Baby Einstein

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19 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    According to the Isaacson biography, Einstein was frum for a short period in his youth.


  2. lacosta says:

    please provide a link to the NYT book review letters

  3. Eric says:

    Einstein won a Nobel Prize for his discoveries. But he also committed adultery.

    It is therefore clear that he WAS an expert on physics, and was NOT an expert on religion.

  4. Garnel Ironheart says:

    The problems we have aren’t because scientists opine about politics and religion when they have no expertise in the complexities of either.

    The problems we have are because most politicians and religious “experts” have no expertise in the complexities of either.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    Maybe quantum theory can explain Einstein’s evident philosophical inconsistencies. Or maybe it cannot. Or maybe it both can and cannot.

  6. Melanie says:

    Western society’s tendency to trust any expert in anything on any other area is most glaringly ridiculous when applied to moviestars.

  7. mb says:

    Would you say the same about our Rabbis and their comments about science, “especially when they leave the particular field in which they have specialized”?

  8. Phil says:

    I imagine that Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, who posts articles on Cross-Currents from time to time, wouldn’t toot his own horn, so I’ll do it for him: He wrote a very fine essay about Albert Einstein in his book, The Biblical Echo. Check it out.

  9. Phil says:

    I just read the two critiques of the molecule (and saw the graphic), and I get a sneaking suspicion that while the graduate student missed the three letter word, the professor saw it, and decided to write a satirical complaint.

  10. Harry Maryles says:

    (Einstein’s) mental exploration of the universe had provided him knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate… the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms.” Yet, in that same letter he claims to be “agnostic” about – i.e. neither affirming nor denying –the existence of a Supreme Being.

    Since I am an observant and believing Jew, I hate to be the one to defend Einstein’s Agnosticism. But I think one has to be fair.

    From a scientific perspective one can easily see Einstein’s dilemma and understand his beliefs. Like our patriarch Abraham, he understood the ‘profound reason and radiant beauty’ of the universe, and their accessibility to human reason only ‘in their most elementary forms’. From this he concluded the possible existence ‘of something we cannot penetrate’.

    But as a scientist not being able to prove it or disprove it – and as someone who draws conclusions only from observable and conclusive data, he had no choice but to be agnostic on the matter. His conclusions are those of a rational mind that relies entirely on what exists in the physical world. And he left open the question of a metaphysical world which he cannot physically experience.

    We Jews do not rely solely on physical evidence for our beliefs. We conclude that there exists ‘something we cannot penetrate’ in much the same way Einstein did. We rely on a vast amount of evidence indicating God’s existence. But even with all that evidence, God’s existence cannot be conclusively proven. Nor do we require physical proof.

    In fact physical proof works against the very nature of belief. Irrefutable proof would no longer make it a belief but a provable fact. That would take away Bechira Chofshis. And it would mean there could be no such thing as an atheist or an agnostic.

  11. Nachum says:

    What’s the chiddush? Einstein and a bevy of other Jewish intellectuals signed, in about 1949, an extraordinarily stupid letter condemning Menachem Begin as a fascist and demanding that he not be allowed into the US. The man may have been a genius, but he didn’t know when he was out of his element.

    On the other hand, Einstein was an early and enthusiatic supporter of YU, even helping them survive during the Depression by fundraising in some of his circles and lending his name in public support. (Hence the naming of the medical school after him.) He thought the very idea of the school was fantastic, and stated that he wished that, when he had been growing up, there’d have been a similar way for him to learn both Torah and science. So he clearly felt that Judaism was important.

  12. OP says:

    “So Einstein, awe-filled as he was by creation, rejected his religious heritage. Or maybe not. In a 1940 paper in Nature, he was not as dismissive as in the later, expensive, letter. In that paper, he admitted that “the doctrine of a personal G-d interfering with natural events could never be refuted… by science, for [it] can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.””

    Heh, what? This statement is entirely consistent with his views expressed in that expensive letter. It’s a backhanded way of saying that belief in a personal God relies on sustained scientific ignorance.

