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 In the meantime, we have this post, “Debunking Fake Einstein Quotes,” by someone calling themselves “Borna” on the (now defunct) site, Skeptica Esoterica. (The link now takes you to the archive of the blog post.)

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. Wikiquote has a section devoted to this quote. Apparently it dates back further than I’d originally thought, to the 1940’s, when Gilbert Fowler White attributed it to Einstein. But White provided no source, so this citation doesn’t do anything to directly connect the quote with Einstein himself. White may have made it up, been presenting what he thought Einstein believed, or have been paraphrasing something he did say (possibly from Einstein’s conversation with David Reichenstein, which is referred to in the Wikiquote article), which expressed a rather different view.

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

74 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. So this quote has begun making the rounds again. My thought is that– if Einstein did, in fact, say something to this effect, he might not have been implying approval of those who live as if everything is miraculous — since miracles cannot be explained.

        After all, he’s pretty famous for looking for answers.

      2. But also: say you like the sugar-coated garbage. Why does it need to be associated with Albert Einstein? Maybe leave him out of it and just say something like “there’s an expression that I really like that states, …”

    2. 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. Perfect explanation. Nice. I can use this. And by the way, two of my kids lived in South America for a long time under very difficult circumstances and shared the message that miracles (and God) are real, and that brightened people’s lives with hope and made their faith more active. It increased energy. I think Einstein would have liked that.

      3. No. If God exists (and I believe he does), it is NOT a logical necessity that you either believe EVERYTHING is a miracle or NOTHING is. A large portion of the species will identify some specific thing as a “miracle,” and they might even use the phrase (and believe the idea) frequently. That is hardly the same as “everything.”

      1. A search I did of “The World As I See It” failed to show a single occurrence of the world “miracle,” Viola.

  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….

    1. Yes, it’s lovely, but we don’t need to attribute it to someone who did not say it. That taints the loveliness with a lie.

  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?

    2. Firstly, Einstein certainly was no science denier. The commonalities between humans and other animals are undeniable. To learn about the similarities of our brains, for example, you may read the late Carl Sagan’s The Dragons of Eden.

      Secondly, the notion that an immense being used a process to create everything we know in no way implies that such a being is stupid. Immensely greater intellect would be required to create via a highly efficient process than to go around creating everything one by one as we imagine that we would have needed to do in that situation. Certainly, even if you imagine a God traveling around throughout space creating life here and there, due to the many similarities, you must concede that a common blueprint was used. It’s really a ridiculous position: a far simple explanation is evolution.

      I came to this site because I wasn’t sure that was a genuine Einstein quote, and I’m still not, though it does seem consistent with his famous quote, “I refuse to believe that God would play dice with the universe”, which seems to imply that however God created things, if He did in fact do so, Einstein felt that He had a good idea how things would turn out.

  5. 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.

      1. Hi B.

        Consciousness and Existence do not, in and of themselves, require God(s). So if you hold that they imply miracles, then that means you contend miracles do not require God(s), which (a) sounds like something I could agree with and (b) makes murky some of your other posts. And for my vote, no, i doubt Einstein came up with the original quote.

        1. The concept of a “miracle” is slippery. When I made the statement you’re replying to, what I meant by “miracle” was along the lines of “something we can regard with wonder and awe (and, possibly, that we can’t explain),” rather than in the sense of something that stands out from other things that are non-miracles, and that defy the laws of nature, such as Jesus supposedly walking on water or manna falling from heaven.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  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 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.

        2. I want to complement you on this beautiful comment you have posted above! It was well thought out and a unique perspective I’ve rarely heard before. Well done!

          It was mentioned that you had a website. Is it the same as the link you provided in your comment? I would also like to read more about you and your thoughts.

          Thank you for your addition to this conversation once again!

    3. I saw another page claiming that this couldn’t have been an Einstein quote, and they explained why they thought so; but how do you know definitively? If it really is, there should be a reliable source to that effect somewhere. So I guess the real question on this topic is, “Does anyone know of a reliable book that attributes this quote to Einstein?”

      1. Hi, George.

        I don’t actually say definitively that it’s not by Einstein. I say that we should “pause before automatically assuming that this is a quotation from Einstein” and that there is “doubt” that it’s Einstein’s. I’m pretty sure it’s not his, though, given, as I put it, the crudity of the dichotomous thinking behind it.

