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God's Thoughts PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

godsthoughtsI was at an open house at my oldest son's middle school tonight, and I saw this poster. There is much debate over Einstein's beliefs, and though it seems clear from his writings that he was not a Christian or practicing Jew, he did proffer quotes about "God" fairly often, and these are widely used by religious groups today. The full quote:

I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element; I want to know his thoughts; the rest are details.

This particular quote is intriguing, because I cannot find a definitive source for it. He supposedly said it to a young student, in the context of some experiment or other.

But what did he mean by it?

Einstein claimed to believe in Spinoza's God, which is basically "nature." This is an impersonal God, who has no more regard for humans than for birds, bacteria, or boulders. For Einstein though, this "god" was a puzzle for him to figure out. He wanted to learn what nature was, take it apart, determine how it was put together and why. Taken in this light, he was simply saying something akin to "I don't care about rainbows, I care about why they exist."

But now we have to consider the poster. Who put it on the wall, and why? I'm not a fan of knee-jerk atheists who cry foul at every mention of god or religion, but this poster bothers me. It shows a picture of someone regarded as one of the smartest people ever to have existed, saying that he wants to know "God's thoughts" without any context whatsoever. It would be very easy to interpret that poster as meaning "I don't care about science, I just care about what God wants from us." And that is NOT what Einstein meant. In my search on this quote (which varies from site to site), I found it often used on Christian sites to back up their god-claims. I don't think Einstein would approve.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that I should complain to the school, but I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to have a talk with my son about Einstein and what he thought. Once he has the context, he can make up his own mind about whether he appreciates the man or not. I will also encourage him to ask the teacher questions about it, should he have any.

I believe more good can be done by educating people than by simply protesting something like this. It may be a minority opinion, but having a "god" litmus test merely divides us. Giving knowledge and planting questions can do more good, and I hope that's what my actions will lead to.

Besides, once you know the context, the quote raises interesting questions about why we're doing science. I think it's fine to see a rainbow as beautiful phenomenon AND a technical display of natural optics. Einstein seems to be only interested in the latter. This is his loss, but it's also our gain as his dedication to this principle gave us all knowledge. I think it would be better if we focused on that rather than rage at perceived injustice.

 

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written by MadScientist, January 22, 2009
this must be a plot by Freeman Dyson! I bet he's using his Templeton Prize to fund it.
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written by advancedGIR, January 22, 2009
The wording is (probably on purpose) misleading, but Mr Einstein was indeed trying to understand the very nature of the universe, that's why, after his wonderful achievements in relativistic physic that gave us a much better understanding of the universe form a large scale point of view, he turned to quatum physics, with some results, but probably less than what he was dreaming of (wether you want it or not, something is actually playing dices...).
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This Einstein quote says it all...
written by BillyJoe, January 22, 2009
This is my favourite Einstein quote about god and religion:

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
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written by cwniles, January 23, 2009
I am sure at some point Einstein uttered all sorts of phrases that could now be used out of context.


(Pictures a poster with a picture of a smiling Einstein, a giant Smith & Wesson logo, and the phrase "Oy, now thats one big bang!")
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written by jensfiederer, January 23, 2009
I wouldn't complain to the school, I rather like the poster.
After all, when Einstein wanted to know God's thoughts, he scrutinized natural phenomena, using scientific methods. He didn't try to look them up in the Bible.

A worthy example to follow.
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written by Abdul Alhazred, January 23, 2009
There is no question about it. The purpose of the poster is to plant the idea that Einstein believed in Yahweh.

Otherwise, why bother?
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Not what he meant?
written by Griz, January 23, 2009
Jeff, you claim that Einstein's words on the poster convey an idea he didn't intend. Why is your interpretation of what Einstein supposedly meant by those words any more valid than anyone else's. Truth is, only Einstein ever really knew what he meant, if he indeed did say those words. I respectfully submit that the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. A christian will, as they often do, interpret things like this to support their viewpoint. An athiest will, as they often do, argue that einstein was not a christian and therefore didn't mean "god" when he said god, even though he obviously used the word.

There's another level of interpretation, though, which is the one you chose: fear. You are afraid that either someone is twisting Einstein's words to advance an agenda that's contrary to yours, or you are afraid that Einstein actually meant what he appears to have said, thereby striking a blow against your agenda. This is dangerous thinking. This is not critical thinking. This is the kind of paranoia that religion draws from to try to sweep away everyone and everything that doesn't agree with them.

