Einstein, faith, and turtles, turtles all the way down

6 Oct

The most popular man on Pinterest? If you guessed one or both of the Hemsworth brothers, you’re wrong. It’s this guy.

Einstein’s inspiring quotes have made him one of the most repinned men on Pinterest. Surely, you’ve seen this one around:

Screencap of a Pinterest pin. Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.

I just love it when pinners write my commentary for me. See Sanderella’s (Great name!) comment for my feelings on the overly generous quote. I get the felling that the above is just Einstein trying to be nice; it doesn’t actually mean that he believes everyone is as smart as he is. See his thoughts on stupidity:

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

Einstein, capable of delivering quite third degree burns verbally, was an exceptionally clever man on all counts. See his theory of relativity, and this quote on mixing patterns:

See? Perfectly logical, and accredited with certainty with more certainty than the insanity below to Einstein, apparently quite the fashionista.

Not all Einstein quotes on Pinterest are, however, drawn from the scientist, or even from common sense. The most pinfuriating “Einstein” repin is probably this missive:

Take time to read, it’s worth reading, trust you? I don’t trust any pin that originates on Facebook from a blacked-out username.

The conversation is supposedly between Einstein and a professor, and in it Einstein successfully proves the existence of God by disproving the teacher’s belief in the scientific process. Maybe. Does something about this pin seem off to you? Congratulations!

Animated gif from ratatouille of a chef toasting the main character, congratulations on your non idiocy.

Something is off: the entire pin. Here’s how the conversation the pin captures would have started if it were drawn from real life, not a religious fantasy of science submitting to faith:

Professor: You’re a Christian, aren’t you son?

Einstein: Nope, I’m Jewish. Did the ‘fro not give it away?

Professor: So, you believe in GOD?

Einstein: Absolutely not, sir. I believe God is “nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

Professor: Just what I was about to say. A+ to you, sir!

Basically, in this purported exchange between atheist teacher and faithful student, the student argues that things that can’t be seen or readily quantified–darkness, brains, evolution–are believed to be true not based on empirical evidence but on faith, the same way God is.

The faithful student’s logic goes: Can’t see the professor’s brain? How do we know it’s there? It must be by faith. Faith in God without proof makes Him, therefore, just as probable as the existence of the professor’s brain.

Erm, no.

Einstein wasn’t this stupid, and I’d hazard to say that most of Pinterest isn’t either. The idea of scientific inquiry and empirical evidence being wrong, however, is apparently just too irresistible for religious pinners.

By the way, the student was NOT EINSTEIN but a fictitious idiot.

The holes in the student’s argument are too vast and obvious to delve into in detail, but basically: we’ve seen human brains before and we really can quantify darkness, so likening our “belief” in them to our belief in God doesn’t really work. Fossils can prove evolution, but there is no such physical record of God’s existence. There are many more persuasive arguments for the existence of God out there, and this isn’t one of them.

Einstein, as if he could foresee this pin, wrote in 1954:

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

Systematically repeated! Yep, maybe Einstein did actually manage time travel into the future using his physics acumen. That would explain, at least, his premonitions on the trend of mixing stripes and plaid, huge this year.

The physicist’s true convictions haven’t stopped the fake conversation from being repinned thousands of times, viewed by overeager pinners as proof that the logic of science is inferior to the logic of Christianity. Einstein is super-duper smart, and if he thought God existed and evolution was BS, it must be true!

This pin is turtles, all the way down.

3 Responses to “Einstein, faith, and turtles, turtles all the way down”

  1. Ron Engel October 6, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Almost all of the popular quotes you see from Einstein on the Interweb, including a few noteed above, cannot be definitively traced to him.

  2. Jasi February 23, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    haha, christians have been rewriting things to suit their needs for an awfully long time now.

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