        Wikiquote has a section devoted to this quote. Apparently it dates back further than I’d thought, to the 1940’s, when Gilbert Fowler White attributed it to Einstein. But White provided no source, so this citation doesn’t do anything to directly connect the quote with Einstein himself. White may have made it up, been presenting what he thought Einstein believed, or have been paraphrasing something Einstein did say (possibly in his conversation with David Reichenstein, which is referred to in the Wikiquote article).

  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.”

  10. The mere fact of being aware of your own existence is itself a miracle. Leave God out of it. If you recognize your own divinity- that: “Thou art that”- that you are the Creation experiencing itself, then there is no need to invoke a Deity.

    1. Although I would agree that creation experiencing itself is miraculous. I couldn’t disagree more with your point: “if you recognize your own divinity.” Those who claim their own divinity, at best, are merely delusional. I can no more make the sun rise and fall, than I can cure cancer in my body or another’s. Surely If I were a divine being I would be able to do something more miraculous than obtain self-realization. Yet, the miracle of self-realization or experiencing oneself seems to be the extent of my ability to perform miracles. Perhaps that is the nature of “God created man in His own image.” I get to experience the awareness of my existence. Anything more and the Christian scriptures would likely read “God created man, exactly like Himself.”

      Lastly, I know your post contained a “plea” of sorts… to leave God out of it. However I would suggest that you invoked the very existence and necessity of God in your own post. Mentioning the word “divinity” is in fact acknowledging that there is a reason for the existence of that root word itself. Divine means more than human, supreme, God-like. It would be quite impossible to leave a deity out of this equation that you have presented. Should that deity exist, then we shall call them divine. Without the existence of said deity we would have no use for the term divine, as the word “human” would likely mean supreme and human-like:)

      1. Brandon, your comment, “Those who claim their own divinity, at best, are merely delusional,” is missing the mark completely. Your definition of God is just that, a definition, and that is your definition. By what authority do you lay claim to such a definition? Did you learn that in Sunday school or Temple? So it really comes down to semantics. My point was that by definition, miracles cannot exist in the absence of a creator of said miracles, therefore if one miracle exists, then the creator of that miracle exists also. You even stated that you would agree that creation experiencing itself is miraculous. There’s the one miracle on which we can both agree. As to what you want to call that creator and how much power you assign it, that is pure speculation on your part. In my stating, “Leave God out of this,” I am suggesting that there is no need to invoke an almighty and all-knowing deity called God in order to explain or account for the miracle of existence. There is way too much baggage associated with that word. I find the whole idea of an almighty God as portrayed in established religion to be simplistic and repugnant (it reeks of humanity!). To realize your own divinity is to recognize your connection with the whole, nothing more; and more importantly, nothing less. As I stated, “Thou art That.” If we are creation experiencing itself, as I suggest, then “That” is at once the source of the miracle of self awareness and the product, hence the divine (or the whole if you prefer) recognizing and experiencing itself, which was my original point about recognizing your own divinity. That “whole” must have created the miracle of self-awareness.

        1. Jeff,

          Firstly, I’m glad to see that you came back to respond because I have really grown to love the conversation around this quote over the last few years! So very sincerely, thank you for the discussion.

          You show me a Sunday school or temple that discusses existence, miracles, and debates through a fair and open forum like this thread… and maybe I will start going to that Sunday school or temple haha.

          Perhaps we do have an issue of semantics. I’m saying that I believe the use of the term “divine” is a pretty silly thing to attribute to human beings. Foremost because I don’t really feel like I have control over anything if I am honest. Sure I can pick what to eat for lunch. But that type of control doesn’t make me feel anything close to “divine.” By the way – this would bring us to the “free will” theological discussion which I don’t believe is where either of us want to end up right now. Continuing, I did not at any time believe that I defined God in that post as you suggest. On the contrary I defined divinity and it’s correlation to humanity and the human condition. Based on my understanding of the word “divine” I don’t see any reason that I could attribute that word to myself or any other human. Hence, my humanity is the only thing that gives me authority in this area (as you requested.) Based on my own humanity I am able to divine that humans are not divine. I hope you enjoy that play on words even if you disagree with me haha.

