Debunking Fake Albert Einstein Quotes

There’s a pressing need for a “Fake Dalai Lama Quote” website and perhaps even more of a need for fakeeinsteinquotes.com. In the meantime, we have this post by someone calling themselves “Borna” on the site, Skeptica Esoterica.

Presumably Fake Einstein Quotes appear for the same kinds of reasons that Fake Buddha quotes appear: things like people wanting a quote to seem more substantial by attaching the name of a great man, simple errors, wishful thinking, etc.

One of the quotes I saw most recently attributed to Einstein was this one:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.”

This was oohed and aahed over as if it was the most profound thought imaginable. But give it a moment’s thought and inquire whether these two positions do in fact constitute the “only two ways” to live life. Is there really no middle ground, where you could regard some things as being miracles and others as not being miracles? (I’m not arguing for the correctness of one view or another, but for the existence of this third view.) In fact I’d argue that many people fall into the third category — the one that’s dismissed as impossible in the quotation. A great many people believe in the existence of miracles as actually taking place, but only rarely.

So having established that the quotation presents a false dichotomy, and is an example of black-and-white thinking, ask yourself whether the Einstein you know was a black-and-white thinker. Of course it could be that he had off days, but the crudity of thought expressed in the quotation should make us pause before automatically assuming that this is a quotation from Einstein.

And investigating the quote online suggests that it only became attributed to Einstein around 1993, which casts further doubt on it being Einstein’s.

The article I’ve linked to debunks several Fake Einstein Quotes, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. Have at it!

34 thoughts on “Debunking Fake Albert Einstein Quotes”

  1. This kind of ‘sugar coated’ garbage is everywhere. To attribute such simplistic dribble to Einstein allows those who admire such nonsense, and as you suggest, try to give it credibility by attributing it to someone of note. Although not related to anyone of significance, as far as I know, I very much enjoy such utterances as “Music expresses the inexpressible”.

    1. I’ll take the sugar quoted garbage. Happiness is my goal in life and too often the “get real” advice gets in my way. If one is to have passion one needs to get over small arguments
      Steven K. Sterzer, M.D.

      1. Hear hear!!! Thank-you Steven. Regardless of the veracity we all invest our own meanings and have our own needs. For me the quote is about gratitude, wonder and belief. Einstein was not a black and white thinker and I wouldn’t view anything he said and certainly not this quote (whether or not it was his) as a black and white thought process. Overthinking never leads to anything positive for me.

      2. I agree completely. I think far too often people try to deconstruct or simply try to discredit someone for having a vision that might be different than theirs. If something is meant to be positive, constructive and inspiring. What is the harm? Are we not bombarbed so often with the other side of the coin, where most things reported these days is gloom and doom. Let’s rejoice in great quotes that can uplift and put some sunshine in our days. Let’s celebrate those daily miracles. I know I do : )

    2. Phillip, I would suggest that this quote is not exactly “simplistic dribble.” Rather that it asks a seriously complex question that men have attempted to answer since the beginning of time. “Does God exist?”

      Check out my response at the bottom of this reply column. I would like to debate the nonsensical nature that you claim for this quote.

      Furthermore, Einstein was not a man to give answers. But rather a man that found answers. I am not sure if this quote was ever spoken by Einstein. But IF it was, he would have wanted you to apply more thought to it than you did. Rather than simply turning your nose, and pointing in mockery… to find the underlying question and ponder for pondering sake.

    3. The quote neither affirms belief in God/miracles nor denies it. It simply makes two claims, both of which seem perfectly logical. Claim (1): If there is no God, then there are no miracles. That’s seems pretty straightforward. Claim (2): IF there is a God (that’s not to say there IS a God, but IF there is a God) that brought a world and all life into existence from nothing, set in motion laws of nature from nothing, placed in this world a form of conscious and self-award life (human beings), and intervenes at some level in their lives and in the swings of historical events, IF this is your belief, then the only way to live your is “as though” everything that happens in this world is a result of the inexplicable will of this God-Creator, i.e. is a miracle.

      The quote itself doesn’t affirm either view (so it cannot be accused of sugar-coating) and presumably Einstein didn’t believe in God (and therefore miracles; though I actually have no idea whether he did or didn’t). But given that God either exists or doesn’t, it’s follows that “there are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.”

      1. Agreed, but the quote also means the inverse of what you said. In other words, science is useful and continues to explain what was previously not understood. But that alone doesn’t prevent anyone from appreciating the sublime and living life as though everything is “just-as-miraculous.” regardless of what anyone means by “a belief in God.”

  2. I think there is simple yet great truth in the quote. I do think there are two positions on the matter- either that miracles are possible or that they are not- and the position one takes has a great deal of impact on how one lives one’s life….

