This reimagining of the last supper features Galileo, Curie, Oppenheimer, Newton, Pasteur, Hawking, Einstein, Sagan, Edison, Aristotle, Tyson, Dawkins, Darwin. Seems like an Atheist’s religious dream, except Einstein was no Atheist. Now, was that an oops?
37 thoughts on “Last Supper of the Scientists”
Oops, you made a mistake about Einstein. Read pretty much anything he’s said about religion beyond the popular quotes.
The others weren’t all atheists, eg Pasteur & Newton.
Einstein did not believe in the God of organised religions, but neither did he disbelieve in a God… so Matt’s right he was not an “a-theist”
Was the picture put together by Dawkins or one of his sycophants, otherwise what’s he doing in the picture, what’s his momentous contribution to science? I’d have thought there were a whole slew of contemporary scientists more worthy of a place at the table? He’s also the only one who hasn’t had the opportunity to find out what’s on the other side 😉
Dawkins is one of the most influential living minds in evolutionary biology, completely setting aside his public work as an outspoken skeptic and atheist. He belongs up there at least as much as Tyson and Edison do. Also, Dawkins isn’t the only one still alive, unless something very abrupt has happened to Hawking and Tyson.
While Dawkins hasn’t made contributions to science as big as Einstein and Newton, neither have Sagan or Tyson. But they’ve all made great achievements in bringing scientific literacy to the public.
Matt. Worth sharing this pic with Alan Hirsch, given his likeness to Einstein and his comic photos on FB about that subject matter.
Kelly, unfortunately Dawkins has brought a great deal of quasi-fundamentalist scientism and religious illiteracy to the public as well.
Would it be perceived as unseemly and crass of me if I just give the whole thing a big “ho-hum”?
No, not at all. I found it mildly amusing and dimly annoying but nothing to get too excited over.
I can see why you’d find it both annoying and amusing. I mean, the whole argument that the people in this knock-off of the Lord’s Supper made bigger contributions to society than those in the original da Vinci painting (and I’ll leave it to you to challenge that claim if you’d like) entirely misses the point. The Last Supper is not about a collection of great minds, but an event of religious significance. The point is not about great minds, but of great hospitality and communion. And it’s about one event that is part of a much larger narrative. One needs to examine that event in context of the larger narrative.
One can criticize both that one event and the larger narrative and their general significance. But in my opinion at least, throwing together a painting of “more important” people to spoof that event is quite possibly one of the least effective ways to go about doing so.
Notice of course that patriarchy still rules.
Aristotle was a theist/deist. Einstein was not.
Aristole was a Pagan philosopher. To call him a deist is a gross anachronism given Deism’s links to Christianity. Which makes we wonder if you’re confused over (mono)theistic, (pan)theistic and (poly)theistic brands of theism. As for Einstein, mate, what do you think he was then? He was hardly an atheist. Check his own words.
Here are just a few excerpts of what Einstein had to say about religion and god.
None of which are inconsistant with deistic and pantheistic belief. In fact, in one of the quotes listed here Einstein positively affirms belief in a pantheistic God:
“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.” – Einstein
QED. Not an atheist.
Exactly what CelticSon and I said.
“Einstein positively affirms belief in a pantheistic God”
Pantheism has been referred to as “sexed up atheism.” It’s not a belief in a personal god nor controlling patriarch, but distinctly separate in that it refers to the cosmos as as god of its own right in a similar fashion to the way people consider an Earth the domain of an unfeeling Gaia. Nothing more or less.
Konraden, the only people I’ve ever heard refer to pantheism as “sexed up atheism” were unsympathetic stirrers who were unqualified in religious studies and not particularly conversant with what they were talking about. Unless nirvana and karma are now accepted as an atheist concepts, pantheism is not encompassed by atheism, sexed up or otherwise. Whilst it is true pantheists equate the universe with God, it is equally true that many pantheists have an understanding of the universe that is far from materialistic. Thus the pantheistic God is no more reducible to naturalistic scientism than the monotheistic God.
If you read Einstein’s quotes carefully, you will see that he only uses god in a metaphorical sense. While you cannot exactly pin down what Einstein believed, I would say that he was much closer to atheism than any kind of deism. Matt: What you refer to as “fundamentalist scientism” would be better termed as empiricism. As far as I know, Dawkins has never actually stated any particular untruth regarding religion (“religious illiteracy”). He has done more to accurately reflect religious history than most religious people have. Sorry to be the atheist infiltrating your blog, but I really wanted to find that picture. Good day.
