“God doesn’t play dice with the universe” Is a popular quote by the great scientist of 20th Century Albert Einstein. Einstein was among select few of popular personalities, whose fame transcended the boundaries of the field that they worked in. He is still quoted widely by people in fields other than physics, and in certain occasions misquoted as well.
Einstein’s belief in God was a point of discussion throughout his life and he had to give statements to clarify what his beliefs really were about the matter. I found it quite interesting to know that Einstein’s famous quote ‘God doesn’t play dice with the universe’ is often used to highlight his belief in God and belief in a pre-determined destiny. It is often used to support arguments in favor of presence of God and of human destiny. Contrary to popular belief though, the statement was made neither out of faith in God nor out of belief in pre-determined destiny. In fact it was made out of desperation.
In early 20th century when scientific activity was at its peak, the likes of Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrodinger, Werner Heisenberg and many more, were slowly but surely moving away from the concept of a deterministic Newtonian world. What an amazing era it must have been -to witness great brains fighting it out to make sense of the baffling world of sub-atomic particles and Quantum Physics. At this time, Einstein was at logger heads with Niels Bohr. Experiments by physicists related to sub-atomic particles and their quantum states had not only raised many questions but also left many unanswered. Attempt to answer some of them was made in 1927 at Copenhagen, by all the great physicists of the time; Copenhagen Interpretation. This discussion was inconclusive and it divided the physicists world over; on one side was Einstein who was unable to accept the subjective nature of matter (wave – particle duality) and the other side was Neils Bohr who was able to accept the uncertain and subjective nature of matter. Einstein would spend the rest of his life to try and prove his point and attempt to come up with a unified theory. A theory that could combine his theory of Relativity (about to large Celestial bodies) with
Quantum Theory (about tiny sub-atomic particles) and resolve unanswered questions.
It was out of this desperation of being unable to comprehend the indeterministic nature of matter that, Einstein cried out – ‘God doesn’t play dice with the universe’. This, inspite of the fact that, he didn’t believe in the concept of a personal God who watches over the world and works on a principle of reward or punishment. He believed in the monist philosophy popularized by Spinoza and a mystical connection of matter and thought and oneness of soul and body. Contrastingly however, the quote has often been misquoted to indicate that even a great mind like Einstein did believe in the existence of God! Infact on various occasions Einstein has described himself as agnostic bordering on athiesm: Einstein stated: “I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”