Category Archives: Philosophy

What makes the “God Letter” important.

Written in 1954, when Einstein was 74, the one-and-a-half page response to German philosopher Eric Gutkind was sold at auction for  … Three Million Dollars!  Give or take.

Is $3 million a big number?

It seems so to me, but then, crazy people …

It certainly drew attention, which is good because of what’s behind it.  A clever, thoughtful mind, in collaboration with others.

My attention was drawn by Albert Einstein writing about god!

Einstein was a scientist.  The scientist.

Talking about religion.  In a deeply spiritual way.

If you are a bit like me: a scientist (small “s”, ie asks questions) who is religious about some things (including “antitheism” for a while), the”God letter” would intrigue you.

It is seen as a key statement in the debate between science and religion.  In the letter, written in his native German, Einstein summarises his views:

“The word God is for me nothing but the expression and product of human weaknesses.”

“The Bible a collection of venerable but still rather primitive legends.”

“No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can [for me] change anything about this.”

The physicist also muses on his own Jewish identity, writing that it is “like all other religions, an incarnation of primitive superstition”.

“The Jewish people to whom I gladly belong, and in whose mentality I feel profoundly anchored, still for me does not have any different kind of dignity from all other peoples.”

Skipping to the end, the newsflash read:

In 2017, a note in which he gave advice on happy living sold for $1.56m in Jerusalem.  A single sentence, it reads:

“A calm and humble life will bring more happiness than the pursuit of success and the constant restlessness that comes with it.”

Fascinated that this “laboratory based” character, this “mad professor” would express such complex spiritual understanding, a quick hop over to Wikipedia was in order to find out more about his perspective, which appears sensible and sound:

Einstein distinguished three human impulses which develop religious belief: fear, social or moral concerns, and a cosmic religious feeling. A primitive understanding of causality causes fear, and the fearful invent supernatural beings analogous to themselves. The desire for love and support create a social and moral need for a supreme being; both these styles have an anthropomorphic concept of God. The third style, which Einstein deemed most mature, originates in a deep sense of awe and mystery. He said, the individual feels “the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves in nature … and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole.” Einstein saw science as an antagonist of the first two styles of religious belief, but as a partner in the third.[34] He maintained, “even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other” there are “strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies” as aspirations for truth derive from the religious sphere.

In Einstein’s view, “the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science,” for religion can always take refuge in areas that science can not yet explain. It was Einstein’s belief that in the “struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope” and cultivate the “Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself.”

In 1936 Einstein received a letter from a young girl in the sixth grade. She had asked him, with the encouragement of her teacher, if scientists pray. Einstein replied:

“Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the actions of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a supernatural being. However, it must be admitted that our actual knowledge of these laws is only imperfect and fragmentary, so that, actually, the belief in the existence of basic all-embracing laws in nature also rests on a sort of faith. All the same this faith has been largely justified so far by the success of scientific research. But, on the other hand, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.”

The following was written a few years before the “god letter”.

“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.”[33] In December 1952, he commented on what inspires his religiosity, “My feeling is religious insofar as I am imbued with the insufficiency of the human mind to understand more deeply the harmony of the universe which we try to formulate as ‘laws of nature.'”[41] In a letter to Maurice Solovine Einstein spoke about his reasons for using the word “religious” to describe his spiritual feelings, “I can understand your aversion to the use of the term ‘religion’ to describe an emotional and psychological attitude which shows itself most clearly in Spinoza. (But) I have not found a better expression than ‘religious’ for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason.”

We people have consumed nature over the past 60 years using his, and others’ insights in to “technology”.  The nuclear age and sixth mass extinction began in 1945.  We have nuclear power and weapons, cars and guns, drugs and drugs, and food and houses and people and fewer other species and climate breakdown …

Sadly we paid less attention to the enlightened perspectives on the meta-physical and on liberating human potential which have been smothered as we clamour for more, … more stuff.

Happy christmas.

Three million dollars …

 

… breathe … think … flow….

Live to ride!

Being able to let go and step back allows us to see things that we would otherwise miss.  And if you allow it, the universe drops hints in your way all the time.  Slowly, I’m getting better at letting go and noticing the hints…

So it was an unusual coincidence that I happened to see a FB post by Dana with a couple of snaps of his brother, Chris.  And for some reason I decided to read the words.