I have read Einstein’s quotes carefully, and he quite blatantly calls his experience religious and mystical, and more, critiques atheism.
“THE MOST BEAUTIFUL AND MOST PROFOUND EXPERIENCE IS THE SENSATION OF THE MYSTICAL. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – THIS KNOWLEDGE, THIS FEELING, IS AT THE CENTRE OF TRUE RELIGIOUSNESS. ( Albert Einstein – The Merging of Spirit and Science)
“The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.” (Albert Einstein)
“I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one, BUT I DO NOT SHARE THE CRUSADING SPIRIT OF THE PROFESSIONAL ATHEIST whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.” (Albert Einstein)
“It is very difficult to elucidate this [cosmic religious] feeling to anyone who is entirely without it. . . The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it … In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.” (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, p. 207)
“Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics, and it springs from the same source . . . They are creatures who can’t hear the music of the spheres.” (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, 2000 p. 214)
“In the view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, THERE ARE YET PEOPLE WHO SAY THERE IS NO GOD. BUT WHAT MAKES ME ANGRY IS THAT THEY QUOTE ME FOR SUPPORT FOR SUCH VIEWS.” (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, p. 214)
Need I go on?
As for Dawkins never actually stating any particular untruth regarding religion … as far as you know. Well, hmm, how can I say this gently? Maybe you don’t know enough to critique him yet then? Sorry, but it’s difficult to sugar coat this. Because you need to know that most scholars of religion find his speaches peppered with gross distortions, over simplifications and misinformed misinterpretations of Christianity and other religions. You’re welcome on this site as an Atheist, and most welcome to comment and even disagree with me, but I will hold Atheists to the level of intellectual rigour they ask of others.
Hello again. Perhaps I should have worded my initial comment more carefully. I did not intend to give the impression that Einstein was an atheist. When I said that he was closer to atheism than any kind of deism, I meant that his beliefs were the ones very typically held by atheists. The only difference is that he termed the universe as “God”.
His use of the words “mystical” and “religious” are describing feelings, not beliefs. You will notice his wording never mentions god as a being, and at times specifically decries assuming god is a being.
Think of asking Einstein the following questions, and what his answers might have been:
What is god?
What does god do?
Where does god come from?
It is in that sense that I make my claim, and was also why I said it is difficult to pin down what he believed. As the final quote implies, it is inconsequential what Einstein believed. It is open to interpretations, but completely useless information.
As for Dawkins, I may as well just retract that statement. It is silly to say that someone has never uttered an untruth. In all chance, surely at least once and probably more, he has used misinformation, hopefully unintentionally. But when you make him out to be a purveyor of misinformation I must ask for specific examples; it is hard to believe he bases his positions entirely upon contrived falsehoods. The only reason I am inclined to disagree here is because I have yet to hear a worthy argument against his assertions. You are exactly right in saying that I do not know enough to critique him, which is why I used the words “as far as I know”.
Perhaps you could point me in the direction of an accurate critique of some of the things he has said.
Lastly, thank you for the depth of your reply. It seems you feel the need to be a bit defensive toward a self-identified atheist, and I cite the wording of your last paragraph for that remark, but I assure you there is no need to be anything but amiable.
Nick, but I think you’re confusing negative apologetics with positive apologetics. Demonstrating that I don’t like peaches does not demonstrate that I don’t like fruit, not if there is more that one type of fruit out there. To demonstrate I don’t like fruit you’d have to further demonstrate that I have a NEGATIVE preference for apples and oranges and all other fruits, or that I have stated a POSITIVE preference for a no fruit diet. Having not done either, all you could prove is that I don’t like peaches. Moving back to Einstein, he is on record as affirming a positive preference for pan-theism and a negative preference for a-theism and obviously sees some non-“inconsequential” distinctions between the two. To the point that it used to get him angry when people minimised the differences. Intellectual honesty should then compel us to ask, why did he see the differences as so crucial even if Dawkins doesn’t? I’d suggest it was because he understood the subject a darn sight better than Dawkins.
Now, for a quick overview of religious typology:
Poly-theism = many god religion, eg. Greek paganism, Shinto
Pan-theism = all god religion, eg. Buddhism, Taoism
Mono-theism = one god region, eg. Christianity, Judaism
A-theism = no god irreligion
Pantheism is not less religious than monotheism, it is just less personal. That’s just a characteristic of the religious type. One of the crucial problems with Dawkin’s understanding of religion is that he understands religion in almost exclusively in western terms, and pretty restrictive western terms at that. So when he encounters non-western religion he often fails to recognise it as religious, when in actual fact it is religious but just non-western. In this he’s not only guilty of an over-simplistic understanding of religion, he’s also guilty of western cultural imperialism.