          Webster’s defines divine (adjective) as:
          a : of, relating to, or proceeding directly from God, or a god.
          b : being a deity
          c : directed to a deity
          2a : supremely good : SUPERB
          b : HEAVENLY, GODLIKE

          This may be the area that we have a difference in semantics. Based on the definition above, my comment about being delusional is something I will stand by. If I were to claim my own divinity, I would essentially be claiming that I am God, or a god. I do not believe I am a god, God-like, a deity, or supremely good. So if someone were to come up to me and introduce themselves as Jeff the Divine. Yes, unfortunately I would have to call him delusional. Although it would make me smile quite big:) If the only “divine” thing about me is that I have self-realization, then I would say that is a divine characteristic. But it does not make me divine. If I bark like a dog, and have a single characteristic of a dog. I suggest that one might observe me and say he is exhibiting an odd dog-like characteristic. But hopefully no one would observe that and surmise that I am actually a dog. If I personally were to believe that my barking makes me a dog, I would hope that someone makes me as delusional.

          In closing, I do not wish to argue about God’s existence. But simply say that I would believe myself foolish to declare my own divinity.

        2. Fourth:
          I believe this point is fairly self evident after referencing the definition of divine. However, this is the reason I believe your plea to leave the presence of a deity out of the equation is futile. Without acknowledging the existence of something bigger, or greater than humans… there really would be no need for the term divine. Instead of referencing something’s divinity, we would be declaring something’s humanity. The word divine, by definition, begs the need for something more/greater/more powerful than human. You invoke the existence of a deity by stating that something is divine. Yet when talking about self realization we state that it is divine. Because we are realizing that it is a characteristic not of human nature. Unless you believe that humans our God. In that case we may need abating more than semantics. So if a characteristic is not of human nature, then of what is it’s nature? It is of God’s nature, therefore we may call it divine. It does not make us divine, but gives us a characteristic of something divine. Just the characteristic is divine not the entity.

          So then I realize that we are left with two conclusions. One is that humans, because of their self-realization are gods, and therefore there is no need for the adjective “divine.” Since in fact human and god are synonyms and there is no need for the differentiation of characteristics.

          Or two, that there is some deity and it is different and greater than humanity. Which gives us reason to identify separately the characteristics of the deity and the characteristics of humanity. Labeling those of the deity, divine.

          Just my own beliefs and reasoning at work here, but I believe these are the only two choices without getting too far down the rabbit trail. So I believe that by using the word divine you are submitting a presupposition that there is a diety (or god) worth referencing and comparing.

          Also I need to apologize for any spelling or grammar issues. I typed this on my phone while traveling. I’m not the best at that.

  11. Brandon, this is God speaking. Get a life and move on. You are wallowing in semantic gobbledy gook that has no value to yourself or anyone else.

  12. >Second: You show me a Sunday school or temple that discusses existence, miracles, and debates through a fair and open forum like this thread… and maybe I will start going to that Sunday school or temple haha.

    Glad you asked. Any Unitarian Universalist church can provide this service. Imagine: a church without a dogma! UUs prefer questions over answers. The exchange of perspectives IS the worship service. There’s one in Lancaster…

  13. I agree that quotes should be properly attributed. I feel, however, that the above posters who tangled this quote in ideas of divinity do it a disservice. I see it not as about God, but about the sense of wonder. To a child, everything- a leaf, a flower, an inchworm- is fascinating and awe-inspiring; everything is a miracle. As adults, many of us stop seeing the wonder of the world, reducing it to a drab background on which we live our lives. Let us then, choose to see with the eyes of a child once more.

  14. Do you naysayers actually know of Einstein’s personal proclivities and linguistic style for such things? My late friend, the photographer Brett Weston (son of the late photographer Edward Weston), knew Einstein and shared with me some of his personal experiences with the man. Brett’s characterizations of the actual person (warts and all), were rather surprising, and in high contrast to our collective (and somewhat uninformed) beliefs and assumptions about the gifted, superstar scientist. So when I read and Facebook-posted this quote (which has yet to be proven NOT to be Einstein’s), I had Brett Weston’s personal knowledge of Einstein in mind, who would have said it in a heartbeat.

    1. Hi, Andrea.

      How wonderful to have that indirect connection with such a remarkable man. I had a friend whose mother met Hitler, but I’d much rather have known someone who knew Einstein.

      This quote and your comment bring up the awkward fact that people don’t just write, but speak as well. And people hear them speaking and later quote them. I can think of one minister who is famous for a quote he never (to the best of my knowledge) wrote down, but used several times in his sermons.

      When we quote what someone has has written, we can quote them verbatim. When we quote what someone has said rather than written, it’s very rare that we’ll be able to quote them exactly. Usually the best we can hope for is to be faithful to the spirit of what they said. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, though — I’ve had people quote back to me what they’ve thought I heard, and knew that what they’d taken away was radically different from what I’d actually said — and you end up with a misquote. But because of the indeterminate nature of the unrecorded spoken word, preserved only in fallible memories (or perhaps just one fallible memory), we’ll never know whether what we’re told someone said is an accurate summary of what they did say or so distant from it that it’s essentially the thought of the person quoting.