The bottom line is that people who believe in religion just believe. They don't believe because a quote from Einstein convinced them. They have a long history of twisting the words of their own scriptures to suit their purpose, why be suddenly surprised they will do the same thing to anything else they can?
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written by JeffWagg, January 23, 2009
@Griz: I base what I say on the documented things Einstein said. He was clearly NOT a follower of the Christian version of God. Anyone who takes that message from the poster is wrong. That's why I find the poster misleading.
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written by BillyJoe, January 23, 2009
Griz,

Why is your interpretation of what Einstein supposedly meant by those words any more valid than anyone else's?

Because it is consistent with one particularly clear and unambiguous statement made by Einstein about god and religion. I will quote it again in case you missed it;

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

I respectfully submit that the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder.

As an exercise, I will leave it to you to try to twist the above statement into something that supports god and religion.
Good luck!

There's another level of interpretation, though, which is the one you chose: fear. You are afraid that either someone is twisting Einstein's words to advance an agenda that's contrary to yours, or you are afraid that Einstein actually meant what he appears to have said, thereby striking a blow against your agenda.

Thanks for the pop psychological interpretation of Jeff Wagg's state of mind.

This is not critical thinking.

Is there a mirror on your bathroom wall? smilies/wink.gif

The bottom line is that people who believe in religion just believe.

So, "crisis of faith" is not a real phenomenon?
How many religious people do you know who do not fear death? Is that not a "crisis of faith"?
Most religious people need all sorts of massaging and reassurance to "keep the faith". Why do you think that poster was produced in the first place?

They have a long history of twisting the words of their own scriptures to suit their purpose, why be suddenly surprised they will do the same thing to anything else they can?

But why suddenly be quiet about it?
Surely this sort of deceit must be exposed for what it is?

regards,
BillyJoe
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 23, 2009
No self-respecting wooster proceeds without a few good Einstein misquotes.
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agree about not protesting
written by huonia, January 23, 2009
In this case, I agree it's wise not to make a stink about the poster in the school. I am usually uncomfortable with such displays as that atheist group that put up a counter-religious display (in a post office, was it? I've forgotten) this past Christmastime. Folks, let's face it, Christmas is NO time for trying to shift people's minds about faith. It only makes them think atheists are hateful, loveless, remorseless curmudgeons. If you want to get people to seriously rethink their beliefs, it's all in the time and place, and in the relationship you have already established. So I think the freethinkers need to be a bit more sensitive to this if they wish to be heard and respected. Because I think that combo would probably be plenty to achieve, and good enough for a free society.
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written by Kuroyume, January 23, 2009
While I agree with the direction of your statement, huonia, when do we shift people's minds about faith, exactly? Lemme see, in the case of christians. From December until January, it's Christmas. From March to April its Easter. Then there are the many minor holy-days such as St. Valentine's Day (in February), All Saint's Day (in October), Ash Wednesday, Epiphany, Palm Sunday, St. Andrew's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Advent, Good Friday, Pentacost Sunday, Lent (which basically stretches from Feb. to Dec), and a bunch of lesser known for the even more devout.

So, when do we accost them about their irrational, unfounded beliefs constructed wholely on lies, again? smilies/wink.gif

Christmas, yes, is probably not the best time. But when!? The time of blending into the shadows and acquiescing this religious mumbo-jumbo should be at an end after they've had their 2000 years of prominence (completely overshadowed by science's 400 years of showing them wrong in every conceivable way).

This is not the time to be sensitive. As Jean-Luc Piccard said in "Star Trek: First Contact":

"We've made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds, and we fall back. Not again! The line must be drawn... here - this far and no further!"

Fitting, methinks. smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by Kuroyume, January 23, 2009
Jeff, I think your question to the school administration should be this: "Why is this poster being displayed?" If nothing else, it will aid you in determining your course of action from sheer acceptance to possible complaint. The context is very, if not penultimately, important to the message. If one distorts the context conveyed, then one has subjugated the original intent to their own purposes. That is not honesty - it is lying, fabrication, deception. We should not accept deception like this. I am vehement about correcting such twisting of information to benefit one's viewpoint. Isn't that the intent of skepticism in a good part - to shine a light on deception? Putting words in the mouth of Charles Darwin or Albert Einstein to promote a religious agenda is deception. Einstein was evidentually deist (at best) by calling nature 'god' and, by his own words, made this clear. As my last post stated, we cannot be so congenial as to let these informal deceptions roll over us like a tank. We must take a stand and propose change by education about the 'truth' (as best as we can surmize).

I don't go around my area breaking nativity scenes but I don't praise them either. Instead, I explain why this ritualistic embodiment is unrealistic and mythological. You start with your children. Expand it to their friends and their friends' parents.

Best of luck and good skepticizing. smilies/smiley.gif
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written by Willy K, January 23, 2009
Maybe Einstein uttered something like the above phrase when he was told by some raving religious nut job that quantum mechanics, which Einstein supposedly abhorred, was "God's Will."

