The Cosmic View of Albert Einstein: Writings on Art, Science, and Peace

Edited by Walt Martin and Magda Ott

 

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

A joy to possess…

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

the cosmic view of albert einsteinThis is a beautifully produced little book in which the editors have collected some of Einstein’s thoughts and writings on a diverse range of subjects and put them together with some wonderfully awe-inspiring pictures of the Universe he did so much to explain. But fear not, fellow scientific innocents – there is barely a mention of relativity and nary a formula in sight. Instead, this book introduces us to his convictions and beliefs – about pacifism, the social responsibility of scientists and his desire to see the replacement of the nation state with an overarching world government.

“Technology has also shortened distances and created new and extraordinarily effective means of destruction which, in the hands of nations claiming unrestricted freedom of action, become threats to the security and very survival of mankind. This situation requires a single judicial and executive power for the entire planet, and the creation of such a central authority is desperately opposed by national traditions.”

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But most of all the book concentrates on his spiritual views or, as he calls it, his ‘cosmic religion’. The tendency of atheists to quote Einstein’s discoveries as proof that there is no god angered him in his lifetime; and his writings, as given in this book, show that while he didn’t believe in conventional religion – a ‘personal’ God – he was a deeply spiritual man who felt that the harmony and perfection of the universe argued just as much against atheism.

“My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details we are able to perceive of the knowable world with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

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The writings the editors have chosen show him as a man who gave the subject of religion and religiosity much thought, and his expressed opinions, while they may not please either the very religious or the extreme atheist, are reasoned and coherent. The given extracts suggest that he believed in a Creator, but one who does not then involve himself in the individual affairs of man – does not punish or reward. As a consequence, man is responsible for his own morality; and that belief feeds into all his other views – of the responsibility of scientists to ensure that their actions do no harm, of the evils of war, of his hatred of militarism.

“Whatever there is of God and goodness in the universe, it must work itself out and express itself through us. We cannot stand aside and let God do it.”

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My cynical nature couldn’t prevent me wondering how carefully the extracts had been selected to support the emphasis the editors clearly wished to place on the two main subjects; that science and religion should be able to co-exist – are in fact co-dependant; and that all nations should give up their atomic weapons. There is an afterward revealingly written by two former co-presidents of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Ron McCoy and Gunnar Westberg. However I have no reason to think that Einstein’s views have been misrepresented and there is a bibliography should any reader wish to look further.

“The unleashed power of the atom bomb has changed everything except our modes of thinking…the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind.”

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But while the written content is interesting, (if occasionally a little repetitive), the illustrations are both lavish and superb. Nearly every second page has a glorious colour picture of some aspect of the universe, with a little explanatory note, and there are many double page spreads too. My photos do it no justice. The book is beautifully made, with carefully selected typefaces on gorgeous quality paper. I have no choice – I have to use the dreaded words ‘Perfect Christmas Gift’. A joy to possess.

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