C. C. Hagan

Albert Einstein

Extracts from the book

“As we saw in Part 1, Newton’s approach was to view the world as a clockwork universe wound up by God but, with schools of thought such as positivism pervading society, God’s role was gradually written out of scientific thought. Yet ‘God’ remained in the vocabulary of Einstein (and, as we shall see later in this book, firmly in Hawking’s vocabulary despite his apparent ‘agnosticism’ displayed in the Preface to this book). On this issue Einstein, while cynical of religion, held a reverence for the Cosmic God.

In the foreword to Einstein’s 1938 book The Evolution of Physics (co authored with Leopold Infeld)25, Walter Isaacson referred to this ‘reverence’ for the universe as his religious faith as seen in Einstein’s 1936 Essay quoted by Isaacson: “The very fact that the totality of our senses experiences is such that, by means of thinking, it can be put in order, this fact is one that leaves us in awe. The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility….The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.” Einstein’s use of the word ‘God’ in such phrases as “God does not play dice with the universe” or “God does not care about our mathematical difficulties He integrates empirically” and so on seems to suggest that God was more than a metaphor to Einstein. Yet in his famous ‘God letter’ , written after the second world war, he dismissed religions as superstitious,26 and said : “The word ‘God’ is for me , nothing but the expression and product of human weaknesses.” This seems to rule out belief in a personal God as opposed to a intelligent cosmic force. Recent books on Einstein describe his faith as Spinoza’s God27 (more pantheism28). Einstein further said, "the problem involved is too vast for our limited minds."29 He certainly was not an atheist as shown by this further quote from Isaacson where Einstein was discussing our ability to analyse the universe with his friend Maurice Solovine (who had studied Hume and Mach) where Einstein said : “ Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way. There lies the weakness of positivists and professional atheists.”30 According to Isaacson, despite Solovine having an aversion to such language, Einstein continued: “I have no better expression than ‘religious’ for this confidence in the rational nature of reality and in its being accessible, to some degree, to human reason. When this feeling is missing, science degenerates into mindless empiricism.”31

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“…. Stephen Hawking considered a number of different theories for the origin of the universe with the Big Bang theory being central to his analysis. In modelling the early universe he said that a limiting factor to any theory is that galaxies that are now far apart but which share common features must have been closer together in the early universe because the ‘information’ containing such features cannot travel faster than the speed of light.32 This is confirmatory of the Big Bang just as the discovery of the microwave background radiation by Penzias and Wilson in 1965 ( their discovery , for which they received the Nobel Prize, was that a background radiation occurred throughout the universe indicating that this was the after effect of an event such as the Big Bang. Stephen Hawking’s views, as expressed in his book A Brief History of Time, indicate that any origin of the universe theory must account for this microwave radiation).33 The Oxford Dictionary of Physics describes this relativistic problem as the universe updating itself through each new light wave of reality.34 The same authors state that no experiment can distinguish between the two frames of reference (as Leibniz had, in effect, thought).35

Despite Einstein’s 1905 papers revealing some of the greatest theories in the history of science nothing happened when Einstein’s theories were published. It is a sad fact that our modern world has developed silos – vast columns within societies of professionals within certain sectors who are experts within those sectors. Outsiders are normally not ‘experts’ but some are and some make brilliant discoveries which these silos deliberately shun in a ruthless quality control culture. These theories include theories that break the existing scientific paradigm in the sense used by Thomas Kuhn in his landmark book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions to produce a paradigm shift to the next theory. Even insiders of the silo can be labelled ‘outsiders’ by silo authorities. An instance of this insider ‘silo effect’ can also be seen with cases such as Rupert Sheldrake’s clash with the editor of Nature over his book A New Science of Life. Editor of Nature, Sir John Maddox effectively labelled the book heresy when he said: "This infuriating tract... is the best candidate for burning there has been for many years."36 Grigori Perelman who solved the Poincáre conjecture perhaps is a closer situation to Einstein. Perelman, a mathematician, who had prior roles with universities – powerful silos of the scientific world – lodged his proof of the famous Poincáre conjecture in 2002 on arXiv, an online archive for new proofs of mathematical or scientific nature. Unfortunately nothing happened at first for him and Perelman grew disillusioned. The years passed by and in about 2006 when the mathematics community accepted the proof , it was decided to award the Fields Medal and a Millenium Prize of $1 million to him.37 However, Grigori Perelman rejected the medal and the prize after so many years. Presumably, the thrill of prizes and prestige thawed over leaving his disenchantment with the mathematics world. It appears on this occasion that the ‘outsider’ shunned the silo.

