Program Particulars: Einstein's God

February 25, 2010

Program Particulars

*Times indicated refer to online version of audio

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(01:47–03:45) Music Element

"The Multiples of One" from Awakening, performed by Joseph Curiale

» Enlarge the image Albert Einstein lecturing at Princeton. (Courtesy: Getty Images)

Albert Einstein lecturing at Princeton. (Courtesy: Getty Images)

(01:35) Einstein's Miracle Year

In 1905 — Einstein's annus mirabilis, or "miracle year" — Albert Einstein submitted four seminal papers to the journal Annalen der Physik. That year in June, his first paper on the quantum theory of light, "Generation and Conversion of Light with Regard to a Heuristic Point of View," — for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 — was published. The paper dealt with the photoelectric effect and postulated that light sometimes acts like a stream of particles with discrete energies, or quanta. This paper upended the prevailing belief that light was a wave traveling through an invisible medium known as the "ether" (listen to Dyson discuss how Einstein singlehandedly reversed this interpretation [RealAudio, 4:06]). Einstein's work on this subject contributed to the field of study he ultimately rejected, quantum mechanics.

The following month the second paper on Brownian motion, "The Motion of Elements Suspended in Static Liquids as Claimed in the Molecular Kinetic Theory of Heat," was published. This article was based on the doctoral thesis he had submitted. It was more mathematical than his other papers and allowed for experimental testing. Here, Einstein offered not only a new way for studying the movement of atoms but reinforced the idea that atoms and molecules were verifiable.

Published in September, Einstein's third paper on the special theory of relativity is considered revolutionary for its time because it wasn't being actively pursued by other scientists. Einstein determined that the speed of light is a universal constant that is independent of any reference frame. Nothing is faster than the speed of light. Space and time are not absolute but are relative to the position and velocity of different observers. Einstein incorporated the term "special" because he realized that his idea only worked if the effects of gravity were ignored.

» Enlarge the image This image is an inset of a page from one of three existing Einstein manuscripts on special relativity (1912). No known original manuscripts exist from the year of publication in 1905. <em>(Courtesy: The Jewish National & University Library, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)</em>

This image is an inset of a page from one of three existing Einstein manuscripts on special relativity (1912). No known original manuscripts exist from the year of publication in 1905. (Courtesy: The Jewish National & University Library, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Later that year in September, Einstein expounded upon the implications of special relativity in a short paper containing the famous equation E=mc² — energy equals mass times the speed of light squared — which linked electromagnetic theory and ordinary motion using the "principle of relativity." The consequence of this equation is that two quantities that were previously thought to be quite different (energy and mass) were shown to be very closely related and interchangeable. Einstein commented to a friend about his work: "I cannot possibly know whether the good Lord does not laugh at it and has led me up the garden path."

(02:20) Einstein's General Theory of Relativity

Einstein's 1915 paper is considered his magnum opus. Here, he expanded his special theory of relativity to include the effect of gravity on the shape of space and the flow of time. Thus, Einstein's general theory of relativity proposed that matter causes space and time to curve. Even light will bend. The discovery of general relativity gave rise to the Big Bang theory, the discovery of black holes, and quantum mechanics.

(02:29)Archival Recording of Albert Einstein

The archival audio of Albert Einstein was extracted from a 1947 recording for an educational film series entitled Atomic Physics (listen to entire clip [RealAudio, 0:57]). Einstein's brief contribution follows:

It followed from the Special Theory of Relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing — a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind. Furthermore, the equation E=mc², in which energy is equal to mass, multiplied with the square of the velocity of light, showed that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa. The mass and energy were in fact equivalent according to the formula mentioned before. This was demonstrated by Cockcroft and Walton in 1932, experimentally.

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(04:00–05:38) Music Element

"Concerto No. 26 in D Major, 'Coronation' 2. (Larghetto)" from Mozart CME 07: Piano Concertos, performed by Alfred Brendel, Neville Marriner; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

» Enlarge the image Albert Einstein with his sister Maja about 1884. It's around this time that the compass triggered his curiosity about the cosmos.

Albert Einstein with his sister Maja about 1884. It's around this time that the compass triggered his curiosity about the cosmos.