Einstein might have wanted to know who was the crazy deity who would create a universe with such wacky rules! smilies/grin.gif
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Complain!
written by Willy K, January 23, 2009
Jeff, ask the school administration to properly cite the references for Einstein's alleged quote.

If they can't produce and post the appropriate information ask them to redact the poster. After all, they would fail any student who turned in a term paper without properly citing references. smilies/tongue.gif
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written by Kuroyume, January 23, 2009
Unfortunately, Quantum Mechanics upset many a theist as it removed the 'certainty' and 'determinism' of their deity from the workings of the universe. It was the antithesis of 'God's Will' in being 'random'. "What, God acting randomly! We can't accept that!" and so on.

The funny part is that a supernatural being who created the universe and stuck its nose in our business from time to time would be a perfect example of random behavior in our universe. And Einstein didn't agree with that or that. He seems to have thought that the universe was a humanly conceivable thing in terms of science and mathematics in a way that didn't condone this deific intervention so prized by the credulous.

The problem with equating 'God' with Quantum Theory is that you now have a supernatural, all-powerful being which only interacts at the subatomic level. G'o'da'gaps at its smallest gappiness. smilies/smiley.gif
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I'd Complain
written by Alencon, January 23, 2009
Things aren't going to change until we start challanging the religious at every turn. What they're banking on is that those of us who don't believe will continue to be silent and let them run roughshod over society with their nonsense.

They're entitled to believe what they want, but I'm entitled not to constantly hear about it.
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Little James Randi, Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by chazk, January 24, 2009
The real thought/question should be did E really say that?
What people say and what E actually said are two diff things.

Who was this "student" ?............ Exactly
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written by Phildonnia, January 24, 2009
This is fairly typical of religious argument though: Smart person X says Y, therefore it's true. Unfortunately, in science education one often sees posters of various icons, and hears profound pronouncements of what they "realized".
To this day, we are still subjecting Einstein's theories to rigorous testing, as we should. So we don't yet fully trust Einstein on physics. Why would we accept anything he has to say about theology?
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written by BillyJoe, January 24, 2009
visit http://forums.armageddononline...y.php?f=21 to see how we won James Randi's fraudulent Million Dollar Challenge

This is a link to a home page.
Please provide a more specific link because I cannot find a relevant thread.
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written by BillyJoe, January 24, 2009
To this day, we are still subjecting Einstein's theories to rigorous testing, as we should. So we don't yet fully trust Einstein on physics. Why would we accept anything he has to say about theology?

...or even quantum theory..
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written by felixmab, January 24, 2009
here is the link to website where I WON THE MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL CHALLENGE...

of course Randi won't pay up....so he shut down


http://forum.philosophynow.org/viewtopic.php?t=1565
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How I won the million dollar paranormal challenge
written by felixmab, January 24, 2009


Let me know if it is working:

http://forum.philosophynow.org...php?t=1565
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 24, 2009
LOL. Followed your link. It works. It leads to a discussion forum where a skeptic hands you your @ss. Let's see, lemme do the math... add 2, carry the 4... yep - that makes you the 4,623rd wooster to claim to have won the Million $ Challenge only to be cheated out of it by the dastardly Evil Mr. Randi.

Nice work, Bunky.

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written by MadScientist, January 24, 2009
Gee... the comments were about Einstein being misquoted to serve religious purposes (hey, it's Einstein - he was cool, if he were alive he'd sue us for this stunt we're pulling, join our groupthink) but nostradamus just had to stick his big nose into things. I wonder if nostradamus is related to Dracula; they just won't die.

@felixmab: you're weird; I hope you're getting some professional help for your delusions.
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written by tctheunbeliever, January 24, 2009
Um, griz, we don't know Einstein's intent but you know the intent of Mr. Wagg? Does that only work on the living?
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How we won the $1,000,000 Challenge
written by felixmab, January 24, 2009
sorry, here is the revised link where I sh*t all over James Randi....


http://nostradamus.0catch.com/


How We Won the Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 24, 2009
"sorry, here is the revised link where I sh*t all over James Randi...."

And yet the stink accrues to you.

Again.. nice work, Bunky. Now back to work, the fryer ding-ed.

