Some Famous Scientists’ Views on God and Limits of Science

Last modified on December 6th 2013

Peter Medawar was a Nobel Prize winner (1960) in Physiology and Medicine. The extract below is from his wikipedia page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Medawar.

Sir Peter was also a realist in pointing out in his book “Advice to a Young Scientist” that there is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit on himself and his profession particularly when no declaration is called for, than to declare that science knows or will know the answers to all questions worth asking. Sir Peter added that questions that do not admit a scientific answer should not be assumed to be non-questions. “We must turn to imaginative literature and religion for suitable answers!”

— end wiki extract —

Here are some interesting quotes of Max Planck, from: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Max_Planck

I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.

Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.

As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. [iami1: I found this very human aspect of scientists quite interesting. Perhaps some scientists get very emotionally attached to ideas & models they have lived with for decades.]

Under these conditions it is no wonder, that the movement of atheists, which declares religion to be just a deliberate illusion, invented by power-seeking priests, and which has for the pious belief in a higher Power nothing but words of mockery, eagerly makes use of progressive scientific knowledge and in a presumed unity with it, expands in an ever faster pace its disintegrating action on all nations of the earth and on all social levels. I do not need to explain in any more detail that after its victory not only all the most precious treasures of our culture would vanish, but — which is even worse — also any prospects at a better future.
[iami1: I think the words, “disintegrating action”, of Max Planck written perhaps in the mid-twentieth century apply very well to atheism spreading scientists and professors of science today in 2013 in countries where faith in God plays a very important integration role.]

—end wikiquotes of Max Planck —

The wikipedia page on Max. Planck, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Planck, has a section on his religious view. The initial part of it shows that he believed in God and respected religion, ‘In a lecture on 1937 entitled “Religion und Naturwissenschaft” he suggested the importance of these symbols and rituals related directly with a believer’s ability to worship God, but that one must be mindful that the symbols provide an imperfect illustration of divinity. He criticized atheism for being focused on the derision of such symbols, while at the same time warned of the over-estimation of the importance of such symbols by believers.’ [iami1: I think that is a very balanced view. I particularly liked the criticism of atheism being derisive of imperfect symbols of divinity.]

[iami1: But Max Planck did not believe in miracles (which would have included the miracles mentioned in the New Testament related to Jesus Christ):]
[From the wikipedia page again] On the other hand, Planck wrote, “…’to believe’ means ‘to recognize as a truth,’ and the knowledge of nature, continually advancing on incontestably safe tracks, has made it utterly impossible for a person possessing some training in natural science to recognize as founded on truth the many reports of extraordinary contradicting the laws of nature, of miracles which are still commonly regarded as essential supports and confirmations of religious doctrines, and which formerly used to be accepted as facts pure and simple, without doubt or criticism. The belief in miracles must retreat step by step before relentlessly and reliably progressing science and we cannot doubt that sooner or later it must vanish completely.”

[iami1: And neither did he believe in a personal God, at least later on in life, (I think divine figures with reported paranormal powers like Rama, Krishna, Jesus are considered to be personal Gods):]
[From the wikipedia page again] Later in life, Planck’s views on God were that of a deist. For example, six months before his death a rumour started that Planck had converted to Catholicism, but when questioned what had brought him to make this step, he declared that, although he had always been deeply religious, he did not believe “in a personal God, let alone a Christian God.”

— end wikipedia extracts related to Max Planck —

Schrodinger (1961) claims that the Vedic slogan “All in One and One in All” was an idea that led him to the creation of quantum mechanics. From: http://www.endlesssearch.co.uk/science_scientistmystics.htm.

Albert Einstein has been portrayed by some atheism spreading scientists and others as an atheist. But that seems to be incorrect. Here are relevant extracts from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein.

On 24 April 1929, Einstein cabled Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein in German: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.” [iami1: From this we can conclude that Einstein did not believe in supernatural Divine responses to prayer i.e. an interventionist God.]

“I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.” [iami1: So Einstein seemed to believe, like Dawkins, that on death it just ends, which goes against the revelations of scripture of many religions and experiences shared by spiritual masters and mystics. Further Einstein did not believe in Karma or equivalent.]

Einstein rejected the label atheist, which he associated with certainty regarding God’s nonexistence. Einstein stated: “I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.” According to Prince Hubertus, Einstein said, “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.”
[iami1: So Einstein seemed to look down upon people who believe in a personal God. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_God states, ‘A personal god is a deity who can be related to as a person instead of as an “impersonal force”, such as the Absolute, “the All”, or the “Ground of Being”.’ So Jesus, Rama, Krishna etc. when looked upon as human beings infused with Divine force/supernatural power would be personal Gods and Einstein looked down upon people who believed in such deities. However he clearly is against any portrayal of him as supporting views that there is no God! Further he clearly recognizes the weakness of his/human “intellectual understanding of nature and our own being”.

To summarize, Einstein definitely was *not* an atheist, neither was he a believer in an interventionist God or a personal God. But he believed in a God “who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists”. ]

— end extracts —

Note that the text extracts from Wikipedia and Wikiquote that appear on this page are available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

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