The God of Intellectuals

| 8/3/2011 4:38:57 PM

Tags: religion, Christianity, atheism, agnosticism, academia, Albert Einstein, The Browser, Big Questions Online, Margret Aldrich,

God looks down 

When Albert Einstein turned 50 in 1929, an interviewer asked him point-blank Do you believe in God? Big Questions Online, a publication of the John Templeton Foundation, recounts his answer:

I am not an atheist,” he began. “The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. 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.”

In a recent video posted on The Browser, Jonathan Pararajasingham, a medical doctor based in the UK, collects footage of 50 renowned academics talking about God. The speakers come from philosophical and scientific fields like physics, chemistry, astronomy, and anthropology and include Noam Chomsky, Steven Hawking, Richard Feynman, and Peter Singer, among others—all atheist or temperately agnostic in their views. (“Most scientists don’t think about God enough to know whether they believe in him or not,” says physicist Lawrence Krauss.) 

The similarities between many of the academics’ thoughts—ranging from evidence-based belief to a focus on human suffering and justice to vague disinterest—are striking. What is also striking, though, is the homogeneity of the speakers. Would the discussion change if more female or culturally diverse academics were represented? How would it transform if it expanded to include individuals in the fields of art, literature, and music? What would Mozart, whose “Requiem Mass in D Minor” accompanies part of the film, tell us about God?

Sources: The Browser, Big Questions Online 

Image by Marcel Oosterwijk, licensed under Creative Commons.

10/17/2011 8:44:54 AM

Could they not find any women, minorities, indigenous intellectuals? Or are only the white, wealthy, European-descent males intelligent?

8/12/2011 9:10:31 AM

Don't all of us atheists sound like incoherent snobs when we actually have to read our own thoughts about whether there is a God or not? It's kind of like the discomfort you get when you hear your voice on an answering machine. I was fighting my way out of my childhood beliefs about whether God existed or not for quite some time when during a lecture in my Physiological Biology class, our professor told us that no one had ever found a soul while exploring parts of the brain. Of course, that was in the late 80's before the explosion of MRI brain research began. Now I can imagine the possibility of other forms of "life" existing outside of the material world. Also, have you imagined how intelligence actually works? Obviously, we define intelligence by what we think of as human thought, but don't we also recognize the same in other animals, including insects, in plants; and, why would we not consider microbes to be intelligent? If we consider all of life to have intelligence, why must we not consider the substrate material of which "life" is made up of to also have intelligence? Isn't it our imagination allowing us to think about these possibilities and concepts which allow us to "believe" in something or not? To change directions, for me, whether there is a God or Gods, or not, is a much less profound question than how the hell does anything exist at all. If there is a God, who created God? The thought of a "beginning" to anything just makes my mind explode.

steve eatenson
8/11/2011 7:51:10 AM

Much too much fun not to jump in! We don't even know what we are, where we come from, why we're here, what we're supposed to do. How can we know the nature of something much bigger than us? We are limited by sight, hearing, physical senses, smells, tastes, thoughts, emotions. How can we think these tools give us a clear picture of what is beyond self preservation in an unknown sea of hazards? Why do we feel we need God, a notion or understanding of God? Isn't it to feel safe? Here we are, held to a speck of dust soaring through space, bombarded by all sorts of flying objects, some very large, some very small. We're told by our best minds this speck of dust will someday cease to exist due to eruptions from inside the core or searing heat from of a burnout of our closest star and then a deep freeze. If we think about it at all, we have very little control, if any. Psychobabble tells us the only control we have is over our own thoughts. How many people do you know who can really control their thoughts and emotions? If we really have no control then our sense of control is an illusion. Do we imagine control to feel safe? Do we imagine a link to something larger than us that is in control to feel safe? Some still think we can dance around and make it rain. Some think the rain is out of our control. The answers are bigger than we are. Maybe through cooperation, not competition, the best we can do is to cling to one another and hope for the best.