  13. David says:

    “Einstein won a Nobel Prize for his discoveries. But he also committed adultery.

    It is therefore clear that he WAS an expert on physics, and was NOT an expert on religion.”

    I suspect that there are far more experts on religion who have committed adultery than experts on physics who have won Nobel prizes…

  14. Michoel says:

    mb asks:
    “Would you say the same about our Rabbis and their comments about science, “especially when they leave the particular field in which they have specialized”?”

    Yes, if a Rabbi with no scientific training offered opinions about the best course of treatment for a cancer, then that would invite criticism. However, opinions about what the Torah says about science, are not scientific opinions. They are Torah opinions, and therefore entirely within the realm of subjects taht Rabbis should be commenting on.

    To say otherwise, is not to merely disagree with the science of Rava and Abaye, but to disagree with their right to express themselves on scientific subjects, even while seeing clearly that they held themsleves entitled to express their opinions.

  15. Ori says:

    Michoel: To say otherwise, is not to merely disagree with the science of Rava and Abaye, but to disagree with their right to express themselves on scientific subjects, even while seeing clearly that they held themselves entitled to express their opinions.

    Ori: Not necessarily. Back in Talmudic times there was a lot less science to go around. Rava and Abaye might have known as much science as anybody else in the area. Even a thousand years later a Renaissance man could know most everything secular there was to know.

    Today we are blessed with a lot more knowledge, and cursed with an inability to process more than a tiny fraction of it. Your Rabbi probably doesn’t know the best way to treat a particular form of cancer. Neither does your family practitioner with years of medical training and decades of medical experience. Both would tell cancer patients to go to a specialist.

    The huge breadth of what humanity knows, and the relatively narrowness of what each of us knows, makes expressing opinions a lot more hazardous than in Talmudic times. That doesn’t mean Rabbis can’t tell us what the Torah says about a scientific issue, but it does mean that the precedent of the Talmudic sages is not applicable.

  16. DF says:

    Michoel’s comment directly above this is a valiant attempt to respond to mb’s quite pointed question, but ultimately it fails. Rabbinic literature is replete with rabbinic pronoucements on science, not merely pronouncements about what the Torah says about science. Thus, mb’s point remains valid, to wit, that if we can countenance rabbis waxing forth on matters quite clearly beyond their education, we should not be surprised to see Einstein doing the same. And, lest one respond with the simplistic “there is nothing beyond a rabbi’s education”, then surely a physcist like Einstein, whose field of study encompassed the universe, could say the exact same thing.

  17. Michoel says:

    Hello DF,
    Science is amongst those things that Torah scholars “may” be able to comment on intelligently. It is within the range of knowable subjects, that for the most part, bias does not automatically preclude knowledge of, for religious people. Granted, most Rabbis probably do not have that much knowledge. “What the Torah says about science” is certainly something Torah scholars can and should comment on. But knowledge of G-d is something that Einstein and other agnostics clearly cannot comment on intelligently, and it is something that it is altogether not shayach for them to understand.

  18. DF says:

    I disagree completely, and assuredly, Eisntein and others disagree as well. On the contrary, Physcisists have a very clear picture of God, although that portrait is very different from the picture portrayed in rabbinic literature. They have no compunctions in expressing their views of metaphysics in the same way rabbis fee free to discuss evolution and the Big Bang.

    In general, Michoel, I suggest you rethink your position that knowledge of God is something “not shayach” for certain people to grasp. We dont have to go as far as scientists. Men such as Churchill and Lincoln wrote of how, at times, they felt as though they were walking with God. And we dont have to go to world leaders either. The humblest housekeeper in Alabama can feel the presence of God. She may have knowledge of God that would not be articulated in the same way the Rambam would say it, but that doesnt mean she doesnt know God. Knowledge of God is not limited to anyone – not rabbis, not scientists, not presidents, not Jews.

  19. Michoel says:

    “for certain people to grasp”

    What I actually wrote is that it was not shayach for “agnostics” to grasp. I stand by my view.

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