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Is the Universe Friendly?

--by Albert Einstein (May 07, 2012)
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 "I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves.

"For if we decide that the universe is an unfriendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to achieve safety and power by creating bigger walls to keep out the unfriendliness and bigger weapons to destroy all that which is unfriendly and I believe that we are getting to a place where technology is powerful enough that we may either completely isolate or destroy ourselves as well in this process.
 
"If we decide that the universe is neither friendly nor unfriendly and that God is essentially ‘playing dice with the universe’, then we are simply victims to the random toss of the dice and our lives have no real purpose or meaning.
 
"But if we decide that the universe is a friendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to create tools and models for understanding that universe. Because power and safety will come through understanding its workings and its motives."
 
"God does not play dice with the universe,"
 
--Albert Einstein


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On Aug 7, 2014 Anne wrote:

It is obvious to me that the universe is a friendly place - after all, we are living on the cushiest place in the known Universe. A system that is abundant, takes care of our needs and constantly balances and recycles Itself. What more evidence do we need? it's AWESOME. 



2 replies: Xiaoshan, Anne | Post Your Reply
On Mar 12, 2014 Michael wrote:

 What is the citation? I hear this quote quite often, by see no proof. If you can provide a source, please send it to me: MichaelDeanBogar@Gmail.com



On Nov 21, 2013 Fabrice wrote:

My point of view is to look at the universe as a home, and i am sure we all love our homes and we do everything possible to make our home a better place to live! The Universe is a Home to our home, to me it is the Mother of my home. We have to love the Home of our home as much we love our mothers 
I love my Home, my mother, he provides all i need!
Let us educate our children to love and respect the universe!



On Sep 2, 2013 Malcolm Dean wrote:

 Einstein never said this. See Wikiquote, under subheading "Misattributed:"  

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein#Misattributed

"[T]he idea that the most important question we can ask is "Is the universe friendly?" dates back much earlier than the attribution to Einstein, for example in Emil Carl Wilm's 1912 book The Problem of Religion he includes the following footnote on p. 114: 'A friend proposed to the late F. W. H. Myers the following question: "What is the thing which above all others you would like to know? If you could ask the Sphinx one question, and only one, what would the question be?" After a moment's silence Myers replied: "I think it would be this: Is the universe friendly?"'



On May 12, 2012 Thierry wrote:
 Albert Einstein, the great physicist, is saying: what the predicament we are in demands is an act of faith. Not belief, which comes from the outside, but faith. Faith! The universe through his voice is saying: Have faith!
From physics to metaphysics, a deeply challenging passage.

On May 12, 2012 Thierry wrote:

What I understand this great scientist to say is that you cannot conclude from studying its laws that the universe is either friendly or unfriendly. From the strictly objective point of view of the scientist the universe has no manifest intention. Mentioning  randomness,  the author says that he sees it as 'non  essential'. Yet the  randomness observable in nature, cannot be accounted for scientifically, least of all philosophically. Or can it? Present day genetics see randomness (through recombination of genetic material) as both life sustaining and life threatening (new unknown viruses , etc.) That's a long way from Darwin's theory which saw evolution as following a direction of progress. Scientific knowledge does not answer the question of whether the univ  See full.

What I understand this great scientist to say is that you cannot conclude from studying its laws that the universe is either friendly or unfriendly. From the strictly objective point of view of the scientist the universe has no manifest intention. Mentioning  randomness,  the author says that he sees it as 'non  essential'. Yet the  randomness observable in nature, cannot be accounted for scientifically, least of all philosophically. Or can it? Present day genetics see randomness (through recombination of genetic material) as both life sustaining and life threatening (new unknown viruses , etc.) That's a long way from Darwin's theory which saw evolution as following a direction of progress.
Scientific knowledge does not answer the question of whether the universe is friendly or unfriendly. Scientific knowledge is a tool that can serve both survival or destruction. It's up to us to decide that the universe is friendly rather than unfriendly and it is the only sensible option if we want to learn more about its workings and its motives.  
 

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On May 8, 2012 Veena Vasista wrote:

I really valued ijourney's take on this Einstein piece - the first steer given in the seed questions for reflection, because this is  the aspect of what Einstein is saying here that resonates with me the most: what we believe directs our behaviors, actions, creations. In my own work, I've grappled with the question 'What are my beliefs about human nature? After a long, challenging journey of about twenty years of conscious inquiry, I've landed with the belief that essentially says: the human spirit is intrinsically compassionate, collaborative and creative (I recently wrote about this: Our Direction is our Destination). Directed by this belief, I try to seek out and nourish the spirit in myself and in everyone around me. This belief is now a core component not just of my social change professional work, but of how I try to interact with people generally.  With the question 'Is the Universe Friendly?',  the prompt for us to become aware of ou  See full.

