8 August, 2020
LETTERS OF THE PAST
By Phyllis and Einstein
“Do Scientists pray?”
The conflict between science and religion is old. While many generations mostly believe in God to be the ultimate creator, people of science find it difficult to put their faith in some invisible source of energy and seek more logical answers to the concepts of Nature. It’s a mix of both, or maybe not. Who knows?
A young girl in January 1936 faced the same confusion in her mind and decided to ask the most famous and intelligent scientists of that time and all time, Albert Einstein. Her curious and naive mind asked, “Do Scientists pray?” And Einstein had a surprising reply to it. Read on to know.
The Riverside Church
January 19, 1936
My dear Dr. Einstein,
We have brought up the question: Do scientists pray? in our Sunday school class. It began by asking whether we could believe in both science and religion. We are writing to scientists and other important men, to try and have our own question answered.
We will feel greatly honored if you will answer our question: Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?
We are in the sixth grade, Miss Ellis’s class.
January 24, 1936
I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:
Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.
However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science.
But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way, the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.
With cordial greetings,
your A. Einstein