      Fortunately we have the phrase “attributed to,” which neatly expresses the uncertainties involved in cases like that. I think the best we can do with this quote is say that it is attributed to Einstein. It’s going too far, epistemologically speaking, to declare confidently that he actually said it.

      Unfortunately, along with the Buddha and Mark Twain, Einstein tends to be credited with just about any stray thought that someone happens to like. I suppose by tagging his name on the end of it they want to make themselves look smart or to give the quote a gravitas it may or may not deserve. The vast majority of those cases don’t even rise to the level of “attributed to.” They’re just fake.

      1. Your mention of Hitler recalls the perhaps apocryphal reply of
        Einstein when asked if he had met Hitler: “No but I saw his picture and that was sufficient.” 🙂

    1. “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”

      1. Just because something isn’t understood by science yet doesn’t mean it never will be. As an analogy, imagine a white background. Now imagine a deciduous tree in winter on top of it: the white can be snow all around. Each first-order branch is analogous to a main branch of science (e.g., mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering), each second-order branch a more specialized field of study (e.g., electromagnetic field theory, electrical engineering), and so forth. The branches represent what we know and the white space between them what we don’t yet know. The more we learn, the bigger the tree becomes; but as it grows (i.e., as more is learned), so too does the white space between the branches.

        New discoveries enable new research and learning, and the total amount of learning possible is now immense as there are so many specializations. So keep in mind that we don’t know more than we know, and that will apparently always be the case. Therefore, we can’t rationally conclude that what isn’t explained by our scientific understanding is divine any more than a caveman could have correctly assumed a bird’s flight to be divine.

        1. Your disagreement appears to be with the dictionary I was quoting in response to someone asking if I’d looked up the definition.

  15. Regardless of the quotes source, I’d like to point out that it says nothing about BELIEF. It’s about how you live your life. And I propose that you don’t have to believe in God or miracles to live your life as though everything is miraculous.

    1. Interesting point, although I can only imagine living your life as if everything was a miracle to mean living your life believing that everything was a miracle.

  16. I respectfully disagree. And, in support I’ll quote Joseph Singer who earlier in this discussion said “I see it not as about God, but about the sense of wonder. To a child, everything- a leaf, a flower, an inchworm- is fascinating and awe-inspiring; everything is a miracle. As adults, many of us stop seeing the wonder of the world, reducing it to a drab background on which we live our lives. Let us then, choose to see with the eyes of a child once more.”

    1. I agree with this — dissecting the logical structure of such a saying seems to me totally beside the point of why he might have said it. It’s an exhortation to wonder; the quality of your life is better if you live one way as opposed to the other. And we all speak less formally than we write, so imagining this to be a part of a conversation in which he was happily talking about his philosophy of how he approaches the Universe in general? Totally sounds like him to me.

    2. A child does not doubt. Doubt comes by education & training over time which turns us into mature, wise adults. A child is filled with faith, and “believes all things”, as love does (1st Cor 13:7). Simplicity is another word that comes to mind. A child does not reason things out by logical and scientific inquiry. A child intuits things spontaneously. Once presented with the idea of God, a child believes. Atheism is most unnatural in a child if given the option of no God and God the Creator of all. Theism inspires wonder. Atheism kills it. And Einstein was no atheist. Far from it: “I want to know God’s thoughts. The rest are details.” —Albert Einstein — Quoted by E. Salaman in “ A Talk with Einstein”, Listener 54 (1955) “Strenuous intellectual work and the study of God’s Nature are the angels that will lead me through all the troubles of this life with consolation, strength, and uncompromising rigor.” —Albert Einstein — To Pauline Winteler – July 3,1897. AEA 29-453

      “Morality is the highest importance—but for us, not for God.” —Albert Einstein — To M.M. Schayer, August 1927. AEA 48-380 “God gave me the stubbornness of a mule and a fairly keen scent.” —Albert Einstein — Quoted in G.J. Whitrow, Einstein: the man and his achievement, 91

      1. As the father of two children, I have to disagree with you on a number of points, David. You said “A child does not reason things out by logical and scientific inquiry. A child intuits things spontaneously.” Children use both reason and intuition. They use more intuition when they’re very young, but they do have an appreciation of logic quite early on. Adults also use a mixture of reason and intuition, although much of their use of reason is not very rational, but involves the use of logical-sounding statements in order to justify what they already have decided (on non-rational grounds) to believe. Justifications of the existence of God and reasons for believing in the existence of God are examples of this.

