Albert Einstein was a known disbeliever in God, so why did he mention God as the creator of the universe while defending his theory of special relativity? In a letter, which recently sold at an auction for £49,000 ($75,000 U.S. dollars,) Einstein makes reference to the deity In a 1925 letter to Italian engineer Giovanni Giorgi and since it was sold, it has made quite an impact.
Einstein’s letter is important for several reasons. For one, Albert Einstein’s theory was still disputed by a small but vocal sect. Dayton Miller, who had his own competing theory, attempted to dethrone the theory of special relativity conducting his own experiments, which Einstein found to be tainted. Albert Einstein did concede that if Miller’s experiments yielded positive results, it would have unseated Einstein’s theory. Eventually though, Miller’s experiments did not hold up and Einstein’s theory won the day.
A spokesperson for RR Auction expanded on the significance of Albert Einstein’s letters saying that “This magnificent letter is rife with intriguing content – each and every sentence contains a revelatory turn and could be expounded upon at length within the context of Einstein’s life and work,” he stated further, “That it is written in Italian is notable in itself. His family had moved to Italy for a few years in the mid-1890s and, although he was fluent, letters in Italian are seldom seen.”
The fact that Albert Einstein was fluent in Italian is overshadowed by his use of religious terminology, however not entirely unprecedented. Just a few years after he wrote the personal letter to Giorgi, he clarified his belief in a God “who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists,”
In his letter to Giorgi, Einstein made the controversial reference while dismissing the findings of Dayton Miller, saying that “I agree with your opinion on the fact that the movement of an ether with a [mathematical formula] so high is particularly impossible.”
“God created the world with more intelligence and elegance. You’re right to compare with Miller’s works, the laws of aberration.The theory of Stokes-Planck is very artificial and can not – in my opinion – explain this law of aberration. I would be very curious to know the real cause of the Miller’s phenomenon.. I do not doubt the validity of the theory of relativity.”
While Theologians are jumping on this as proof that Albert Einstein himself had admitted that God created the universe, Historians are quick to put the notion to rest. That Einstein should make such a reference is nothing unusual for the agnostic genius. Albert Einstein frequently used the terminology of God to describe his theory on the universe, but he himself had a more liberal interpretation of what God is.
“It is this conception of God that appears in the present letter, with the idea of a world designed with ‘intelligence and elegance’ corresponding with these later notions of structural harmony.”
Later, Einstein would pen the now infamous “God Letter,” in which he reacts to the harsh criticism of his non belief. In the letter, written to Jewish philosopher Eric Gutkind in 1954 just before Einstein’s death, the Austrian physicist made his stance on God clear once and for all.
“I came-though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents-to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve…Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true.”
However, in the letter to Gutkind, Einstein does state that “What separates us are only intellectual ‘props’ and `rationalisation’ in Freud’s language. Therefore I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.
Albert Einstein believed in a universalist God, one who binds the universe together, much like The Force in Star Wars, not a Christian God who actively participates in the lives of men. On this point, he is quite clear. It is likely that had the modern day creationist movement existed in 1925, he would have chosen his words with more care.