So Einstein , the outsider, was not accepted by the scientific silo of the day. However, Max Planck, who was a scientist of great authority within it, had read the Einstein papers with interest and had sent Max von Laue to Bern to see Einstein 2 years later in 1907. After von Laue made enquiries he would have been surprised at the address he was given – the patent office in the post office building in Bern. He arrived in the reception and asked for Einstein but expecting a professorial figure ignored the young Einstein when he arrived in reception. Einstein returned upstairs puzzled. When Einstein was called again to go to reception it dawned on von Laue that this must be Einstein and they met. The young patent clerk was suddenly elevated from ‘outsider status’.38 They walked the streets of Bern but, despite a good meeting and subsequent discussions, Planck did not offer a position to Einstein, who battled on inside the patent office.39 Yet this practical ground did him an enormous amount of good because it provided a ‘sandbox’ of working examples of physics which enriched the repertoire of examples from physics which could populate his mind experiments.

Einstein did apply for a position at the University of Bern and submitted 3 of his 5 papers to them to support the application including the paper proposing E= MC2 but they politely explained that the pre requisites were a dissertation not mere papers (never mind that they were worth of Nobel prizes!).40

Extracts from Chapter 18 ALBERT EINSTEIN

25 A. Einstein, L. Infeld, The Evolution of Physics- from early concepts to relativity and quanta, A. Einstein, L. Infeld, The Evolution of Physics- from early concepts to relativity and quanta, Touchstone (Simon & Schuster) reprint of 1938 work in 2007 , ppxvii to xviii, pp xxi to xxii
26 “…like all other religions” [Judiaism] “is an incarnation of primitive superstition”. See note 165 above for reference.
27 Calaprice, Alice (2010). The Ultimate Quotable Einstein. Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. 325.
28 Jammer, Max (2011). Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, p. 75.; Originally published in Albert Einstein (1929). Gelegentliches. ["A Miscellany"] Berlin: Soncino Gesellschaft, p. 9.
29 Viereck, George Sylvester (1930). Glimpses of the Great. New York: The Macaulay Company, pp. 372-373.
30 A. Einstein, L. Infeld, The Evolution of Physics(ibid) , pp xxi to xxii
31 A. Einstein, L. Infeld, The Evolution of Physics(ibid) , p xxii
32 S. Hawking, A Brief History of Time, (ibid) , p 135
33S. Hawking, A Brief History of Time, (ibid) , pp43-44
34 Oxford Dictionary of Physics, Seventh Edition (2015) Oxford University Press,2016 p503. The exact quote is “…the universe is updated through a wave of reality, which emanates at speed c from the region in which the change took place.”
35Oxford Dictionary of Physics, (ibid) pp502-505
36 Quoted from article ‘Nature Editor Sir John Maddox Cries Heretic” on sheldrake.org as at 12 February 2019
37 Wikipedia Entry of Grigori Perelman as at 11 February 2019

38 D.Bodanis, Einstein’s Greatest Mistake, (ibid) , pp34-35
39 D.Bodanis, Einstein’s Greatest Mistake, (ibid) , pp37-38
40 D.Bodanis, Einstein’s Greatest Mistake, (ibid) , pp37-38