(04:28) Einstein and the Compass Reading

The following passage is an expanded version of lines from the introduction to his autobiographical notes, Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, originally published in 1949:

I have no doubt but that our thinking goes on for the most part without use of signs (words) and beyond that to a considerable degree unconsciously. For how, otherwise, should it happen that sometimes we "wonder" quite spontaneously about some experience? This "wondering" appears to occur when an experience comes into conflict with a world of concepts already sufficiently fixed within us. Whenever such a conflict is experienced sharply and intensively it reacts back upon our world of thought in a decisive way. The development of this world of thought is in a certain sense a continuous flight from "wonder." A wonder of this kind I experienced as a child of four or five years when my father showed me a compass. That this needle behaved in such a determined way did not at all fit into the kind of occurrences that could find a place in the unconscious world of concepts (efficacy produced by direct "touch"). I can still remember—or at least believe I can remember—that this experience made a deep and lasting impression upon me. Something deeply hidden had to be behind things. What man sees before him from infancy causes no reaction of this kind; he is not surprised by the falling of bodies, by wind and rain, nor by the moon, nor by the fact that the moon does not fall down, nor by the differences between living and nonliving matter.

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(05:46–06:32) Music Element

"Schubert: Quintet In A, Op. Posth. 114, D 667, 'Trout' – 4. Thema – Andantino Mit Variationen" from Schubert Trout Quintet, performed by Emanuel Ax, Pamela Frank, Rebecca Young, Yo–Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer

(06:00) Dyson as a Boy Learning Mathematics

In this exclusive audio of Freeman Dyson not included in the radio program, listen to his recollections [RealAudio, 4:06] on his boyhood endeavors to speak the mathematical language of Einstein.

(06:40) Einstein's Refutation of a Personal God

Einstein explicitly refuted the concept of a personal god, a god who intervenes in the ordinary lives of human beings, in many letters and addresses he gave over the decades beginning in the late 1920s and continuing until the time of his death in 1955. Most notable were two essays published in 1930 and in 1941. The first, "Religion and Science," originally appeared in the November 9 issue of the New York Times Magazine and caused quite a stir. Readers of all beliefs and vocations wrote Einstein, sometimes with praise and contempt but most often wanting to know more about the great physicist's ideas about the nature of God.

» Enlarge the image Albert Einstein (left, standing behind girl) and Paul Tillich (right, standing in front wearing glasses) at a conference in Davos, Switzerland on March 18, 1928. (Courtesy of Image Archive ETH-Bibliothek, Zurich)

Albert Einstein (left, standing behind girl) and Paul Tillich (right, standing in front wearing glasses) at a conference in Davos, Switzerland on March 18, 1928. (Courtesy of Image Archive ETH-Bibliothek, Zurich)

The second paper entitled "Science and Religion" was prepared at the request of The Conference of Science, Religion, and Philosophy in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life in September 1940. Here, Einstein speaks of a God operating within the nature's orderly laws and rejects the idea of a personal God, asserting that the notion is mere superstition and incompatible with science:

Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him? The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God. It is the aim of science to establish general rules which determine the reciprocal connection of objects and events in time and space. For these rules, or laws of nature, absolutely general validity is required — not proven. It is mainly a program, and faith in the possibility of its accomplishment in principle is only founded on partial successes. But hardly anyone could be found who would deny these partial successes and ascribe them to human self-deception. The fact that on the basis of such laws we are able to predict the temporal behavior of phenomena in certain domains with great precision and certainty is deeply embedded in the consciousness of the modern man, even though he may have grasped very little of the contents of those laws.

Einstein received an outpouring of letters from readers of all classes and strata of society — many lauding him for his courage to state his views and others challenging him on the underlying principles. One of the more graceful and respectful responses was written by the great German-born theologian Paul Tillich several months after the publication of Einstein's work: "The Idea of the Personal God".

(07:30) Einstein on Judaism

In his later years, Einstein wrote a number of times about the merits of the Jewish moral system. In an essay entitled "An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man," Einstein spoke of his Jewish heritage:

The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us westerners in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal: free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind. The pursuit of recognition for their own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice and the quest for personal independence form the traditional themes of the Jewish people, of which I am a member.

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(09:05–12:06) Music Element

"Suite No. 2 in D Minor — Prelude" from The Cello Suites — Inspired By Bach, performed by Yo-Yo Ma

(09:30) Citation from Einstein's Address to Conference of Science, Philosophy, and Religion

The following expanded passage was excerpted from Einstein's paper "Science and Religion":

Now, even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration towards truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

(10:02) Reading from The World As I See It

In his essay from The World As I See It, Einstein writes:

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery—even if mixed with fear—that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms—it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me is the mystery of eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.

