Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism

Mark Vuletic

Assertion

Einstein believed evolution was impossible; he said "God does not play dice."

The short response

Einstein's quote is about quantum mechanics, not evolution. Einstein clearly rejected creationism generally, and specifically rejected the biblical account of creation as a primitive myth.

The long response

I. Einstein's quote is about quantum mechanics, not evolution


Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein

Although Einstein did indeed say that God does not play dice, his statement had nothing to do with evolution. Einstein was reacting to the fundamentally probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics as posited in the standard interpretation of the theory by such physicists as Niels Bohr (and Bohr, incidentally, responded that Einstein should stop telling God what to do). Evolution, however, is compatible with any interpretation of quantum mechanics, whether deterministic or indeterministic, so Einstein's words by no means imply a denial of evolution.

II. Einstein rejected gods who intervene in history

Far from making him a creationist, Einstein's conviction that "God does not play dice" was the basis for an equal conviction on his part that no god intervenes in the history of the universe. Einstein explained that

the man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events—provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equality for social or moral religion. (As quoted in Jammer 1999:80)

Acceptance of a god who never interferes in the natural course of events obviously is inconsistent with acceptance of creationism.

III. Einstein rejected personal gods and literal interpretations of the Bible

Incidentally, Einstein went so far as to declare that "[t]he idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive" (as quoted in Jammer 1999:121). When asked directly by a rabbi whether or not he believed in God, he said, "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists...not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings" (as quoted in Clark 1971:502). Although he did not consider himself an atheist, Einstein would thus have qualified as a heretic by the lights of virtually every creationist who has ever lived. 

A letter from Einstein to philosopher Eric Gutkind leaves no doubt about Einstein's stance on the accuracy of the Bible: Einstein states, "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this" (see link above).

Creationists had best think twice before trying to enlist Einstein's authority on behalf of their own views.

References

Clark RW. 1971. Einstein: The Life and Times. New York: Avon Books.

Jammer M. 1999. Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Last updated: 18 Mar 2017

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