Friday, June 03, 2005

What did Einstein Say?

NBC television Monday, May 30, had an absurd segment on "The Power of Prayer." In it was asserted that scientists are increasingly believing in the power of prayer. This is quite false. Research shows no effect whatsoever from prayer at a distance if the subject has no knowledge of the prayer.

The only reference to a scientist in this piece was to Einstein. The comment was to the effect that Einstein tried to find a unified field theory and that a unified field theory was God. The incoherence of this as a reference to demonstrate that scientists are now believing in the power of prayer is positively breathtaking.

Einstein did not believe in a personal God at all and he certainly did not believe that anything could be gained by praying to a God. Quotes of Einstein:

"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." [Einstein - The Human Side]

"The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events - provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously." [New York Times Magazine November 9, 1930]

Einstein had a deep sense of reverence but that reverence was exclusively for the lawful behavior of the universe. Einstein did talk about a "cosmic religious feeling" that is associate with experiencing "the Universe as a single significant whole." This has nothing whatsoever to do with classical religious teaching about a personal god. It is unfortunate that sloppy journalism would slander the memory of this most noble scientist.

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