(12:47) Reference to Baruch Spinoza

Baruch Spinoza was a 17th century Dutch philosopher of Jewish heritage whose major work entitled Ethics that began with words, "By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite — that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality." Spinoza later continued, "Whatever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived."

Einstein first discovered Spinoza while working in the Bern patent office and, throughout the rest of his life, he referred to Spinoza's guiding determinism in which nature operates according to immutable laws of cause and effect. When asked by a rabbi from New York in 1929 if he believed in God, Einstein sent this message by telegram: "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." And, Einstein replied to a man asking him whether he believed in the God of Spinoza:

I can't answer with a simple yes or no. I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but admire even more his contributions to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and the body as one, not two separate things.

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(12:53–13:33) Music Element

"Suite No. 2 in D Minor — Prelude" from The Cello Suites — Inspired By Bach, performed by Yo-Yo Ma

» Enlarge the image Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. <cite>(Courtesy: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives)

Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. (Courtesy: AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives)

(13:37) Exchange Between Einstein and Bohr

After formulating the theory of general relativity, Einstein had shown that photons have momentum and that electrons and other subatomic particles display characteristics of both waves and particles. These discoveries helped form the quantum theories of Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, who proposed that this wave-particle duality exhibited a randomness that is affected by the observer himself. Thereby, the more precisely the particle's position is determined, the less precisely its momentum is known; the more precisely the momentum of the particle, the less precisely its position is known.

Einstein could never accept the random nature of quantum mechanics and conducted a series of thought experiments (gedanken) to disprove this theory. Bohr would counter and attempt to prove him wrong. Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr held a long-standing verbal jousting match about quantum theory during the 1920s and 30s. Bohr responded to Einstein's famous quip, "God does not play dice," by saying "Einstein, stop telling God what to do."

(13:50) Quote from Dyson on Nature

The passage quoted originally appeared in Freeman Dyson's 1988 book, Infinite in All Directions, a revised version of his 1985 Gifford Lectures presented under the title "In Praise of Diversity":

There is a curious parallel here between the history of physics and the history of geographical exploration. At the beginning the explorers had their eyes on the mountain peaks. George Everest, the organizer of the geographical survey of India, left his name on the highest mountain. The intervening jungles were only obstacles to be overcome. And so it was also in physics. Maxwell's equations of the electromagnetic field, Einstein's theory of general relativity, these were the great mountain peaks which dominated our vision for a hundred years. But God did not only create mountains, he also created jungles. And today we are beginning to understand that the jungles are the richest and most vibrant part of his creation. The modern explorer in South America or in Africa is not looking for mountains. She is looking into the depths of the jungles to observe and understand the creatures who live there in all their intricate variety. We ourselves came out of the jungle a few million years ago, and we are now becoming aware that we need to understand and preserve the jungle if we are to remain alive and healthy on this planet. Likewise, in physics, it turned out that God's creation was richer than either Maxwell or Einstein had imagined. There was a time in the 1920s and 1930s when it seemed that the landscape of physics was almost fully mapped. The world of physics looked simple. There were the mountains explored by Maxwell and Einstein and Rutherford and Bohr, the theories of relativity and the quantum, great landmarks standing clear and cold and clean in the sunlight, and between them only a few unimportant valleys still to be surveyed. Now we know better. After we began seriously to explore the valleys in the 1950s, we found in them flora and fauna as strange and unexpected as anything to be seen in the valleys of the Amazon. Instead of three species of elementary particle which were known in the 1920s, we now have sixty-one. Instead of three states of matter, solid, liquid, and gas, we have six or more. Instead of a few succinct equations to summarize the universe of physics, we have luxuriant growth of mathematical structures, as diverse as the phenomena that they attempt to describe. So we have come back to the rain forest, intellectually as well as geographically. What philosophical lessons arise from the recent discoveries in physics? The main lesson to be learned is that nature is complicated. There is no such thing as a simple material universe. The old vision which Einstein maintained until the end of his life, of an objective world of space and time and matter independent of human thought and observation, is no longer ours. Einstein hoped to find a universe possessing what he called "objective reality," a universe of mountaintops which he could comprehend by means of a finite set of equations. Nature, it turns out, lives not on the mountaintops but in the valleys.

