Nautilus Magazine is an online site that bills itself as “a different kind of science magazine.” And indeed it is—for it’s partly supported by the John Templeton Foundation (JTF). The Foundation is largely dedicated to showing that religion and science are compatible,—even in harmony—for Sir John left his dosh to the JTF to fund projects showing how science would reveal the divine. Thus the magazine publishes accommodationist articles, like this one from last July, and now we have a new one by Brian Gallagher, editor of the Nautilus blog Facts So Romantic and a “Sinai and Synapses” (oy!) fellow.
Here he purports to find a reconciliation of science and religion, but provides nothing of the sort. Have a read: it’s short (click on screenshot):
As we see so often, quotes are taken from Einstein and even Stephen Hawking to show that they had some simulacrum of religion, although Gallagher at least admits that Einstein’s views on religion weren’t that clear. Gallagher first quotes Elon Musk, who reportedly said, “I believe there’s some explanation for this universe, which you might call God,” and then trots out Albert and Stephen:
Einstein did call it God. The German-Jewish physicist is famous for many things—his special and general theories of relativity, his burst of gray-white hair—including his esoteric remark, often intoned in discussions of the strange, probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, that “God does not play dice.” A final or ultimate equation, describing the laws of nature and the origin of the cosmos, Einstein believed, could not involve chance intrinsically. Insofar as it did—it being the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics—it would be incomplete. (The consensus now among physicists is that he was wrong; God is indeterminate. “All evidence points to him being an inveterate gambler,” Stephen Hawking once said, “who throws the dice on every possible occasion.”)
That, of course, implies that Hawking believed in God.
But Einstein was at best a pantheist who was in awe of the laws of nature, but never accepted the kind of theistic God that everyone wanted him to. And as for Hawking, well, reader Dave, who brought this piece to my attention, told me this:
Hawking wrote in his latest and last book:If you like, you can call the laws of science “God”, but it wouldn’t be a personal God that you would meet and put questions to. … We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.(Hawking, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, pp. 36-8)
The warped selectivity by Nautilus never fails to impress.
Indeed, Hawking was an out-and-out atheist. But Gallagher argues that Hawking and Einstein demonstrate that there’s no conflict between science and religion. How? Read on:
Benedict Spinoza, the 17th century Jewish-Dutch philosopher, was also in his day confused for an atheist for writing things like this, from his treatise Ethics: “All things, I say, are in God, and everything which takes place takes place by the laws alone of the infinite nature of God, and follows (as I shall presently show) from the necessity of His essence.”
In 1929, Einstein received a telegram inquiring about his belief in God from a New York rabbi named Herbert S. Goldstein, who had heard a Boston cardinal say that the physicist’s theory of relativity implies “the ghastly apparition of atheism.” Einstein settled Goldstein down. “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world,” he told him, “not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”
What that amounted to for Einstein, according to a 2006 paper, was a “cosmic religious feeling” that required no “anthropomorphic conception of God.” He explained this view in the New York Times Magazine: “The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.”
So, as Einstein would have it, there is no necessary conflict between science and religion—or between science and “religious feelings.”
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see this kind of dissimulation. Spinoza may have been a real pantheist, seeing some kind of ubiquitous divinity in the universe, but that’s beyond my pay grade. Einstein, however, is another matter. He rejected the idea of a theistic God: the one that Americans believe in, who interacts with the world and has a personal relationship with His flock. What Einstein means by “religious feeling” is simply “awe before the universe”, or that deeply ambiguous word “spirituality.”
When Gallagher, then, says that this shows there is no necessary conflict between science and religion, what he’s really saying is “there is no necessary conflict between science on one hand and awe at the wonder of the universe on the other.”
“Religious feelings” in Einstein are very different from the “religious feelings” of those 70% of Americans who believe in God. To say that Einstein—and Gallagher—have effected some kind of accommodation between science and religion is simply a lie based on a deliberate conflation between conventional religion and “awe and wonder.”
Another Nautilus fail, but one that keeps those Templeton bucks flowing.