An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of August 18, 2002
Issued from the woods near Natchez, Mississippi, USA

IF THERE WERE AN
EINSTEIN TADPOLE

In his essay "Religion and Science," Einstein considers man's religions from an evolutionary perspective. He notes that primitive religions concern themselves with gods who manifest themselves in more or less understandable forms (as plants, animals, rocks, symbols, humans), and their main job is to grant favors and protection. A later-emerging type of religion conceived of there being a single "God of Providence" ("providing god") rather like a celestially based, stern but loving patriarch in a large family. Our current major religions, including Christianity, are of this kind. Finally, there's what Einstein calls the "cosmic religious feeling," which conceives of a universality (which I would think of "the Creator") to which it is pointless to pray for favors, but which is so majestic and awe-inspiring that by reflecting upon it one is "filled with the highest kind of religious feeling," as Einstein writes.

If my dishpan tadpoles were somehow to begin feeling a need for religion, I wonder what gods they would come up with?

I suppose that some might begin worshiping certain algae cells one of them had espied glowing a certain way suspended in the water in a beam of sunlight, or maybe they would worship their own reflections in the dishpan's shiny aluminum. The more sophisticated tadpoles might sometimes catch a glimpse of me with my magnification glass looking down at them -- this huge eye-in-the-sky, the God of Providence who thumps them cornbread -- and they would produce tadpole priests and tadpole mullahs and tadpole rabbis who would assiduously and interminably interpret and reinterpret the meanings of every little thing I did.

And if there were an Einstein among them, I suppose he would just keep quiet and write in obscure forums, suggesting that it is hardly to be expected that the God of the Cosmos would be at the beck and call of every wiggly little tadpole in a dishpan... though in truth it is enough and quite wonderful for this brief moment in eternity to be granted the perspective of a tadpole in sparkling water temporarily pooled on a random, laughing hermit's warped and moldy, falling-apart, outside table. Facebook Icon.