"I believe that we do better to try to understand things with the help of concepts we have formed for this purpose -- but being conscious every minute that these concepts are our poor inventions which will never enable us to draw final conclusions about the 'nature of ultimate reality' whatever this may mean."
AN OUTSTANDING AND IMPORTANT LETTER REVEALING EINSTEIN'S VIEWS ON GOD AND THE NATURE OF REALITY, ILLUSTRATED WITH AN AMUSING ANECDOTE.
Einstein, in this letter, replies to John H. S. Lee, writer of a rebuttal of Julian Huxley's The Biologist Looks at Man, on the implications of evolution and psychoanalysis.
Huxley had argued that Darwin's work, along with Freud's elucidation of the unconscious, eliminated the need for a God, concluding that man is the result of the actions of "blind forces." Lee, in his 10-page response (included with this Einstein letter) argues for a more "religious" explanation. Einstein, with humor and insight, replies:
My dear Mr. Lee:
Your answer to Huxley's opinions seems to me intelligent and eloquent. If asked: Who is right? I am reminded of a story about a Judge: The lawyer for the plaintiff spoke convincingly and the Judge said: “It seems you are right!” The lawyer for the defendant was also very convincing and the Judge said: “You seem to be right also!” When someone in the audience remarked: “But Judge, they cannot both be right!” the Judge answered: “You are right too!”
If Huxley speaks of “blind forces,” what means “blind”? “Blind” means he does not see any connections with something else. Is this not an abuse of the word "blind"? And if you speak of a "revelation" I do not feel to see any clearer about the nature of the subject-matter so "revealed".
So I believe that we do better to try to understand things with the help of concepts we have formed for this purpose -- but being conscious every minute that these concepts are our poor inventions which will never enable us to draw final conclusions about the "nature of ultimate reality" whatever this may mean.
Very sincerely yours,
[signed] A. Einstein.
P.S. Under separate cover I am returning your memorandum.
Although Einstein begins the letter in a light-hearted tone with a witty anecdote, his conclusions are critically important in understanding his approach to science and life. Einstein seems comfortable existing in a state of uncertainty concerning the "nature of reality" (including, it seems in this context, God and the forces of nature). "Concepts" (presumably scientific concepts as well), Einstein explains, can help us find some answers, but they are ultimately "poor inventions".
He then makes the startling claim, especially for a man who has spent his life discovering the secrets of the universe, that we will "never" be able to draw final conclusions about the nature of the reality.
New Jersey: June 11, 1943. One page, on embossed letterhead. Framed with a photograph, entire piece measures 22 by 29 inches. Fine condition.
A remarkable letter providing important insights into Einstein's beliefs and approach to life.
Price: $35,000 .