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    Einsteism

    Saturday 20th September 2014

    It’s a pun. Get it? Actually, it’s a portmanteau. Which, if you got that, may imply that this entry isn’t really for you. It’s more for the people who wouldn’t get it, because a word like theism would hafta be thiesm. Because I before E, except after college.

    The people who should by all accounts think that Einstein was Ienstien think a few other things about Einstein. Most immediately that he was a genius. And that’s something we could debate, though it’s not precisely the point.

    In fact, Einstein’s IQ was never really tested. He did at one point, late in his life, take an IQ Test developed for children [pretty much the only IQ Test available at the time]; and, however amusingly, he kinda flunked it. By the numbers, he came in at subgenius, if above average.

    Still, given his body of work, and factoring in his potentially aspergian shortcomings, his actual IQ has been estimated from 140 to 160. Which doesn’t really answer the question, since genius starts, depending who you ask, at 140 or 180.

    Again, it’s not terribly relevant to much of anything; it’s just something no one apparently wants to know, because it might get in the way of pretending that Einstein was officially Smartest Guy Evar. But I like breaking misconceptions. It’s a thing I do.

    While we’re talking about people deifying Einstein without understanding him, let’s get closer to the point.

    The point:

    A matter of what I’ll laughingly call, for the moment, debate has for the last several decades been Einstein’s position on religion. Presuming he had one. Because—and here’s where the first couple hundred words prove marginally relevant—whatever a physicist and presumed Smartest Guy Evar thinks of theism, he could never have been anything but dead right.

    There should be obvious flaws in that thinking. Not the least of which is that, however smart Einstein was, he was hilariously wrong about quantum mechanics [to be fair, he knew that; he just had no idea how to be right], in the absence of the discovery—eventually, in the nineties—of dark energy. I could probably expound on that, but this is still largely for those who think I always precedes E.

    The question, which people pretend will end the issue for ever and ever, is whether Einstein believed in deities. Or, because Pascal’s Wager is always binary, whether he believed in your deity.

    To discover that, and settle for ever and ever the debate which can only be settled by a guy dumber than DaVinci who flunked out on polylinear eigenspace, we could probably dredge up some stuff wot he actually said.

    And this is where things become funny.

    Just to go to extremes, I’ll zero in more tightly on Einstein’s words than most people ever would. What’s Einstein say about religion? This:

    [R]eligion without science is blind.

    That sounds like an ungood indictment. Are we done here?

    Not really. Because, to be honest, it’s not the whole sentence. It’s just the end of the sentence. And you’d hafta be pretty unctuous to quote a guy so far out of context that you’re not even copypasting complete sentences. That would be like false witness, or something.

    So, let’s expand….

    [S]cience without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

    Ooh. That sounds way less atheistic. That sounds like Einstein’s saying that, you know, science, without religion, is lame. Is dumb. Is crippled. Is broken.

    I see this all the damned time from these brainless illiterate baptist creatures, who think that either their specific baptisty imaginary friend exists, or none at all. And that’s pretty much exactly what I see them write as evidence that Smartest Guy Evar was totally one of them. </DEBATE>

    You can probably guess that we’re not actually done yet. I did give you a couple of hints. I artificially capitalised science, just as I’d artifically capitalised religion the first time. And, as the sentence currently looks, we have Smartest Guy Evar producing a borderline illiterate commasplice.

    What’s missing? Let’s play….

    The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

    That—no fooling—is now the entire sentence. No more false witness via omission of detail. As such.

    The problem now is that we’ve got this variable. Something of a pronoun. From outta nowhere: the situation may be expressed.

    There’s a situation? The hell’s that about….

    To find for situation, we may have a bit of light reading to go through. An entire paragraph, the end of which is this complete sentence. Wanna see that?

    Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

    That’s still not the whole story, of course; but it is the whole paragraph. And, if we can trust Einstein the Smartest Guy Evar to use paragraphs correctly, it should contain all the information we currently need.

    Let’s look at what he said….

    Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up.

