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Einstein once said that “Though everybody knows me, there are very few people who really know me” )  This is true on many levels, until recently few people knew of his family life and more importantly few people knew about Einstein’s work outside of the realm of physics.  Though Einstein is most widely known a genius physicist with mad scientist hairstyle, he, especially later in his life, put a great emphasis on the humanities; Albert Einstein was a political activist, and philosopher, in addition to being a great scientist.  Even in his actions, not just his physics, Einstein was revolutionary.  Einstein began to bridge the gap between “The Two Cultures” even before it was clearly defined.

As a family man Einstein was not as successful as in other areas in his life.  He gave up his first daughter for adoption.  As he got more into his work he began to neglect both his wife, to whom he would initially write beautiful elaborate love letters, and his children.  He would eventually leave his wife to marry his cousin.  Most of his remaining relatives lived their lives with the curse of the Einstein name.  They would be expected to match Albert’s greatness.  Though they were successful in their own right, the only thing that most of his relatives inherited was his bad health.

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For my research paper, I chose to write about how the Famous physicist Albert Einstein bridges the gap between the Sciences and the Humanities.  Though he mostly known for his famous equation e=mc^2, he was also an outspoken political and human rights activist.  He also had very strong views on proper education.

The source that helped me the most with my paper was a book compiled of various articles and papers that Einstein wrote.  I found the book while looking through my room-mates library and after reading the back-cover I was instantly interested.  I actually started reading the book before I even decided to write my research paper about Einstein.  Some of the most interesting parts of the book for me were Albert’s musings on education.  He said “It is not enough to teach man a specialty.  Through it he may become a machine, but not a harmoniously developed personality.”  I completely agree with his idea in this sense.  It is very surprising that what Einstein considered to be needed in education is what many schools try to do today with their liberal arts programs.  Though Einstein does warn about just teaching superficially, which is a warning I don’t think many schools heed.

Another very useful source for me was an Essay written by Dudely Herschbach of Harvard University.  I found the source through a citation on Wikipedia’s page about Albert Einstein.  This source was very useful because it focused more on who Albert was as a young person, and his various relationships, unembellished,  through out his life.  Most of the other biographies I found online only focused on him as a scientist.

   If we believe in God then the question of why there is evil is bound to come up.  There are several justifications for evil.  Various ideas based and various belief systems try to justify God.  First, there is the defense that God is all powerful, and that as humans we cannot hope to understand his power.  Let us ignore this possibility for the sake of argument, for there is no counter argument for such a statement.  In his essay “Evil and Omnipotence” J.L. Mackie posits that God is either not omnipotent, or not wholly good, or neither, because if he was both, he would not allow for evil to exist.(232)  Mackie also talks about what he calls “Fallacious Solutions”, or half-hearted reasoning for evil.  He explains that the argument that there must be evil for there to be good implies that God is limited in his power to our logic and reason; he is therefore not omnipotent.  We can draw the same conclusion if we say that God cannot create good without creating evil in tow.  Mackie also believes that the “free will defense” is in this category.  Though for the most part I agree with Mackie, I disagree where free will is concerned.

Lets define free will as our ability to make a choice at any moment.  Even if the choice is only internal, not something we can physically act upon.  Evil stems from our free will.  There is the argument that a truly “good and loving” God would not test and play with us, however if we were not presented with the option to do evil, the temptation to stray from our path, then we would not truly have free will.  Though one may argue God could give us free will to choose from infinite choices of good, if God does not give us the option to choose from evil as well, we would not be wholly free, but are limited to only what is “God-approved”.  Moreover, our achievements would not fulfill us, as we would have nothing to overcome.  The cliched “you must first conquer yourself” would not be applicable, since there are no faults in us to begin with.  Having free will lets us have satisfaction and fulfilment from our achievements.  Unfortunately the price we must pay for this is our notion of evil.

   A common manifestation of free will that can easily be interpreted as evil is our tendency to procrastinate.  A closer examination of this phenomena leads me to believe that perhaps there is something outside (or inside but separate from) ourselves that tempts us to do certain “evil” things.  Procrastination occurs when there is something that we should or want to do, but instead of doing it we instead do something less important, perhaps even meaningless.  It is by my free will that I am in school studying, yet it really seems like every time I sit to study there is a separate voice telling me that perhaps I should check Facebook, and catch up on my TV shows first.  This voice is great at rationalizing doing the meaningless task.  It assures me that the task will somehow benefit me, and that once it is done I will perform the task that I initially wanted to do better.  In Judaism there is the concept of Satan.  It is quite different than the Christian idea of a horny red man who likes fire, instead Satan is a force in the world that tempts us to do evil.  He serves to give us free will, by showing us the option to do bad, even when according to God we are “supposed” to do good.  Satan, or that voice that tempts us to do things that we consider evil, is there as a test from God, it is also there to allow us to have free will.  By overcoming Satan we are able to be good.

   Though I mentioned earlier that there is an “internal” evil I do not think that there is a force “evil” or a force “good” externally, however that is not to say that certain things are not “evil for you” or “good for you” in the sense that evil is relative to the person who is committing/receiving it.  It is not evil that there is a tornado ripping through the land, or that rivers flood, or that a lion eats a zebra.  Though to be fair, the zebra has every right to be displeased with the lion, and even fight him off if he has the ability, as we don’t have to stand and wait for a tornado to scoop us up if there happens to be a tornado moving towards us.   In my mind good and evil are relative to the person in question.  To the millions of people who were tortured and killed in the holocaust Hitler was surely an evil man, but I doubt that he thought himself evil.  In fact he probably thought that he was doing good through his actions.  True evil is internal in every person, it is the force that tries to stop us from reaching our potential and tries to lure us down a path that we don’t want to be on.