» Enlarge the image Albert Einstein and Sir Arthur Eddington at Cambridge. (Courtesy: National Maritime Museum London)

Albert Einstein and Sir Arthur Eddington at Cambridge. (Courtesy: National Maritime Museum London)

(16:36) 1919 Eddington Experiment

In 1919, Einstein's theory of general relativity was confirmed by two expeditions led by Sir Arthur Eddington — one to Sobral in Brazil and the other to the island of Principe off the west coast of Africa — to observe a solar eclipse. According to Einstein's theory, the light from stars passing close to the sun would be bent twice as much as Sir Isaac Newton's theory predicted. Eddington's experimental calculations confirmed Einstein's theory. The German physicist became known around the globe and appeared on the front page of major and minor newspapers. When asked what he would have done if Eddington's expedition had failed to prove the theory of relativity correct, Einstein replied, "I would have had to pity our dear Lord. The theory is correct all the same."

And the experiments to verify Einstein's theories continue. On April 20, 2004, the Gravity Probe B (GP-B) experiment was launched after 40 years of planning. NASA and Stanford University are conducting this relativity gyroscope experiment in order to test two extraordinary, unverified predictions of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity — measuring how space and time are warped by the presence of the Earth, and how the Earth's rotation drags space-time around with it.

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(18:11–19:20) Music Element

"Sonata in B flat, K. 378 – 1. Allegro moderato" from Sonatas for Piano and Violin — Disc 4/4, performed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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(19:52–22:08) Music Element

"Concerto No. 26 in D Major, 'Coronation' 2. (Larghetto)" from Mozart CME 07: Piano Concertos, performed by Alfred Brendel, Neville Marriner; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

» Enlarge the image Albert Einstein stands at a lectern in the Bern patent office in 1904.

Albert Einstein stands at a lectern in the Bern patent office in 1904.

(20:54) Reading from Correspondence with Early Biographer

A 1952 letter to biographer Carl Seelig asked Einstein to describe receiving his first honorary doctoral degree from the University of Geneva, which was celebrating the 350th anniversary of its founding by Protestant theologian and reformer John Calvin (translation from Albert Einstein: The Human Side):

One day I received in the Patent Office in Bern a large envelope out of which there came a sheet of distinguished paper. On it, in picturesque type (I even believe it was Latin) was printed something that seemed to me impersonal and of little interest. So right away it went into the official wastepaper basket. Later, I learned that it was an invitation to the Calvin festivities and was also an announcement that I was to receive an honorary doctorate from the Geneva University. Evidently the people at the university interpreted my silence correctly and turned to my friend and student Lucien Chavan, who came from Geneva but was living in Bern. He persuaded me to go to Geneva because it was practically unavoidable—but he did not elaborate further. So I traveled there on the appointed day and, in the evening in the restaurant of the inn where we were staying, met some Zurich professors. … Each of them now told in what capacity he was there. As I remained silent I was asked that question and had to confess that I had not the slightest idea. However, the others knew all about it and let me in on the secret. The next day I was supposed to march in the academic procession. But I had with me only my straw hat and my everyday suit. My proposal that I stay away was categorically rejected, and the festivities turned out to be quite funny so far as my participation was concerned. The celebration ended with the most opulent banquet that I have ever attended in all my life. So I said to a Genevan patrician who sat next to me, "Do you know what Calvin would have done if he were still here?" When he said no and asked what I thought, I said, "He would have erected a large pyre and had us all burned because of sinful gluttony." The man uttered not another word, and with this ends my recollection of that memorable celebration.

(22:04–24:22) Music

"Largo in G minor" from Bach. Johann Sebastian, performed by Alberto Lysy

» Enlarge the image Einstein playing the violin at a chamber music rehearsal in Princeton, NJ. (Courtesy: Hannah Fantova Collection, Princeton University).

Einstein playing the violin at a chamber music rehearsal in Princeton, NJ. (Courtesy: Hannah Fantova Collection, Princeton University)

(22:26) Einstein Hears Yehudi Menuhin

Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) is considered one of the premiere classical musicians of the 20th century. Born in New York, Menuhin first performed at the age of seven in San Francisco and four years later performed with the New York Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. After Menuhin performed a violin recital of Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1929, Einstein was reported to be so taken that he rushed into Menuhin's dressing room and exclaimed, "Jetzt weiss ich, dass es einen Gott im Himmel gibt" ("Now I know that there is a God in heaven.") Menuhin was the first Jewish musician to perform in Germany after World War II. He received a fair amount of criticism from Israelis for the gesture but stated that it was necessary for the brotherhood of man.