I really valued ijourney's take on this Einstein piece - the first steer given in the seed questions for reflection, because this is  the aspect of what Einstein is saying here that resonates with me the most: what we believe directs our behaviors, actions, creations. In my own work, I've grappled with the question 'What are my beliefs about human nature? After a long, challenging journey of about twenty years of conscious inquiry, I've landed with the belief that essentially says: the human spirit is intrinsically compassionate, collaborative and creative (I recently wrote about this: Our Direction is our Destination). Directed by this belief, I try to seek out and nourish the spirit in myself and in everyone around me. This belief is now a core component not just of my social change professional work, but of how I try to interact with people generally. 

With the question 'Is the Universe Friendly?',  the prompt for us to become aware of our fundamental beliefs, and the conclusion that 'God does not play dice with the universe', Einstein directs us to take responsibility for our creations. This idea front of mind, I cannot help but join up Einstein's conclusions with Gandhi's direction to 'Be the change you wish to see.' I'm increasingly getting the sense that we - social activists/changemakers - often let ourselves down by not digging deeply enough into our own beliefs and the corresponding behaviors and creations they are generating.

At the risk of perhaps repeating what Einstein's wisdom sets out above, I am inclined to observe that we easily forget the reality that if we are moving through the world thinking the world/universe is unfriendly, out to get us or simply doesn't care one way or the other - we are really thinking that our fellow human beings are unfriendly or uncaring. Believing this, we become defensive, afraid and aggressive. Driving change from this position - a position of fear, insecurity, doubt - takes us in circles - creates revolutions take us back to where we started. This is, after all, the danger of revolution - implicit in the word itself - which can refer to 'a turn that takes you back to its starting point.'  

I would like us - social activists - to give more time, space, energy over to checking in with our beliefs - what they are and if/how they align with our actions and our visions for the world. Social activists are no different than anyone else - that is, we all harbor beliefs that aren't always serving us and others well. What does serve us well is to do the work that brings those beliefs into consciousness. Einstein and Gandhi both call out to us to be more self-aware and with that awareness take greater responsibility for our creations - which, speaking of coming full circle, also brings us back to last week's ijourney post: Response vs. Reaction. 


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On May 8, 2012 terri wrote:
 The universe is a very friendly place full of love.  It is just that people forget and start doing mean stuff to each other.

On May 8, 2012 Thierry wrote:

Do we need to think in terms of an either friendly or unfriendly universe? When earthquakes and tsunamis happen on this planet, when tremendous tension and energy is released at the surface of its comparatively thin mantle. Just underneath, an abyss of magma in fusion! From such awesomely unfriendly premises life emerged and managed to sustain itself and evolve for millions  and millions of years. Science, which studies measurable phenomenas, claims to know barely 2 per cent of the observable universe: are these 2 per cent friendly or unfriendly? Still, it does its best to be predictive and to find proper tools, such as a seismic alert system, to minimize the impact  of 'unfriendly' natural catastrophes.  To decide that the universe is friendly is somewhat similar to the famous 'Pari de  See full.

Do we need to think in terms of an either friendly or unfriendly universe? When earthquakes and tsunamis happen on this planet, when tremendous tension and energy is released at the surface of its comparatively thin mantle. Just underneath, an abyss of magma in fusion! From such awesomely unfriendly premises life emerged and managed to sustain itself and evolve for millions  and millions of years. Science, which studies measurable phenomenas, claims to know barely 2 per cent of the observable universe: are these 2 per cent friendly or unfriendly? Still, it does its best to be predictive and to find proper tools, such as a seismic alert system, to minimize the impact  of 'unfriendly' natural catastrophes. 
To decide that the universe is friendly is somewhat similar to the famous 'Pari de Pascal' : decide that God exists, you will feel better about life (or more in tune with it) and eventually you will be better off in the end if He does.
But  to know as the only observable fact that chaos, a certain randomness, is  part of the order of the universe does not deny this order; it makes it increasingly more difficult if not impossible to know.
If God, the Unknowable, according to religion, does not play dice with the universe then he might feel terrible about humanity doing so with it's own future.  

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On May 8, 2012 Daryl wrote:
 What we think we believe is often different from what we have internalized as our working view. An easy way to self-check how we see the universe is to inquire as to whether we would really like to escape or "get out of here" through some element of our religious view. The Judeo-Christian mindset is quite strongly escapist -- and most of the world has been deeply influenced by this perspective. I suspect that if I truly believe the universe is friendly, or even neutral, then my intent will be to more and more fully interact with such an environment. If it is not friendly, then hell yes! Let me get out of Dodge any way I can and the sooner the better!