Chris had died.

It took a while for me to realise that was what the post was about.  And as surprise turned to sadness I remembered the good times we had had all those years ago as kids.  We lost touch as families do, but luckily I linked up with Dana a few years ago as I started to try to rejuvenate relationships that had faded over the years.

Chris died a few days ago when he crashed through a roundabout on his bike.

It turned out, in another unexpected twist of fate, that he had written a personal post to his friends and family about why he rides, even knowing the danger.

Why?

Because riding is living!

Each of us finds release in different ways – booze, bikes, work, hobbies,  meditation, etc – and hopefully we can limit the risks  while we continue to experience life.  The lesson from Chris is to remember that we all suffer demons and stress and we need space to let them fade.  So let’s all take a breath, give those around us a bit of space and enjoy the ride!

Ride on, Chris!

Chris Marlin in his own words:

Dear loved ones,

I want you to know I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for making you worry every time I climb onto my bike. For you worried this could be my last. I want you to know that if that is the case, I’m sorry I left on such short notice. Please know that was never my intention. You may sometimes ask why I would risk my life “just for a ride”? To some people, no answer will be good enough. Others may say things like, “he is careless, selfish or crazy”! And for the rest of you that are undecided, please take a minute to read on.

‘A ride’ is my freedom away from a world turning evil, nagging, a person that’s on our last nerve. “A ride” could have helped you stay another day. “A ride” could have saved an argument, or kept a someone from saying something he or she regrets! “A ride” could be the only time a mom, dad, wife, husband, grandma, grandpa, girlfriend, boyfriend, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, friend, daughter or brother has during a day to catch his or her breath, to re-energize, to pray for strength to continue on with all the “job titles” a mother or father has in a day!

Last but not least, I love it and everything about it. I love the long roads with the beautiful views! I love the excitement I feel every time I twist the throttle. I love the gas station conversations. I love the out of the blue rides. I love the most the family that’s within the biker community. I just love the ride!

I will finish by saying THANK YOU! Thank you, for supporting me even though you’re not comfortable with it.hank you, for the countless prayers. Thank you for every phone call to make sure the biker down wasn’t me. Thank you for showing your love even when it’s difficult.

 

Justice and Morality vs The Law

A fitting reminder of our past and current failing to live up to the moral code we all profess.  Personally, I know my direct ancestors have been party to self-aggrandising laws and behaviour which was wrong.  As have I …Laurie Embree, having been arrested for protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline, speaking eloquently to the court on 31 July 2018:

Your Honour, I have lived my 70 years abiding by the law. But, if we look back into our history, there have been many times when our laws have supported injustices.

In the 18th century there were laws that supported child labour to the benefit of the Industrialists of the times.

In the 19th century, laws were created to support the ownership of black people to the benefit of Plantation Owners.

In the 20th century, we made laws that allowed us to take native children away from their parents and to place the rest of the family on reserves, to the benefit of Europeans that wanted their land.

And again, laws that suppressed women’s rights, to the benefit of their husbands.
All of those laws were created through the judicial system- that you are a part of, sir – but they were actually designed by influential people behind the scenes that would profit from them.

As much as we think we have come a long way, the mentality behind the Industrialists, the Plantation owners, the European lust for Indigenous land, and the men that wanted their wives to do their bidding, is still very present in our society.

Our judicial system is still being manipulated by rich and powerful people that have the influence to make our legal system work for them.

I truly believe that when we have laws that support injustices, it is the duty of all good men and women to stand up and challenge those laws.

A prominent and recent case in point would be when Director Chatenay of the Canadian Wheat Board was jailed for protesting the Canada Customs Act and its restrictions on grain exports. In his own defence, Mr. Chatenay stated that, “The greatest respect for the law is to change an unjust one.”

Subsequently, on August 10th of 2012, Mr. Chatenay, and others jailed for that protest, were pardoned by then – Prime Minister Harper who, in doing so said, and I quote,

“These people are not criminals. They are our fellow citizens who protested injustice by submitting themselves peacefully to the consequences of challenging injustice.”