So there’s one problem, Dawkins conflates the personal with the religious and the impersonal with the irreligious when there is NOT a 1:1 correspondence.
But problem number two, you imply religion is all about belief and dogma, not feeling and experience. Again this is a misunderstanding born of, I suspect, too close proximity to overly dogmatic forms of Christianity. [Ha, maybe the NeoPagans here would like to jump in at this point, for I know what raspberries you blow at Calvinist cessationists who make claims like this! But Christian mystics feel free as well]. But don’t believe me, why not pick up a book on the anthropology of world religions and investigate for yourself. You’ll see that for many religions experience is more primary than belief.
Now, I don’t believe Dawkins bases his positions entirely upon contrived falsehoods. But even other atheist philosophers have agreed his religious tirades are grade school stuff, and as error prone as you’d expect from that. His problem is he limits himself to extremists, to the most abominable examples of religion, and refuses to engage with anything more meaningful. He’ll happily call out Ray Comfort, the banana bending buffoon, but refuse to engage on equal terms with anyone with any intellectual / theological cudos. He’s even said he shouldn’t have to, because the more thoughtful people aren’t “real” Christians!? Phah.
You’re right, I’ve probably been a bit defensive here but my patience has been worn a bit thin of late by hit and run critics who don’t hang around to actually have a decent discussion and back up their critiques. “I’m more logical than thou, but I’d prefer invective to a logical debate” does take its toll over time. Credit to you that you take a conversation more seriously.
For a concrete example of an Atheist critique of Richard Dawkins see
Classic trolling from the source article…
> Oh yeah, they [the twelve apostles] started all those wars.
I think I’d back Oppenheimer in a fight with 12 (or 12,000) third-world fisherman any day.
Einstein didn’t believe in a personal god, and this picture isn’t a promotion of atheism. Several of those people were christians. It’s hard to think of a more asinine comment to make about this image.
1/ This picture was found on various Atheist sites being used by Atheists to satirize Christianity, promote Atheism and claim Einstein as one of their own. Given that context I think it’s perfectly to reasonable to critique its pro-Atheist use, irrespective of the artist’s original intent.
2/ That being said, if you have links that prove the intent of the original artist wasn’t the promotion of Atheism, feel free to post them, as they would only bolster my counter-Atheist critique. It’s tangential to my concern but I’d still be interested.
3/ I find it quite disingenuous of you to launch back with “Einstein didn’t believe in a personal god.” I never claimed as such, I never claimed he was batting for our team, I merely claimed he was no Atheist, that he was not batting for them either. You seem to be promoting the illusion that this is a zero sum game, between ‘personal god’ and ‘no god’, without addressing the ‘impersonal god’ options that have already been articulated above. If you seek to establish Einstein was irreligious, you actually have to prove he disbelieved in an impersonal god as well as a personal god. Good luck to you though given what he’s said on record.
4/ I generally consider personal insult a sign that someone has run out of rational arguments.
So don’t those atheists know that both Newton and Galilei were Christians?
I gather that’s the case with some of them at least. They’re so taken with the polemical stories of ‘science vs church’ that they fail to recognize these men as religious in their own way. Other, however, though recognizing that the true story is messier, seem to conveniently overlook it for rhetorical reasons.
Your opinion of R. Dawkins as a scientist is no doubt colored by your opinion of his views on religion, and possibly his staunch advocacy on the Fact of Evolution.
You should look up his actual scientific work instead of just searching youtube for things about him you hate, and quotes by him that rile you up.
I recommend you start with the Christmas Lecture series, (available on youtube) and the book “The Greatest Show on Earth”.
…how did you leave tesla out…I just dont understamd
Richard Dawkins wrote one of the most influential bio science books of the 20th Century (The Selfish Gene). Or is it THE most influential?
Dawkins has actually made hefty contributions to science. He’s mostly known for his activism these days, but long before he turned into an evangelical atheist he was very well known in science.
mmm… I would say that Edison was not an scientist. He was an inventor. Not the same.
Tesla should be there instead of Newton =_=
Srry I meant Edison.
They say the choices are based on contributions to science? Then where is Tesla? Just Edison vs Tesla is no contest, Tesla’s alternating current has had a much bigger contribution to science and technology. In both theory and practice.