        “Once presented with the idea of God, a child believes. Atheism is most unnatural in a child if given the option of no God and God the Creator of all.”

        This is an excellent example of what I mean. I imagine you’re convinced by this. I also am quite sure you’ve never tested this in theory. My children were brought up with no discussion of gods. When they started hearing about God from neighbors’ children, they thought the idea was ridiculous. Now that they’re 15 and 17, they still do. My son, who for purely educational reasons attends a Catholic school, is very good at picking holes in the “logical” arguments presented that supposedly “prove” the existence of God.

        Children, in my experience, are natural atheists, and only start believing in God if adults they trust tell them that God is real.

        The quotes in which Einstein evokes the name of God are interesting, but you’re cherry-picking, which is another time-honored way in which adults misuse logic. Einstein did use the word God in his vocabulary, but it seems that he was speaking poetically. He said that if he believed in a God it was “Spinoza’s God,” in which God “reveals himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind”. As for that more common conception of a deity, he said, “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.” Letter to Eric Gutkind (1954).

  17. Love coming across this in 2021. I just saw a tweet “quoting Einstein” with, “Don’t wait for miracles, your whole life is a miracle.”

    I’m like — Einstein ain’t say that s*. 😂

  18. I have a favorite quote that tackles such ‘dilemmas’ over attribution… “What you believe is your truth”! 🙂

    1. I have to say I’m not a fan of expressions like “my truth” and “your truth.” I think they represent a lazy attitude of “this is what I want to believe and I’m not going to do the hard work of examining whether it’s true or not.” Dig deeper. Do the work. Look not for “your” truth but for “the” truth. It may not be discoverable, but the search will make you a better person by helping you to develop intellectual integrity.

      1. Regarding: “I have to say I’m not a fan of expressions like “my truth” and “your truth.” I think they represent a lazy attitude of “this is what I want to believe and I’m not going to do the hard work of examining whether it’s true or not.” Dig deeper. Do the work. Look not for “your” truth but for “the” truth. It may not be discoverable, but the search will make you a better person by helping you to develop intellectual integrity.”

        I would posit that expressions like “my truth”, “your truth”, and even “the truth” are all fair assessments of the data. As another of my favorite physicists (former NASA physicist and consciousness researcher for 50 years, Tom Campbell) likes to say: “There is only one truth, but there are many expressions of it.” as well as, “If it is not your experience, then it cannot be your truth.”

        The crux is in defining the difference between “data” (what is perceived by our senses “what the camera sees”), and our personal, subjective interpretation of that data as we turn it into “information” (what we choose to make it mean). Not being able to distinguish objective data from subjective information is the source of much avoidable struggle, pain, and suffering. When I finally master that I can impact my own reality by how I choose to interpret the data taken in by my senses, I suddenly find that I have a LOT of choice of how to respond where I previously might have thought I had none, or worse, was more a victim of the circumstances.

        Belief, is another problem. A belief is when you want to know, but don’t have the data. A belief helps to resolve that fear by simply creating/adopting a belief that you know. Often we look to some sort of outside authority (with the proper/acceptable bona fides) to tell us what is true, so we can feel better about believing what they say, and rest assured that we’re going to be alright if we just have faith and “trust the experts”. 😉

  19. To me, whether the quote comes from Einstein or not, it’s a lovely sentiment that says, “Act as though your life and the world and people around you are a gift beyond your ken.” I don’t attribute divinity or anything supernatural to it. It’s just good for our soul, our being, our consciousness, to keep a sense of wonder about our existence.

  20. I’m posting this comment again since the various paragraphs were somehow combined. Please disregard and delete the original post.

    Eliza, we’ve discovered the laws of physics by which objects move from place to place, and we’ve discovered that even biological life functions according to DNA. So as I see it, we’re discovering the code by which our universe functions. We can now see some of that code. The question is, was it written? Did a Great Programmer speak the underlying code into existence as the Bible suggests in its opening chapter?

