Max Planck On God

Max Planck – Nobel Laureate in Physics

Nobel Prize: Max Planck (1858–1947) won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his work on the establishment and development of the theory of elementary quanta.” Max Planck is universally recognized as the father of modern physics; he formulated one of the most important physical theories of the 20th century – Quantum Theory. He also contributed to the progress of the Theory of Relativity and the study of electromagnetic radiation. Planck is a founder of quantum mechanics.  

Nationality: German

Education: Ph.D. in physics, University of Munich, Germany, 1879 (at the age of 21)

Occupation: Professor of Physics at the Universities of Munich, Kiel, and Berlin


1.  In his famous lecture Religion and Science (May 1937) Planck wrote: “Both religion and science need for their activities the belief in God, and moreover God stands for the former in the beginning, and for the latter at the end of the whole thinking. For the former, God represents the basis, for the latter – the crown of any reasoning concerning the world-view.” (Max Planck, Religion und Naturwissenschaft, Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth Verlag, 1958, 27).

2.  “Religion represents a bond of man to God. It consists in reverent awe before a supernatural Might [Macht], to which human life is subordinated and which has in its power our welfare and misery. To remain in permanent contact with this Might and keep it all the time inclined to oneself, is the unending effort and the highest goal of the believing man. Because only in such a way can one feel himself safe before expected and unexpected dangers, which threaten one in his life, and can take part in the highest happiness – inner psychical peace – which can be attained only by means of strong bond to God and unconditional trust to His omnipotence and willingness to help.” (Max Planck 1958, 9).

3.  Planck concluded his lecture Religion and Science (May 1937) with the words: “It is the steady, ongoing, never-slackening fight against scepticism and dogmatism, against unbelief and superstition, which religion and science wage together. The directing watchword in this struggle runs from the remotest past to the distant future: ‘On to God!’ ” (Planck, as cited in Heilbron 1986, 185; see also Planck 1958, 30).

4.  “Under these conditions it is no wonder, that the movement of atheists, which declares religion to be just a deliberate illusion, invented by power-seeking priests, and which has for the pious belief in a higher Power nothing but words of mockery, eagerly makes use of progressive scientific knowledge and in a presumed unity with it, expands in an ever faster pace its disintegrating action on all nations of the earth and on all social levels. I do not need to explain in any more detail that after its victory not only all the most precious treasures of our culture would vanish, but – which is even worse – also any prospects at a better future.” (Planck 1958, 7).

5.  “But the value of religion exceeds the individual. Not only every man has his own religion but the religion requires its validity for larger community, for nation, race, and the whole mankind. Since God reigns equally over all countries of the world, the whole world with all its treasures and horrors is subdued to Him.” (Planck 1958, 9).

6.  Unfortunately, during World War II, in February 1945, Planck’s son Erwin was executed by the Nazis for participation in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. On 14 March 1945 Planck wrote in a letter to his friend Anton Kippenberg:

“If there is consolation anywhere it is in the Eternal, and I consider it a grace of Heaven that belief in the Eternal has been rooted deeply in me since childhood.

God protect and strengthen you for everything that still may come before this insanity in which we are forced to live reaches its end.” (Planck, as cited in Heilbron 1986, 195-196).

7.  “That God existed before there were human beings on Earth, that He holds the entire world, believers and non-believers, in His omnipotent hand for eternity, and that He will remain enthroned on a level inaccessible to human comprehension long after the Earth and everything that is on it has gone to ruins; those who profess this faith and who, inspired by it, in veneration and complete confidence, feel secure from the dangers of life under protection of the Almighty, only those may number themselves among the truly religious.” (Planck, as cited in Staguhn 1992, 152).

8.  In his major book Where Is Science Going? (1932) Planck pointed out:

“There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.” (Planck 1977, 168).

9.  “As a physicist, that is, a man who had devoted his whole life to a wholly prosaic science, the exploration of matter, no one would surely suspect me of being a fantast. And so, having studied the atom, I am telling you that there is no matter as such! All matter arises and persists only due to a force that causes the atomic particles to vibrate, holding them together in the tiniest of solar systems, the atom.

Yet in the whole of the universe there is no force that is either intelligent or eternal, and we must therefore assume that behind this force there is a conscious, intelligent Mind or Spirit. This is the very origin of all matter.” (Planck, as cited in Eggenstein 1984, Part I; see “Materialistic Science on the Wrong Track”).

10.  To the question of The Observer, “Do you think that consciousness can be explained in terms of matter?” Max Planck replied:

“No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” (Planck, as cited in de Purucker 1940, ch. 13).

11.  Planck believed in life after death, he believed in the existence of “another world, exalted above ours, where we can and will take refuge at any time.” (Planck, as cited in Heilbron 1986, 197).

“Farsighted theologians are now working to mine the eternal metal from the teachings of Jesus and to forge it for all time.” (Planck, as cited in Heilbron 1986, 67).