  3. My dearnPhillip, weather you believe or don’t believe, is a matter of focus and perspective. Some peoples cup is half full and some are half empty. Do we really need to argue the truth that some cups are really 3/4s empty or full?

  4. I have had serious doubts about this quote. I received a birthday card from my mother-in-law with this quote on the front of it. At first, I saw it as a profound statement. Then I began to see it as you (the writer of the blog post) have – the crudity of thought referencing only two ways to live life. BUT… as of 5 minutes ago I have reached a new level of understanding in regards to this quote.

    This quote is not about “instances” of miracles in this world. It is assuming simplicity of a complex problem. That would be The Problem of Creation.

    Option one: God created everything (everything is a miracle.) Option two: God created nothing (nothing is a miracle.)

    Third option? Here: If a deity had the ability to create the world around us; but instead of creating the world – He/She let it all just happen in an evolutionary accident… that would make the deity fairly stupid.

    So instead of the third option (a stupid deity) we have only two. The two listed above. I believe this reasoning to be sound. Please though… someone prove me wrong?

    I do not know if A.E. penned or verbalized this quote. Perhaps we shall never know. But this is quite a bit more profound than I originally thought.

    1. This quote is not about “instances” of miracles in this world.

      And how exactly do you know that? Because that’s what you think it means? Or want it to mean? Or because you have some kind of telepathic connection with the quote’s author, whoever that might be?

  5. Ignorant idiot, just putting a name Bodhipaksa doesn’t make you Buddha like. The day you will understand the depth of the quote, you would not argue whether it was said by Einstein or not. Chodu Chutiyas like you can just READ more and UNDERSTAND less.

      1. Bodhipaksa,

        P.S.- I realized just now that maybe my mention of “God’s” or a “deity” has offended you and spurred your ignorance. Let me just say that one of my absolute favorite individuals to listen to is Richard Dawkins. Undoubtedly one of most intelligent people on the planet. The man is Atheist to the core, but he can have a real conversation (you know…without accusing someone of being telepathic) exploring the possibility of God without ever being offended. So if you’re upset because I brought up some form of deism, chill out man. I’m not trying to convert you to theistic religion, I’m just discussing what I think a quote might mean.

        1. I certainly don’t take offense at the mention of God or deities, Brandon. I’m afraid I just wasn’t interested in engaging with a discussion that began with an unverifiable assertion: “This quote is not about ‘instances’ of miracles in this world.” I chose, perhaps unwisely, and perhaps not in the best manner, to question the validity of that statement.

          And I’m not a theologian, and have little interest in discussing various options that rest on the assumption of a divine creation. I’m not offended by such a discussion, but neither into it, nor really qualified to discuss it.

          I’m fairly sure that most Christians, however, wouldn’t agree with your proposition: “God created everything (therefore) everything is a miracle.” Most Christians think the God created everything, but that not everything is a miracle – only those things where God unexpectedly intervenes in the otherwise orderly and predicable scheme of things. You’d think that if a miraculous God had created everything then everything would be regarded as a miracle, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for some reason.

          Anyway, this isn’t really my field, and I’m happier leaving theology to the theologians 🙂

          1. I am a Christian theologian, professionally, and I strongly disagree with you. I think you are perhaps lacking a grasp of Christianity. Your thinking appears to be black or white; theology is not.

          2. Unfortunately your comment tells me nothing except that you disagree with what I’ve written and don’t think it’s adequate. Since I’ve no idea what you disagree with or why, or what form the inadequacy takes, I’m none the wiser. So do feel free to offer a more constructive criticism. I’m always happy to learn.

    1. Bodhipaksa, I have to agree with your accuser… I think your ignorance has become fairly prominent. Your article was fun to read, it got my interest so much that I spent time contemplating your words! Yet your comments speak contrary to the intelligent author that I had envisioned writing this article.

      You see, I had thought that the author of an article like this would desperately want someone to have an intelligent conversation about their topic. But you don’t seem to want that. Rather than continuing a conversation with me; you chose to pick out one thing that I said and be sarcastic. I should have said “I feel like this quote is not about instances.” My mistake.

      What should you have said? Perhaps something more intelligent! About why you disagree with me maybe?

      However, your level of ignorance took it straight to the level of “telepathy.” So in answer to your question from a couple weeks ago: Since telepathy is apparently the most reasonable and probable cause for me to diagnose this quote the way that I have… yes Bodhipaksa, I do in fact have a telepathic connection to the author of this quote. Thank you for helping me realize it!

      1. Apologies, Brandon. My communication can be a bit “pokey” at times. Anyway, I’m glad I helped awaken your telepathic powers 🙂

  6. I am a physician whose expertise for many years was treating pain in dying patients. I sat with many people and their families as they died. I can tell you without reservation that every modicum of existence, no matter how mundane, is a powerful miracle. I feel intense sympathy for those who cannot experience this subtle but intensely sublime energy that flows through our existance.