    You might be a theologian, but that doesn’t fully qualify you to discuss a topic like creation since that certainly would have been accomplished by scientific means; therefore, a study of religion alone doesn’t come close to qualifying a person to have a full and deep conversation on the topic. I think what the author of this article was trying to get at when he said that surely many Christians don’t classify creation as a miracle is that many Christians accept science rather than insisting that creation was performed magically. In fact, it would take a much bigger God to create everything via a simple process than to go around creating everything one by one as primitive man would have imagined a more powerful version of ourselves having done, though even in coding functions are written one by one. I disagree with any implied notion that a person must have a limited mind and imagination to be a Christian. There definitely are Christians who are able to imagine a Creator big enough to have created everything scientifically and who accept scientific evidence rather than feeling threatened by it.

    I don’t actually agree with either side in this debate about the use of the term “miracle”. What if a “miracle” was something that might have been done before the science by which to explain it was yet understood by the observers, such that it came across as magical if the observers either were led to think of it as such or simply came to think of it that way themselves? If this perspective is correct, then any advanced being with more scientific knowledge than we have could have performed “miracles”, though so too could have any individuals who learned how to do tricks for which the mechanisms were not yet understood by the observers. From such a perspective, a person might also consider the idea of creation itself to be miraculous even if accomplished by purely scientific means; ergo, you could both be right in this sense. The author of this post is correct that many Christians do accept science rather than denying it and that the universe certainly came about by scientific means. Whether you are correct or not really depends on how we define the word miracle. It’s possible that you don’t actually disagree conceptually but are merely disagreeing due to different connotations or definitions.

    Most importantly, please don’t ever pretend that a study of religion alone qualifies you to have a conversation about truth or that it somehow makes you an authority on truth. You must bring much more than that to the table. Being a theologian alone does not qualify a person to speak about truth since nature itself is by far the greatest evidence we have, so its study is paramount to discovering truth as it is necessary to complete the picture. After all, the Bible doesn’t even attempt to describe the creation of the universe. Were that the intention, many pages would have been devoted to the topic rather than merely a very concise outline. Anyone who assumes the Bible to be true should be able to agree that it’s up to us to fill in the details. It’s fascinating that the outline in the first few verses of the Bible is consistent with the stages described by the Big Bang theory: a huge flash of light followed by the formation of gases, liquids, and then solids. It certainly would be fascinating if it is ever discovered that the most basic ancestor of plant life originated as the Bible suggests during the formative stages of our solar system before the Sun and Moon were what we know today. I do not feel qualified to speculate on whether or not the formative stages of our solar system provided better conditions for the first ancestor of plant life to have evolved than the more stable environment that resulted from that chaos. We definitely need to study nature to complete the picture: religion alone certainly does not suffice, though it is interesting.

  21. While Einstein had no love for organised religion, he also had a profound sense of the wonder of existence.

    If this quote attributed to him was genuine, for me it essentially translates as this. There are those who take everything for granted and live mundane lives and there are those who see the incredible complexities and interrelations of the universe and stand in awe of which he was one.

    That awe is what inspired him to reveal its secrets and also gave him the intellectual humility to do so.

    To return to the initial point, in essence he was honest in that he really did not know where all this wonderment came from and therefore made no judgements.

  22. This last comment sums things up nicely. Einstein favored the philosophy of Spinoza and maintained: “every one who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.” I’m not so sure Einstein would go so far as to say this means looking at everything as though it were a miracle, but Andrea makes a good case that he would admit a miraculous quality to all of creation.

  23. “B” 1/10/1023 EXACTLY- great point invoked Relativity! It’s how you perceive YOUR life. Like a good math equation in Algebra completing all parts of equation cancelled out variables and come to one final answer… Nothing to ARGUE About. “ It Is Finished” in Red letters !

  24. As Stephen Wickman said, Einstein described himself as a Spinozist, that is someone who equates God with nature. In this view, everything that happens naturally is caused directly by God, and therefore could be considered a miracle. The opposite view is the atheist view that denies God. Note that neither view allows anything supernatural, so they’re actually pretty similar. The difference is more in terms of attitude than anything practical.

    Meanwhile the common view that certain exceptional events are miracles requires belief in the supernatural.

    I have no idea if Einstein said this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he expressed a similar sentiment at some point.

  25. Everyone acts as if the two parts of the quote were meant to mutually exclusive. I think if Einstein said it he meant just the opposite…you can live your life as if nothing is a miracle…life happens or as if everything is a miracle…life is miraculous. These are both true. We can make things happen, we can make discoveries and it is not a miracle but what we create and how life and science unfold is miraculous. The “or” part of the quote represents the fluid movement of these seeming opposing views. Everyone is right… Einstein was not that simplistic or black and white…neither is the quote. It is meant to provoke thought.

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