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written by Cuddy Joe, January 24, 2009
Warning to posters. I went to the goof's link and not only do you get one of those old pop up cascades, but my security system shows it's infected with a virus.
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written by felixmab, January 24, 2009
sure, you LIAR

visit

http://nostradamus.0catch.com/


How We Won the Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge

and see how we SH*T ALL OVER JAMES RANDI
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written by felixmab, January 24, 2009
and we used an eclipse like Einstein did in 1919 to prove our claim:

http://nostradamus.0catch.com/

Where is my MILLION DOLLARS, you little old fraud....
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written by BillyJoe, January 24, 2009
felixmab,

All I saw there was a video of Richard Dawkins wiping your ass with a cactus plant.
Do you have a different interpretation?
Or perhaps you still haven't managed to create a proper link. Bit ironic, don't you think, for someone who thinks he's won a million bucks off James Randi.

BJ
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written by felixmab, January 24, 2009
I hate all you liars...and I should exterminate you without mercy....
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felix the cat.
written by BillyJoe, January 24, 2009
Well, I'm invincible, so that won't actually work. smilies/cheesy.gif

But you could wipe that grin from my face by simply posting the correct link to where you think you won the million bucks or, if you find that task absolutely beyond you as seems to be the case, try explaining in your own words exactly how...ah, who am I kidding!

BJ
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written by felixmab, January 24, 2009
Actually, I am putting it up everywhere to expose that little fraud called "James Randi"

http://ca.youtube.com/user/felixmabus99


or how about this:

http://nostradamus.0catch.com/
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written by Diverted Chrome, January 24, 2009
"I found it often used on Christian sites to back up their god-claims."
That's ironic, considering that Einstein was Jewish. But then, xtians love to mine Judaic elements and then distort them.

The poster has one intention: to tell the children that all is irrelevant in the face of the Judeo God (or the xtian god, depending on the knowledge and background of the child)- that a belief in God is more important than education. If you rounded up 10 children, I'm willing to wager that would be the interpretation. For this reason, it does not belong in a public classroom. Though a larger reason would be: of all the things Einstein purportedly said that stimulate thought, why this? An Einstein poster is a good idea but why this exact one? Well, there's a reason they choose this exact one, isn't there?

Jeff, I was always told (in the days before the internet) that Einstein never stated:
I want to know God's thoughts. The rest are details
Given that I've seen the statement iterated differently ("I want to see the face of God", "I want to know HIS thoughts", etc.), that alone proves it's not an actual quote, as implied by the poster. I think it's just a viral urban myth like "Al Gore once said he invented the internet" or "Let them eat cake", ""Elementary, my dear Watson" or "Judy Judy Judy".

If you look at the WikiQuote listing for Einstein:
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein
this quote is glaringly absent.
If you Google around, many people think Einstein never said the quote.
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Felix the Slippery Eel Slips Away
written by BillyJoe, January 25, 2009
You gave the same link yet again and a second link which links back to the same link again.
Brilliant!

Oh well, move along folks, nothing to see here...

BJ
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 25, 2009
It's just Mabus, a long time internet troll and Randi-hater. The internet is like a public park and every public park has that one scraggly old drunk lumbering about hectoring people.
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written by BillyJoe, January 25, 2009
Okay. I've never come across the poor thing before. Sad really. He sounds desperately alone and friendless. Perhaps if he gets out more...
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written by BillyJoe, January 25, 2009
I think Felix (David Mabus) has been banned.

His next post to this thread appears in my email but not in the actual thread. In it, he confirms that he hates that "little Randi fraud" and invites us to acquaint ourselves with god's thoughts (he doesn't say which god). Then he provides 6 links (none of which seem to have any thing to do with god's thoughts) in all of which he posts the exact same long boring post. This post contains numerous links, again nothing to do with god's thoughts, and most totally unrelated to James Randi. The ones that do, show Randi in a good light - people failing his challenges, his debunking of alleged psychis etc??? Go figure.

I don't support censorship, but I am happy to be spared the "thoughts" of this poor, self-deluded, irrational, prophecy obsessed, conspiracy freak.

BJ

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written by felixmab, January 25, 2009
http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=...annel_page

HAHA
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written by gbeenie, January 26, 2009
I wonder if this "Mabus" character is the same wooster who tried to "pwn" Randi at a panel at Dragon*Con, and got his dick knocked in the dirt.
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 26, 2009
I don't think so. Lacks the required anatomy.
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written by BillyJoe, January 26, 2009
I see felix has not been banned.
I wonder what happened to that post of his that disappeared.
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written by linda.gratefulone, February 25, 2009
If I may...I would like to remind you that there are ladies who are reading this and if you would please be mindful of that and watch your language, I would appreciate it.
Thank you.
Linda
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Sorry...
written by BillyJoe, February 26, 2009
Yes, I forgot. I herewith remove my comment about Dawkins wiping felix the cat's ass with a cactus plant. Still, in sterner company, it would have been: shoved it right up there.

smilies/grin.gif

BJ
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