workings of nature, he reasons that prayer does not work.  The experience of people of faith across many faiths and over thousands of years finds that assertion itself to be na├»ve.  Always, always, always beware of non-theistic scientists when they write about matters of the Spirit and theology.  Their ignorance of what they write about is generally abysmal.