Wednesday, September 2, 2009

cosmic religion

Very interesting discussions today, centering on Einstein's 1930 New York Times Magazine essay exploring what he called the "cosmic religious feeling,"

the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand... A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.

Einstein famously endorsed "Spinoza's God," and a pantheistic universe the uncovering of whose laws is the object of all that rational devotion. That led us to consider the oft-bandied claim that atheists are paradoxically religious in their irreligion. That seems a stretch. But I'm happy to call them "spiritual," a term they may find no more agreeable than "religious"... but read Unweaving the Rainbow. Is that not a devout, inspired book?

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