A lover of music and an ardent violinist himself, Einstein was often invited to share his views on composers of classical music. In the late 1920s, a German weekly sent him a questionnaire about Bach, to which Einstein replied rather tersely: "This is what I have to say about Bach's life work: listen, play, love, revere—and keep your mouth shut." A decade later, Einstein's response was a bit more thorough and tempered:

(1) Bach, Mozart, and some old Italian and English composers are my favorites in music: Beethoven considerably less — but certainly Schubert. (2) It is impossible for me to say whether Bach or Mozart means more to me. In music I do not look for logic. I am quite intuitive on the whole and know no theories. I never like a work if I cannot intuitively grasp its inner unity (architecture). (3) I always feel that Handel is good — even perfect — but that he has a certain shallowness. Beethoven is for me too dramatic and too personal. (4) Schubert is one of my favorites because of his superlative ability to express emotion and his enormous powers of melodic invention. But in his larger works I am disturbed by a certain lack of architectonics. (5) Schumann is attractive to me in his smaller works because of their originality and richness of feeling, but his lack of formal greatness prevents my full enjoyment. In Mendelssohn I perceive considerable talent but an indefinable lack of depth that often leads to banality. (6) I find a few lieder and chamber works by Brahms truly significant, also in their structure. But most of his works have for me no inner persuasiveness. I do not understand why it was necessary to write them. (7) I admire Wagner's inventiveness, but I see his lack of architectural structure as decadence. Moreover, to me his musical personality is indescribably offensive so that for the most part I can listen to him only with disgust. (8) I feel that [Richard] Strauss is gifted, but without inner truth and concerned only with outside effects I cannot say that I care nothing for modern music in general. I feel that Debussy is delicately colorful but shows a poverty of structure. I cannot work up great enthusiasm for something of that sort.

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(24:23-25:59) Music Element

"Brahms: Violin Sonata #1 In G, Op. 78. Allegro Molto Moderato" from Brahms: Violin Sonatas #1–3, performed by Itzhak Perlman, Daniel Barenboim

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(26:03–26:51) Music Element

"Weihnachtskonzert — Allegro–Pastorale" from Brahms: Violin Sonatas #1–3, performed by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

(31:10 Aboriginal Concept of "Dreamtime"

In his book About Time, Davies writes, "Running like a common thread through the history of human thought, East and West, North and South, is a belief that the entire paradigm of human temporality is rooted in some sort of monstrous illusion; it is but an elaborate product of the human mind… (T)rue reality is vested in a realm that transcends time: the Land Beyond Time. Europeans call it "eternity," Hindus refer to it as "moksha" and Buddhists as "nirvana."

Krista and Davies dwell on the manifestation of this thinking among the indigenous people of Australia, where Davies has spent most of his life. Here is a passage from About Time, in which Davies describes this thinking in detail:

According to the anthropologist W. E. H. Stanner: A central meaning of The Dreaming is that of a sacred, heroic time long, long ago when man and nature came to be as they are; but neither "time" nor "history" as we understand them is involved in this meaning. I have never been able to discover any aboriginal word for time as an abstract concept. And the sense of "history" is wholly alien here. We shall not understand The Dreaming fully except as a complex of meanings. Although the Dream Time carries connotations of a heroic past age, it is wrong to think of that age as now over. "One cannot 'fix' The Dreaming in time," observes Stanner. "It was, and is, everywhen." Thus the Dreaming retains a relevance in contemporary aboriginal affairs, because it is part of the present reality; the "creator beings" are still active today. What Europeans call "the past" is, for many aboriginal people, both past and present. Stories of creation are often cast in what Europeans would call the recent past, even as recent as the era of white settlement. No incongruity is felt, because, for the Australian aborigine, events are more important than dates. This subtlety is lost on most European minds; we have become obsessed with rationalizing and measuring time in our everyday lives. Stanner quotes an old Australian black man who expressed this cultural gulf lyrically: White man go no dreaming. Him go 'nother way. White man, him go different, Him got road belong himself. The concept of "white man's time" as a "road" down which he marches single-mindedly is an especially apt description, I think, of Western linear time. It is a road that may perhaps lead to progress, but the psychological price we pay for embarking upon it is a heavy one.

