cover image Einstein’s Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion

Einstein’s Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion

Steven Gimbel. Johns Hopkins Univ, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4214-0554-4

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. (May)