Saturday, October 11, 2008

Einstein letters

A new batch of letters from Einstein have come up for sale. There are several highlights:
  • Einstein brands religious beliefs as "childish superstitions" and the "product of human weaknesses." (Of course, he also said "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind," so maybe he wasn't completely clear in his own thinking.) In it he writes: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."
  • Of the Jewish people, he wrote: "For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are 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."
  • He absolutely rejected that his theories implied any kind of "moral relativism": "Unfortunately, I cannot recommend your manuscript for printing, because it doesn't reflect the essentials of the theory. This topic has nothing to do with the superficial statement that 'everything is relative' ... This is, by the way, not a philosophical theory, but purely physical."
  • He doesn't seem to like journalists much either: He also chides journalists for failing to understand one of his greatest scientific achievements. "The twaddle that the theory is extremely difficult to understand, is complete nonsense, spread out by superficial journalists."
(I don't think he's right on this last point. Maybe it was obvious to him, 35 years after the fact, but if it was that easy to understand there wouldn't be advanced undergraduate and graduate physics classes in special relativity.)

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