12.  Writing on the complementary relations between science and religion, Max Planck observed: “The one does not exclude the other; rather they are complementary and mutually interacting. Man needs science as a tool of perception; he needs religion as a guide to action.” (Planck, as cited in Schaefer 1983, 84).


17 thoughts on “Max Planck On God

  1. I’ve searched for this source — Eggenstein 1984, Part I; see “Materialistic Science on the Wrong Track”) — and cannot find it. I’ve found a book he published in ’85. I found someone’s website that supposedly contains this “Materialist Science on the Wrong Track” however this quote was not included. Can you provide it please? I really like it, but I want to verify that Planck really said it.

  2. Ontological argument:
    “If a greatest conceivable being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.”

    Why? I accept #2 since you’ve defined “possible world”…of course we can dream up a world with God, why does that imply that God exists in our reality?

    • Possible world is not a dream world or a fantasy world or a world were 2 +2 = 5. Please read what it means by possible world a world(not really planets) which some logical possibilities are true. Example a world were Hillary Clinton won the election, this world is possible but was not actualized.

      Thus the argument argue If it is possible that a greatest conceivable being exists. Then this being exist.

      Layman: If you possible to think God exist, then he does exist.

      • Héhé…I prefer the layman way of putting it…though that’s exactly what I thought was meant…still, why that implication? Why does God have to exist if his existence can be conceived?

      • That is what Ontological argument is all about 🙂 Like the layman of Moral Argument will be like:

        If Objective moral value and duties exist, then God exist.

        When you ask why so, then I will say that is what the argument is trying to defend(argue for). Thus one asks someone to go back and read the argument.

  3. Part #2 of the theological argument, “It is not due to physical necessity or chance.”: we don’t know that yet…some physicists, such as Stephen Hawking and other supporters of the multiverse theory, would actually argue otherwise…this is the domain of science, not philosophy…

    • Yet Stephen Hawking use philosophical claim to support this theory(namely “the universe created itself”) to which is a logically fallacy. Since for something to create itself, it has to exist first 🙂

      • Well…that’s at least what we’re accustomed to, in the physical (and philosophical, I guess) world…

  4. I think the universe probably has an explanation for it’s existence. It can necessarily be God if we define God as mystery, or the unknown, or the Cause, but there is no reason why the Cause has to be the Being that Christians worship…William Lane Craig talks of a first cause that has to decide to create everything, but there was supposedly no time before the Big Bang, so it started “at once and everywhere”, as some put it…you don’t say: “I’m going to create the universe at 5AM as opposed to 6AM”…

    Such arguments are attempts to use the not yet known (as the complexity of organisms was used back in the days) to imply the existence of God…let’s just let scientists work on it…

  5. I’ll just add that I believe in God, if we define it as: “What we don’t yet know about the universe, the thing that put all this stuff in motion, if such a thing was necessary”…cause it might seem like it is as we reflect in our armchairs (with our fallible human minds), without forcibly being so…

  6. Materialism is not any more a presupposition than not believing that you are in a Truman show-type situation is a presupposition: you work with what you see, you don’t invent anthropomorphic, magical Beings to explain them when you can’t do so with what’s around you, you see them in the light of themselves…when you can’t explain something, you try to work with things around you to explain them, you explain the thing in function of its effect (dark matter), or you infer it from known rules (neutron stars before their discovery)…
    Wikipedia is looked down upon by most people, I wouldn’t present it if I were writing a paper; but I think, as you may yourself, that those quotes are authentic, and that many articles are…as do many people, you probably use wikipedia, youtube and such quite extensively, even if you can’t swear about the accuracy of the information they present…

    • On Wiki:

      In deed I use youtube, to watch Debates,teachings and some Podcasts. But doing so I stay sharp to reasons, question, doubt, and simply be skeptical until I can fulfill my burning desire to know the complete truth.

      Wikipedia is looked downed because of its authenticity.

      Of cause one is allowed to use all the sources, but for the sake and the love of knowledge let do this with great intellectual sharpness.

      Thus when one say 0.1% do this and that, we need to know how? How was the data collect, who collected the data, when was it collect? Which distinguish professors(what field) supports it and why they support?

      Does the article pass the rules of logic? Does the article fairly present the opposition data? If not, why? If yes, how?

      Use the formulation given in How To Read A Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading

      On God:

      Hehe, know one is inventing anthropomorphic, magical Begin.

      From the Five Arguments of Existence of God

      Cosmological Argument

      a: Contingency Version

      1. Every thing that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its nature or in some external cause.
      2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God
      3. The universe is a thing that exists.
      4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.
      5. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God.

      b: Temporal Version
      1. What ever begins to exist has a cause.
      2. The universe began to exist.
      3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

      Teleological Argument

      1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
      2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

      3. Therefore, it is due to design.

      Moral Argument

      1. If God does not exist, objective moral value and duties do not exist
      2. Objective moral value and duties do exist.
      3. Therefore, God exists.