I believe the man I just quoted is the person who appointed you to the position you hold today.  This law sir, that you have created, and that I, and many others are peacefully challenging, is unjust.  It supports an industry that is not just harming children, or black people, or women, or Indigenous peoples. Your law, in fact, is supporting an industry that has been scientifically proven to be harming the whole world and every living thing on it.

The Waterfall and The Rain

The waterfall is heard before you see it.  The thunderous torrent crashing on the rocks resounds about the valley.

niagra03As you approach, the mist becomes visible, as vapour bubbles up from the torrent.  The spray blows far and wide so that when you come close you are soon soaked.  From close up you can barely see the path of the waterfall as the clouds of mist and spray obscure its fall.  Yet you can feel the reverberation through the ground.

The waterfall is mighty! People come from far and wide to see the waterfall. It is celebrity.  People want to be like the waterfall, strong, impressive, powerful.

But strangely the waterfall does little more than make noise and spit before the water passes on calmly through the valley. Continue reading The Waterfall and The Rain

Honesty or knowledge first?

Ethics do not seem to be integral to society or our civilisation.  We have laws and religions and people are good.  However, the nature of education does not promote the values that ought to underlie the sentiment expressed by laws, religion and society.  They say it is bad or wrong to kill, but it happens in all spheres of civilisation from state sponsored war, to individuals rich and poor killing others for anger or greed as well as fear.

Without going to that extreme, if a person has knowledge or power or both they are in a position to influence our world to a greater extent than those without.  Take, for example, the Prime Minister of the UK, a particular individual who is wealthy, educated, and powerful but what of his moral compass.  Simply is he honest?  Does he do what he says he will?

But perhaps that is unfair.  Because we are all good.

Never the less, what kind of person do you want to have power?  Especially if they influence your life and you have little influence on theirs.  That would include the political leaders of your local community, country and the world.  It would include the leaders of businesses which served you, sold you goods and services, like your food and clothes, and also holidays and entertainment.  And what about religion or law or public services or safety?  If they had power, you’d prefer that they were honest above all else because then at least you’d know what was going on   If they’re are straight, but ignorant or incompetent at least you’d know and could do something about it.  But if they weren’t honest, and maybe even had vested interests like friends in the business or opportunities for personal gain, then it wouldn’t be so good for you. Maybe they would be smart and competent and that would be even worse for you.

So which would you rather? Honesty first or knowledge?

If we want honesty first we had better start educating for honesty first.  Stop making cogs for a machine.  Nurture humans for a human world.

See: Education for Today

Everyone is good, but our world is unethical. How come?

Everyone is good, yet somehow the product of our civilisation is often pain and suffering.

More people are becoming aware that something needs to change and are even doing something about it.  Simply talking about the challenges is a start, while others initiate changes in behaviour such as what they eat or wear.  But engaging a big picture perspective is difficult and can seem futile because the system seems dysfunctional.

The text below is from a blog about morals (personal) and ethics (system) which is a short read offering insight in to the nature of the problem.  Perhaps having read it you might contrive ways in which you can contribute to system enlightenment in your work and life, before this civilisation implodes like all those before it.  Enjoy …

Extract from Ethics 101: The difference between ethics and morals by Ian Welsh

 Our current ethical system requires politicians to act unethically, to do great harm to people they don’t know, while protecting those they do.  This can hardly be denied, and was on display in the 2007/8 financial collapse and the bailout after.  The millions of homeowners and employees politicians and central bankers did not know were not helped, and the people the politicians and central bankers and treasury officials did know, were bailed out.  Austerity, likewise, has hurt people politicians don’t know, while enriching the corporate officers and rich they do know.

Continue reading Everyone is good, but our world is unethical. How come?

Yes Pope Frank, we can mock faiths

This is straight from David Webb.  No need for editing. I think Pope Frank is awesome and has ignited a sense of hope for the church, but, sadly, on this point he must reevaluate his position.  There might be an appropriate and an inappropriate channel or audience, but without other cause, mockery is no reason for violence.  Who was it that said “turn the other cheek”?

David is right.  There will never be peace if opinions become illegal and cause for murder.