To hear some of these stories of Dreaming, the Australian Museum provides a list of audio files as told by Aboriginal elders. Also, Bruce Chatwin's book Songlines is a modern exploration of this evocative aboriginal understanding of the creation of the world and the meaning of time and history.

(32:26) Augustine and the Nature of Time

St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430 CE) is one of the most prominent figures of medieval philosophy whose authority and thought have had a lasting influence. Augustine is one of the main figures who merged the Greek philosophical tradition and the Judeo-Christian religious and scriptural traditions. Some of his best-known works are The Confessions and City of God


Augustine wrote in his Confessions about the mystery of time and tried to understand how God, who operates within eternity, could have created the physical universe, which functions within time:

For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who can even comprehend it in thought or put the answer into words? Yet is it not true that in conversation we refer to nothing more familiarly or knowingly than time? And surely we understand it when we speak of it; we understand it also when we hear another speak of it. What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks me, I do not know.

Like Einstein's description of people's stubborn insistence on describing the discrete states of time, Augustine also observes that the past and future are only known as certain types of experiences in the present, the eternal present:

Thus it is not properly said that there are three times, past, present, and future. Perhaps it might be said rightly that there are three times: a time present of things past; a time present of things present; and a time present of things future. … The time present of things past is memory; the time present of things present is direct experience; the time present of things future is expectation. … See that all time past is forced to move on by the incoming future; that all the future follows from the past; and that all, past and future, is created and issues out of that which is forever present. Who will hold the heart of man that it may stand still and see how the eternity which always stands still is itself neither future nor past but expresses itself in the times that are future and past? … Suppose now that a bodily voice begins to sound, and continues to sound — on and on — and then ceases. Now there is silence. The voice is past, and there is no longer a sound. It was future before it sounded, and could not be measured because it was not yet; and now it cannot be measured because it is no longer.

(33:27–34:55 Music

"Danse Espagnole For Violin & Piano (Transcription From Falla's La Vida Breve)" from Kennedy Kreisler, performed by Nigel Kennedy

» Enlarge the image Title page for Einstein's 1930 essay, Religion and Science. Throughout the rest of his life, even after 20 years of living in the United States, Einstein would primarily write his manuscripts in German. Later, his manuscripts would be translated into typewritten English. (Courtesy: The Albert Einstein Archives, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Title page for Einstein's 1930 essay, Religion and Science. Throughout the rest of his life, even after 20 years of living in the United States, Einstein would primarily write his manuscripts in German. Later, his manuscripts would be translated into typewritten English. (Courtesy: The Albert Einstein Archives, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

(34:38) Reading from Einstein's "Religion and Science"

Einstein published "Religion and Science" in the November 9, 1930 issue of the New York Times Magazine. The following passage is an expanded version of the reading heard during the program:

There is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it. The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear at an early stage of development, e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this. The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another. How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.

(36:11) Davies Awarded Templeton Prize

Davies was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities in 1995. Other notable recipients include writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, humanitarian Mother Teresa, journalist Michael Novak, physicist John Polkinghorne, and cosmologist George Ellis.

(37:49) Quote from Einstein Interview

In an 1955 interview with Esther Salaman, a young physics student, Einstein said of his curiosity about the cosmos:

The years of ancient searching in the dark, with their intense longing, their alternations of confidence and exhaustion and the final emergence into the light — only those who experience it can understand it. I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.

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(41:13–42:41) Music Element

"Sonata No. 4 in C Minor, I. Largo" from Sonatas for Violin and Piano, performed by Mela Tenenbaum and Richard Kapp

(43:37) Dialogue Between Religion and Science

In the On Being program, "Quarks and Creation," physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne says that he believes in a God who did something "more clever" than create a ready-made world, a clockwork universe. Instead, he believes in a God who created a world that could make itself.

Also, the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences is one of the major organizations seeking to create a dialogue between the disciplines of science and religion. The Center's director, Robert John Russell, has written a foundational essay entitled "Bridging Science and Religion: Why It Must Be Done." Other organizations carrying on the dialogue include the John Templeton Foundation, which annually awards the Templeton Prize for leaders in this endeavor, and the Metanexus Institute.