   Do you guys (if anyone actually reads this) think that I am being too much of a relativist?  Is evil an force of its own right, not just something in relation to us?

Works Cited

Readings in the Philosophy of Religion.  J.L.Mackie. Evil and Omnipotence

Pretty much all of the topics that we had to chose from for our research paper are interesting. The ones that interest me the most are Technology: Promise and Peril, and the close reading of Einstein’s Dreams.

Whenever a new technology, or anything new for that matter, is discovered or created there are always going to be negative and positive side effects. Recently I have been thinking a lot about the effects that Social media has had on us. Though communication and keeping in touch with friends has become a lot easier, on the other hand we have lost a lot of our privacy. Facebook, for example, syncs all of your iphone contacts with the internet if you are not careful. So someone can reveal your personal information inadvertantly, and make something like your phone number public.

Twitter is a great way to share interesting article and information on the web, in short efficient “tweets” but on the other hand there many studies being done that are showing a negative correlation with how tweeting affects our attention spans and even relationships.
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I read Einstein’s dreams about a year ago, and I thought it to be a very itneresting book. It really makes you consider how life would be very different if just one thing changed. I thought that each one of the chapters could easily be expanded into an interesting science fiction/fantasy book. I even started writing a short love story based on that. The story was going to be about a young couple who want to spend eternity together. They discover that time moves slower the closer you get to earth’s core and set out to freeze them selves in time in a eternal embrace.

Though both topics are interesting, I will probably go with the first one. It is a more current “real” issue, and I already explore fantasy quite a bit on my own time.

She danced faster than my lens could close.

there she goes

Its finally spring, time for training. Boris Bernadsky 2011

Caught.

Artist, Caught at work.

I guess sometimes we run out of paper.

I was raised in a Jewish family, so I grew up most familiar with Judaism.  As I grew older, I started to see many “flaws” in my religion.  At one point I called myself an atheist, but that was just a ploy to be cool.  I was always very lucky in all of my endeavors, I would find things that I wished for, snow would fall when I happened to need to miss school, things seemed to always work for me.  I was not always aware of this, but at some point I started asking myself why was I so much more lucky than my friends.  After some thought over many years I came to the conclusion that I was doing something “right” ( I was always kind of the odd one in the class or group that I was in, I was always doing things a little differently) and perhaps there was someone rewarding me.  At that time I thought it was God, but later I started to come to the idea that perhaps there were some invisible laws governing everything and not a being that watches over the world to carefully reward and punish.

I am willing to accept that there is a perfect being in the world (or outside of it) called God.  I am willing to accept that God is all powerful, omniscient, omnipotent, etc. and the creator of all.  However, the God that is described in classic monotheism,  the three Abrahamic religions, is not this God.  The God that they describe is childish, growing, imperfect.  In the holy books he is portrayed making mistakes and even being taunted by the devil.  There are many instances in the texts when he is portrayed as such.

Classic monotheism ceased to make sense to me when I was 14 years old.  It was then that I had first heard the story of the book of Job.  I was in a theatre/Russian literature/art/creativity camp, and we were doing short skits of historical and mythological people.  I was to do a monologue as Job.  Job was a very pious man who believed in God, and followed all of his rules.  One day the devil taunts God by saying that Job is only pious because God provides him with everything good, and God agrees to test Job by killing his children and wife, making him sick and destroying his business.  Of course (though with some anger) Job continues to be a pious man and is returned to his former glory; well not quite, he gets a new wife and new kids, not his old ones back.  It had never occurred to me that God could be so cruel.  Upon further examination, the idea a supposedly perfect God could be manipulated by the devil is quite absurd.  If God is a perfect being, then God should not be affected by outside forces.  Though perhaps the God of the bible is real, God is then not perfect, but flawed and human-like.

Another very famous instance when God “makes a mistake” is in the story of Noah’s Arc.  After the whole incident takes and so much of the world is drowned beneath the great flood, God seems to almost apologize, promising to never do such a thing again “And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart [is] evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.”  (Gen 22)

Asian philosophies and religions have always appealed to me more than the classical western religions.  I always had an interest in Buddhism, and Tao.  From Buddhism, the idea that all is one, the idea that we are all connected had a lot of appeal.  The Taoist ideas of balance and “natural living” also seemed to make sense.  These combined with my Jewish upbringing brought to my current views on “the Sacred”.

Most certainly the the universe is governed according to certain laws, much greater than ourselves, that we may, or may not understand.  Some of these laws have been discovered by scientists and thinkers through the ages; however I believe that there are many that have not.  Sometimes things that we do have very clear effects, the kicking of a can makes it move forward, but at other times though our actions do impact the flow of the world, we do not see them.  Every action has consequences and all beings and actions are connected in one way or another.  Lets call it energy flow, that connection.  In my belief, perhaps there is a God, but it is not the God that intervenes with the flow of things, not a punisher or a rewarder, my God is simply the initial pusher, or rule maker.  God created the universe and let it be, or initiated it into action.  In many ways my understanding of what God is, is similar to Richard Swinburne’s idea of why God must exist.  Since God does not punish or reward, then the laws that govern the world in some sense do.  Actions have consequences both positive and negative.  Whether we see something as a reward is just relative to our mindset; one might see finding some money on the floor as a reward for something that they did earlier, another might view it as a coincidence.

Another  important aspect of my views is that there is no supernatural or “sacred”, rather everything is sacred.  That is not to say that there are no miracles, if we define miracles as things that we cannot explain that astound and bewilder us, just they are not “supernatural”, they are governed by laws that we don’t understand.  In the same way an airplane would seem supernatural to someone who does not know how it works, things like ghosts, if they exist, are not supernatural, they unexplainable to us.  The world of the sacred is the world that we live in.