Pope Francis says its OK to punch someone who insults his mother, and we cannot make fun of faith. No, it’s not. No insult justifies an assault, whether it’s an insult against you, your mother or Muhammad, and whether it is a punch, a massacre or a state-sponsored flogging. Laws against blasphemy, insult and mockery have no place in an open society and incentivise intolerance of free speech. (17-Jan-2015)

Webb-site Reports

Yes Pope Frank, we can mock faiths

If you are offended by criticism of religion, or of your religion, then either close your browser now or be duly warned, because we are going to exercise more freedom of speech than you might like.

Pope Francis (the professional name of Jorge Mario Bergoglio) has been buzzing around Asia this week on a promotional tour for his organisation, the Catholic Church. In between visiting franchises in Indonesia and the Philippines, Pope Frank chatted with reporters on the plane. In the context of the recent massacre of the staff of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and of the police who were protecting them, a reporter asked his Chiefiness:

“yesterday at mass you spoke about religious freedom as a fundamental human right. But in the respect for the different religions, up to what point can one go in freedom of expression? That too is a fundamental human right.”

To which he pontificated in part:

Continue reading Yes Pope Frank, we can mock faiths

Life lessons, … well, some things to think about.

Paul Howard’s 44 life lessons (shared by Pat Macmahon – thanks Pat!):

1 Life is like a toilet roll. The closer you get to the end, the faster it seems to disappear.

2 “I don’t know” is the most underrated sentence in the English language.

3 If you can’t dance by the age of 18, you’re probably never going to be able to dance.

4 You can’t make people be who you want them to be. If you don’t like the way they are, then you’re probably with the wrong people.

5 In January 1962, Decca Records turned down the Beatles in favour of Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. That is all anyone needs to know about rejection.

6 The social contract between humans and dogs might be the best bit of business we have ever done.

7 Securitisation means the exact opposite of how it sounds.

8 Most of us find the middle of the road in the end. Mike Tyson is a vegan. Mick Jagger is doing pilates. What makes you think you’re going to be different?

Continue reading Life lessons, … well, some things to think about.

Ignorance, bigotry, Islam, Christianity – a wasteful formula of terror, pain and suffering that we don’t need.

CNN pushed an interview with Reza Aslan which helped show how ignorant the media treatment of culture is.   His commendably calm response to the interview’s thoughtlessness elucidated many of the issues that raise political tensions needlessly.

Here’s an extract:

Female Genital Mutilation is NOT a “Muslim” problem – its a central African problem. Eritrea has a 90% FGM rate – and is a CHRISTIAN country, Ethipia has a 70% FGM rate and is also a Christian country.

The Saudis, our allies, won’t let their women dri
ve.

Yet, Muslim countries have elected SEVEN women as Heads of their States – and we have yet to have a Female President.

Our vision of Islam here is wrong. Saudi Arabia (and perhaps Iran now) are restrictive, but they are the minority among Muslims around the world. Saudis ARE the extremists. THEY HAVE BEHEADED 19 PEOPLE SINCE ISIS DID THE ONE. No one talks about that because they are in cahoots with our oil men.

This comment by Jeanette Kramer gives further perspective:

Equating genital mutilation problems to Islam is like equating gun problems to Christianity. If the media spoke about the gun problems in the USA like they did so many other topics, they would be reporting 24/7 on the Christian violence in the US.

Some guy once said:

Take the plank out of your own eye so that you can see clearly to take the speck out of another’s eye.

Only the strongest can kill themselves for peace.

In a Japan, a man set himself on fire to protest a change in policy allowing Japan to fight overseas, which goes against the constitution which bars the country from using force in conflicts except for self-defence.  It follows another self-immolation in June, in an apparently similar protest.

Suicide is not an easy option.  It demands the greatest courage because you do not want to die, but you want to kill even less and you want to show the world that violence is wrong.

Many people have self-immolated in Tibet over the past few years to protest the authoritarian regime which steals property and livelihoods, incarcerates innocents and encourages rape and violence.  Few people hear of this and no nation cares to influence its cessation.  They are more likely to pursue violence and belligerence themselves.

BBC: Japan man self-immolates ‘in protest over military shift’