Albert: “God doesn’t play dice” Niels: “Don’t tell God what to do!”

niels bohr and albert einstein

– Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, chez Paul Ehrenfest, December, 1925

(Paul Ehrenfest, a theoretical physicist at the University of Leiden (!), suffering from depression, ended his life on September 25, 1933, shooting himself and Wassik, his and Tatyana Alexeyevna Afanasyeva’s Down syndrome son, in a rowboat, on a lake, in the country.)

Seeing a horseshoe on Bohr’s door, a surprised visitor remarked that he didn’t believe in the superstition that it brought luck. Bohr snapped back: ‘I don’t believe in it either; I have it there because I was told that it also works if one does not believe in it!’ Perhaps this is why ‘culture’ is emerging as the central life-world category. With regard to religion, we no longer ‘really believe,’ we just follow (various) religious rituals and behaviours as part of a respect for the ‘life-style’ of the community we belong to … ‘Culture’ is the name for all those things we practise without really believing in them, without taking them quite seriously. This is why we dismiss fundamentalist believers as ‘barbarians,’ as anti-cultural, as a threat to culture – they dare take their beliefs seriously.

– Slavoj Zizek, How to Read Lacan, pp. 30-31