Mar 012013
 

Collected Quotes from Albert Einstein

  • “The ruling class has the schools and press under its thumb. This enables it to sway the emotions of the masses.”
  • “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”
  • “Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.”
  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
  • “Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.”
  • “I want to know God’s thoughts; the rest are details.”
  • “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”
  • “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
  • “The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
  • “A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.”
  • “I am convinced that He (God) does not play dice.”
  • “God is subtle but he is not malicious.”
  • “Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.”
  • “I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.”
  • “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”
  • “Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing.”
  • “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”
  • “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
  • “Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.”
  • “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
  • “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”
  • “Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one’s living at it.”
  • “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”
  • “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
  • “God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically.”
  • “The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.”
  • “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”
  • “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.”
  • “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.”
  • “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
  • “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
  • “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
  • “Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.”
  • “Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity.”
  • “If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.”
  • “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.”
  • “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
  • “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
  • “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
  • “In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep.”
  • “The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there’s no risk of accident for someone who’s dead.”
  • “Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves.”
  • “Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how passionately I hate them!”
  • “No, this trick won’t work…How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?”
  • “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”
  • “Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever.”
  • “The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking…the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”
  • “Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.”
  • “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
  • “A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”
  • “The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.”
  • “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
  • “You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.”
  • “One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.”
  • “…one of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought.”
  • “He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
  • “A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
  • “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” (Sign hanging in Einstein’s office at Princeton)

Copyright: Kevin Harris 1995 (may be freely distributed with this acknowledgement)

09 The Golden Rule Fallacy

 

COMFORTING LIES #9 and #10

The Golden Rule is the highest behavioral standard.

Religion is the ultimate source of ethical guidance.

To the religious these lies are particularly seductive, because most religions claim their creeds and doctrines to be absolute truths handed down to humanity directly from God.  The promised reward of a heavenly afterlife is especially tempting to those whose worldly lives leave much to be desired.  It is also true that many valuable ethical insights have been derived from religious teachings.  The Golden Rule itself is a good example of this fact.  So, why not make religion our ultimate source of ethical guidance?  Why not consider the Golden Rule to be the highest behavioral standard?

To answer these questions properly we need to look back at the earliest origins of religious thinking.  To the best of our knowledge, based on the archeological evidence, such thinking began with the search for objective truth about how the world works, the behavior and causes of natural phenomena, the origins of life, and the ways and means that must be observed in order to make daily life a more predictable and manageable experience.

Today we find that science is a far better guide to objective truth than religion; but in those days there was no science.  So the earliest religious pronouncements were speculative statements about the personal experiences of those who spoke.  They were basically saying, “This is my experience and this is what I think it means.”  Some of these speculations, right or wrong objectively, seemed more credible than others; so organizations formed around those whose insights were the most popular.  These organizations were formed hierarchically, so it was natural that they became bureaucratized as their influence grew.

“Bureaucracy”, you must understand, is not a synonym for “organization”.  Bureaucracy is the systematic elimination, destruction, or avoidance of corrective feedback.  As such it is highly damaging to the search for objective truth.  But early religious leaders were heedless of this fact.  So the statement, “This is my experience” became, “This should be your experience” – and “This is what I believe” became “This is what you should believe”.

As religious organizations grew more and more powerful, often dominating whole cultures, they often became more and more bureaucratic; so it was only a small step for “This is what you should believe” to become “This is what you must believe – or else!”  This insistence on infallibility, which violates the sixth Ethical Principle, was the basis for many forms of religious persecution, including that of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the pogroms of Europe, and Hitler’s Holocaust in Germany.  The phenomenon persists today in the Islamic Jihad and in various other instances of genocide around the world – as we have seen recently in Africa and Asia.

The Golden Rule is particularly relevant to this discussion.  Christians say, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Jews say, “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.”  Both of these statements can be summarized by the single admonition, “Do unto others only as you would have them do unto you.”

If everyone valued the same treatment by others the Golden Rule would be pretty good.  However the question arises, “How do you want to be treated when you encounter a sado-masochist”?  The phenomenon of sadomasochism is a fairly common neurosis, well known to psychologists and other mental health practitioners worldwide.  My 20 years as a clinical Psychotherapist indicates 1 person in 5 are indeed sado-masochists.  This condition causes those so-afflicted to value the infliction of physical and/or emotional pain – either as the perpetrator or as the recipient thereof.  Since there are many gradations of this problem and the causes are unconscious, many sadomasochists don’t even realize that they have a problem.

It is also observation, as a clinical psychotherapist, that the greater the compulsion to sado-masochism, the higher the level of power one attains.  This allows the sado-masochist to cause greater pain and suffering on a higher degree to a larger number of people.

So two sadomasochists might be quite happy observing the Golden Rule by inflicting pain on one another; but the rest of us wouldn’t want to be treated so.  Thus the universal application of the Golden Rule by everyone wouldn’t be an altogether good thing.  We must therefore conclude that religious teachings in general, and the Golden Rule in particular, leave much to be desired as sources of ethical guidance and behavioral standards.

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