Coming up at PBA Galleries: Albert Einstein Letter About God and Physics

A rare and important letter from Albert Einstein, shedding light on his concept of God’s existence, will be on the auction block on February 14th, 2016. Written late in his life - Einstein was to pass away less than two years later at age 76 - the letter is a concise and reasoned declaration in which Albert Einstein categorically denies the value of the God concept for physics - a statement of singular importance because it uniquely reveals the philosophical reasoning behind Einstein’s denial. An end-of-life statement, the letter is Einstein’s final reasoned and mature view of the topic, and thus of great significance.  As the world’s most famous scientist, Einstein was often asked to make public pronouncements about God and his own religious views. But despite such pronouncements, Einstein’s previous public record on the question was remarkably ambiguous.

Written in response to a brash college student who asked him if he had ever resolved “the question of the existence of God in the perceivable universe,” the brilliant letter is characteristic of Einstein’s best problem solving and exhibits a new turn of reasoning not found in Einstein’s earlier statements about God. Einstein writes, in part, "...The question should rather be: How far is it reasonable and justifiable to assume the existence of an unperceivable being? I see no justification for the introduction of such a concept. In any case, it does not facilitate the understanding of the orderliness we find in the perceivable world..."  

Einstein here speaks as a philosopher of science; properly considered this letter says as much about his own view of physics as it does about his view of God. Einstein holds physics to be a science of the perceivable universe, which must be based exclusively on empirical data and not on “blind faith”: because the “unperceivable” by definition transcends physics’ purview, it cannot legitimately be employed by the physicist as an explanatory basis or principle. Historically viewed, this brief letter may well be considered Einstein’s most important statement on God. Issuing from the greatest scientist of modern times, Einstein’s statement is of enormous consequence for any future dialogue on the relation between science and religion.

The remarkable and transcendent letter by Albert Einstein will be sold at auction by PBA Galleries, specialists in rare books, manuscripts, maps and related materials, on Sunday, February 14th, 2016, at the Sheraton Hotel in Pasadena, adjacent to the 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair. The pre-sale estimate on the letter is $60,000-$90,000.

PBA Galleries holds sales of fine, rare and collectible books every two weeks.  For more information regarding upcoming sales, consignments, or auction results, please contact PBA Galleries at (415) 989-2665 or pba@pbagalleries.com

PBA Galleries

1233 Sutter Street

San Francisco, CA 94109

415-989-2665   www.pbagalleries.com

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