Einstein: The word God is the product of human weakness

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In January of 1954, just a year before his death, Albert Einstein wrote the following letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind after reading his book, ‘Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt,’ and made known his views on religion. Apparently Einstein had only read the book due to repeated recommendation by their mutual friend Luitzen Egbertus Jan Brouwer.

Albert Einstein’s “God Letter” was sold on Oct 18, 2012 for $3,000,100 to an anonymous online bidder. (eBay)

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Princeton, 3. 1. 1954

Dear Mr Gutkind,

Inspired by Brouwer’s repeated suggestion, I read a great deal in your book, and thank you very much for lending it to me … With regard to the factual attitude to life and to the human community we have a great deal in common. Your personal ideal with its striving for freedom from ego-oriented desires, for making life beautiful and noble, with an emphasis on the purely human element … unites us as having an “American Attitude.”

Still, without Brouwer’s suggestion I would never have gotten myself to engage intensively with your book because it is written in a language inaccessible to me. The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. … For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong … have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them.

In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision…

Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e. in our evaluation of human behavior … I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.

With friendly thanks and best wishes,

Yours,

A. Einstein

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You’ll Go Blind: Does Watching Television Close-Up Really Harm Eyesight?

Original Article
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=earth-talk-tv-eyesight

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Contrary to popular myth, TV screens do not broadcast harmful emissions to kids who sit very close, though they can cause eye strain and fatigue easily remedied by a good night’s sleep. However, kids who watch more than four hours of TV daily are more susceptible to obesity, and a 2007 Seattle Children’s Research Institute study showed that for every hour per day infants spent watching DVDs and videos they learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. The key, experts say, is moderation, and parents should teach their kids that the TV is for occasional entertainment, not for constant escapism.

Luckily for many of us and our kids, sitting “too” close to the TV isn’t known to cause any human health issues. This myth prevails because back in the 1960s General Electric sold some new-fangled color TV sets that emitted excessive amounts of radiation—as much as 100,000 times more than federal health officials considered safe. GE quickly recalled and repaired the faulty TVs, but the stigma lingers to this day.

But even though electronic emissions aren’t an issue with TVs made any time after 1968 (including today’s LCD and plasma flat screens), what about causing harm to one’s vision? Dr. Lee Duffner of the American Academy of Ophthalmology isn’t concerned, maintaining that watching television screens—close-up or otherwise—“won’t cause any physical damage to your eyes.” He adds, however, that a lot of TV watching can surely cause eye strain and fatigue, particularly for those sitting very close and/or watching from odd angles. But there is an easy cure for eye strain and fatigue: turning off the TV and getting some rest. With a good night’s sleep, tired eyes should quickly return to normal.

Debra Ronca, a contributor to the How Stuff Works website, argues that some parents might be putting the cart before the horse in blaming close-up TV watching for their child’s vision issues. “Sitting close to the television may not make a child nearsighted, but a child may sit close to the television because he or she is nearsighted and undiagnosed,” she reports. “If your child habitually sits too close to the television for comfort, get his or her eyes tested.”

Of course, excessive TV viewing by kids can cause health problems indirectly. According to the Nemours Foundation’s KidsHealth website, children who consistently watch TV more than four hours a day are more likely to be overweight, which in and of itself can bring about health problems later. Also, kids who watch a lot of TV are more likely to copy bad behavior they see on-screen and tend to “fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them.” Nemours also finds that TV characters often depict risky behaviors (like smoking and drinking) and also tend to reinforce gender-role and racial stereotypes.

There has also been much debate in recent years on the effects of TV viewing on infants. A 2007 Seattle Children’s Research Institute study found that for every hour per day infants spent watching baby DVDs and videos they learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. But a 2009 study by the Center on Media & Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston found no negative cognitive or other impacts whatsoever on those infants exposed to more television than less.

While it may be inevitable that your kids will watch TV, the key, experts say, is moderation. Limit kids’ exposure to screens of any kind, and monitor what they are allowed to watch. As KidsHealth points out, parents should teach their kids that the TV is “for occasional entertainment, not for constant escapism.”

CONTACTS:
American Academy of Ophthalmology, www.aao.org;
How Stuff Works, www.howstuffworks.com;
KidsHealth, www.kidshealth.org;
Seattle Children’s Research Institute, research.seattlechildrens.org;
Center on Media & Child Health, www.cmch.tv.

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