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Einstein's Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religionby Steven Gimbel
Synopses & Reviews
Is relativity Jewish? The Nazis denigrated Albert Einstein's revolutionary theory by calling it Jewish science, a charge typical of the ideological excesses of Hitler and his followers. Philosopher of science Steven Gimbel explores the many meanings of this provocative phrase and considers whether there is any sense in which Einstein's theory of relativity is Jewish.
Arguing that we must take seriously the possibility that the Nazis were in some sense correct, Gimbel examines Einstein and his work to explore how beliefs, background, and environment may--or may not--influence the work of the scientist. You cannot understand Einstein's science, Gimbel declares, without knowing the history, religion, and philosophy that influenced it.
No one, especially Einstein himself, denies Einstein's Jewish heritage, but many are uncomfortable saying that he was a Jew while he was at his desk working. To understand what Jewish means for Einstein's work, Gimbel first explores the many definitions of Jewish and asks whether there are elements of Talmudic thinking apparent in Einstein's theory of relativity. He applies this line of inquiry to other scientists, including Isaac Newton, Ren? Descartes, Sigmund Freud, and ?mile Durkheim, to consider whether and how their specific religious beliefs or backgrounds manifested in their scientific endeavors.
Einstein's Jewish Science intertwines science, history, philosophy, theology, and politics in fresh and fascinating ways to solve the multifaceted riddle of what religion means--and what it means to science. There are some senses, Gimbel claims, in which Jews can find a special connection to E = mc2, and this claim leads to the engaging, spirited debate at the heart of this book.
"Prior to WWII, Nazi sympathizers dismissed Einstein's theory of relativity as 'Jewish science.' Yet Einstein himself, notes Gimbel, recognized an intellectual style that could be identified as Jewish. In this wide-ranging exploration, Gimbel (Exploring the Scientific Method), chair of the department of philosophy at Gettysburg College, seeks to discover whether and to what extent Einstein's work could legitimately be called 'Jewish' and what difference it makes. He speculates about whether only a Jew could have discovered relativity theory, or whether the style of reasoning characteristic of Jewish theology can influence scientific thinking (as Catholicism informed the reasoning of Descartes). Finally, Gimbel asks, did Einstein's theory contribute to wider conversations about Jewish themes among contemporary scholars such as Walter Benjamin and Martin Buber? Gimbel felicitously concludes that what makes the theory of relativity so attractive is its cosmopolitanism and intellectual open-mindedness. It is thus only metaphorically Jewish: as the ancient rabbis assumed the existence of God's truth but could approach it only through their contrasting interpretations, so Einstein assumed that science was the pursuit of truth about the world that still allows us the integration of different perspectives on, and individual beliefs about, the world. Agent: Deirdre Mullane, Mullane Literary Associates." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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