On May 8, 2012 Chris wrote:

The universe is an infinite flow of creative energy that changes forms as it's usefulness diminishes or the actions of other energy around it changes it's form as it is connected to all other types of energy.  Almost like a giant recycle bin.  As humans, we have the choice of how we want to co-create with the energy that is present now.  The amount of inner awareness of this universal energy and the principles that seem to guide it, allow the human energy force a unique opportunity to observe the difference between reality and illusion, and subsequently love and fear.  As we as humans surrender to the fact that we do not control the workings of the creative universe, a sense of humility is realized and wonder that surrounds the love of what is.  It is what motivates us , excites an  See full.

The universe is an infinite flow of creative energy that changes forms as it's usefulness diminishes or the actions of other energy around it changes it's form as it is connected to all other types of energy.  Almost like a giant recycle bin.  As humans, we have the choice of how we want to co-create with the energy that is present now.  The amount of inner awareness of this universal energy and the principles that seem to guide it, allow the human energy force a unique opportunity to observe the difference between reality and illusion, and subsequently love and fear.  As we as humans surrender to the fact that we do not control the workings of the creative universe, a sense of humility is realized and wonder that surrounds the love of what is.  It is what motivates us , excites and fascinates us.  It makes violence, hatred and fear seam so useless in comparison.  It is time to move on or change our form, which ever the universe rolls with. 

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2 replies: HEENA, Michael | Post Your Reply
On May 8, 2012 Roberto Becerra Bereijo wrote:
 The entire Einstein passage simply points to the silliness of the games the mind plays when it ponders the ineffable.  The fact that one of the greatest minds of our species  could not resolve the mystery of God nor transcend the illusion of "purpose" should encourage us all to abandon thinking and live in the open heart.  God is not a "thing".  He neither plays nor does not play dice.  The Universe is not a "thing".  It is neither friendly nor unfriendly.  Mine is the God of Job.  The unquestionable one who does not answer to you or to me.  The one upon whose will peace depends upon at times enduring, and bliss upon abandonment and adoration.  The Lord of Hosts.  May you find him here and now.

On May 6, 2012 rahul wrote:

A true friend is one who acts for your benefit.  So before you can answer whether the universe is friendly, you must deeply consider both the nature of what benefits you most and the question of who or what "you" are. If your concept of self is individualistic, then achievements, ambitions, dreams, fame, power, possessions, pleasures, successes, etc are the things that seem to benefit you the most.  From this lens, the universe is a decidedly unfriendly place, as all of these things come into your grasp only fleetingly, with circumstance, people, or time ultimately snatching or shattering them all.  Most of us begin our journey's as true believers in an individualistic self, only to be repeatedly crushed or slowly sapped by the universe until we're thoroughly convinced that we've swallowed a flawed or incomplete picture. If you begin with the truth that all you have will be taken from you, then you are forced to re-evaluate your notion of self and  See full.

A true friend is one who acts for your benefit.  So before you can answer whether the universe is friendly, you must deeply consider both the nature of what benefits you most and the question of who or what "you" are.

If your concept of self is individualistic, then achievements, ambitions, dreams, fame, power, possessions, pleasures, successes, etc are the things that seem to benefit you the most.  From this lens, the universe is a decidedly unfriendly place, as all of these things come into your grasp only fleetingly, with circumstance, people, or time ultimately snatching or shattering them all.  Most of us begin our journey's as true believers in an individualistic self, only to be repeatedly crushed or slowly sapped by the universe until we're thoroughly convinced that we've swallowed a flawed or incomplete picture.

If you begin with the truth that all you have will be taken from you, then you are forced to re-evaluate your notion of self and self-benefit.  The interconnection and interdependence you witness from acceptance of the inescapable impermanence around you and inside you are a pleasant ways of saying that you will both eat and be eaten in every domain of your existence.  Your first food was your mother's body through nursing, and this eating and being eaten were filled with affection, joy, even pleasure for both.  If you can get past the guilt of eating and the fear of being eaten, you begin to touch the joy of witnessing the flow of life.  And the more you witness that joy, the more it seems to be the only thing that makes sense about who you are and why you're here.

The universe manifests you, maintains you for a while, and then mercilessly chews and crushes you until you have no choice but to burst with joy and wonder at every second and every square inch of the humming, buzzing symphony of existence.  And that chewing is probably the most friendly thing that's ever happened to you, even if feels like pain in every bite.

