Einstein’s ‘God does not play dice’ or ‘The God of the Scientists’
‘God does not play dice’. This famous statement imputed to Einstein reveals the incipient deism of the classical physics on which Einstein based his ideas. This is an underlying belief in a superhuman intelligence whose existence in the order of things is to be uncovered by scientific inspection. This is also the stated aim of some Mathematicians, such as Steven Hawking. for instance, who stated, quite categorically, that the aim of his research is to ‘read the Mind of God’. However, for anyone who, like Einstein, believes that our animal intelligence is not all there is, there are two kinds of superhuman intelligence to choose from. Theologians distinguish these beliefs as deism and theism. For deists, the supreme intelligence is that of a Cosmic Mathematician, or Machine-Designer, whose view of the universe is what our best mathematicians and cosmologists seek to ascertain.
The trouble with this is that for a populace in general to be convinced that the universe is a machine and that their actions in it are no more than those of mere cogs, spells disaster for any prospect of social cohesion. This, of course, is because in a machine there is no choice of action, hence no morality, so that such a mechanistic view of our existence is completely amoral and therefore a very poor belief-system on which to base a society. It allows us to think that in doing whatever we like, our actions are predetermined by mechanisms of atoms over which we have no control. This makes us think that we, ourselves, are entirely blameless for the consequences of our actions, no matter how personally or socially disastrous they may be. It means that, morally, we can just ‘get away with murder’.
So far, then, as religion is concerned, for the high priests of deism and their followers, worship can be no more than passive contemplation of this ‘Universe’ and its perfectly determinate, clockwork-like functioning in which, as Omar Khayyam wrote: ‘Yea, the First Morning of Creation wrote what the Last Day of Reckoning shall read.’
For theists, on the other hand, there is no such mechanical or mathematical determinacy, hence no romantic let-out in the form of Omar’s drink or drugs. For them, responsibility for our actions is of the very essence. Far from being an Automaton, the cosmos is a system in which the supreme intelligence(s) exert some sort of steering or cybernetic influence in our lives and to which we are obedient or disobedient, to our own and society’s advantage or disadvantage, as we may freely choose, and that somehow or other, we will be held to account for those decisions.
For theism, then, as distinct from deism, morality – or, at its most basic level, the imperative towards species survival – forms the basis of our choices of action. An information-based, interactive physics of the sort POAMS represents is therefore by no means either ‘atheistic’ or ‘amoral’. Indeed, unlike deism (called the ‘religion of the scientists’) POAMS is perfectly consistent with ordinary commonsense morality and social concern, without which there can be no society whatsoever. In that broadened context of natural philosophy, the ingrained, narrowed-down mechanical determinacy and hedonism of Western tradition, which other cultures despise, cannot be invoked to relieve us of the need for personal and social responsibility.
As for religion, POAMS remains completely agnostic on that score, as indeed it does on the subject of atheism. To declare that ‘X’ either exists or does not exist is to presuppose that one knows what ‘X’ is. In the face of almost total disagreement as to what is the ‘X’ that people call ‘God’, POAMS eschews both dogmatic theism and atheism. It remains agnostic as to whether the rationality that there is in Nature can be comprehended and personified in the anthropomorphic manner of so many religions.
On purely logical grounds, it cannot be doubted that there is a rational order in the scheme of things that is no mere product of human ingenuity. This is the rationality inherent in the world that science seeks to uncover, being what the Greeks identified by the secular term logos (the language of nature). The only thing of which POAMS is certain is that this logos is not the determinate mechanical order envisaged by our deistic, mechanistic tradition of physical science. The essentially stochastic, information-transacting nature of organisms, disclosed by our modern life sciences, such as biology, zoology, sociology, psychology … etc., gives the lie to that.