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Albert Einstein

“We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s pantheism, but admire even more his contribution to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, and not two separate things.”

Albert Einstein, in a quotation pulled from the first chapter of Max Jammer’s excellent Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology.*

“The modesty of Sir Isaac Newton… arose from the depth and extent of his knowledge, which showed him what a small portion of nature he had been able to examine… a short time before his death he uttered this memorable sentiment:

‘I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.'”

Isaac Newton, as quoted by Sir David Brewster in volume II of his Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton.**

“We go about our daily lives understanding almost nothing of the world… Except for children (who don’t know enough not to ask the important questions), few of us spend much time wondering why nature is the way it is; where the cosmos came from, or whether it was always here; if time will one day flow backward and effects precede causes; or whether there are ultimate limits to what humans can know.”

Carl Sagan, writing in the introduction to Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

__________

Neil deGrasse Tyson: I’m often asked by parents what advice can I give them to help get kids interested in science? And I have only one bit of advice: get out of their way. Kids are born curious. Period. I don’t care about your economic background. I don’t care what town you’re born in, what city, what country. If you’re a child, you are curious about your environment. You’re overturning rocks. You’re plucking leaves off of trees and petals off of flowers, looking inside, and you’re doing things that create disorder in the lives of the adults around you.  

And so then so what do adults do? They say, “Don’t pluck the petals off the flowers. I just spent money on that. Don’t play with the egg. It might break. Don’t….”  Everything is a don’t. We spend the first year teaching them to walk and talk and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit down.

So you get out of their way. And you know what you do? You put things in their midst that help them explore. Help ‘em explore. Why don’t you get a pair of binoculars, just leave it there one day? Watch ‘em pick it up. And watch ‘em look around. They’ll do all kinds of things with it.

For me at age 11, I had a pair of binoculars and looked up to the moon, and the moon wasn’t just bigger, it was better. There were mountains and valleys and craters and shadows. And it came alive.”

* I’ve hosted the PDF of the first chapter of Jammer’s book. For some context, however, the quote cited above occurs on page 48. Jammer follows it with the following clarification of Einstein’s theology:

“…Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein of the Institutional Synagogue in New York cabled Einstein, ‘Do you believe in God? Stop. Prepaid reply fifty words.’ Einstein replied, ‘I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.’ Rabbi Goldstein commented that this reply

‘very clearly disproves . . . the charge of atheism made against Einstein. In fact, quite the reverse is true. Spinoza, who is called “the God-intoxicated man” and who saw God manifest in all of nature, certainly could not be called an atheist. . . . Einstein’s theory, if carried out to its logical conclusions would bring mankind a scientific formula for monotheism. He does away with all thought of dualism or pluralism. There can be no room for any aspect of polytheism.'”

** Could Newton have possibly read John Milton’s Paradise Regained, which was published in 1671, when the former would have been twenty-nine?

In Book Four of the poem, Lines 327 to 330 read:

Deep verst in books and shallow in himself,
Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys,
And trifles for choice matters, worth a spunge;
As Children gathering pebbles on the shore.