    1. I agree entirely, AS. Consciousness and existence itself are miracles, and so every moment of our lives is a miracle, even if we don’t appreciate it.

  7. Bodhipaksa,

    It has been some time since I have looked at this posting. I would just like to thank you for accepting my frustrated criticism of your first reply to my initial post. Just as your frustration caused that first curt reply about telepathy, my frustration caused a barrage of rebuttal. You took it honorably, and explained your thought process. I truly appreciate your later, more detailed, explanation.

    These types of deep conversations are something I greatly enjoy, and I am appreciative that you are (contrary to one of my posts) willing to embark on such discussions.

    Also… yes thank you for awakening my telepathic powers lol:)

    1. Thank you. It’s rare indeed to meet someone who who acts so graciously online! I’m touched. And again, I apologize for my curtness.

  8. I’m disappointed to learn (elsewhere) that the quote is not Einstein’s, because I think it’s a good one. The definition of a miracle (from OED) is: “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.”

    If we set aside “divine agency” for a moment and start at the beginning, the beginning of time (sometimes called The Big Bang), there commenced a series of “miracles” that are now quite well explained by scientific laws, but still totally miraculous to our everyday experience. Like matter condensing from bright light. Like the formation of the first stars, and the later genesis of heavy nuclei in supernova stars, and the miracle of those stars exploding those heavy nuclei out where they could form planets. The birth of the first molecules, and the advent of the first living things.

    All “miracles” to my mind, though well-understood scientific phenomena, and worthy of deep gratitude, even reverence, for making my life possible. Doesn’t matter what you think about “divine agency” (though there are lots of ways to think about it), we know that everything came from one quantum seed nearly 14 billion years ago, and the diversity and beauty of all that exists now is surely, surely miraculous.

    1. btw: we also know that the “heavens” above us are immeasurably broader, more glorious, more astoundingly beautiful, more ancient, and more mysterious than our ancestors could have imagined when they believed God lived just above the clouds.

      1. One last thing JD… I checked out your bio, and I am from Lancaster. I would love to learn more about what you do! It was actually an accidental click that led me to your webpage… but I am glad to have found it. Consequently I am intrigued by both your current ventures and past accomplishments.

    2. JD, intriguing post! However, I enjoy scholarly discussion (perhaps a bit too much) and I feel the need to dive deeper into your reasoning. As I read your post I noticed some conflicting reason stirring rather than a settling solution.

      You give a definition for miracles, which I feel is quite adequate. Yet this thesis/tone is contradictory to each of your following points. Notably the part “…is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.”

      In the second paragraph you discuss the presence of miracles being existentially independent of a divine agency. But the definition conditionally says that a miracle is contingent on a consideration that it is directly caused by a divine agency. Also you provide claims of scientifically explained incidences that would also be considered miracles. Referring to The Big Bang, you say that it is quite well explained by scientific laws. Your definition disagrees, for it says that if this event to be considered miraculous, it must not explicable by natural or scientific laws. Furthermore, I would disagree with your statement because The Big Bang is a theory, not explained with scientific law. It is in fact quite well theorized about, with scientific minds. Those theories are well explained, but not necessarily by scientific law.

      Lastly you state that miracles are well-understood scientific phenomena, which directly contradicts the selected definition of miracles. If we “knew” that all modern existence came from a quantum seed 14 billion years ago… then it would most definitely not be miraculous. We would know how the universe began and understand the intricate chain of events leading to this point. Suppose you knew every intimate detail of how a magician performed a trick. Would you still call it magic? No, definitely not, it would be called slight of hand. The definition transitions as greater understanding is achieved. This is why I believe the beginning of time is still a miracle. Because scientific minds, hypothesizing about an event, referencing scientific laws, and distilling a theory… does not explain the event. The amount of scientifically unanswered questions about this event beg one to consider the existence of a Deity. Therefore, it is rightfully labeled a miracle.

      A miracle does in fact require that there is no scientific or natural explanation for its existence. If you replaced the word miracle in your post with “mind-blowing event” then it would accurate. However,without acknowledgement of divine agency, there is not an existence of miracles.

      1. Nice to meet you, Brandon. Yes it’s true; my approach plays somewhat fast and loose with the current definition of “miracle.” But let your perspective move forward or backward in time only a little, and you quickly see that while natural laws don’t change, our understanding of them changes significantly, enough to defy any constant understanding of “natural” or “miracle,” or even “divine agency.”

        Phenomena that are now commonplace would have been clearly and definitively miraculous to the physicist of 1850 (nuclear decay, LEDs, tunneling), NOT because they are unfamiliar to him, but because they so blatantly violate scientific and natural laws (as understood then).