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On May 6, 2012 Ganoba wrote:
 The essential and fundamental error is to consider the universe to be separate from us, "the other".
We try to correct this error by asking whether it is friendly or otherwise.
This question springs from a false premise and hence deserves no consideration. Any answer would be a wrong answer as the question itself is wrong.
Albert Einstein the philosopher is going against Einstein the scientist.
We are part of the universe and not apart from it.
Philosophically we can also say, in the same breath, that the universe is within us.
God is also not an entity separate from the universe.
Philosophically the universe is seen as the body of God.

On May 6, 2012 David Doane wrote:

For me, the universe is friendly.  That doesn't mean it is all nice, all peaches and cream.  The universe is like the weather, like any person, like the unconscious, like me -- warm, cold, peaceful, sunny, violent, destructive, changing, full of surprises -- it is a mixed bag of all that is.  That's its nature.  It's free, uncontrolled.  It is bigger than me.  It's powerful.  I am part of it.  What's mine is to go with it, be responsive to it, work with it, appreciate it, enjoy it, respect it, learn from it.  In that frame, it is friendly.   It is me.  I am an expression of it.  To fight it is to fight me, and is to lose.  To realize I am part of it and work with it is to realize it is friendly, and grow.  As for randomness, I believe that all that is is interconnected -- the interconnectedness and intereffecting of all that is is beyond my ability to see, but I believe it is.  Random for me  See full.

For me, the universe is friendly.  That doesn't mean it is all nice, all peaches and cream.  The universe is like the weather, like any person, like the unconscious, like me -- warm, cold, peaceful, sunny, violent, destructive, changing, full of surprises -- it is a mixed bag of all that is.  That's its nature.  It's free, uncontrolled.  It is bigger than me.  It's powerful.  I am part of it.  What's mine is to go with it, be responsive to it, work with it, appreciate it, enjoy it, respect it, learn from it.  In that frame, it is friendly.   It is me.  I am an expression of it.  To fight it is to fight me, and is to lose.  To realize I am part of it and work with it is to realize it is friendly, and grow.  As for randomness, I believe that all that is is interconnected -- the interconnectedness and intereffecting of all that is is beyond my ability to see, but I believe it is.  Random for me means no interconnectedness, means irrelevant incongruent happenings, and I don't believe that is the case.  I guess God does not play dice with the universe was Einstein's way of saying that the roll of the dice is random and that is not how the universe is or how God operates.  But the metaphor is faulty in that the way the dice land is the result of innumerable interrelated and interconnected factors, and thus not random (even if it looks that way).     

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On May 5, 2012 Xiaoshan wrote:
 Is universe friendly? I truly do not know the answer. I will try not even come up with an answer. 

On May 5, 2012 Navin sata wrote:
 GOD= GENARATES INFINITE ENERGY,O=OPERATES WITH THIS ENERGY , D= DESTROYS, in hinduism we call it brahma,vishnu,mahesh,one god three function for our limited understanding,our lord is always SAT{TRUTH} CHIT{AWERNESS} ANAND{BLISS} with this solid faith I look at universe ,enjoy Nature and beauty in everything,his hands that paints the sky ,smile on childrens faces ,every seasons of nature and Life,some wise person said look for god within,than around you in family friends,and than every where in universe , when one has faith along this belief than we want have any question .God is every where so he does not  play dice with universe. as long as we have greed we will have war in and out all around us. How much money world spends on weapons and war in last one century ,half that money if we spend on needs of humanity ,?????????? Eternal can not be control by limited selfish mankind always love navin

On May 5, 2012 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:

 The following Einstein quote says much: "A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest of mankind an optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security." Quoted in H Eves Mathematical Circles Adieu (Boston 1977). My study reveals that Einstein thought the universe and God were one. That is similar to Gandhi's notion: "If you don't see God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time  See full.

 The following Einstein quote says much: "A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest of mankind an optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."
Quoted in H Eves Mathematical Circles Adieu (Boston 1977).
My study reveals that Einstein thought the universe and God were one. That is similar to Gandhi's notion:
"If you don't see God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further." gun these ideas similar to Einstein's idea that the true value of a human being can be found in the degree one liberates oneself from one's self (one's ego).
What appears to be random may simply be in order not yet found. I can't think of any of my beliefs I would change. Most most of my behavior is unconscious and I would like to better be generous and helpful, be patient and bear and forbear the wrongs of others, and be persevering, and use any wisdom I may have  for the benefit of everyone and everything. These notions are  elaborated on in the book, Einstein and Zen: Learning to Learn, Peter Lang Publisher, 2010.
 

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