    What’s that mean? It seems straightforward enough: religion, in order to achieve a goal [ameliorating beyond the bronze age, say], must and indeed did look to the scientific method in order to get anywhere. So, again: religion without science is blind.

    Next.

    But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding.

    What’s that mean? It’s got a couple of biggish words. I can help; I’m a writer. It ultimately means that science, without religion, is lame, in the sense that science performed without a damned near religious devotion to discovering the truth [I'd have gone with facts, personally] is less than optimal.

    So. To date: religion which doesn’t mimic science in its methodology never evolves; science which isn’t damned near a religion unto itself is lesser than it could be.

    Next.

    This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion.

    This is easy. And it’s kinda repetitive, in a way. The feeling a scientist gets from doing the science and collecting the facts—the data; the evidence; the truth, if you like—is neurochemically similar to the feeling a religious zealot gets from hoping real hard that his imaginary friend will fix tomorrow’s sportsball game. Not because science is as feckless as religion; because religion feels the same to a theist as science feels to a scientist. Which is not to say that science is faithbased; it’s to say that science, optimally, requires the devotion that a theist would give makebelieving.

    Next.

    To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason.

    Here’s where we first see the word faith, and where it becomes immediately defined within the context. A scientist, approaching science with the requisite religious zeal, will as a scientist remember to not go too goofy with it [Hi, Mythbusters], instead remaining rational and reasonable. A scientist wouldn’t for example see half a sentence from Smartest Guy Evar and proclaim ‘Proof!!!1′

    Next.

    I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.

    Faith again. A bit awkward. Because people figure that faith means believing in dumb things. Which I wouldn’t disagree with. But, as established by the context, Smartest Guy Evar is saying that he can’t imagine a scientist being so halfassed with science as to settle for hunches more endemic to religion. Basically: go big, or go home.

    And then that final sentence: religionless science lame; scienceless religion trapped in prehistory.

    Smartest Guy Evar is telling us that, so far as he’s concerned, science—the study of actually real stuff—should be performed by the scientist with the same vigour that makebelieve—the pretension of immeasurable yet omnipresent imaginary friends—is performed by people who have trouble spelling theist.

    That’s the paragraph. One of many.

    And the sentence. The last in the paragraph.

    And that one bit right in the middle, that theists like using to prove that Smartest Guy Evar was a baptist.

    What did Smartest Guy Evar mean by science without religion is lame? That science done halfassed is weak. That science taking shortcuts is junkscience. That, in a hilarious way, science, without discipline, is religion.

    Maybe that’s just not really the quote you wanted. That’s cool. There are others. Like this whole thing:


    Which is in German.

    Want a highlight from that?

    The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can change this for me.

    Or, we could skip to the end of the letter:

    The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. In this sense I believe that the priest must become a teacher if he wishes to do justice to his lofty educational mission.

    Smartest Guy Evar wanted to see religion, as it was, and as it sadly remains, evolve into education.

    Does that make him atheistic? Kinda seems like it. But not technically. For that, he’d hafta say something like I am, of course, an atheist.

    I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.

    Good enough?

    Okay: so, now I’m doing it. Want the whole thing?

    I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.

    What lies, you ask? That a jesuit had managed to convert Einstein, to christworship, from atheism.

    Where’d this jesuit—or whatever—get the idea that Smartest Guy Evar was atheistic? Good question. Since this was Einstein’s official position:

    I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal god is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervour is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.

    Einstein routinely called himself agnostic [for the illiterate, that's the absence of knowledge that any deities exist—not some weird fencesitting maybeness]; he called himself atheistic in the sense that he didn’t believe in any form of thinking deity. He simply stopped short of being a professional atheist whose fervour [came from] liberation. In modern terminology, he didn’t believe in deities, so he was atheistic; but he didn’t wanna fight about it, so he wasn’t militant.

    Because—and here’s where he and I tend to agree—deities are as a concept too boring to fight about.

    So, there ya go. Wanna throw it to Smartest Guy Evar to decide whether deities exist? He didn’t know; he didn’t think so; he didn’t really give a damn.

    So shut the hell up about it.

    And have a webcomic:

    More later….

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