» Enlarge the image Albert Einstein sailing his boat on Saranac Lake. (Courtesy: The Fantova Collection, Princeton University)

Albert Einstein sailing his boat on Saranac Lake. (Courtesy: The Fantova Collection, Princeton University)

(44:34) Passage from a Letter by Einstein

The letter Krista cites was written by Einstein to Queen Elizabeth of Belgium after he had learned that her husband, King Albert, had died in a fall while mountain climbing, and her 30-year-old daughter-in-law and newly crowned Queen Astrid was killed in a car accident. In a letter dated March 20, 1936, Einstein replied in German (translation form Albert Einstein: The Human Side):

Dear Queen, Today, for the first time this year, the spring sunshine has made its appearance, and it aroused me from the dreamlike trance into which people like myself fall when immersed in scientific work. Thoughts rise up from an earlier and more colorful life, and with them comes remembrance of beautiful hours in Brussels. Mrs. Barjansky wrote to me how gravely living in itself causes you suffering and how numbed you are by the indescribably painful blows that have befallen you. And yet we should not grieve for those who have gone from us in the primes of their lives after happy and fruitful years of activity, and who have been privileged to accomplish in full measure their task in life. Something there is that can refresh and revivify older people: joy in the activities of the younger generation—a joy, to be sure, that is clouded by dark forebodings in these unsettled times. And yet, as always, the springtime sun brings forth new life, and we may rejoice because of this new life and contribute to its unfolding; and Mozart remains as beautiful and tender as he always was and always will be. There is, after all, something eternal that lies beyond reach of the hand of fate and of all human delusions. And such eternals lie closer to an older person than to a younger one oscillating between fear and hope. For us, there remains the privilege of experiencing beauty and truth in their purest form. Have you ever read the Maxims of La Rochefoucauld? They seem quite acerb and gloomy, but by their objectivization of human and all-too-human nature they bring a strange feeling of liberation. In La Rochefoucauld we see a man who succeeded in liberating himself even though it had not been easy for him to be rid of the heavy burden of the passions that Nature had dealt him for his passage through life. It would be nicest to read him with people whose little boat had gone through many storms: for example, the good Barjanskys. I would gladly join in were it not forbidden by "the big water." I am privileged by fate to live here in Princeton as if on an island that in many respects resembles the charming palace garden in Laeken. Into this small university town, too, the chaotic voices of human strife barely penetrate. I am almost ashamed to be living in such peace while all the rest struggle and suffer. But after all, it is still the best to concern oneself with eternals, for from them alone flows that spirit that can restore peace and serenity to the world of humans. With my heartfelt hope that spring will bring quiet joy to you also, and will stimulate you to activity, I send you my best wishes.

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(47:24–49:34) Music Element

"Mozart: Sonata in F for Piano Duet, I. Adagio — Allegro Di Molto" from Mozart: Music for 2 Pianos, performed by Ingrid Haebler, Ludwig Hoffmann, Jorg Demus, Paul Badura-Skoda

(47:25) Reference to Steven Weinberg

Steven Weinberg is a distinguished physicist at the University of Texas who won a Nobel Prize in 1979 for his work on "the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alla the prediction of the weak neutral current." A professed atheist, Weinberg is often quoted for his remark in his 1977 book The First Three Minutes: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless." But, Weinberg also speaks with great passion. And, like Einstein, he believes it should be possible to discover a grand unified theory uniting the laws of nature into a single statement that is mathematically, philosophically, and aesthetically complete: "Maybe nature is fundamentally ugly, chaotic, and complicated. But if it's like that, then I want out."

(48:39) Reading from a Letter by Einstein

The Einstein Archives contains a letter dated August 5, 1927 from a banker in Colorado to Einstein in Berlin. The Colorado man remarked that most scientists had abandoned the archetypal image of a patriarchal God even though they worshipped one. Along with other prominent men, the banker's book club asked Einstein to forward his views on the subject. It's not certain if Einstein sent his reply, but on the banker's letter Einstein wrote the following in German (translation from Albert Einstein: The Human Side):

I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.

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(49:33–52:23) Music Element

"Brahms: Violin Sonata #1 In G, Op. 78. Allegro Molto Moderato" from Brahms: Violin Sonatas #1–3, performed by Itzhak Perlman, Daniel Barenboim

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is a theoretical physicist and Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He has published many scientific papers and written many books, including Disturbing the Universe.

is a theoretical physicist and director of BEYOND: The Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University. He has written widely about Einstein's understanding of time, including How to Build a Time Machine.