      Ontological Argument

      1. It is possible that a greatest conceivable being exists.
      2. If it is possible that a greatest conceivable being exists, then a greatest conceivable being exists in some possible world.
      3. If a greatest conceivable being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
      4. If a greatest conceivable being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
      5. If a greatest conceivable being exists in the actual world, then a greatest conceivable being exists.
      6. Therefore, a greatest conceivable being exists.

      Natural Theology(Philosophy) lead us to explain a being who is the metaphysically necessary, self-existent, beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal, omnipotent, omniscient Creator and Designer of the universe, who is perfectly good, whose nature is the standard of goodness, and whose commands constitute our moral duties.

      We Christians call this being God, and it not from invention, or wishful thinking, but from correct reason.

      This being is not from what we do not know, but what we know of sound reason

      Prayson Daniel

  7. Héhé…well, I actually didn’t know about his religious convictions…I’m curious about his stance on evolution (though he was a physicist)…either way, it would be interesting…if he didn’t accept it, it’s possible that he would think otherwise if he did (though not as certainly as would be the case for Newton, whose quote against atheism stemmed from his ignorance about biology as we now know it); if he did, that wouldn’t look good on your end, I guess…
    There’s a list of Christian scientists here…:

    List Christian Thinker in Science from Wikipedia

    Have to say that I AM impressed when they are post-19th century and eminent (of course, there are certainly many religious scientists nowadays), kinda late to be a Christian scientist, if you ask me…but they look pretty rare in there, and I hadn’t heard about most of the folks on the list (20th century folks, of course, most scientists were religious in the past; though I did hear about Planck, I guess most people encounter him in physics and/or chemistry)…

    One of them, Theodosius Dobzhansky, wrote an essay, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, while pretending, as do father Cogne, an astronomer, and Francis Collins, a biologist nowadays (you probably know all these guys better than me; the man called Intelligent Design “ludicrous”, refusing to participate in “No Intelligence Allowed”), that there is no conflict between Christianity and evolutionary theory…the fact of the matter is, there is clearly a conflict between science and religion (though maybe not naked deism, Max Planck was clearly not just a deist), and Einstein summed it up pretty good…:
    “[…] a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e., by a wish addressed to a supernatural being.”, he also spoke of the problem when religion tries to answer scientific questions and the clash that ensures…

    Of course, Einstein could always be wrong, he’s been proven wrong about many things (expansion of the universe, “God does not play dice”, some physical particle he said would never be measured by man, etc)…in passing, the expansion-thing was predicted by a Catholic priest in the same wikipedia list, before it was confirmed by Hubble…

    The article on wikipedia about Planck says that God was “unintelligible” in his view…I don’t know for sure what he meant, perhaps he was saying that we couldn’t know God (as would say a deist), though being a Christian and believing in the afterlife (and Heaven) would contradict such a worldview…

    On the subject of Heaven, the scientist admits that he somewhat “owes” his faith to his upbringing, I guess he would concede that his faith did not rest on logical reasoning from his part, but on his upbringing…from your own post…:
    “If there is consolation anywhere it is in the Eternal, and I consider it a grace of Heaven that belief in the Eternal has been rooted deeply in me since childhood.”, he admits to having been indoctrinated, or at least greatly influenced…not really the proper attitude for a scientist, if you ask me…scientists are supposed to get rid, as much as they can, of their biases, I hope you’ll agree with that…as father Cogne admitted to Dawkins, saying that his faith puts him in an “embarrassing situation as a scientist”…at least he’s honest, héhé…

    I think it’s probable that the few Christian scientists out there actually accept evolution, for the most part…

    Of course, quoting from authority is not the best way to prove one’s point…I’m sure you would agree that the theory of evolution conflicts with Christianity (for me, the idea of God singling out our species is the main problem), no matter what Max Planck would say…and here again, if we have to listen to authority, I’m sure most (renown) scientists would agree with me…and it’s not hard to guess who’s gonna win in the fight, héhé… here’s more authority…:
    “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.” (Stephen Hawking).

    I hope you won’t tell me that if the disabled scientist’s recently advanced ideas about the redundancy of a Creator were corroborated by evidence (they’re certainly not, by his own admission, at this point, and I’m not going to pretend that they are), there would still not be a conflict with Christianity…

    • Dear Hehe,

      Thank you for your comment. But in the end you present as if Science and Religion are in conflict. To my understand that is a New Atheists propaganda which is a strawman fallacy for a cheap shot win.

      The conflict lies between scientific philosophy(“Materialism and other masked presuppositions that walk over the borderlines of science”) and religion, not with science.

      Thank you for wikipedia sources, but I honestly have low view of wikipedia articles for they are strong coiled with bias, depending on the author of the article.

      Thus it is always best to affirm what wikipedia articles say with independent sources. To which I say, lets get busy, using our Libraries and dig the books were necessary.

      Most university professors do not accept Wiipedia as a valid source and I agree.

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