Sunday, March 28, 2010

Einstein and the Anglican ABC

A friend, discouraged by the general scarcity of ethical conduct in all walks of life, suggested to me the need for a scientifically grounded ethics. As if it had not been tried before, I thought to myself! Today, I share with you an interesting story Fr. Jaki describes about the dinner-table discussion between Einstein and the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, arranged by Evangelical British MP and gentleman philosopher, Viscount Haldane.

Does relativity have an impact on morality? Well, the marketeers of '79 at Time magazine certainly thought so! But let us listen to Fr. Jaki to discover the answer.

~ Jakian Thomist

Now the Archbishop wanted to learn the truth from Einstein himself. During the dinner with Haldane sitting close to the two, the Archbishop turned to Einstein: "Lord Haldane tells us that your theory ought to make a great difference to our morals." Einstein replied: "Do not believe a word of it. It makes no difference. It is purely abstract - science." So it is reported in the Archbishop's standard biography. According to another version, which is in Philipp Frank's Einstein. His life and times, the Archbishop asked "What effect would relativity have on religion?" Einstein tersely replied, "None. Relativity is a purely scientific matter and has nothing to do with religion".

Contrary to a once famous book, Relativity a Richer Truth, relativity as science can enrich only exact science. It is will impoverish any and all who expect from science more than it can ever deliver as long as it wants to remain exact and therefore rest its own truth with quantities, the only "exact" concepts, though they are such only in their abstractness. Hence, the truth of Einstein's remark to the Archbishop of Canterbury, that the science of relativity has nothing to do with moral betterment, which, let it be recalled, forms the gist of genuine religion. Einstein certainly offered something most momentous when he said in another context that he could not distill a drop of morality from his science. Pascal, no mean scientist, would now say, I told you so.

[S.L. Jaki, A Late Awakening and Other Essays, pp. 19 & 116]

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