Sunday, December 16, 2007
Why “Einstein’s” Moon?
To the few readers of this blog you may have been curious as to how (for me) a blog that is concerned with the “how”, “what” and “why” holds any relevance to Albert Einstein. Also, you may be interested as to why Einstein’s Moon in particular is significant in terms of this blog’s subject matter and focus. First, I must admit that if there is a person in history that has influenced me more then Plato it is Einstein. In fact I started this whole journey of the discovery and contemplation of scientific and philosophic consideration primarily due to his influence. However, to my recollection as to how the whole thing began is that in 1957, as a very young boy, I heard the eerie beeping’s of the first man made satellite over a radio. This of course was the Soviet’s “Sputnik” meaning “fellow traveler”. So you might say that it all started with the practical beginnings of the space age. This event instilled in me a curiosity about science and the nature of the world that has continued to this day. Initially I was primarily interested in modern science and the person that represented this most poignantly was of course Albert Einstein. He did then, and I would say still today, personifies the best of wisdom and science's abilities that the modern age has acheived. Realizing this I proceeded to gather and study everything I could, not only about his science, but also the man and his thoughts.
So enough about me, let’s speak of Einstein as he relates here. What I discovered about Einstein was two fold. That was that his discoveries where made not only because he was intelligent but also because he held a conviction about how the world works and what it should be. This conviction gave him the confidence and tenacity to follow up on ideas he saw as viable, even if they were not considered consistent with the main stream or popular view within his discipline and more importantly his time. This begs the question, how did he get this way? Well besides the blessings of what he was born with and what his parents nurture instilled in him, it was a consequence of what else influenced him in his development. That influence was found in part as result of his education, however I would say more importantly it is found in what he read and studied beyond the curriculum. I could go on for some time as to what this entailed but Einstein has already said this for himself when he was commenting as to what he viewed as the misguided direction of much of contemporary thought when in 1952 he said:
“Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous. There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste within a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind. We owe it to a few writers of antiquity (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) that the people in the Middle Ages could slowly extricate themselves from the superstitions and ignorance that had darkened life for more than half a millennium. Nothing is more needed to overcome the modernist's snobbishness.”
Now as you can imagine when I discovered this I was inspired to take Einstein to heart and accept both his judgment and his challenge. I don’t think I need to explain much more beyond this. One thing I must include here is that his challenge doesn’t just extend to studying the teachings of antiquity but all the way up to the present. I have striven to do just that within my limits of time and comprehension. It is with this then why Einstein serves as the type of person to represent this contention that not only the “how” is important to the understanding of our world but the “what” and also the “why”. Einstein summed up his personal feelings about this many years ago when he said:
“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”
I must say I was a little hesitant to quote this as it is so often misused to portray Einstein as someone motivated by religion and so I will clear this up later with another of his quotes. What this truly portrays is that Einstein was not so interested in being able to expand our or his ability to predict as is the main focus of science today, but rather to attempt to understand “what” is the world and “how” it was so conceived which of course is the “why”. Now in regards to Einstein and religion he totally disregarded all of them, as they relate to two categories which he called “the religions of fear” and “the religions of morals”. He summed up his feelings on these when he said:
“And yet, that the primitive religions are based entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must guard. The truth is that all religions are a varying blend of both types, with this differentiation: that on the higher levels of social life the religion of morality predominates.”
So it is clear with this that what many would call religion or the will of God is not what Einstein was alluding to. So what was he talking about? This is also revealed in this essay when he says:
“But there is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.”
So as can be seen the God that most everyone thought that Einstein was referring to was not what it actually was. I will offer no further explanation of this due to the reasons that he cited and yet will tell you that it can be understood if you accept the challenge he offers to all.
Oh yes, I was going to relate to you what “Einstein’s Moon” refers to. Although I intended to include it here, I have decided it important enough that it serve as the discussion of a future entry.