Thursday, April 12, 2007

Einstein's Religion

People on both sides of the debate about the existence of God occasionally cite the views of Albert Einstein as providing support for their side. This is tricky business since Einstein's views were unorthodox. He was not a theist who believed in a personal God nor was he an atheist who discarded the idea of God altogether.

He was, in fact, a good example of a modern deist who believed that there is some force or intellect which established the moral and physical laws of the universe but which does not interfere with those laws in any way. Einstein did not believe in life after death and did not believe that humans possessed free will, although he did believe that we have to live as if we are free.

The current issue of Time has an interesting column by Walter Isaacson on Einstein's religion which explores these beliefs in more detail. It's worth a read for those curious as to what, exactly, Einstein thought about God.


It's All Your Fault

I was watching Meet the Press last Sunday morning and was appalled to hear Chuck Todd of NBC News suggest that were he a Republican what he would advise them to do is let the Democrats have their way on the Iraq war, let things devolve into chaos after we pull out, and then capitalize on Democratic ineptitude in the 2008 election.

I was astonished that a prominent news commentator would so baldly place political success above peoples' lives. Rarely is a public figure willing to be seen as so utterly unprincipled as to sacrifice tens of thousands of innocent lives in order to make political hay out of the debacle. Yet that's what this Democrat cynically advises the Republicans to do.

Here's the exchange, which was triggered by discussion of Bush's promise to veto the Democrats bill authorizing funding for the troops and setting a timetable for withdrawal:

MR. CHUCK TODD: What I don't understand [about] what the White House is doing is that every time Democrats propose something that allows them to potentially take co-ownership of the war, Bush actually stops them, and politically it actually puts the Democrats in an advantageous position because they can sit there and say, "Well, you know what, we've tried to take some responsibility for this war. The president won't do it. He's vetoing this legislation. This is still Bush's war. This is still a Republican war." And that's sort of the frustration that I'm sensing from some Republicans, not, not inside the White House, but on Capital Hill and on the campaign trail a little bit, to sit there and say, "Guys, let the Democrats share some ownership of this thing or this war's going to make 2006 seem like a party." In 2008 it's going to be a real death knell for the Republican Party.

MR. RUSSERT: So if you're a real cynic, you can say all right, let the Democrats have their way, let them set the deadline of March or August of '08.

MR. TODD: And let them own this war. That's right.

MR. RUSSERT: Start bringing the troops home then. Chaos breaks out, you say that's the Democratic solution.

MR. TODD: That's right. "We tried it - we tried it - we tried it your way," and then suddenly it's a referendum on, well, do you want the Republicans to run this war or the Democrats to run this war? And you've gotten a taste of what it would look like if the Democrats ran this war.

And then what? What does Todd think we should do when Iraq spirals into chaos and the whole Middle East is in flames - point fingers at each other and say, "It's all your fault"? This is an incredibly repugnant piece of advice, as impractical as it is immoral. Todd, of course, would love to see the president acquiesce to timetables for withdrawals and he's trying to argue that this would in fact be a good political move for the president. On the contrary, it would be utterly reprehensible and Todd's cynicism should be lambasted by his media colleagues.

But of course it won't be.


He Didn't Like it Here*

It was hard to have come of age in the 60s without having read something by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut's novels Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr. Rosewater (1965), and SlaughterHouse Five (1969) captured the spirit of that turbulent time better than perhaps anything else that young people were reading. Among other contributions his work made these novels presaged the ripening of modernity's twin fruits of nihilism and meaninglessness that have afflicted European and American culture since the 70s.

Vonnegut died yesterday from brain injuries suffered during a fall some weeks ago. So it goes.

*Read the poem at the link.