        Today, entanglement and dark energy violate scientific and natural laws, too, and the only reason we don’t regard them as “miracles” is because scientists made the observations before anyone else did! Scientists eschew descriptors like “miracle” even when the observed phenomena fit the definition; why is that? Well, these phenomena ARE part of nature, however exotic and mysterious they may be, because we observe them using natural means. Scientists don’t call them miracles because of that “divine agency” part of the definition.

        What do we mean by “divine agency”? Something outside nature? In Galileo’s day, anything above the clouds or more than a few hundred feet deep was known to be outside nature. Remember, not that long ago, heaven could literally be reached with a tall enough ladder! History suggests that an honest working definition of “divine agency” is any cause we don’t really understand fully. There are many aspects of nature as we understand it now that were quite recently understood to be supernatural. The sun, for example. The actual power of the sun as we understand it now is many billions of times greater than that of any god or godlike personification imagined or dreamed of by our ancestors only 500 years ago.

        By your reasoning (and mine, sort of), any phenomena that can ever be observed is “natural” by definition. Of what use then IS the word miracle? Do we need a word to describe something that does not and cannot ever exist? Looking back over the history of science, theology, and language, I think it’s reasonable to predict further broadening of our understanding of terms like “miracle,” recognizing that (1) we don’t know everything; (2) definitions evolve; and (3) greater knowledge can lead to either greater appreciation or greater hubris. Take your pick. 😉

        That is exactly why I’m so fond of the quote that started this thread. Well, it’s half of it. The other half is the recognition that ultimate causality will always elude us. No matter what ignited the Big Bang, one can always ask “Where did THAT cause come from?” Ultimate causality, and everything that flows from it (i.e. everything in the universe), is legitimately either “mere” nature, or it is all gloriously miraculous. Either approach is logically sound and both are arguably “true.” Only the latter approach inspires me.

        That word “mere” and its kinfolk “just” and “nothing but,” as in “just molecular machinery” or “nothing but chemistry in the brain” represents an over-the-top bias against evolutionary emergence itself (and therefore half of nature’s story). When atoms self-assemble to make molecules, “something more” emerges. From “nothing but” atoms of hydrogen and oxygen emerges the “something more” of waterfalls, ocean waves, and rainbows. When molecules self-assembled into the first cells, from “just chemistry” emerged the “something more” of life: sexuality, flight, communication, ecology. In the evolution of the cosmos, the whole is far more than the sum of the parts. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It took me a while for that to sink in.

        As Carl Sagan so eloquently put it, “If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe!” The observation that “nothing but” bright light can turn itself into Bobby McFerrin, Simone Biles, and Yoyo Ma in only 14 billion years is truly miraculous, no matter how thoroughly described.

        Brandon, being nearly neighbors, let’s look for a chance to get together! I don’t get to Lancaster often, but sometimes. If you use the contact form at my website, I’ll email you back and we can converse less publicly. You might also really like the people and conversations at http://religious-naturalist-association.org. Mostly practicing scientists, they too enjoy such conversations.

        1. Oops. I read your post again and realized I missed some important clues to where you’re coming from. I wish there was an “edit post” button. I especially wish to retract “By your reasoning (and mine, sort of).” What follows that is a gross mis-characterization of your position, and not intentional. Ah well. Let’s keep talking and I’ll try to read more carefully in the future.

  9. To me the author of a quote is irrelevant. What matters is when words are put together in a particular way or said a particular way in a way you could not have expressed it yourself, and that gives you that aha moment, that seems to strike a chord, you relate to it, if just makes sense to you.

    To me, the meaning of this quote is about Gratitude, about the Miracle of life itself. We can be stuck in the past or living in the future, we can stress or worry over little things, we can let trivial matters run our lives, we can be unhappy, petty, ungrateful. This is living as though nothing is a miracle. This is being ungrateful. Alternatively we can fully realise, be fully conscious of the idea that the fact that we are here right now in this moment is surely a Miracle. I mean, the sheer miracle that life or anything at all even exists and came into being, but also out of all the millions of years humans have been around, and all the things that had to happen for me to be here or did not happen to prevent me from being here – and I mean throughout the whole history of the cosmos – and here I am existing in this moment Right Now. That’s a miracle, and one I should be grateful for.

    1. I should add: As well as being grateful for this miracle, all else is seen as a bonus. Everything positive is a sub-miracle.

    2. The truth of a statement isn’t affected by who said it — of course. Nowhere here have I made a claim that it is.

      But to attribute a quote to a particular individual is to make a claim of fact: “He/she said this particular thing.” Isn’t it better to be accurate in our claims rather than inaccurate? Isn’t truth better than bullshit? And as Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.”

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