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Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology

4.2 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691102979
ISBN-10: 069110297X
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Given the voluminous literature on Albert Einstein (including more than a dozen biographies in the 1990s alone), it is surprising that so little scholarly attention has been paid to the scientist's religious views. Israeli physics professor Jammer, who knew Einstein personally, shows us an Einstein whose nominal childhood faith turned to atheism while preparing for a bar mitzvah that never took place. From then on, Einstein's religious views were a bundle of apparent contradictions: he corresponded with the world's great spiritual leaders yet disapproved of religious instruction for his sons, arguing that it was "contrary to all scientific thinking." He claimed that "science without religion is lame" but never set foot in a synagogue and requested not to be buried in the Jewish tradition. While eluding definitive conclusions about Einstein's deistic "cosmic religion," Jammer demonstrates that religion fascinated the man throughout his career, prompting him to publish articles in the New York Times and elsewhere. Chapters 1 and 2 profile Einstein's religious development and the controversial reception his ideas found with theologians, rabbis and Christian clergy. The more recondite chapter 3 explores the theological implications of Einstein's theories (Jammer does not exaggerate when he cautions the reader that this section "requires some familiarity with the foundations of modern physics"). Jammer's writing is not always as sophisticated as his ideas; he relies too heavily on long quotations from other sources and abstruse jargon. In all, though, this is a compelling, long overdue treatment of a neglected topic. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Co-Winner of the 2000 Outstanding Book Prize, Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences

"It is surprising that so little scholarly attention has been paid to [Einstein's] religious views. . . . This is a compelling, long overdue treatment of a neglected topic."--Publishers Weekly

"A valuable resource."--George L. Murphy, American Scientist

"Jammer's fascinating and scholarly account of Einstein's personal attitude toward religion explores the emergence of his 'cosmic religion'. . ."--Choice

"Jammer is an excellent guide to the religious impact of Einstein's life and thought."--Greg Peterson, Christian Century

"A superb three-part survey that deals with the role of religion in Einstein's personal life; his philosophy of religion; and finally the effect of his physics on theology, the most brilliantly entertaining section of Jammer's book."--Meir Ronnen, The Jerusalem Post

"Max Jammer illuminates Einstein's enigmatic relationship to religion with a clarity and detail that no previous study can equal. . . . Mr. Jammer's readable study should long remain an indispensable reference."--John F. Haught, The Washington Times

"Jammer . . . shed[s] light on Einstein's often ambiguous views of religion, beginning with his early religious training and following his evolution to the idea of an impersonal God. [He] takes pains to clarify widespread misinterpretations of Einstein's spiritual views."--Leigh Fenly, San Diego Union-Tribune

"I can strongly recommend this beautifully written and accessible book."--Andrew Pinsent, Physics World

"One emerges from this scholarly and readable book with a new appreciation of the uniqueness of Einstein's spirit."--Gerald Holton, Philosophy of Science

"Max Jammer's is the first systematic historical account of Albert Einstein's religious views. . . . In the writing of this thoroughly researched and instructive book, Max Jammer has done the theological and scientific community a great service. Furthermore, he has made a significant contribution to the ongoing dialogue between science and religion."--Rufus Burrow, Jr., Encounter
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069110297X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691102979
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #786,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patrick Gunkel on October 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
To be honest, Max Jammer has written FAR more impressive books than this - his masterpieces that treat the varied interpretations of key physical concepts - but "Einstein and Religion", despite its regrettable repetitions and occasional obsessions (tokens of the contemptuous lack of editorial bother even at great publishers nowadays), is nevertheless a valuable piece of scholarship.
Einstein's positive ideas of `religion' or a `God' are intimately Spinozan; this makes them equivalent to the inexhaustible mystery of why the cosmos is evidently rational in its construction, and to the great physicist's belief that we ourselves only know the tiniest part of this rational necessity, harmony, simplicity, and profundity of Nature - a rationality that may even be infinite.
An annoyance of the book, and of Einstein's ideas (in this instance), is that so many of the words and concepts used are ultimately ambiguous. Because of this, one leaves much of the material in the form in which one found it, and many conclusions are foreclosed.
Despite these criticisms, delightful flashes of insight grace the book, of the sort that were always peculiar to Albert Einstein, and the question of the essence of religion is clarified in ways that will not be found elsewhere. Much of Einstein's genius lay in his character: his extraordinary honesty and simplicity, for example, and his intellectual self-sufficiency or independence of the opinions of others.
These qualities, as it happens, are especially helpful in any inquiry into the nature of religion, for emotion and arbitrariness have forever plagued the subject.
- Patrick Gunkel
Woods Hole, MA
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because the title intrigued me. Like so many people, I had assumed Einstein had been an atheist. I have to admit to little previous knowledge of the man beyond his theory of relativity and a few charming stories about his eccentricities, many probably apocryphal. This book certainly provided a nice introduction to the man as human being, intellectual, and philosopher.
One of the most impressive facets of Einstein's life made obvious in Professor Jammer's work was the impact the physicist's pronouncements, even on subjects outside of his professional expertise, had upon the public in general. It was apparent from some of his personal correspondence and from news articles in response to his papers on science and religion that the general public held the man in considerable esteem. There seemed an almost awed reverence for his intellect to the extent that his personal position on a topic as emotional and as arbitrarily individual as religion could assume an almost scientific finality, eliciting the commendations of those who agreed and an almost knee jerk response from those who disagreed. Few remained without an opinion. So potent were Einstein's mere personal, albeit well schooled, philosophical opinions that they could elicit outright attack from those who felt their cherished beliefs were under siege. A theologian as eminent as Dr. Fulton Sheen (later Bishop Sheen) attacked his position on the existence of a personal god as the "sheerest kind of stupidity and nonsense." While a private individual wrote to him suggesting he "take your crazy, fallacious theory of evolution [sic] and go back to Germany where you came from, or stop trying to break down the faith of a people who gave you a welcome....
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Format: Paperback
By some accounts Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was the greatest theoretical physicist of the twentieth century, if not of all time. Max Jammer, Professor of Physics Emeritus and former Rector at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, has written an eminently readable account of Einstein's thoughts on religion, a subject that he insists has been ignored by the over 400 books on Einstein published in the last several decades. Einstein renounced accusations that he was an atheist, and railed against the intolerance of those whom he called "the fanatical atheists." In his three long chapters Jammer portrays Einstein as "undogmatic and yet profoundly religious."

In his first chapter Jammer treats the role of religion in Einstein's private life. Born to what he described as "entirely irreligious Jewish parents," Einstein attended a Catholic primary school where like all students he received religious instruction. From the influences of nature and music he developed pronounced religious feelings quite early, although by age twelve he became estranged from institutional religion (although not from religion as he would define it) through reading some popular scientific books. His first wife, Mileva Maric, was Greek Orthodox, and his last wishes were to be cremated rather than to be buried in any religious tradition. Einstein was decidedly irreligious in the sense that he rejected any and all institutional affiliations, never attended worship services or prayed, rejected all dogmatic theology (eg, miracles, the afterlife or prayer), did not believe that God was in any sense personal, and was a strict determinist.
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