This article was first published in the August 2007 ABR Electronic Newsletter.
In the past few years numerous scientists, scientific journals, and popular authors have published a slew of articles and books ripping the concept of Intelligent Design. While not specifically denying the theory of evolution, the theory of Intelligent Design postulates that the incomprehensible vastness and complexity of the Cosmos are the result of design on the part of an inconceivably intelligent being.
Many scientists dismiss any concept of an intelligent designer as unscientific, and claim that any recognition of or belief in such a designer does harm to the scientific method. However, the greatest scientist who ever lived, Albert Einstein, did not share this outlook. His years of studying the universe not only led him to come up with the Theory of Relativity, but also led him to believe, in his own words, in a "spirit manifest in the laws of the universe," in a "God who reveals Himself in the harmony of all that exists" (Isaacson 2007: 44). He once wrote:
The religious inclination lies in the dim consciousness that dwells in humans that all nature, including the humans in it, is in no way an accidental game, but a work of lawfulness that there is a fundamental cause of all existence (ibid. 46).
In a 1930 essay entitled "What I Believe," Einstein wrote:
To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man (ibid. 47).
He also made the following statement in an essay entitled "The Religiousness of Science," which appeared in a collection of his essays published in English under the title "The World As I See It":
The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation....His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an INTELLIGENCE of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire (Updike 2007: 77 [emphasis added]).
These statements are highly significant, considering that no scientist of any worth would dismiss Einstein as superstitious or unscientific. Moreover, the above quotes can't be dismissed as the product of a religious bias on Einstein's part, because, except for a brief period of "deep religiousness" when he was twelve, Einstein rejected organized religion (ibid.).
According to the April 16 2007 issue of Time magazine, in his youth Einstein "rejected at first his parents' secularism and later the concepts of religious ritual and of a personal God who intercedes in the daily workings of the world (Isaacson 2007: 44)." The magazine further reported:
Einstein's parents...were "entirely irreligious." They did not keep kosher or attend synagogue, and his father Hermann referred to Jewish rituals as "ancient superstitions," according to a relative (ibid.).
As mentioned, the 12-year-old Albert briefly embraced strict Judaism, but he later wrote: "Through the reading of popular scientific books, I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true" (ibid. 46).
Einstein's belief in an intelligent designer thus derived not from a pre-conceived religious bias, but from the phenomenal insights into the Universe that he possessed as the most brilliant scientist who ever lived. His recognition of a creator refutes the recent claims by atheists that belief in any sort of god is unscientific.
Recommended Resources for Further Study
Isaacson, W. 2007. "Einstein and Faith." Time, 16 April.
Updike, J. 2007. "The Valiant Swabian." The New Yorker, 2 April.
Stephen Caesar holds his master's degree in anthropology & archaeology from Harvard. He is a staff member of the Associates for Biblical Research.