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Finally, I take issue with Einstein’s statement that the value of reason in understanding the world is a form of “profound faith.” As I wrote in , this is confusing because the religious meaning of faith is “firm belief without substantial evidence,” while the scientist’s “faith” in the laws of physics is simply shorthand for “strong confidence of how things work based on evidence and experience.” Further, we don’t have faith in reason: we reason because it helps us find out things.
It is in fact the only way we can approach understanding the universe.
Now it’s true that if you read Einstein’s statements on God, it’s clear that he didn’t believe in a personal God, and thought that theistic religion was man-made.
The way he conceived of “proper” religion was a belief in something beyond one’s own “selfish desires”: a set of “superpersonal values” that included included awe before the order of nature.
But the quote is rarely used in context, and since I’ve just read the essay in which it appears, I’ll show you that context. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself.
But first let me show you how, in that same essay, Einstein proposes what is essentially Steve Gould’s version of NOMA (Non-overlapping Magisteria): It would not be difficult to come to an agreement as to what we understand by science. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect.Why couldn’t he simply say that people are curious to find out stuff?Why did he have to recast that curiosity as a form of “religion”?If other ways had proven valuable, like revelation or Ouiji boards, we’d use those, too.In his debate with Chopra, Sam Harris said that Einstein’s statement clearly showed that he didn’t believe in a conventional God. Einstein neglects, however, another contribution of science to religion: disproving its truth statements. But Einstein errs again by claiming that “the aspiration toward truth and understanding. .springs from the sphere of religion.” Perhaps he’s conceiving of “religion” here as a form of science, or of curiosity about the universe beyond oneself.But he’s certainly conceiving of religion as most people understand it.On the other hand, representatives of science have often made an attempt to arrive at fundamental judgments with respect to values and ends on the basis of scientific method, and in this way have set themselves in opposition to religion. He also errs by saying that religion deals “only with evaluations of human thought and action,” neglecting the palpable fact that many religions are also concerned with truth statements—statements about the existence of God, what kind of God he is, and what he wants, as well as how we got here and where we go after we die.Indeed, in the third paragraph Einstein notes that religion in fact concern itself with truth statements, so he contradicts himself.Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts.According to this interpretation the well-known conflicts between religion and science in the past must all be ascribed to a misapprehension of the situation which has been described.